CBS's 'Hawaii-Five-0' Honors Pearl Harbor Survivors, 'Greatest Generation'

The CBS drama Hawaii Five-0 has often been criticized by this writer for its left-wing writing and “jumping the shark” in its storytelling. But Friday the episode Ho’onani Makuakane (Honor Thy Father) took a 180-degree turn into a great production.

Spoilers ahead

The story begins with newsreel footage of American GIs enjoying the pleasures of serving in Hawaii prior to December 7, 1941.

But quickly the scene turns to horror as soldiers getting their Sunday morning meal are spurred into action as bombs from Japanese planes begin falling around them. Some men are cut down by strafing runs, while others scramble to find any weapon so they can fight back.

Next we find ourselves in the present day, aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, at a ceremony commemorating the Pearl Harbor attack and honoring the survivors who fought valiantly to defend our nation.

Commander McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) notices an elderly Japanese man on the pier looking up at the veterans, but he doesn’t think much of it. But as he and Catherine (Michelle Borth) are leaving the Missouri, he notices this same man following one of the Pearl Harbor survivors (who is in a wheelchair) and pulling a gun from his pocket.

McGarrett disarms the man before he can fire. When he asks the would-be killer what he thinks he’s doing, the man replies, “Killing the man who murdered my father.”

What ensues is an investigation into a murder that occurred at an interment camp on Oahu in 1943. The victim, a Japanese-American teacher by the name of Toriyama, is alleged by his son David (James Saito) to have been killed by the Pearl Harbor survivor named Ezra Clark (Jack Axelrod), a guard at the camp whom David also alleges stole a katana that had been in their family for generations. The official Army report says a fellow internee killed him.

David Toriyama recounts for the team how life was for his family before Pearl Harbor and what happened in the days that followed. His father was arrested and he and his family, along with all the other American citizens of Japanese descent, were rounded up. They were told to gather whatever they could carry, and put on military trucks to be interned without charge or due process. Their homes, businesses and any belongings they left behind were all property of the United States government.

The Five-0 team discovers the original incident report in an old Army bunker. It’s incomplete and falling apart due to age, but it’s clear that there was a cover up. What’s not clear is whether the son of the victim is correct about who killed his father and stole the katana.

McGarrett and Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) drive out to the internment camp site to attempt to jar David’s memory of the events and perhaps give them some more clues as to what really happened that day.

Once there David Toriyama is transported (in his mind) back to that time and place. He recounts to McGarrett and Kelly what he heard and saw. They realize that David found Clark over his father’s body with his gun in his hand and assumed Clark had killed him. In fact Clark had responded to the gunshot himself.

Using forensics and computer enhancement of the documents, as well as, documents from the investigating officer--a retired HPD officer--they discover that it was actually the younger brother of one of the guards that likely committed the crimes.

After exhuming the victim’s body and retrieving the bullet that killed him from his skull, they match it to a gun used by the suspect in another crime and get a ballistics match. They then track down the grandson of the suspect and find the katana gathering dust in his home.

There is a heartwarming scene where the son apologizes to the old man he’s falsely believed killed his father for more than 70 years. They shake hands and put it behind them.

The episode ends with these words on screen: “Dedicated to the greatest generation. … And all those who fight for our freedom.”

This episode of Hawaii Five-0 takes a stark look at the injustices inflicted upon Americans of Japanese descent after the attack on Pearl Harbor--patriotic, loyal Americans were imprisoned due to fear and suspicion. In fact the most decorated unit in all of World War II was the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a US Army unit composed almost entirely of Japanese-Americans.

The episode also pays appropriate tribute to those who fought and died in World War II, as well as those who died on December 7, 1941.

It’s also important to note that the lessons of what happened to Japanese-Americans, the internment and confiscation of their property, were learned and remembered. After the attacks of September 11 our government did not repeat those mistakes and lash out at American Muslims. There were no mass arrests, no interments and no reprisals, despite what groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and others would like people to believe.


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