It often pays to read your snail mail. When I opened an envelope that had been sitting on my desk for over a month, my jaw dropped at the sight of this new book: Shore Leave by Ryan Mungia of Boyo Press in Los Angeles. My interest was not high because the typography and graphic design signals a shift in style or fashion, but because this modest volume is a slice of history that is nuanced and iconic at the same time.
Shore Leave is a collection of photographic snapshots and some ephemera from World War II that reveals how in the post-Pearl Harbor days and years, Hawaii, which became a United States territory in 1898, was marketed as an exotic tourist destination, a tropical paradise just hours off the coast of America. It was a playground inhabited by “nubile hula girls and powerful native surfers,” writes Jim Heimann in his essay, which accompanies the material from his own collection. This visualization influenced a nation’s perception of this Pacific island.
“This imagery was also used in recruitment material for the U.S. Navy as an inducement to ‘see the world’ while serving one’s country,” Heimann adds. Honolulu was a major debarkation point for the thousands of sailors headed for battles against the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. Therefore, it became the most famous venue in the war for “liberty,” or shore leave, when military personnel, and especially sailors, had one last memorable fling. The visuals in Shore Leave are everyday yet full of historical resonance. Through these preserved ephemeral remains of culture history is made.
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