Graphic: back to OSCO IndexSmoke or Sabotage?

During the 1930s, OSCO employed a Japanese civil engineer, who was in the Japanese Naval Reserve. This pleasant man was clear about the fact that Japan was his homeland, and had his commission certificate framed and hung on a prominent wall in his home. (Jack knew the man well, but didn't personally see the certificate; others working at OSCO told him about it.) Some people thought he was a spy for Japan.

When Japanese military officials visited Hawaii, the civil engineer always entertained them, and as part of his duties as a tour guide, escorted them through the factory and around the huge plantation in the heights, and nested between the Koolau and Waianae Mountain ranges (both, incidentally, shield volcanoes. Waipahu sits overlooking Pearl City and Pearl Harbor.

In the late 1930's Plantation Manager Hans L'Orange decided it would be good public relations to place the letters "OSCO" vertically on one of the two tall smokestacks. He had the Japanese civil engineer create the design for this lettering. For some reason, no one got around to this cosmetic/advertising change.

Once the war broke out, the military almost immediately apprehended OSCO's civil engineer. Hearsay has it that the U.S. eventually exchanged him for one or more U.S. prisoners of war.

Later, according to hearsay, but apparently verified by OSCO management, when American military personnel searched through the rubble of those few Japanese aircraft that crashed on Oahu, they found - among the papers - a map depicting Oahu Sugar Company and the smokestacks, with the letters exactly as shown on the earlier, but never executed, design.

Was the lettering necessary for the invading Japanese to spot Pearl Harbor? According to Jack, it was not: the smokestacks were highly visible from every direction, including the sky.

Click here to learn more about Oahu's shield volcanoes

Photo orange hibiscus

Copyright Judy Vorfeld.
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