Every Saturday night was "Navy night" at the Ala Wai Inn in the early 1930s. Local residents always stayed away. Navy officers, their wives and friends filled the dance floors and booths of the popular nightclub on Kalakaua Avenue. In the nightclub’s mock-Japanese teahouse décor, Haole officers tried to pick up the daughters and wives of fellow Navy personnel.

On September 12, 1931, Thalia Massie, the wife of Navy Lieutenant Thomas Massie and daughter of a wealthy and politically powerful Washington, DC couple, was getting drunk. She was trading verbal insults with Lt. Ralph Stogsdall who had offended her. Having slapped his face, she left the club. Later, most of the witnesses who saw her walking down John Ena Road said she was being followed by a Haole man.



About an hour after leaving the club, Massie was picked up on the road, her face bruised, lips swollen and jaw broken. She claimed to have been abducted by five or six Hawaiian boys who had beaten her up and thrown her out of a car. Later, she said she had been raped, although nurses and doctors treating her said there was no evidence of that.

The police call of an assault of a Haole woman in the Ala Moana area went out at the same time that five working-class young men had been reported in an altercation at an intersection in Kalihi – a neighborhood about 15 miles from Waikiki.

The police picked them up and contrary to sound police practice, marched the five young suspects in front of an opiate-induced Massie for identification. She claimed she could definitely identify three of them as being the men who had raped her.

At their trial, the five defendants presented witnesses who conclusively proved that they could not have been the culprits. Several years later, an independent study by the conservative Pinkerton Detective Agency confirmed their alibi. Their jury couldn’t come up with a verdict and the judge declared a mistrial. The young men were released on bail pending a new trial.

Their release was perceived by some as a blow against White supremacy. "Under our own democratic form of government the maintenance of white prestige had become increasingly difficult," complained Admiral Yates Stirling, the highest-ranking naval officer in the Islands.


Some Whites decided to take matter into their own hands. One of the five boys, Horace Ida, was kidnapped by a group of Navy vigilantes. After stripping him naked, they beat him unconscious with their belts. No arrests were made.

Massie’s mother, Grace H.B. Fortescue, and husband, Lt. Massie along with two men enlisted in the Navy kidnapped another defendant, Joe Kahahawai, and Lt. Massie shot him dead. The murderers were caught red-handed with the body before they could drop it over the cliff into the heavy seas off Koko Head.

Their arrest brought cries of anger from many Whites – in Hawai’i and in the USA. Navy personnel quickly raised defense money. Famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, was hired to defend them. The practically all-Haole jury did not want to take any action against the murderers. The Judge, Albert Cristy, greatly disturbed, ordered them to "conscientiously carry out [their] oath of office." In the end, the defendants were found guilty of manslaughter and were sentenced to 10 years in jail. Even this was seen as traitorous to the ‘White race’.

The Haole elites and the military that ran Hawai’i immediately applied pressure on Governor Judd to pardon the defendants. The Governor even received a telegram signed by 103 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including 71 Democrats and 32 Republicans urging the same.

Governor Judd commuted the sentence from 10 years to one hour to be served not in prison but in his office. The four convicted killers went to his office, had cocktails and chatted for an hour, and then walked out, their sentences fully served. Nevertheless, Judd was criticized by some for only having commuted the sentenced instead of giving the defendants a full pardon.

Roland Kotani. 1985. The Japanese in Hawaii: A Century of Struggle. Honolulu. The Hawaii Hochi, Ltd.