Military men stationed on Oahu complained about a lot. They complained about boredom, the foreign culture, the distance from home; but most of all they complained about the lack of women.
The estimates of how many men to women on island ranged from 1 to 150 to 1 to 500.
There were a lot of factors to consider there. (“White women” were supposedly 1 to 500.) The real numbers were unimportant. The GIs perception was perfectly phrased by a parody of Winston Churchill’s words: “Never have so many pursued so few, with so much, and obtained so little.”
The morale problem was serious. Men suffered from “rock fever” or became “rock happy” or endured “pineapple head.” One of the most realistic depictions of GI life is James Jones’ novel From Here to Eternity. (Jones was stationed in Hawaii during the war and took courses at the University of Hawaii in his down time.)
The disillusionment with Hawaii was common. Thin Hollywood hula girls didn’t exist, the fantasy of welcoming native arms was a myth.
The intensity of the culture shock finally motivated the Department of War to publish a guide, similar to the ones issued to men going to Europe discussing the differences.
On the subject of “Girls” the booklet spoke plainly: “Girls are scarce in Hawaii. When you’ve been off the boat for as long as 23 minutes, you’ll find that telephone numbers here carry the same classification as war plans….A man in uniform is about as novel here as a light bulb in a prewar sign on Times Square. . . there simply aren’t enough wahines to go around. (“A Pocket Guide to Honolulu” published by U.S. Army Information Branch, 1944.)
Many GIs sought out a sympathetic ear with Red Cross Gray Ladies, USO hostesses or Miss Fixit of the Honolulu Advertiser. Miss Fixit gave advice to the Lovelorn.
Miss Fixit’s real name was Alicia Adams. She was the columnist who won the “boys’ hearts.” When the newspaper reported a 1 to 150 ratio of men to women, one army officer wrote her a letter demanding, “How can you be so inaccurate when every man knows there’s at least a thousand men to every woman.” Miss Fixit compromised and admitted to a 1 to 500 possibility.
Miss Fixit did more than answer letters, she rolled up her sleeves and got out there and helped out the servicemen.
If a mother wrote and asked Miss Fixit to arrange a birthday cake to be delivered to her son, Miss Fixit did it. She helped GIs find scarce housing for their families. She even arranged for lost wallets to be returned to their owners. (Monday morning beach and downtown clean up crews found many a lost wallet.)
Hers was a morale boosting column and her fan mail was so large that a fellow employee told her, “You must be the most popular woman in the Pacific.”
Miss Fixit, Alicia Adams died on February 24, 1984.
Dorothea “Dee” Buckingham is a retired librarian and author of several books including “My Name is Loa”, a historical novel set on Molokai at the Leprosy Settlement in 1898. Her self-described obsession is researching the daily lives of women living on Oahu during World War II. Have a story to share with her? Reach her at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org