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Aloha, Vietnam: Race and Empire in Hawai‘i’s Vietnam War
Abstract

Abstract:

In the 1950s and 1960s, Hawai‘i “paradise” emerged with new vitality in the US cultural imagination: its tropical climate, scenic sublime, and racial and ethnic diversity made it a premier destination for American tourists and a conduit of US Cold War objectives in Asia. This essay complicates this liberal narrative by exploring a lesser-known fact: the islands also served as a pivotal staging ground for the US war in Vietnam. Examining archival sources about military training exercises and civilian mobilization projects in O‘ahu, this essay demonstrates that “racial paradise” and “military garrison” emerged in productive tension in the years surrounding Hawai‘i statehood and materialized in the intensification of state violence against indigenous and racialized subjects in Hawai‘i and across the Pacific. Racial liberalism was more than a ruse for empire, this essay contends, but was instrumental to US war making in Asia, a contradiction that animated Hawai‘i’s antiwar and emergent sovereignty movement in the late 1960s and beyond.