AMERICAN RED CROSS OF HAWAIʻI

HISTORICAL TIMELINE



The International Committee and the Geneva Convention establish treaties among nations. This will lead to the founding of the Red Cross. The Red Cross is based on the work of Henri Dunant in 1859, who conceived of a neutral organization to care for the sick and wounded during war time. Dunant is considered the “founder” of the Red Cross.


The American Association of the Red Cross is founded by Clara Barton. Along with the commitment to aid the sick and wounded, this organization becomes the first Red Cross organization to take on disaster relief work.


“Red Cross Society of Hawaiʻi” is founded in the Islands. Despite having to deal with the annexation of Hawaiʻi by the United States that year, Princess Kaʻiulani turns her attention to the arrival in Hawaiʻi of sick and wounded solders from the Philippines during the Spanish American War. Kaʻiulani and 300 women mobilize to feed and care for the shiploads of injured soldiers. Among the organizers of the Red Cross Society of Hawaiʻi are: Mrs. Harold M. Sewell, Society president; Mrs. Sanford B. Dole, first vice-president and Princess Kaʻiulani (heir apparent to the Hawaiian throne after Queen Liliʻuokalani), second vice-president. The organization dissolves at the end of the war.
Bubonic plague, cholera and typhoid strike Hawaiʻi. The “Hawaiian Red Cross Society” is organized by a group headed by Sanford B. Dole. The Society will dissolve in 1911 due to inactivity.
Two organizations emerge as forerunners of American Red Cross of Hawaiʻi. The War Relief Committee is headed by W.R. Castle and the Allied War Relief is led by Beatrice Castle. The War Relief Committee, formed in September 1914, includes W.R. Farrington, C.J. Hedmann, C.K. Ai and J. A. Rath. The primary objective for the War Relief Committee is to accept and forward funds for orphans and widows of the Great War. The Allied War Relief Committee is composed of women from church guilds who have been sending relief money and hospital garments to Europe since mid-1914.

August 23, 1917 – The American Red Cross of Hawaiʻi is born in Honolulu.

World War I relief work had begun in Hawaii under the auspices of the War Relief Committee. On this date, the War Relief Committee is officially chartered by the American Red Cross as the “Honolulu Chapter.” A chapter is also formed in Hilo.

The ʻIolani Palace Throne Room is opened to Red Cross volunteers to prepare surgical dressings for the hospitals overseas during World War I. The University Club Building and the Kilohana Art League Building serve as the headquarters for sewing, knitting and supply packing.

June 30, 1917 – The first American Red Cross Charter is awarded to the Hilo Chapter. Soon after the United States enters World War I, the War Relief Committee and the Allied War Relief join and become the Honolulu Red Cross Chapter.

August 23, 1917 – Honolulu Chapter and Hilo Chapter join, officially chartered by American National Red Cross as the Honolulu Chapter.

September 14, 1917 – Princess Liliʻuokalani asks her representative, Col. Curtis Iaukea, to present a Red Cross flag to Territorial Gov. Lucius Pinkham. The flag is sewn by 79-year-old deposed Queen Liliʻuokalani and her loyal volunteers during her residence at Washington Place. The making of the flag and the presentation shows the Queen's tremendous support of the Red Cross' efforts during World War I. The flag is raised at ʻIolani Palace.

September 29, 1917 – Hawaii Red Cross holds its first membership drive, leading to 16,000 people joining the organization and raising $35,000.

The occasion is marked by festivities, including a special streetcar carrying the Royal Hawaiian Band through Honolulu. Ambulances parade through the streets and the Hawaiian Electric Company blows its big whistle each time 500 members are added to the Red Cross.

February 8, 1918 – Junior Red Cross is established in Hawaiʻi.

March 16, 1918 – Red Cross activities combine to form the “Hawaiian Chapter” with four branches: Hawaiʻi, Kauaʻi, Maui and Honolulu.

May 6, 1918 – Second War Fund Drive nets $677,265, an enormous sum of money in the early 1900s. Included in the Drive is a spectacular parade of 2,000 women workers.

July 1918 – War relief work is divided into four departments: surgical dressings, hospital supplies and garments, knitting and refugees. Volunteers, including women, children and men (the firemen of Makiki Station are well known for their knitting), produce 282,838 articles that are sent to the war front.

October 1918 – To supplement funds raised through memberships, the Red Cross opens a small market at the corner of Nuʻuanu and Beretania Streets, selling home-grown fruits and vegetables and used clothing. On opening day, a Honolulu policeman is called in to control the crowd of customers shopping out of patriotism.

