Hawaiian Noir

Murder Calls

Ka Lae, Hawaii

0AF9D219-8C41-4B34-872A-EC13B3AF1244At Ka Lae point on the Big Island of Hawaii, the southernmost point in the United States, sits the Kalalea Heiau. A heiau is a sacred place where ancient Hawaiians often left offerings to the gods in exchange for favors. At Kalalea Heiau,


Kalalea Heiau, Ka Lae, Hawaii

they were praying for a bountiful catch. The ocean at this point is rough and the cliffs are steep, but the waters teem with ahi and yellowfin tuna. Fishermen would tie their canoes to rocks and to mooring holes carved from the rock. They would then play out the ropes until they were far enough offshore to cast for the fish in the deep channel. The mooring holes are still visible, though fishermen today do not go out in canoes. Instead they tie bags of air to their lines and let the bags take the lines out to the deep.


Canoe mooring holes, Ka Lae Point

Near the heiau is a wooden structure jutting out over the water from which hardy souls jump into the water. We decided against taking the leap when we visited, but we watched many attempt it. One jumper remarked that, after the experience, he no longer needed a colonoscopy.


Dive platform at Ka Lae, the southernmost point of the US

From Ka Lae, we traveled to Kona on the Leeward Coast of the island. Our condo in Kona was right on the water. We had no beach at that point, nothing but rocks, but the view was gorgeous. Our first morning we woke to spinner dolphins leaping out of the water close to shore. In the evening we could watch the sunset from out lanai. It was from our lanai that we saw a green flash.


Kona Hawaii

The green flash occurs just as the sun sets on a clear evening, usually over the ocean. It appears as a green light at the top of the sun’s disk when the sun is almost entirely blow the horizon. The explanation is that the light is refracted through the atmosphere which separates the wavelengths making the green, and sometimes blue wavelengths distinct. We each saw one on separate nights. It’s an amazing phenomenon.

Go For Broke

The 37th annual Hawaii International Film Festival closed on Sunday, November 12 with a showing of Go For Broke, the origin story of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Fittingly, Sunday was the day after Veterans Day. The movie was written and directed by Stacey Hayashi with music by Jake Shimabukuro.


Jake Shimabukuro

The movie won the Inaugural Hawaii Movie Maker Award. You can learn more about the movie and view the trailer here: https://www.goforbrokemovie.com.

The Gothic Line

The Gothic Line was a German defensive line built across the Apennine Mountains in Northern Italy. It stretched from the Ligurian Sea on the west to the Adriatic on the east. German Field Marshall Albert Kesselring oversaw construction, using the same German company that had built the Gustav Line and thousands of Italians as slave laborers. They drilled into solid rock to build concrete-reinforced pits and trenches. They fortified the line with 2,400 machine guns whose fields of fire overlapped. Beyond the line was the Po Valley and the beyond that the Austrian Alps. This was Hitler’s last line of defense and he ordered his army to hold it al all costs.

Since taking Pisa and the Arno River, the Fifth Army had made no headway against the Gothic Line. General Clark wanted the 442nd returned from France. For that he had to go head-to-head with Eisenhower who wanted the Nisei for the Battle of the Bulge. General Clark prevailed and, in late March, 1945, the 442nd returned to Pisa, Italy. This time the 442nd was attached to the 92nd Infantry Division, a segregated African-American unit, the only African-American combat unit in the European theater. Also at the front were other segregated units from British and French colonies.

On the nights of April 3 and 4, the 100th and 3rd battalions moved through the night, scaling steep mountains with laden backpacks filled with supplies and ammunition.At dawn on April 5, the 3rd was behind the Germans. They launched the attack westward at the same time the 100th attacked eastward, catching the Germans in a pincers movement. They faced heavy machine gun fire, mortars and land mines.

