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The Untold Story: Japanese-Americans' WWII Internment in Hawaii

A new film uncovers the story of the lesser-known WWII camps in Hawaii, as an effort to preserve the sites as national monuments builds support.
Image: Barracks at Honouliuli Internment Camp, circa 1945-46.
Barracks at Honouliuli Internment Camp, circa 1945-46.R.H. Lodge / Courtesy of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii

The National Park Service has begun giving tours of the former World War II Japanese-American internment site at Kilauea Military Camp, located inside Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

The tours are a result of a recent study, authorized by Congress, of 17 internment sites in Hawaii. The report made several recommendations for historic preservation, including officially incorporating Honouliuli Internment Camp on Oahu into the National Park System as a National Historic Site or National Monument.

“These stories are heartfelt—and severe—about how we treat other humans,” said National Park Service Ranger Laura Schuster. “There is a depth of complexity in these stories, and these tours allow us to share the history of this place and touch people.”

The internment of Japanese Americans in Hawaii is not as well-known as that on the mainland United States. Because Japanese Americans were crucial to the economic health of Hawaii, the FBI detained only the leaders of the Japanese, German, and Italian-American communities after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. No one was ever found guilty of a crime. Many sites have been lost.

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii (JCCH) produced the documentary, “The Untold Story: Internment of Japanese Americans in Hawai'i,” as part of the effort to preserve the national memory, and continues to search for more sites, stories, and artifacts.