Star Bulletin
Pacific Worlds

Haena Survivors Tell Dramatic Stories of Heroism and Faith
Honolulu Star Bulletin, April 05, 1946; p.2

Lihue, Kauai, April 5, A little Mormon chapel surrounded by Kamani and Norfolk pine trees on the beach at Haena was the scene of the tragedy in which the people of Haean lost eight of their community of 60 souls in Monday's tidal wave.

Their story was told Wednesday evening by Charles J. Fern, Kauai's public spirited publisher, over station KTOH in the form of interviews.

Mr. Fern had taken portable radio equipment into Wainiha valley where he found 21 survivors in a three room Kealoha cottage. He interviewed several and made recordings which was broadcast that evening on a two hour program.

The stories told of heroism, courage and faith in God in the face of disaster and isolation.

The village of Haena is located on a semicircular flat of land which juts out at the base of the Haena mountain range.

The village is a summer resort with a small year round population of Hawaiians, numbering about 60.

Mr. Fern brought out in his interviews the fact that the tidal wave hit in four waves. The first roused the villagers so that the majority immediately sought escape. Some time then elapsed before the three large waves overwhelmed the summer houses, the permanent residents and Camp Naue, all structures built on the curving beach about the semicircular flat.

During the period between the first and second wave, the lone Filipino resident, Hilario Aquino, rushed about the village with his car gathering up children.

By the time Mr. Aquino had nine in his car and was headed for the main road, the second wave covered the flat and stopped him.

He turned back and took the children to the Mormon chapel. There he found other villagers, Mrs. Edwin David Laamea Jr. and her nine children, the Edward Puulei family with six children, Mr. And Mrs. Herman Kalani of Honolulu and their two infants, Mrs. Eddie Lindsay and her daughter, Vickey, Mrs. Hanohano, the mother of Mrs. Kalani, and an aged Chinese, Leong Young Chew.

Altogether there were 26 in the church, nine adults and 17 children ranging in age from 3 weeks to 14 years.

In telling his story, Mr. Aquino said that when the waves hit the church, he was tossed out amidst the children. He swam about rescuing the children and lifting them up into the large trees of the church yard.

When the waves subsided, 10 of the children were safely clinging to the trees and their parents all agreed that Mr. Aquino had saved their lives.

Mr. Kalani said that when the second wave hit he was holding the Laamea baby and Mrs. Lindsay was holding was holding his 1 year old son.

The wave lifted the roof off the church and with it, the people.


When it receded, Mr. Kalani said he had lost the Laamea baby and Mrs. Lindsey had lost his child. Mrs. Laamea was thrown up against a tree trunk and groaning in anguish.

Mr. Kalani said he assisted an injured woman up into the tree when the next wave hit. Most of the other adults had also climbed into the trees.

When the last wave receded, leaving water waist high, the adults began hunting the children and taking them to safety.

Mr. Kalani rushed his pregnant wife and surviving child to high land.

Seven children and the elderly Chinese were missing.

In the meantime, David Laamea was at the Hanalei firehouse preparing to go off duty from the night shift when he heard of the tidal wave.

Rushing frantically on foot from Hanalei, wading waist deep through the streams with the receding waters, climbing hills cross country to Haena, he finally located his wife hanging desperately from a plum tree with her leg broken. He also found three of his nine children in the trees where Hilario Aquino had left them in safety.

Mr. Laamea started to carry his helpless wife out of Haena,

As he struggled across the plain, unexpected help came from the other side of the mountain.

Henry Gomes who works nights at the Wainiha powerhouse had organized a rescue squad composed of Fred and Saburo Fujii, Harry Hanohano, Kimokeo and an Okinawan, all residents of the powerhouse village.

When the men got to the top of the mountain, they saw Mr. Laamea and rushed to his aid.

They stripped themselves of their clothing to wrap about the sick woman and they obtained a stretcher from the Haena school. They carried her across the mountain and up the valley to the powerhouse. Four of the men went ahead to hack a path through the lantana.

After administering first aid, they forded the streams and took her to the Kilauea dispensary where an ambulance took her on to Lihue.

Mr. Laamea then went back to Haena to search for his three missing children. Their bodies were eventually found on Tuesday…

Harry Ho, principle of Haena school, told of how from his breakfast table about 6:50 a.m. he saw the wave rushing in and fled with his wife and three children to the hills back of the school.

For two nights, the Ho family remained in the hills although the school and their home did not suffer any damage.

Jack Nishimoto, principal of Koolau school and the first to reach the village from the outside, told of how he walked from Hanalei to Haena wading through streams waist deep where the bridges were down, to reach his family and home. He told in tragic detail of how he found his home gone.

His 72 year old Chinese caretaker, Leong Young Chew, was missing as well as his two nieces and one nephew, the children of Mr. And Mrs. Laamea.

He commented bitterly on alleged lack of police organization and assistance in this stricken area even after the worst was over and the search for the missing had begun.


Tai Hing Leong and Joaquin Rapozo of the county public works department helped him get the body of Mr. Leong to Hanalei for burial.

The fact that the Dorian home, on the beach side of the road opposite the Haena school is still standing, attests to the power of prayer, according to Mrs. Lily Dorian.

She witnessed the destruction of the Laamea and Nishimoto homes near her own; she watched the Hanohano home drift with the receding waters past her home to the ocean leaving her two story house, poultry and swine safe although they were nearest to the beach.

Mrs. Dorian claims her prayer was answered by the miracle.

Mrs. Dora Hashimoto who lives near the Isenberg beach home, told of how she awakened her two sons, George, 13, and Thomas, 12, at 6:30 to prepare for school. Her husband had already left home to go to work.

From their porch George saw the first huge wave rushing in from the direction of the Moragne beach home and called out to his mother. Mrs. Hashimoto immediately called John Hanohano Pa, her neighbor, to go save his boat and nets which were on the beach which he did with his brother, Kila.

Together with Mrs. Hanohano and her daughter, age 3, Mrs. Hashimoto rushed to escape to the hills, when the second wave "higher than the trees" struck them, carrying them through brush, plum trees and shrubs, lifting them over barbed wire entanglements and lowering them again.

Mrs. Hashimoto managed to get a hold on a plum branch till the water receded and she could stand.

Mrs. Hanohano held her daughter, Winona, above the water as she reached out to hold on to passing shrubs. She landed about five feet away from Mrs. Hashimoto when the water had receded.

The two women and the child were joined by two Hanohano brothers and the Hashimoto boys who had cleared the beach without the nets, and they all made their way to the hills.

Mrs. Alice Alohikea, a grandmother over 60, told how she climbed into the kamani tree in their yard and watched the swirling water wash under their house. The home was saved because it is located across the road on higher ground.

After the water receded, she climbed down and joined the survivors who took to the hills for the night.


1946 Tsunami Articles:

   Kauai Attempting To Get Aid To Stricken (April 03, 1946)
   14 Dead Listed at Kauai (April 03, 1946)
» Haena Survivors Tell Dramatic Stories of Heroism and Faith (April 05, 1946)

1957 Tsunami Articles:
   250 Kauai Residents Lose Homes (March 11, 1957)
   235 Oahu, Kauai Homes Damaged (March 21, 1957)



Pacific Worlds > Hawai‘i: Ha‘ena > Memories > Tsunami