Private Sadao Munemori of the 100th battalion, A-company, attacked alone through enemy fire and single-handedly took out two machine gun nests. When taking cover in a shell crater with two of his comrades, a grenade bounced off his helmet. Without hesitation, he threw his body on the grenade and saved the lives of the others. He was awarded a Medal of Honor for his sacrifice. In fact, his was the first awarded to a Japanese -American during World War II.

On the night of April 6, the 100th and 3rd closed on a hill called Cerreto. The 2nd battalion’s F-company had taken a hill called Carchio. Other Nisei companies took seven other hills in the line. In four days, from April 4 to April 8, the 442nd advanced two and a half miles over the saw-toothed Apennine range.

More fighting was to come.

Medal Of Honor

Munemori, Sadao “Spud”
Born: Los Angeles, CA, August 17, 1942
Died: Seravezza, Italy, April 5, 1945
Rank: Private First Class
Unit: 100th Infantry Battalion

Munemori, an auto mechanic, volunteered for the US Army in November 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the attack, he was demoted to 4-C status, along with other Japanese-American soldiers, and removed from combat training. He was assigned to menial labor at several Southern bases. Meanwhile, his parents and siblings were incarcerated in Manzanar. In 1943, when Japanese Americans in the camps were permitted to serve, Munemori volunteered for the 442nd. He trained at Fort Shelby and joined the 100th in Italy. He participated in the rescue of the Lost Battalion in France before returning to Italy with the 100th for the battle of the Gothic Line.

Medal Of Honor Citation

Munemori, Sadao. He fought with great gallantry and intrepidity near Seravezza, Italy. When his unit was pinned down by grazing fire from the enemy’s strong mountain defense and command of the squad devolved on him with the wounding of its regular leader, he made frontal, one-man attacks through direct fire and knocked out two machine guns with grenades. Withdrawing under murderous fire and showers of grenades from other enemy emplacements, he had nearly reached a shell crater occupied by two of his men when an unexploded grenade bounced on his helmet and rolled toward his helpless comrades. He arose into the withering fire, dived for the missile and smothered its blast with his body. By his swift, supremely heroic action Pfc. Munemori saved two of his men at the cost of his own life and did much to clear the path for his company’s victorious advance.

Hawaii Author, Katharine Nohr

Katharine Nohr is a mystery writer, athlete and attorney in Honolulu. She is a consultant on sports risk management and has traveled widely speaking on the topic. She is a former judge who continues her career practicing law as an insurance defense attorney. Her disappointment at not finding novels about triathletes led her to pen some herself. I met Katharine at Left Coast Crime in Honolulu in March where we shared a panel on writing Hawaii. Katharine’s two novels in her Tri-Angles series, Land Sharks and Freewheel, feature ambitious attorney Zana West and some fierce (and deadly) triathlete competition. Her third book in the series, VO2 Max will be out soon. Please welcome Katharine Nohr.

MT: Let’s start with you. You’re an attorney, an athlete and consultant on risk management in athletics. How does your background inform your stories?

CA5B899F-9CC3-4D7C-8360-089073A2DFB1KN: I write what I know. My legal mystery series, Tri-Angles offer stories of attorney and triathlete characters and stories based on my own experiences. For example, in Land Sharks, there’s a scene in a deposition in which a fight breaks out. Something similar happened to me.

MT: What drew you to writing mysteries?

KN: I wrote Land Sharks and in the process of trying to identify the genre, my publisher and I settled on mystery as the predominant genre.

MT: How would you characterize your mysteries? Cozy, hard-boiled, noir, humorous, zany, amateur, other? Why did you choose that sub-genre?

KN: They’re legal mysteries with humor, sports and romance.

MT: Tell us about Zana West, an ambitious attorney with a competitive drive. How does her drive come into play in the cases she gets involved in?

KN: Zana West grew up in dire circumstances, living with foster families and enduring periods of homelessness. Her drive comes from her need to survive. She believes that if she loses her job at the law firm, she’ll end up homeless again.

MT: If your books were made into movies, who would you cast in the roles?

