Pieces of Aloha Documentary


WGA Registration Number: 1834407

Pieces of Aloha© documents a real life quest of a son to honor his 95 year old father’s wishes and to “Do something good” with the only known “Sweetheart Souvenir” from the battle of Pearl Harbor. A linking hearts bracelet we call Heroes’ Hearts®, was made from a downed Japanese plane by a young Marine Corporal Salvatore (Sam) Richiusa who had survived Pearl Harbor. When he came home and got married, he gave the bracelet to his bride. The actions and simple recollections of an average, Sicilian American Marine, is the catalyst for launching a larger story of love and duty to which all generations can relate. The film uncovers a little-known WW2 history for the Hawaiian people, Japanese Americans and nationals, Italian Americans and African American Marines that offers us a richer understanding of the the word Aloha.

The story opens as the original bracelet returns to Pearl Harbor during the 75th anniversary of the battle (December 7, 2016). Through first person narrative, rare photographs and archival film, we are transported back in time to relive this history as told to Corporal Richiusa’s son. Not only is Corporal Richiusa’s story preserved, but descendants of real characters are brought together, and replica bracelets are disseminated to the benefit of battle worn war survivors now living with PTSD.

Important structural note: Five individual true stories will represent those who were affected by the war, but whose stories are not often focused upon in relationship to the attack on Pearl Harbor and possibly would have been overlooked, had not the story of Heroes’ Hearts® been revealed. These previously untold stories include:

  1. How the bracelet relates to Japanese Americans—Notably Floyd Fujii, Sam Richiusa’s high school friend who ends up in Manzanar (the California relocation camp, where he met his wife);
  2. Sicilian Italians—not generally considered white in 1941—Sam is put in charge of a crew of black Marines who build the barracks along the parade ground on Hickam Field. According to Sam’s recorded account, his crew took machine guns and ammo from the armory and mounted them on trucks, skip-loaders and tractors, shooting down three planes;
  3. African Americans—most people did not, until this story was revealed and examined, even know that black Marines existed, let alone were involved in the fighting at Pearl Harbor;
  4. The Japanese pilot who flew the plane from which the fragments were taken (possibly killed by native Hawaiians) is now known to be Shuzo Kitahara. His crew included PO2c Yoshio Shimizu (navigator/observer) and PO2c Haruo Onishi (gunner/radioman); and
  5. Hawaiian Natives—Hawaii was still not a state and had only 50 years previously been overtaken by Americans. This is possibly the most ignored group of people in the whole saga. In Sam Richiusa’s recorded interview from the 60th Anniversary of the attack (conducted for The Los Angeles Daily News by Gordon Richiusa), Sam goes against the official story and talks about the Hawaiian Natives who were responsible (in their words) for the death of the pilot. Our documentary will also look at the many women who are also directly related to the bracelet. “I don’t know how many of us were on there, but we rode around in a truck—probably four or five of us—with a machine gun, a fifty caliber machine gun mounted on it and we were patrollin’ around the island. When we got close to some pineapple fields, some of the natives there that were working in the pineapple field came over to our truck there and said they had killed a Japanese that had crashed his plane in one of the fields there.

(Q): Why didn’t you ever tell me about the ethnicity of your crew or of your best friend?
(A) “I didn’t think that race was significant.”