Obama to declare Honouliuli Internment Camp a national monument

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President Barack Obama will designate the former Honouliuli Internment Camp site on Oahu as a national monument, officials said Wednesday.

He is expected to make the announcement Thursday–a decision lauded by Hawaii’s Congressional delegation, local lawmakers and Japanese American organizations.

The monument will be managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

Support for the coming designation grew over the spring and summer, when the National Park Service held a series of community meetings throughout Hawaii to present their initial findings of a federally-funded study of the site, and invited attendees to offer comments and ask questions.

Opened on March 1, 1943, Honouliuli was the longest operating and largest World War II internment and prisoner of war camp in Hawaii. Built on 160 acres in West Oahu, the camp site was hidden from view in a deep gulch that the internees called jigoku dani, or “hell valley.”

Honouliuli Internment Camp was constructed on Oahu to intern citizens, resident aliens and prisoners of war. The camp held approximately 320 internees, mostly second-generation Japanese Americans but also Japanese, German and Italian permanent residents who were living in Hawaii. Honouliuli was also the largest prisoner of war camp in Hawaii, incarcerating nearly 4,000 individuals.

In total, during World War II, over 2,300 Japanese American men and women from Hawaii were incarcerated, including many prominent community leaders, teachers, journalists, religious leaders, local politicians and World War I veterans.

“The President’s executive action is an important step in protecting Honouliuli and the stories of those who were detained in our state and across the nation, highlighting an important but often forgotten piece of our national history. Preserving the site has long been a priority for our Hawaii delegation — from Senators Inouye and Akaka to our current delegation. I will continue to work closely with the administration, state and local leaders as well as my delegation colleagues to ensure federal resources are delivered for this important project.” — Sen. Mazie Hirono

“This historic site will memorialize the strength and bravery of the many Japanese-Americans who faced discrimination and serve as a reminder to ourselves and future generations that we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. Our deep gratitude goes to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, the Japanese American Citizens League and others who worked tirelessly for this achievement. It is meaningful and right that Honouliuli has finally received the historic recognition it deserves.” — Sen. Brian Schatz

“The designation of the Honouliuli camp as a National Monument serves as a solemn reminder that in our nation’s history bedrock civil rights have been disregarded in times of conflict as a result of unfounded fear and panic. Honouliuli was a central piece of the brutal and discriminatory internment system created during World War II; today, the structure remains as a memorial that will educate future generations about the precariousness of freedom in wartime.” — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

“The internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II is a tragic example of what happens when we allow fear and hatred to take the place of rational and just actions. Honouliuli will serve as a place where we will be able to educate the coming generations about the importance of civil liberties for all people. Now more than ever, we must learn from the mistakes of the past, and the designation of Honouliuli as a national monument will give Hawaii a chance to shine light on this serious issue.” — Rep. Mark Takai

“President Obama’s action ensures that generations to come will be able to visit the Honouliuli Internment Camp and learn about the experiences of persons of Japanese ancestry who were forced to stay there during the war. The monument will remind all who visit of the terrible injustice these families endured, even while many of their husbands, sons and brothers were fighting for the United States.” — Gov. David Ige

“The preservation of the Honouliuli Internment Camp as a National Monument is a proud moment for Honolulu, but also a bittersweet one. World War II internment camps are a dark segment of our nation’s history, and the Honouliuli camp still holds memories for Honolulu residents during wartime, life in the camp, and the courage and bravery that internees displayed even as their loyalty to our country was being challenged. It is an important part of history that should always be remembered and learned from, and I want to thank the President for making this possible. As a National Monument, Honouliuli’s significance will be forever honored.” — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell

“As a new national monument, Honouliuli will be a great gift to our state and nation. On behalf of the Japanese American internees and their families, I want to thank President Obama for vindicating the honor of those who were incarcerated and for recognizing the historic site as a lesson in injustice and forgiveness for all Americans and for future generations.” — Carole Hayashino, president and executive director, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii

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