KN: Zana West is 5’11” tall and so she should be played by a young woman of similar stature. Taylor Swift could play her if she dyed her hair (and, Taylor does have acting experience). January Jones has the Zana West look when her hair is straightened and her bangs cut.

Jerry Hirano is a younger Keanu Reeves. Daniel Henney or a 40 something Asian actor with ripped abs could play Jerry.

Brad Jordan could be played by Theo James and Jennifer Lawrence could play the twins—Heather and Megan Alexander.

Ryan Peterson could be played by any famous actor, also named Ryan.

Alexia Moore is a Julianne Hough-type.

MT: Marshall McLuhan said that if you don’t know if you will like a book, turn to page 69. If you like what you read there, you will like the book. What happens on page 69 of your latest book and how significant is it in the story? (Or another book of your choosing.)

EB8A0BF4-DD83-4548-B25A-BC0E9C51A087KN: In Freewheel, on page 69, Zana is meeting with her client, Ryan Peterson, and they’re discussing some key elements of the defense of the litigation and about facts that might exonerate him in the lawsuit. This is a pivotal moment in the book.

MT: How important is the Hawaii setting to your stories?

KN: Hawaii’s beautiful island environment is important for its stunning beauty and lovely weather to swim, bike and run. The setting also offers the Hawaii culture with diversity in ethnicity as well as its adaptation of elements of Asian and Polynesian culture. The characters usually have the Aloha spirit and the male attorneys wear Aloha shirts to work.

MT: Could the stories be set anywhere else? Why or why not?

KN: No. The books are about Honolulu law and I know of no other place in the world with the same culture in law firms and law practice.

MT: What do you do to give readers a sense of Hawaii and Hawaiian culture?

KN: The characters eat local food with chopsticks, enjoy the scents of tropical flowers, island breezes and they take their shoes off before entering a house. The characters fly to Maui for the day and they use some Hawaiian words, such as “Mahalo”, which means thank-you.

MT: What’s ahead for Zana West?

KN: The third book in the Tri-Angles series, VO2 Max, will be published in December of 2018. Will Zana land her dream job as sports agent in her firm? We’ll find out in VO2 Max.

MT: What’s ahead for you in your career?

KN: I’m currently writing an international thriller. My hope is to continue writing the Tri-Angles series in addition to thrillers.

MT: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you and/or your books?

KN: They’re Allie McBeal meets Hawaii Five-0 and the perfect beach, airplane or armchair read for a vicarious visit to Hawaii.

MT: How can readers contact you and learn about your books?

KN: They can find me on Facebook (Tri-Angles Series or Katharine M. Nohr), on Twitter and Instagram (@TriathlonNovels), on Linkedin (Katharine M. Nohr) and my website: KatharineNohr.com

Mahalo, Katharine!



Go For Broke

This Veterans Day weekend, Go For Broke, the movie telling the origin story of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team premieres at the Hawaii International Film Festival. The premiere closes out the festival on Sunday, November 12. 

The Champagne Campaign

Following the fierce fighting in the forests of northeast France, the 442nd were sent south to the Maritime Alps and the Riviera. The unit needed rest and reinforcements. It was less than half its strength with close to 2,000 men in hospitals. Eventually about 1200 replacements arrived from the United States and about 250 men were released from hospitals to rejoin their units. The objective was to guard a stretch of the French-Italian border and to prevent the Germans from breaking through into southern France.

From mid-November, 1944, to mid March, 1945, the 442nd engaged in what became known as “the Chanpagne Campaign.” While there was fighting, which resulted in injuries and loss of life, the fighting was nothing like the Vosges campaign. The men were able to visit the beaches, the casinos, the nightclubs and restaurants of the region. They were able to bask in the hospitality of the French citizens.

It was a welcome respite from the intense fighting they had experienced and the fighting to come.

