Artifact Spotlight: Hawaiian Invasion Money
Gift of Mr. Robert D. Young
Today marks the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. While the events of that day have been well documented, the American response to the attack in the months that followed has received less attention. Even while recovery efforts were still underway, military and civilian leaders began planning for the possibility of another attack, this time by a larger force bent on capturing the Hawaiian Islands and incorporating them into the Japanese empire. Officials hoped to minimize the damage should such a disaster occur, especially with respect to the effects on the U.S. economy. To that end, in January 1942 the military governor of Hawaii began recalling all U.S. currency then in circulation and replacing it with special “invasion money.” These bills had the word “Hawaii” printed on both sides with the intention that if they fell into Japanese hands, they would no longer be accepted as legal tender anywhere in the United States. About 65 million notes were produced in $1, $5, $10, and $20 denominations. It was not until October 21, 1944 that authorities deemed Hawaii secure enough to discontinue the use of invasion currency. Many service members who traveled through Pearl Harbor collected the notes and kept them as souvenirs after the war.