New National Park to Honor Difficult Chapter of WWII Internment Camp
WASHINGTON, DC – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell applauded President Obama's announcement today that he is designating the Honouliuli Internment Camp on the island of Oahu in Hawaii as a national monument, permanently protecting a site where Japanese American citizens, resident immigrants, and prisoners of war were held captive during World War II.
The Honouliuli National Monument is one of three new national monuments announced by President Obama today that help tell the story of significant events in American history and protect unique natural resources for the benefit of all Americans. He also launched an “Every Kid in a Park” initiative that will provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to National Parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year. Find out more here.
The site, located near Pearl Harbor, opened in March 1943 and was the largest and longest-used confinement site for Japanese and European Americans and resident aliens in Hawaii, eventually holding approximately 400 civilian internees and 4,000 prisoners of war. After the war, it was largely forgotten and overgrown with vegetation until it was uncovered in 2002.
“The unjust internment of Japanese Americans in Hawaii during World War II is a difficult chapter in our nation's history, but it is a story that needs to be told,” Jewell said, who visited the site in September 2013. “Hawaii's newest national park will help ensure that we remember – and learn from – this time in our history when civil rights were put on hold in the face of prejudice and fear.”
The site will be managed by the National Park Service, which will conduct a management planning process with full public involvement.
“As the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2016, we strive to tell the whole story of America and to make history relevant to more Americans by sharing the places where those stories unfolded,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “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.”
Monsanto Company donated the property to the United States, making it possible to establish the monument. The University of Hawaii-West O'ahu is actively involved in research and interpretation of the site and has signed an agreement with the National Park Service to assure public access over its lands adjacent to the site.
Japanese American organizations and elected leaders in Hawaii have strongly supported preserving and interpreting the camp. In 2010, Congress authorized the Department of the Interior to conduct a study of the site for possible inclusion in the National Park System. It now becomes the fifth site associated with the exclusion of Japanese Americans during World War II in the system, joining Manzanar National Historic Site in California, Minidoka National Historic Site in Idaho, Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial in Washington, and the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in California.
Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the federal government declared martial law in Hawaii and began to round up local residents, most of whom were Japanese Americans, on suspicion of disloyalty.
The community referred to the camp as Jigoku-Dani, or Hell Valley, because its secluded location at the bottom of a deep gulch trapped heat and moisture and reinforced the internees' sense of isolation and unjust imprisonment.
As a prisoner of war camp, Honolouliuli also housed enemy soldiers and labor conscripts from Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Taiwan and Italy, as well as civilian Japanese women and children who were displaced from the Pacific. The camp was guarded by an African American infantry unit and units of Japanese Americans from the mainland. More information about the new monument is available at www.nps.gov/hono.
The Antiquities Act was first exercised by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Since then, 16 presidents have used this authority to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients.
With these new designations, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 16 national monuments. Altogether, he has protected more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – as well as preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people or extraordinary events in American history, such as Cèsar E. Chàvez National Monument in California, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.