Medal Of Honor

Hayashi, Joe J.
Born: August 14, 1920, Salinas, California
Died: April 22, 1945, Tendola, Italy
Rank: Sergeant
Unit: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Hayashi was a mechanic before the war. He enlisted in the Army in May 1941. After war broke out, he volunteered for the 442nd. In April, 1945, the 442nd returned to Italy for combat. Near Tendola, Hayashi exposed himself to enemy fire to direct mortar fire on enemy positions. Two days later, he single-handedly silenced three enemy machine gun positions, but was killed in pursuit of enemy soldiers.

Medal Of Honor Citation

Private Joe Hayashi distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 20 and 22 April 1945, near Tendola, Italy. On 20 April 1945, ordered to attack a strongly defended hill that commanded all approaches to the village of Tendola, Private Hayashi skillfully led his men to a point within 75 yards of enemy positions before they were detected and fired upon. After dragging his wounded comrades to safety, he returned alone and exposed himself to small arms fire in order to direct and adjust mortar fire against hostile emplacements. Boldly attacking the hill with the remaining men of his squad, he attained his objective and discovered that the mortars had neutralized three machine guns, killed 27 men, and wounded many others. On 22 April 1945, attacking the village of Tendola, Private Hayashi maneuvered his squad up a steep, terraced hill to within 100 yards of the enemy. Crawling under intense fire to a hostile machine gun position, he threw a grenade, killing one enemy soldier and forcing the other members of the gun crew to surrender. Seeing four enemy machine guns delivering deadly fire upon other elements of his platoon, he threw another grenade, destroying a machine gun nest. He then crawled to the right flank of another machine gun position where he killed four enemy soldiers and forced the others to flee. Attempting to pursue the enemy, he was mortally wounded by a burst of machine pisto fire. The dauntless courage and exemplary leadership of Private Hayashi enabled his company to attain its objective. Private Hayashi’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.


After a hearty supper we waited until it was thoroughly dark and then started to the crater. The first glance in that direction revealed a scene of wild beauty. There was a heavy fog over the crater and it was splendidly illuminated by the glare from the fires below.”
—Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1866.


Kilauea Caldera

The Big Island of Hawai‘i is made up of three volcanoes. Mauna Loa is the world’s largest mountain. Mauna Kea is the world’s tallest.The third, Kilauea, has been in continuous eruption since October 1982, the month our son Michael was born.

Volcano House, on the rim of Kilauea Caldera, facing Haleuma’umu’a crater is the oldest hotel in Hawai’i, dating back to 1846. The hotel was already in its second reincarnation when Twain visited in 1866. The current structure was built in 1941 and remains the only public accommodation inside Hawai‘i Volcano National Park.

The hotel looks right into the glowing caldera. At night you can see the fountains of lava inside. You can wake up in the morning to a rainbow rising from the crater.


Pele by Herb Kawainui Kane

In Hawaiian mythology, Haleuma’umu’a is home to Pele, the goddess of fire and the shaper of all things. Read more about Pele here.


Between Hilo and Volcano National Park is the small town of Pahoa. It’s a small, rural community that has attracted a lot of people who just want to get away from urban life and live simply. In the 60’s and 70’s, we would have called them hippies. As a result, the town is full of quaint shops and restaurants. It was also the location of one of the KEEP (Kamehameha Early Education Program) dissemination schools in the 70’s. Pahoa Elementary housed grades K-3 of the KEEP program and my assignment at KEEP was to evaluate the dissemination programs. I made several trips to the school to collect data. It looks much the same as it did back then. Some of the subdivisions near Pahoa were buried by lava flows from Kilauea, but the town itself was spared.

Lehua and Ohia

743D58CB-0839-4AAB-92A7-CF3D5FA36C7AThe goddess Pele, she of the volcano, is the most powerful force on the the Big Island. Everywhere and everything has some connection to Pele mythology. One of the more charming myths is the legend of the Ohia tree and the Lehua flower. The Ohia grows on the lava fields. It is a pioneer, one of the first forms of vegetation to appear on the flow. It starts the process of breaking the lava into soil. Everywhere on the lava flows you can see an Ohia tree and its beautiful red flower, the Lehua.

