President Obama has designated Hawaii’s Honouliuli Internment and POW Camp, located in central Oahu, as a National Historic Monument. The announcement came on the 73rd anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which in 1942 authorized the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were United States citizens, in wartime concentration camps.
“The new Honouliuli National Monument is a great gift to our state, nation, and future generations,” Carole Hayashino, President and Executive Director of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i (JCCH), told NBC News. “The site will continue to be a living resource to teach and educate us on the lessons of civil rights, U.S. Constitution and American democracy.”
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1000 Japanese and Japanese Americans in Hawaii were interrogated and incarcerated at 17 confinement sites across Hawai‘i. Of these, the Honouliuli site was the largest and longest-used, holding 400 civilians of Japanese, German, and Italian descent, as well as 4,000 prisoners of war, over a three year period. Located in a steep gulch the internees called “Jigoku Dani,” or Hell Valley, it was bulldozed after the war and largely forgotten until The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i (JCCH) discovered the site in 2002. Only two of the original buildings remain.
“The stories of those detained at Honouliuli and internment sites like it across the country are sobering reminders of how even leaders of the greatest nation on Earth can succumb to fear and mistrust and perpetuate great injustice,” said Senator Mazie Hirono.
The National Park Service will manage the Honouliuli National Monument and develop interpretive and educational programs.