American Experience - Season 17, Episode 8 - Rotten Tomatoes

The Massie Affair


Episode Info

In 1931, Hawaii had not yet been granted statehood, but the presence of the United States was already strong - the islands had been declared a U.S. territory, and the American military wasted no time in taking advantage of their strategic location, while agricultural firms made use of the abundant sugar and fruit crops. Late in the summer that year, news of a shocking crime swept the islands -- Thalia Fortescue Massie, whose husband was a lieutenant in the Navy, claimed that she had been beaten and raped by a gang of five men while traveling from Waikiki to Honolulu. While she claimed to be unable to identify the men who had attacked her (she also bore no physical signs of the alleged attack), and despite the lack of any evidence tying them to the crime, two Hawaiian islanders were arrested, along with two men of Japanese descent and one of Chinese heritage. At the men's trial, Mrs. Massie suddenly claimed that she did remember what had happened, offering detailed and graphic details and even identifying the accused by name. While evidence presented at their trial clearly proved the men could not have committed the crime, the jury was unable to reach a verdict, and when they were arrested on bail pending a new trial, one of the men was attacked and brutally beaten by American servicemen. Soon afterward, Grace Hubbard Fortescue, Thalia's mother, arrived in Hawaii determined to protect her family's reputation; later, one of the accused men was found dead in her car in what she eventually admitted was a revenge killing. The American Experience: The Massie Affair is a documentary that examines the facts behind this series of crimes, and explores the tragic legacy it has left on the people of Hawaii. Produced for PBS, The American Experience: The Massie Affair was first aired on April 18, 2005.


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