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In the News

% The Massie affair was tried as much in the court of public opinion as in the halls of justice. Newspaper editors realized the events of late 1931 and early 1932 were guaranteed to sell papers; the saga of a Navy wife's defilement by a gang of savage, non-white assailants, running amok in a sultry, tropical American territory and defying the U.S. military, and her husband's subsequent revenge, was a tale too good not to tell -- even if it wasn't true.

As the case unfolded, millions of U.S. readers were glued to the papers with their alarming headlines -- "Gang Assaults Young Wife," "Melting Pot of Peril," "Alarming Array of Sex Crimes." Sample some excerpts from newspaper coverage of the Massie affair.


Thugs Attack Hawaii Woman
Honolulu, Sept. 14 -- Mrs. Thomas H. Massie, 25, wife of a naval lieutenant, was in Queens Hospital in a serious condition today, and seven suspects were under arrest as a result of an attack Saturday night... She was stopped by two men, who seized her, stifled her screams and severely beat her, fracturing her jaw. They forced her into an automobile and drove to Ala Moana road where she was attacked several times...
-- [uncited], September 15, 1931

Police Frame-Up is Charged
Pittman Says 5 Defendants are Innocent -- Scores Methods of Officers, and Asserts Department is Full of Cobwebs... Charges of criminal assault against five youths alleged to have kidnapped and outraged a 20 year old matron on the Ala Moana, Saturday night, September 12, will, in all probability, reach the hands of a jury in Judge A. E. Steadman's court late this afternoon...
-- Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 1, 1931

Honor Killing in Honolulu Threatens Race War
Bayonets Rule Honolulu as Races Boil in Killing -- Woman's Avenging Kin Held Safe on Warship... National Guardsmen patrolled the streets of Honolulu tonight, and the entire island was virtually under martial law. The case... has aroused racial feeling to the boiling point. Throughout the island, nervous women were locking their doors in fear of intruders.
-- [New York] Sunday News, January 10, 1932

Honolulu Battles Navy for Chance to Hang 4
The battle line was drawn today between civil and naval authorities... while civil authorities announced they would demand the death penalty for all four prisoners involved -- including Mrs. Granville Fortescue... the naval authorities announced they intended to retain custody... On one front stand the incensed naval personnel, backed by strong statements by high naval officers. Aroused at recent attacks upon white women, the navy attitude is "that under no circumstances will we stand for the violation of our women." Besetting the navy in this position are the prowling gangs from "Hell's Half-Acre," out of whose shadows came the thugs who assaulted Mrs. Massie, and who, according to naval officers, are trying "to show their equality with the white." ... The Honolulu Police Department, in particular, is charged with conniving with the gangs which prey on unprotected women...
-- [New York] Daily News, January 11, 1932

Editorial in Hearst Paper Blasts Hawaii
The Hearst morning papers today carried a front page two-column editorial headed: "MARTIAL LAW NEEDED TO MAKE HAWAII SAFE PLACE FOR DECENT WOMEN." The text of the editorial asserts: ...The roads go through jungles and in these remote places bands of degenerate natives lie in wait for white women driving by. At least forty cases of such outrages have occurred and nobody has been punished... The whole island should promptly be put under martial law...
-- Hawaii Hochi, January 12, 1932

Hawaiians Must Be Punished!
Martial Law, Complete Housecleaning Necessary to Protect American Women -- The melting pot of the North Pacific has boiled over and spilled its race-hatred brew into the streets of Honolulu. An aristocratic American woman, a naval officer (the husband of her young daughter), and two enlisted men are being held on charges of murder. Race hatred swept through the streets of Honolulu. It caught up a young American girl and almost destroyed her. Then it placed the prisoners in jail. Congress refused to act firmly to punish the Hawaiians responsible for the situation... The people of America demand justice. They cannot see their women assaulted in the streets of an island city owned by the United States...
-- Brevities, February 1, 1932

Assault Cases... Inescapable Result of Conditions Long Brewing
Recent assaults on white women in Honolulu and the murder of a Hawaiian which followed, are the inevitable result of conditions brewing in the island of Oahu for years...It is said that among some races there has been a tolerance of some sex crimes, and that statutes founded on the laws of Moses are hardly suited to govern an oriental people. However that may be, there is no condonation of rape by the majority of any group in this cosmopolitan community... By nature indolent and carefree, the Hawaiian is perhaps the last person in the world to make a good policeman... There has only been one sheriff in recent years who has tried to clean up the street gangs... It is equally true that the Hawaiian has learned his bad ways fro his white cousins. One of the first laws ever passed in Hawaii was to protect Hawaiian girls from white men... Tourists have yielded without reluctance to the relaxing influence of this semi-tropical climate... Hawaiian "beach boys" [have] been encouraged to lower [their] opinion of white women... This general loss of prestige by the haoles coincided with the growing increase in sex crimes...
-- The New York Times, February 28, 1932

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