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Hawaii Five-O, "Samurai"
Created by Leonard Freeman
Produced by Robert Stambler
Directed by Alvin Ganzer
Teleplay by Jerome Coopersmith and Mel Goldberg
Story by Jerome Coopersmith
Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett
Ricardo Montalbán as Leonard Tokura
Originally shown on TV on October 17, 1968
51 min.

Hawaii Five-O, one of the most popular detective shows ever, featured exotic Hawaiian scenes, fast-paced action, charismatic Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett, and vibrant theme music that The Ventures made into a hit. This series, named for a fictional state police force, ran on CBS TV from 1968 to 1980 and was filmed on location in Hawaii. "Samurai," the fourth episode in the show's first season, has Ricardo Montalbán playing the villain Leonard Tokura, the state's head of organized crime with dealings in drugs, gambling, and prostitution. In this episode's far-fetched plot, McGarrett exposes Tokura as a former Japanese Navy officer who abandoned his midget submarine during the Pearl Harbor attack, escaped to the island of Molokai, killed a young Japanese-American man hiding there, and then assumed his name and identity after the end of the war. Although "Samurai" includes several historical references, most of these have little or no basis in actual history.

The episode begins with two Japanese men praying before a statue in a temple in Japan. The scene switches to Hawaii as Tokura arrives with his bodyguards at a hearing of the Crime Commission. One of the Japanese men shoots Tokura in the hallway, but the fleeing gunman immediately gets shot down by Tokura's bodyguards, and Tokura gets up unhurt from the floor and taps his bulletproof vest. Mary Travers, the main witness against Tokura at the hearing, suddenly falls dead from the witness stand for no apparent reason.

McGarrett discovers that the person who tried to murder Tokura was someone from Japan who was carrying a samurai short sword. He visits Tokura's mansion to ask why someone from Japan would be interested in killing him, and he shows the short sword to him and says: "This was responsible. Samurai, ancient order of Japanese knighthood. Fanatic principles of honor. The code of bushido." Tokura denies that he has any connection to Japan.

The police lab finds out that Mary Travers' lipstick contained poison. When Tokura and his bodyguards try to enter a city building, the second man from Japan pulls the pin on a grenade and rushes at Tokura, but a bodyguard tries to tackle him as the grenade explodes and kills them both. The Five-O police unit cannot figure out the connection to Japan since Tokura, a Japanese-American, came to Hawaii from San Francisco in 1939. When McGarrett questions Tokura about his background, he says he worked in the sugar fields for two years when he came from San Francisco and then lived in a cave in Molokai until the end of the war in order to escape forced internment of all Japanese. During this questioning, a gunman shoots at Tokura, and McGarrett and the Five-O men run after the unsuccessful assassin. Meanwhile, a "bushido" supposedly kills Tokura in his home as the police are outside chasing after the man who shot at him, but a shotgun blows away Tokura's face so he cannot be recognized. However, his ring falls off the finger when the corpse is being carried out, even though the ring normally fit Tokura's finger very tightly, so McGarrett suspects that Tokura may have staged his own murder and may still be alive.

Hawaii Five-O receives a cablegram from the Tokyo police department, who identifies the fingerprints sent from Hawaii as Imperial Navy Lt. S. Yamashito, who served on board a kamikaze submarine at Pearl Harbor and was killed in action in 1942. McGarrett then visits a Navy Base and talks to a Chief Petty Officer who had been at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. They talk about Japanese midget submarines, armed with two torpedoes each, that tried to sneak through the nets at Pearl Harbor. McGarrett mentions the submarine that was raised up a couple of years before off the coast of Molokai, but the Navy officer explains that the torpedoes were never fired and that only one skeleton was found with its head bashed in even though each submarine had a two-man crew.

At the urging of McGarrett, Tokura's daughter Deedee gives a check for $1 million to the university in a ploy to bring Tokura out of hiding. When Deedee goes to see a movie at a theater, Tokura sits down beside her, but he gets arrested. In the final scene, Tokura apparently will be deported from Hawaii back to Japan, but he sees two men he thinks are "bushido" when he starts to board the ship. Rather than face the "bushido" on the ship, he confesses to McGarrett that he murdered Mary Travers.

"Samurai" contains numerous implausible and incorrect historical references. "Bushido" is a Japanese word meaning literally "way of the warrior" and usually used to refer to the code of samurai warriors, but the show's characters mistakenly use this term to refer to a person or a group of people. They make "bushido" sound like the Japanese mob. Even the name of the midget submarine pilot, Yamashito, does not exist in Japanese, but maybe they just mispronounced the common name of Yamashita. The Tokyo police send information to the Hawaii Five-O office that Yamashito served aboard a "kamikaze submarine," even though Japanese people did not use the word "kamikaze" until October 1944 to refer to aerial suicide attacks. Japanese refer to these midget submarines as "special attack submarines," with the term "special attack" having the meaning of a "suicide attack" from which the pilots would not return. The Tokyo police also state Yamashito was killed in battle in 1942 even though the Pearl Harbor attack took place in 1941. Tokura tells McGarrett he hid in Molokai when the government ordered all Japanese to be interned, but no such mass internment took place in Hawaii since sugar and pineapple plantations needed Japanese and Japanese-American workers even during the war.

The finding of a sunken Japanese midget submarine actually happened in 1960, but the details differ from the show's story. Five midget submarines participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor (see Advance Force Pearl Harbor (1992) by Burlingame for detailed history of these five midgets). In July 1960, one of these five submarines was recovered near the mouth of the Pearl Harbor channel [1]. The two torpedoes had not been fired, and no sign of the crew remained with the hatches being found open. People at the time made wild speculations that the crew may have escaped and lived among Japanese residents, but more likely they may have drowned while trying to reach the surface. Tokura's history in the episode has a similar outline, but many differences exist. The show states the submarine was found off Molokai two years prior to 1968, rather than near the mouth of the Pearl Harbor channel in 1960. The episode mentions one skeleton with a crushed head, but no remains were actually found.

The depiction of Tokura as a suicide midget submarine pilot who decided to save his own life rather than carry out the attack is a typical American opinion of how the Japanese felt when faced with a suicide attack. However, actual Japanese suicide (special attack) squadron members almost always tried to complete their assigned missions. The show also incorrectly depicts these suicide pilots as somehow connected to the "bushido" or Japanese mob, but the episode has no details on this perverse relationship. Tokura seems to embody evil with his murders of many innocent people and his widespread criminal enterprises. Despite Tokura's unbelievable background and his portrayal by a Hispanic actor Ricardo Montalbán, this Hawaii Five-O episode contains some suspense and excitement along with beautiful Hawaiian scenes and great theme music.


1. Burlingame 1992, 425-9; Warner and Seno 1986, 179-80. 

Sources Cited

Burlingame, Burl. 1992. Advance Force Pearl Harbor. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.

Warner, Peggy, and Sadao Seno. 1986. The Coffin Boats: Japanese Midget Submarine Operations in the Second World War. London: Leo Cooper in association with Secker & Warburg.