Honouliuli’s history worthy of national recognition – Honolulu Star Advertiser

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Should the National Park Service make Honouliuli an interpretive center?

This was the major camp for Hawaii internees, and prisoners of war from Asia and Europe were adjacent.

Honouliuli was situated in a hot, mosquito-ridden gulch of a sugar cane field six miles inland from the West Loch of Pearl Harbor and 14 miles from downtown Hono-lulu. Monsanto is the current owner and is willing to donate the land — 160 acres — to Uncle Sam for the center.

This site could be an interesting choice for visitors. It was the only internee camp near an urban center. Camps on the mainland were deliberately situated away from the Pacific Ocean in desolate rural areas. More than 300 Hawaii internees ultimately shared this location with the POWs. If this place becomes a visitor center, a wide range of people will learn the full Honouliuli story. We should take this opportunity to add this chapter to Hawaiian and American history.

Americans need to be reminded continually of the threat to civil rights and the rule of law that comes with wartime, martial law and, more recently, with terrorism.

Some of our most revered presidents, yielding to wartime pressures, have overreached and breached the Bill of Rights without sufficient cause. Scholars have criticized President Abraham Lincoln for imposing martial law in Indiana during the Civil War because it was not in a war zone. He was trying to restrict obnoxious Southern sympathizers opposing his war policies. After the war, courts decided he had gone too far.

History repeated itself on a much larger scale in 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson began a "hard sell" campaign to convince Americans to support United <t-6>States entry into World War I.<t$> He wanted to persuade them that the United States could tip the scales toward Allied victory and make the world safe for democracy. Our aid and troops proved crucial in the Allied victory, but civil liberties suffered greatly. The Wilson administration engaged in excessive censorship and suppression of dissent, and its propaganda machine created a super-patriotism that intimidated German-Americans and spilled over into suspicion of the loyalty of foreigners or anyone who didn't speak English

The failure of the justice system in wartime reached its peak in World War II with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order that led to persons of Japanese descent — citizens or not — being evacuated from the West Coast without due process. The detainees in Hawaii did not receive timely due process either.

In Hawaii, the military governor decided to intern less than 2 percent of those of Japanese ancestry because more than one-third of the population then was Japanese and their labor was much needed.

Justice was not served, and detainees and their families endured trauma, stigma and rumors of disloyalty for decades afterward. Of course, Hawaii was considered a war zone and was under martial law from 1941 to 1944, so everyone in the islands lived with some restrictions on their liberty.

Also, POWs side by side with local internees offers a unique opportunity for comparisons. Detainees from Korea, Taiwan and Okinawa were unhappy to be classified as Japanese subjects.

There were at least 4,000 Italian POWs imported to meet Hawaii's labor shortage.

Despite many complications, an inspector from neutral Sweden decided that conditions at this POW camp met the standards of the Geneva Convention.

The POW presence in "Hell Valley" is part of this "untold story."

Hawaii has long been known for its weather and beaches but, as the visitor industry has noticed, travelers have become interested in the history of places they visit. Alabama is now benefitting from visitors coming to Birmingham and Selma.

We should not let the horrific human rights violations of the militaristic Axis Powers, our wartime enemies, deter us from examining our own record at Honouliuli in World War II.