A large contingent of doctors, nurses, refugee workers, and nurses aides recruited by the Red Cross in Hawaiʻi travels to Siberia to aid thousands of war refugees. They set up the first Red Cross hospital in Vladivostok. Alfred Castle is among the group, along with Riley Allen, Honolulu Star-Bulletin editor.

Castle is instrumental in escorting 800 Ural refugee children across land and sea to reunite them with their families in Petrograd.

When Petrograd is threatened, the children are taken to Vladivostok. Red Cross volunteers from Hawaiʻi, including Allen, eventually charter a Japanese freighter and take the children to San Francisco, New York and Finland. The children are ultimately taken across the Russian border to their homes.

April 1926 – Red Cross volunteers use canoes to help evacuate Hawaiians from the small fishing village of Hoʻōpuloa on the South Kona Coast as lava pours out of Mauna Loa’s crater. Hoʻōpuloa is far from any road and transportation is easiest by canoe or steamers. The Red Cross workers paddled frantic residents and their possessions to the nearby village of Milolii. Hoʻōpuloa is destroyed by the lava flow.
Commodore Wilbert Longfellow, founder of the Red Cross Life Saving Corps, visits Hawaiʻi to teach lifesaving techniques to the Hawaiʻi beach boys, including legendary swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku. Longfellow, known as the “amiable whale,” developed the National Red Cross Life Saving Corps in 1914.
Hawaiian Chapter begins transcribing books into Braille. Volunteers transcribe up to 7,000 pages a year until 1942.
April 8, 1937 – Chapter name officially changed to “Hawaiʻi Chapter” with branches on islands of Hawaiʻi, Kauaʻi and Maui.

Red Cross Hawaiʻi Chapter occupies Castle Kindergarten Building on South King Street.

May 1940 – Volunteer Special Services begins in Hawaiʻi. Volunteers are recruited and trained for the Production Corps, Motor Service Corps, Canteen Corps, Home and Service Corps, and Nurse Aid Corps.

December 7, 1941 – When Pearl Harbor is attacked, the Hawaiʻi Chapter becomes the only ARC Chapter in a combat zone and significantly expands operations to include a large segment of the population. ARC Motor Corps evacuates people from Pearl Harbor area and sets up feeding stations for evacuees.

Dan Inouye - In a December 7, 1966 article in the Lodi News Sentinel newspaper, U.S. Senator Dan Inouye talks about that morning of the attack. The 17-year-old and his family were having breakfast preparing to go to church. He was a Red Cross civil defense volunteer and he got the call to immediately go to help injured civilians.

Grabbing two pieces of bread, he set out on his bike for Lunalilo School a mile away. He didn’t return for five days. “There was no time to think about anything but work. A job had to be done and we did it with no fuss,” Inouye said.

He said most of the civilians were injured by U.S. anti-aircraft guns which didn’t have the right kind of shells to shoot down enemy planes. Instead they landed in civilian areas and exploded. He and two friends grabbed a stretcher and set out to rescue wounded civilians.

Other Red Cross Activities During and After the Attacks

Motor Corps Volunteers, led by Eleanor Moir, transport donors to blood banks, bring library books to service hospitals, and trace individuals whose families contacted Red Cross for help in finding them.

Canteen Corps opens feeding station at ʻIolani Palace and serves evacuees, truck drivers and other emergency workers. The Corps also serves food at two air bases on Oʻahu and prepares thousands of picnic lunches. The main canteen is located at Kaikoo, the Diamond Head home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Carter. They provided their home to the Red Cross for the entire war period.

Surgical Dressing Corps, under direction of Mrs. H.A. Walker, make 2,558,458 dressings in 1942 and by May of 1945, 129,996 dressings are produced in a single month.

Knitting and Sewing Corps, made up of 2,300 women and led by Mrs. Le Roy Bush, produces handmade sweaters, socks, beanies, afghans, children’s gas masks in the shape of bunny rabbits, bed shirts, operating gowns, ditty bags and operating tent nets.

Gray Ladies (Hospital and Recreation Corps) work in recreation rooms, run errands for patients, talk to patients, give parties, and lead arts and crafts workshops.

Red Cross Hawaiʻi Chapter moves to 453 South Beretania Street (where the State Capitol now stands). Housed there are administrative offices, the Safety and Nursing Department and the warehouse. The Junior Red Cross is at Crane Park in Kaimukī.

With World War II ended, the Hawaiʻi Chapter turns to home service, nursing, first aid, Junior Red Cross and volunteer service.

