The Summer Book Issue
The best of Pacific literature, featuring Albert Wendt, Patsy Saiki, Bess Press and more than 20 new books

Victoria Kneubuhl, Anne Misawa, Andrea Baer, Sebastian Blanco, Bob Green, Lesa Griffith, Becky Maltby and Li Wang
June 09, 2004

A Military History of Sovereign Hawai‘i
Neil Bernard Dukas, Mutual Publishing, 2004, $17.95

Packing into 200 pages the story of Hawai‘i’s shift from a nation that sent tens of thousands of troops into battles for territory and mana to a society that was, in effect, overthrown by 162 U.S. Marines is no easy task. Dukas, though, knows his subject and injects the slim volume with easy-to-read accounts of the internal and external forces that affected Hawai‘i’s military culture.
Describing the pre-contact and early-contact phases of Hawaiian military history, Dukas explains the religious, social and cultural environment of the koa (warriors). The first half of the book focuses on koa culture: how traditions of makahiki and kapu helped define warriors’ lives, how koa made their own weapons, how firearms were “profoundly at odds” with traditional Hawaiian fighting values. It’s fascinating. And Dukas deftly explains how world events (the glut of firearms on the world market after the Napoleonic Wars, for example) played a role in Hawai‘i’s military history. Unfortunately, by the time Dukas gets to the details of how the unified islands fell under the influence of Western powers, he loses some of the Hawaiian context and focuses more on the actions of individuals. It’s solid historical writing, but it doesn’t zing.
A Military History is also part guidebook, explaining some still-standing monuments. Dukas traces Kaua‘i’s Fort Hipo’s bicultural history and if you’ve ever wondered about that cannon mauka of Aloha Tower, Dukas has the answer.

Sebastian Blanco

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