After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the military declared martial law in Hawaii. The Army acted to evacuate the families of servicemen and then expanded its order to include other women and children who wanted to leave as well as tourists stranded by war. During the next three months, 10,000 people left Hawaii for the mainland.
On March 29, 1942, officials from the War Department contacted Frances Penrose Owen, President of the Children's Orthopedic Hospital Board of Trustees. The War Department needed to find accommodations for 3,000 to 6,000 evacuees who were soon to arrive in Seattle.
Seattle was already experiencing a housing shortage due to the influx of war workers and military personnel. Children's Orthopedic Hospital had a network of neighborhood guilds that raised money, manufactured hospital supplies, and provided volunteers in the hospital. Owen was asked to quickly -- and quietly -- trigger the guilds into action to find food and housing. She called a special meeting of the guild council and cautioned the guild presidents to keep the convoy a secret. They would not know of the ships' arrival until just hours before. The guild presidents mobilized the hospitality committees and the guilds shifted their efforts from crippled children to war refugees.
Volunteers prepared space at the Sunset Club and at the Red Cross Recreation Center as well as at various churches. The arrival of the convoy was not reported in Seattle newspapers; military censors prohibited publication of weather reports and ship movements. But an interview of one eyewitness to the December 7 attack, Mary Semans Naiden, on April 7 revealed that the evacuees had begun to arrive.