April 1, 1946 – Major tidal waves (tsunami) hit Hilo on the Big Island. Waves as large as 55 feet leave a toll of death and destruction in the early morning hours. More than 155 are killed, 163 hospitalized and thousands more injured.

As soon as the last wave subsides, the Hawaiʻi Chapter of the American Red Cross is on the

job. In cooperation with military units on the Island, emergency shelters are set up and medical personnel treat the injured. The next day, 260 tons of food and supplies arrive from the Honolulu Chapter, transported by ships. Altogether, 446 buildings are destroyed, 549 buildings damaged and 565 families receive Red Cross aid. The Red Cross provides emergency aid to 6,350 people at a cost of more than $370,000.

June 1, 1950 – Mauna Loa erupts on the Big Island. The Red Cross of Hawaiʻi sets up shelters in Kaʻū district and in Kona and brings food, shelter and clothing to lava flow victims.
First Junior Red Cross Leadership Training Camp is held at Kokokahi with 54 teens from 44 schools. The training camp continues until 1954.

In 1955, a series of disasters begin that will span five years.

February 28, 1955 – Since January, some 200 earthquakes a day hint that a major eruption of Kīlauea on the Big Island is at hand. The eruption occurs as Red Cross opens shelters at Pāhoa and ʻOlaʻa and operate for 69 days. It serves 33,000 meals to 225 disaster victims, volunteers and emergency workers.

Red Cross responds to disasters throughout the state, including floods and Hurricane Nina on Kauaʻi.
November 18, 1958 – A fire at six Aʻala tenements burns. The Red Cross houses 1,528 victims displaced by tenement fires.

August 1, 1959 – Hurricane Dot hits Kauaʻi causing $20 million in damages.

Disaster workers on Oʻahu and Kauaʻi are warned by civil defense agencies and the American Red Cross to prepare for emergency.

Roughly 400 people flee from the beaches and nearly 1,000 people evacuate submerged

January 13, 1960 – Kīlauea Volcano erupts from Kīlauea Iki crater. Hawaiʻi Red Cross opens a shelter in Pahoa, serves 20,746 meals and assists 63 families.

May 23, 1960 – A major tidal wave caused by an earthquake in Chile strikes Hilo. Sixty-three people are killed and there are $30 million in damages. At a cost of $390,000, the Hawaiʻi Red Cross provides shelters for 508 people, serves 12,754 meals, passes out 25 tons of clothing, and provides emergency relief.

The Hawaiʻi State Chapter moves into building at 1270 Ala Moana Boulevard, leased from the Ward Estate. With the assistance of the U.S. Engineers, the building is portioned into departments. The Chapter will remain there until 1972.

Red Cross service to military families opens in Kaneohe and Wahiawa.

October 1966 – Red Cross of Hawaiʻi partners in the Aloha United Fund of Honolulu (United Way).

October 1, 1967 – Hawaii State Chapter is assigned by Red Cross national organization to be administratively responsible for Guam Chapter and American Samoa Chapter.

Alfred L. Castle is presented with a pin for 60 years of Red Cross service. He is the first male volunteer to receive this award in the history of the American National Red Cross.

February 28, 1969 – Upon petition by the people of Wake Island, Wake becomes a part of the Hawaiʻi State Chapter.

July 1, 1971 – The Pacific Division of the American National Red Cross is established with headquarters in the Hawaiʻi State Chapter. The division includes Hawaiʻi, Guam, American Samoa and Trust Territories of the Pacific. Alaska is later added to the Pacific Division.

September 1, 1971 – American Red Cross of Hawaiʻi signs a lease for land in Fort Ruger on the flanks of Diamond Head which will become Red Cross headquarters in the Islands. The 65-year-lease through the U.S. Department of Defense costs just $1.

June 26, 1974 – A groundbreaking ceremony is held at 4155 Diamond Head Road, Fort Ruger. Construction of Hawaiʻi Red Cross headquarters begins.
May 1975 – Construction of Hawaiʻi Red Cross headquarters building completed. (Architect: Peter Hsi. Contractor: Oceanic Construction. Interior Decorator: Business Interiors. Landscaping: George Walter.) The building and furnishings cost $896,217. Red Cross Chapter moves into the new building, which is known as the Alfred L. Castle Memorial Building. An Art Show sale is held yearly until 1985 to raise funds for the headquarters.
Hawaiʻi Chapter leases from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources an empty lot on the corner of Diamond Head Road and 18th Avenue, adjacent to the Chapter headquarters. Volunteers and staff, with the assistance of Hawaiʻi National Guardsmen, clear the lot and turn it into “Volunteer Park.” It opens to the public in 1977.
Hurricane Iwa hits Kauaʻi. It does $94 million in damages. The Hawaiʻi Red Cross provides emergency services for communities hard hit by the winds and high surf.
February 11, 1983 – International Law Conference is held in Hawaiʻi. In October, John Henry Felix, island businessman and strong supporter of many charities and nonprofits, becomes first American to be awarded the Henry Dunant Medal from the League of Red Cross Societies.

