As the Atlantic war of blockades cost more US lives in 1915-1916, America’s small standing army and navy became a concern to government. A preparedness movement spread across the US, reaching Hawaii.
The proximity of German colonies to Japan – and Hawaii – meant naval and merchant marine ships of the fighting parties prowled the Pacific. Governor-Elk Lucius Pinkham advocated preparedness saying Hawaii must plan “for defense against an enemy [Germany] who would come across the Pacific and attack Hawaii as the first blow directed at the United States.” (Kuykendall)
In Jan. 1916, a Naval Militia was organized in Hawaii to train on the USS St. Louis. With the Apr. 1917 declaration of war, the ship and crew sailed for the U-boat filled Atlantic, serving as a troop ship, and escort. A year later, Elk Otto Beerman joined that crew. USS St. Louis ended the war returning troops to the US from Europe.
Hawaii’s Army National Guard grew during the preparedness period. Typical of the era, men were organized in segregated units: Anglo-Saxon, Filipino, Hawaiian, Japanese, and Portuguese. Elk Samuel I. Johnson commanded the Guard as Brig. General. Elk W. R. Riley headed the 1st Regiment. Training to make soldiers of recruits was held Nov. 1917 in Camp Liliuokalani at Kalailoa / Barber’s Point.
Fearing Hawaii would be defenseless if regular Army troops left to fight in Europe, Gov. Pinkham and others saw the Guard defending isolated Hawaii. Others saw the guard as Hawaii’s ready contribution to the nation’s defense. Businesses feared negative economic impacts if the many guard-enlisted plantation laborers were sent off island.
In 1915-1918, Washington sent conflicting messages about the Hawaii National Guard’s purpose and activation. Finally in June 1918, some units were federalized, but only for Hawaii duty. Mobilized men were processed through a pup tent camp on Iolani Palace lawns, dubbed Camp McCarthy in honor of Elk and soon-to-be Governor C. J. McCarthy. Here men were subjected to physicals by PER Dr. C. B. Cooper and others. Successful ‘graduates’ moved to Schofield Barracks and more training.
By age, few Elks qualified for the draft (1917 =21-30 yrs; 1918=18-45 yrs). The first Elks drawn into military service, including PERs G. H. Angus, J. D. Dougherty, H. E. Murray, were reserve officers. They remained in Honolulu and their economic status changed little. When a young Kauai-born Elk joined the US Engineers, the Lodge voted to forgive the dues of non-commissioned officers and enlisted-men in service.
Elks P. M. Pond, T. E. Wall, and H. Cooper served on draft boards. Elks worked to ensure a solid turnout for the territory’s mass draft registration – July 31, 1917. With the help of the YMCA, YWCA, and Boy Scouts, 26,335 men on all islands registered in one day. 
We have only a few names of Elks who saw service. It appears all survived. Capt. A. L. C. Atkinson (first Trustee) served 2 years in the US Army, Quartermaster Corps. Brother N. Stecher ‘joined the colors’ in 1918. When Esteemed Leading Knight C. S. Davis joined, the Lodge voted to place the American flag on his chair and leave it vacant. He returned in 1919 from Officer Training in California to give an “interesting discourse on army life” and become the next ER.
Hawaii’s and the Elks’ experience is not that different from the nation’s. Only about half of those who landed in Europe saw action. America lost more men to disease (57,000) than to bullets or gas (49,000). A list of Hawaii’s dead shows many died at Schofield, Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, or in mainland states. Many men were crowded together, often with minimum sanitation, no antibiotics, no vaccinations, and a world-wide influenza epidemic.
The US seemingly had an unending flow of fresh soldiers, and industrial might to turn out new ships and tanks. Paired with Pres. Wilson’s promise of an honorable peace, these factors contributed mightily to bringing Germany to the peace table.
In 1917-1918, Hawaii’s business-political community saw the Islands’ record in fundraising, recruitment, and military service as a test of the territory’s patriotism and fitness for statehood. Hawaii’s diverse ethnic groups gave in bonds and charity more per capita than some states. Only one state exceeded Hawaii’s purchase of Thrift and War Savings Stamps. Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese men volunteered when they could have evaded service by letting the prejudice of others prevail. In seeking statehood, governors, delegates to congress, and the Legislature later bragged on these statistics to multiple Congressional ‘fact finding’ committees. Elks hosting fellow Elks on those committees vouched for the Americanism of Hawaii, all without result.
As they contributed and labored and enlisted in 1917, no Elk would have predicted that BPOE 616 would soon be labeled unpatriotic.
Anita Manning, Lodge Historian
Advertiser May 12, 1917, Jan 24, 1918, May 3, 1927
Feher, J. 1969. Hawaii: A Pictorial History. Bishop Museum Press.
Kuykendall, R. 1928. Hawaii in the World War. p 20-90
Membership records 616.
Minutes 616. 1917 Jun 8, Jul 13, Aug 31; 1918 Apr 19, 26, Aug 30, Oct 4; 1919 Jan 3, 24
Nevins and Commage. A Pocket History of the United States. 1966. p 393-402
Schlesinger, Jr., ed. 1983. Almanac of American History. p 425-439
 August 23, 1914, Japan declared war on Germany hoping to obtain their island colonies (Bismarcks, Marianas, Marshalls, Carolines, Papua New Guinea, Solomons, Western Samoa). In 1920, the League of Nations gave Japan many, but not all, to administer. New Zealand, Australia got others; the US kept Guam, a disappointment to Japan.  Draft registration in Hawaii presented a special challenge: shoehorn Hawaii’s many ethnic groups into federal race categories. Final federal decision: Hawaiians registered as “white” and Filipinos as “oriental.” This mixture of races undoubtedly contributed to the on-off signals sent by US mainland governmental system over federalizing the Hawaii guard for full duty. Advertiser Oct 2, 1918 sec2, p1 “Hawaiian is White Man” Thanks to H. J. Bartels for this reference.