I'm a bit of a World War II buff, so I enjoyed reading this evening about The Niihau Zero—a Japanese plane that crash-landed on the westernmost of Hawaii's main islands while returning from the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Having terrorized the islanders who refused to return his papers, the pilot was dispatched by Bene Kanahele and his wife Ella, making the "Battle of Niihau" the first American victory of the war.
A sidebar to the Air & Space print article explains why the pilot couldn't successfully land his plane on the island. It was all because of the pre-war prediction that, if captured by the Japanese, Niihau would make a perfect base for attacks on the other Hawaiian Islands.
To preclude that, Alymer Robinson, Keith's uncle, began plowing up Niihau. "They started with mules," Keith Robinson says. After the Japanese sinking of the USS Panay in China's Yangtze River in 1937, the Robinsons added the tractor power. In all, over 50 of the island's 70 square miles were rendered unusable, all at the family's personal expense.
From a helicopter today, you can still see traces of Niihau's furrows, especially along the island's drier barrens. It was these that denied Shigenori Nishikaichi a safe landing, sending his Zero crashing into brush and boulders that December 7 morning. While Pearl's mighty defenses fell, Niihau's held.Fellow buffs might want to read more about The Niihau Incident at HistoryNet.com.