Sister City relationship is established between Hawaiʻi State Chapter and Zhejiang Province, China. A delegation from Hawaiʻi made up of Gov. William Quinn, Toy Len Chang and Toby Clairmont visits China.

First Humanitarian Award Dinner is held to honor Kenneth Brown. Over the years, the Humanitarian Award will honor such community Red Cross supporters as Bernice Pauahi Bishop, Henry and Nancy Walker, Maurice Sullivan, Dr. Richard T. Mamiya, Monsignor Charles A. Kekumano,

Lynn Waihee, Danny Kaleikini and R. Alex Anderson.

March 1986 – China delegation from Zhejiang Province visits Hawaii Chapter.

Ocober 1, 1987 – The Hawaiʻi Chapter headquarters courtyard is dedicated as a living memorial to the late Martha D. Kennedy, in recognition of her more than 50 years of volunteer service. It also is re-dedicated to the legacy of all the men and women who have supported the Hawaiʻi Red Cross with their time and donations.

September 11, 1992 – Hurricane Iniki slams Kauaʻi and Leeward Oʻahu, the strongest and most powerful storm to hit Hawaiʻi. Six people are killed and more than 1,000 injured.

The Red Cross spends $13 million in relief efforts, $4 million of that raised in Hawaiʻi. The Chapter provides thousands of people assistance.

Hawaiʻi State Chapter named Coordinating Chapter for Guam, American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands. The American Red Cross Pacific Area Council is formed and holds its first meeting at Headquarters building on Diamond Head Road.

Hawaii Chapter volunteers and paid staff respond to the Korean Airlines Flight 801 crash on Guam, which kills 228 people. The Chapter provides mental health and support services to survivors and families.

Masaru Oshiro - One of those responding to the Guam disaster is soft-spoken Hawaiʻi Red Cross mental health field supervisor, Masaru Oshiro. He had served in that role since retiring from the Hawaiʻi Department of Health in 1995 and is an example of the long line of volunteer experts who offer their services to the Hawaiʻi Red Cross. Oshiro also will be sent to New York City after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to counsel and help care for family members of victims of the attack.

A delegation from the Red Cross Society of China, Hangzhou Municipal Branch, visits the Hawaiʻi Chapter.

May 10, 1999 – Thirty Hawaiʻi Red Cross volunteers respond to the tragic death of seven people during a landslide at Sacred Falls on the Windward side of Oʻahu on Mother’s Day. The volunteers, mostly mental health workers, go to the scene of landslide, as well as to various hospitals to support hospital staff.

September 25, 1999 – Hawaiʻi Red Cross responds to Big Island Air Flight 58 crash on northeast slope of Mauna Loa volcano that kills 10 people. The chapter provides family assistance and support. More than 35 volunteers set up a family assistance center in a Big Island hotel.

November 2, 1999 – Hawaiʻi Red Cross volunteers respond to the murder of seven people at a Xerox office on Nimitz Highway. It is the worst mass murder in Hawaiʻi history.

Red Cross disaster mental health workers provide emotional support and comfort to families and friends of Xerox workers. More than 50 volunteers help the survivors and families deal with the trauma of the tragic event.

November 2000 – Heavy rains bring flooding to Maui and the Big Island affecting hundreds of residents. Red Cross Hawaiʻi responds to help affected residents.

February 9, 2001 – In an incident that becomes international news, Pearl Harbor submarine USS Greenville, practicing an emergency surfacing maneuver south of Oʻahu, collides with the Japanese high school training ship Ehime Maru. Nine of the ship’s crewmembers die, including four high school students.

Hawaiʻi Red Cross responds at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy with translators and mental health workers. More than 20 volunteers work for more than a week providing support to the Japanese Consulate and family members.

March 12, 2001 – Hawaiʻi Red Cross responds to a mercury contamination incident at a Halawa public housing complex that sends 50 people, most of them children, to the hospital.