The legend goes that Pele fell in love with a handsome warrior named Ohia, but Ohia had already pledged his love to Lehua. This so enraged Pele that she turned him into a 01CFD7FF-95F5-4484-9984-25AAE8D5C82Ctwisted tree. Lehua came looking for him. When she saw the tree, she immediately guessed what happened. Distraught and in tears, she appealed to the other gods to reverse the spell. The other gods were moved by Lehua, but feared angering Pele. Instead they changed Lehua into a flower on the tree so the two would be joined forever. Some people believe that plucking the Lehua flower will bring rain on that day, presumably Lehua’s tears.


Murder Plays A Ukulele, Master Detective, 1941.

Kevin Burton Smith of The Thrilling Detective posted this picture on Twitter and I felt it needed reposting. This is from The Master Detective, 1941. Unfortunately, I don’t have the story that goes with it. I would love to read it.

Oh, and by the way, The Thrilling Detective is celebrating twenty years of everything detective. Check it out.


I just learned that Go For Broke, the movie, which tells the origin of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, will premiere November 12, 2017 as the closing film of the Hawai‘i International Film Festival in Honolulu. You can check their website here for more information about the movie: https://www.goforbrokemovie.com.  If I could go, I would. The premiere is sold out. I’m hoping it will appear in theaters across the nation so we can all see it.

The 100th, which later became the 1st Battalion of the 442nd, began in the year following the Pearl Harbor atttack when University of Hawai‘i ROTC cadets organized themselves as the Varsity Volunteers for Victory and petitioned the military governor of Hawai‘i to let them serve in the armed forces. They had to contend with racism at home and Nazism abroad. They emerged as true heroes from the war and are still heroes for our times.

Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawai‘i

One of our favorite places on the Big Island is the Hamakua Coast, which goes from Hilo to Waipio Valley. It was once an area of sugar cane plantations, but with the end of sugar in Hawai‘i in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the area has become bedroom communities for Hilo, thriving on quaint retail and restaurants.

The coast is rugged with few good beaches, but spectacular views Also spectacular vegetation. Following are just a few of the sights.



Rainbow. Falls, Wailuku River, Hilo, Hawai‘I

Starting in Hilo, you can visit Rainbow Falls, a short distance from the city.

Honomu is one of the small towns that grew up around the sugar mill. As with many small towns in Hawai‘i, you can find a mix of ethnicity and religions. Here on the main street, a Japanese Hongwanji Buddhist temple stands next to a Catholic Church.


Hongwanji Temple, Honomu, Hawai‘I


Catholic Church, Honomu, Hawai‘I

Just past Honomu is Akaka Falls State Park, a verdant area whose main attraction is the 442 foot Akaka Falls.


Akaka Falls, Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawai‘I

Waipio Valley, once the permanent residence of Hawaiian kings, has a curving black sand beach, one of the best surfing beaches on the island, but difficult to get to. The valley floor is 2,000 feet below the surrounding terrain. The road to the valley is the steepest road in the United States and traversible only with a four-wheel drive. Much of the valley is owned by Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate and preserved for its cultural significance. The few residents in the valley tend the taro farms.


Waipio Valley, Big Island of Hawai‘I

Kahuluokalae, the Monk Seal

In previous posts I told you about Kaimana, the monk seal born on Kaimana Beach in Waikiki. Kaimana was one of four pups born on Oahu this year. The most recent birth occurred on the North Shore in July. It was unnamed until now. Meet Kahuluokalae. Read about him here. Kahuluoklae joins Kaimana (female), Aka (male), and Wailea (female). All are doing fine.

