Honouliuli National Monument Proclaimed in Hawaii
Yesterday, President Obama designated the Honouliuli Internment Camp on the island of Oahu in Hawaii as a national monument. According to a White House fact sheet, “This monument permanently protects a site where Japanese American citizens, resident immigrants, and prisoners of war were held captive during World War II. Located on the island of Oahu, the monument will help tell the difficult story of the internment camp’s impact on the Japanese American community and the fragility of civil rights during times of conflict. Honouliuli Internment Camp, located in a steep canyon not far from Pearl Harbor, opened in March, 1943 and was the largest and longest-used confinement site for Japanese and European Americans and resident immigrants in Hawaii, eventually holding 400 civilian internees and 4,000 prisoners of war. The camp was largely forgotten until uncovered in 2002, and the President’s designation will ensure its stories are told for generations.”
“At Honouliuli National Monument, we will share the stories of those who were unjustly held there during World War II as a reminder to the world about the importance of protecting civil liberties, even in times of national crisis.” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis
The following information was provided by the Monument’s official website (www.nps.gov/hono)
Honouliuli National Monument is located on land that, during World War II, served as the largest and longest-used confinement site for Japanese Americans, European Americans, and resident aliens in Hawai’i.
Run by the U.S. Army and opened in March 1943, Honouliuli was both a civilian internment camp and a prisoner of war camp with a population of approximately 400 internees and 4,000 prisoners of war over the course of its use. The 160 acre internment camp contained 175 buildings, 14 guard towers, and over 400 tents. Internees referred to Honouliuli as Jigoku-Dani (“Hell Valley”) because its secluded location in a deep gulch trapped heat and moisture and reinforced the internees’ sense of isolation and unjust imprisonment.
The majority of Honouliuli’s civilian internees were American citizens—predominantly Japanese Americans who were citizens by birth—suspected of disloyalty. They included community, business, and religious leaders. The remaining group comprised predominantly German Americans, though there were also Americans and aliens of Italian, Irish, Russian, and Scandinavian descent.
As a prisoner of war camp, Honouliuli held enemy soldiers and labor conscripts from Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Taiwan, and Italy. Honouliuli also held women and children who were Japanese civilians displaced from the Pacific. Honouliuli closed in 1946 and was soon forgotten as Americans celebrated the victories of World War II. Fast-growing vegetation quickly took over the site.
World War II Internment in Hawai’i
Early on December 7, 1941, as the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor and before martial law was invoked that afternoon, government officials began selectively rounding up Hawai’i residents suspected of disloyalty. They were imprisoned at local jails, courthouses, and facilities on six of the main Hawaiian Islands. Roughly 800 people were interned and eventually transported to the U.S. Immigration Station and the Sand Island Detention Camp on O’ahu in this early period. Nearly all the internees were of Japanese descent; they included influential leaders of the Japanese American community who were educated, were teachers or priests, or had access to means of communication with Japan or to transportation from Hawai’i. Most would be sent to the mainland to live out the duration of the war in Department of Justice and War Relocation Authority camps. The primary legal mechanism used to authorize internment in Hawai’i was martial law. During the period of martial law from December 7, 1941, to October 24, 1944, the U.S. Army issued hundreds of military orders, some of which were applicable only to persons of Japanese ancestry and enemy aliens. For example, people of Japanese ancestry were restricted from residing in certain areas of O’ahu and were forcibly removed from their properties. These types of discriminatory policies created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion.
While the government did consider mass incarceration in Hawai’i, it was deemed impractical. Hawai’i’s Japanese American citizenry and immigrant population was over one third of the territory’s total population, and their labor was needed to sustain the economy and the war effort in the islands.
By war’s end, approximately 2,000 people of Japanese ancestry from Hawai’i were interned. Despite the suspicion of disloyalty, none of the Japanese American internees from Hawai’i was ever found guilty of sabotage, espionage, or overt acts against the United States.
Honouliuli National Monument is a new national park unit without formal services and programs at this time. Access to Honouliuli National Monument is by reservation only. At present, there are no NPS facilities on site. In the coming months and years, you will see more visitor opportunities, interpretive and educational programs, and notices regarding the new monument. Honouliuli National Monument is managed by staff of the National Park Service Pacific West Region.