Thirty volunteers and eight staff members set up an emergency shelter at Halawa District Park for residents who can not return to the contaminated housing complex. The shelter remains open for five nights, housing about 70 residents. The Chapter provides more than 3,500 meals to shelter residents and cleanup operation personnel. Crisis counselors and health nurses are also on hand to provide services to the victims.

September 11, 2001 – Hawaiʻi Red Cross volunteers are on the front lines of the largest disaster response in the history of the American Red Cross: The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Nearly 40 Hawaiʻi volunteers deploy to assist with relief efforts including providing crisis counseling, serving meals to the rescue and recovery workers and assisting victims who lost loved ones.

December 8, 2002 – Super Typhoon Pongsana hits Guam. Hawaiʻi Red Cross sends 10 volunteers to Guam to assist with response and recovery.
July 2003 – Coralie Chun Matayoshi is named as chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Hawaiʻi.
August 13, 2004 – Hurricane Charley hits Florida, followed by Hurricane Frances three weeks later. Hawaiʻi Red Cross sends nine volunteers to assist in support of those affected by the storms. Hurricanes Charley and Frances are two of the largest evacuation and response operations in Florida’s history.
August 25, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina, one of the costliest hurricanes in the country’s history, comes out of the Gulf of Mexico and hits Louisiana and other southern states. It does $100 billion in damage. Hawaiʻi Red Cross raises $5 million to provide assistance to families fleeing the Gulf area. Hawaiʻi Red Cross CEO Coralie Matayoshi flies to Louisiana to be part of the disaster relief operation.

March 2006 – Forty-four days of rain hit Hawaiʻi causing wide-spread damage. Kaloko reservoir on Kauaʻi’s North Shore is breached, resulting in the death of seven people. Hawaiʻi Red Cross assists 129 families at a cost of $75,000.

October 15, 2006 – Earthquake off the Big Island rattles Hawaiʻi, causing power outages and some landslides. Hawaiʻi Red Cross responds, helping 524 people and serving 622 meals. More than 100 volunteers participate in the disaster relief operation.

December 11, 2008 – Heavy rains drench Oʻahu and Kauaʻi, lasting through the new year. The storms cause major flooding across the state. Fourteen homes on Kauaʻi are destroyed and another 172 homes are damaged. Red Cross opens shelters for those affected and provides more than 1,000 meals.

March 2011 – Earthquake in Chile generates a devastating tsunami in Japan and some damage in Hawaiʻi. As soon as the earthquake occurs in Chile, the Hawaiʻi Red Cross works throughout the night to alert 600 Hawaiʻi disaster volunteers to pre-position supplies and open shelters in case of a tsunami.

At least 47 homes in Kona, Maui and Molokai are affected by the tsunami; 21 are destroyed or have major damage. Red Cross volunteers go out on Coast Guard cutters to get meals to 25 stranded boaters off Keʻehi Lagoon who had gone out to sea to ride out the storm and couldn’t return because the harbors were damaged.

As soon as the “all clear” is signaled in Hawaiʻi, Red Cross begins to organize to assist victims of the tsunami in Japan and send volunteers to provide support on the ground. Hawaiʻi Red Cross receives $4.6 million in donations toward Japan relief.

October 31, 2012 – Hawaiʻi Red Cross volunteers are deployed to New York to assist in relief efforts after Superstorm Sandy hits New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
July 2013 – Hawaiʻi Red Cross deploys 12 volunteers to assist Arizona communities affected by devastating wildfires that kill 19 firefighters. The fire is started by lightning on June 28. Hawaiʻi volunteers help with sheltering, health services and crisis counseling.

February 2014 – The Pillowcase Program launches on Oʻahu. The program teaches kids to be prepared for emergencies and encourages them to always have emergency items they can grab at a moment’s notice, kept in a pillowcase that they decorate themselves.

August 2014 – Hurricane Iselle hits Hawaiʻi. Hawaiʻi Red Cross opens 32 shelters and an evacuation center, housing 2,041 people in one night. The Big Island is particularly hit hard. The storms cause disruptions of power and water service.

August 2014 – KHON2 TV hosts first Hawaiʻi Red Cross telethon for Hawaiʻi disaster relief. A total of $116,605 is raised from the telethon.

April 16, 2015 – American Red Cross releases an Emergency App which gives people instant access to weather alerts, lifesaving information and ways to contact family and friends.

The free app provides expert advice on what to do in case of disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, home fires, wildfires and more. It is available in app stores for smartphones and tablets or by going on the American Red Cross website.

March 4, 2016 – Four Hawaiʻi Red Cross volunteers deploy to Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi to assist with devastating floods.