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The First Battle: The Battle for Equality in War-Time Hawaii (film)

DVD cover. Courtesy of Tom Coffman
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

A 2006 film by Tom Coffman about the multi-racial group of civic and military leaders in World War II Hawai'i that monitored race relations and supported Hawai'i's large Japanese American community. After Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941 , the Committee for Interracial Unity and the Morale Section led by Chinese American YMCA Secretary Hung Wai Ching and Japanese American school principal Shigeo Yoshida , worked to protect the civil liberties of the people of Japanese ancestry living in Hawai'i, which ultimately led to the decision against a mass removal of Japanese Americans from the islands. In addition to interviews with some of the key figures and archival footage and stills, The First Battle also recreates several key scenes with actors playing key historical figures such as Ching, Yoshida, and Hawai'i FBI head Robert Shivers . Major funders included Central Pacific Bank, the Gerbode Foundation, the Hawaii Pacific Rim Society, and the Island Insurance Company.

The First Battle premiered at the Hawaii Theatre in Honolulu on September 5, 2006, in an event organized by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i (JCCH). JCCH also organized premieres of the film on the neighbor islands. The film debuted on local television with an airing on Hawaii Public Television on December 7, 2006. An extensive website for the film includes additional photographs and documents, extended interviews, and educational materials among other things. [1]

Authored by Lewis Kawahara and Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like Ganbare Don't Give Up! (1994); The Untold Story: Internment of Japanese Americans in Hawai'i (2012); From Bullets to Ballots (1997)


  1. Hawaii Herald , Aug. 18, 2006, 4; Burl Burlingame, "Isle Council Helped AJAs as War Loomed," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Dec. 7, 2006, accessed on April 2, 2015 at .
Media Details
Release Date 2006
Runtime 56 minutes
Director Tom Coffman
Producer Tom Coffman
Narrator David Hoole
Starring Edward Sclafani (Robert Shivers), Gary Ontai (Hung Wai Ching), Eric Nemoto (Shigeo Yoshida), John Bopp (John A. Burns), David Farmer (Col. Kendall Fielder), Gerry Altweis (Charles Hemmenway)
Music Stephan Fox
Cinematography Ryan Kawamoto
For More Information

For More Information

The First Battle official website, .

Burl Burlingame, " Isle Council Helped AJAs as War Loomed. " Honolulu Star-Bulletin , Dec. 7, 2006.

Markrich, Mike. "'The First Battle': Extraordinary Actions by Ordinary People." Hawaii Herald , Oct. 6, 2006, 9, 15.

Pang, Gordon Y.K. " Internment Busters. " Honolulu Advertiser , Sept. 4, 2006.

Suzuki, Genevieve A. "'The First Battle': Historian Tom Coffman Preparing an Addendum to a Legendary Era." Hawaii Herald , July 23, 2004, 9, 14.