Go For Broke

The Vosges Mountains

After six days of fighting to liberate the lost battalion, a battle which has become one of the top battles in US Army history, the 442nd deserved a rest. They had taken many casualties with the dead and wounded outnumbering the living. K company had 17men remaining out of 186 and I company was down to 8 of 185. They had been in non-stop combat for 16 days. Rest was not to be, however. General Dahlquist ordered the Nisei to keep pushing. A lot of German units remained through the region.

For 17 more days, the 442nd fought to secure the remainder of the Vosges forest. The entire Vosges campaign lasted 34 days including the battles at Bruyeres, Biffontaine, liberating the lost battalion, and driving the Germans from the rest of the forest. The 442nd lost 216 men killed and 856 wounded.

General Dahlquist’s command has been questioned by many. Although he accomplished much in the campaign, his victories came at considerable cost to the men he commanded. The town of Biffontaine, where many men were wounded or killed, was sparsely populated and strategically insignificant. The lost battalion would not have needed to be rescued had they not been sent to an area so far from friendly forces and away from radio contact. Although the men of the 442nd went into combat without complaint, many of the officers were of the opinion that Dahlquist considered the Nisei expendable.

Dahlquist also appeared oblivious to the suffering of the men he commanded. On November 12, Dahlquist ordered the 442nd to a review and award ceremony. He is said to have been irritated that only 18 men of K company and 8 men of I company turned out. It fell to the commanding officer to explain that most of the men were in the hospital and could not attend.


442nd RCT, Vosges Mountains, The Lost Battalion Campaign

The bravery and sacrifices of the men of the 442nd in the Vosges Mountains has been recognized by many. A commissioned painting depicting the rescue of the lost battalion hangs in the Pentagon. The towns of Bruyeres and Biffontaine have erected monuments to the men of the 442nd commemorating the liberation of their towns. The road to the monument in Bruyeres has been named “The Avenue of the 442nd Infantry Regiment.” The Bruyeres monument can be viewed here.


Medals Of Honor

James K. Okubo
Born: May 30, 1920, Anacortes, WA
Death: January 29, 1967, Detroit, MI
Rank: Technician Fifth Grade
Unit: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Okubo joined the Army in May, 1943. His family was interned at the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California and late in the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming. He was the only medic to receive the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor citation

Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 28 and 29 October and 4 November 1944, in the Foret Domaniale de Champ, near Biffontaine, eastern France. On 28 October, under strong enemy fire coming from behind mine fields and roadblocks, Technician Fifth Grade Okubo, a medic, crawled 150 yards to within 40 yards of the enemy lines. Two grenades were thrown at him while he left his last covered position to carry back wounded comrades. Under constant barrages of enemy small arms and machine gun fire, he treated 17 men on 28 October and 8 more men on 29 October. On 4 November, Technician Fifth Grade Okubo ran 75 yards under grazing machine gun fire and, while exposed to hostile fire directed at him, evacuated and treated a seriously wounded crewman from a burning tank, who otherwise would have died. Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.


Joe M. Nishimoto
Born: February 21, 1919, Fresno, CA
Died: November 15, 1944, La Houssiere, France
Rank: Private First Class
Unit: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Nishimoto was interned at the Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas. He enlisted in the Army in October, 1943.

Medal Of Honor Citation

Private First Class Joe M. Nishimoto distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 7 November 1944, near La Houssiere, France. After three days of unsuccessful attempts by his company to dislodge the enemy from a strongly defended ridge, Private First Class Nishimoto, as acting squad leader, boldly crawled forward through a heavily mined and booby-trapped area. Spotting a machine gun nest, he hurled a grenade and destroyed the emplacement. Then, circling to the rear of another machine gun position, he fired his submachine gun at point-blank range, killing one gunner and wounding another. Pursuing two enemy riflemen, Private First Class Nishimoto killed one, while the other hastily retreated. Continuing his determined assault, he drove another machine gun crew from its position. The enemy, with their key strong points taken, were forced to withdraw from this sector. Private First Class Nishimoto’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.



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