Landmark of bias – Honolulu Star Advertiser
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President Barack Obama will announce Thursday the designation of the old Honouliuli Internment Camp in Kunia as a national monument to "help tell the difficult story of the internment camp's impact on the Japanese American community and the fragility of civil rights during times of conflict," the White House said.
Opened in 1943, Honouliuli was the last, largest and longest-used World War II confinement site in Hawaii.
Honouliuli held 320 internees, mostly second-generation Japanese-Americans, but also Japanese, German and Italian nationals, the National Park Service said.
The internment facility, or what's left of it, has come to symbolize Hawaii's part in the discrimination that was directed against Americans of Japanese descent after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack and America's entry into World War II.
On the West Coast all individuals of Japanese ancestry — two-thirds of them American-born citizens — were forced from their homes under Executive Order 9066, issued in 1942.
Honouliuli "was largely forgotten until uncovered in 2002, and the president's designation will ensure its stories are told for generations," the White House said of the new monument, to be managed by the park service.
Obama on Thursday is expected to announce the creation of three new national monuments: Honouliuli, Chicago's historic Pullman town, and Brown's Canyon National Monument in Colorado.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said in a statement that the detention of innocent Hawaii civilians during World War II "remains a dark chapter in Hawaii and our nation's history," while the president's designation highlights "an important but often forgotten piece" of that history.
"The stories of those detained at Honouliuli and hundreds of camps 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," Hirono said.
"Honouliuli represents a dark period in our history when thousands of Japanese Americans in Hawaii and across the country were forced into internment camps during World War II," U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said in a statement. "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."
The Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, acknowledged the injustice of the mass incarceration of Japanese-Americans, stating it was the result of "racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a lack of political leadership."
The National Park Service was directed by Congress in 2009 to study the national significance and feasibility of including Honouliuli Gulch and some associated sites into the national park system.
The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, and by Hirono and then-Rep. Neil Abercrombie in the House, the park service said.
The park service is expected to put together a management plan for Honouliuli National Monument. What exactly will be re-created at the weedy and overgrown site, which was demolished after World War II, was not immediately clear Tuesday.
Paul DePrey, superintendent of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor, could not be reached for comment.
A 2014 park service report pointed to road improvements for access costing between $3 million and $20 million, with operations costing between $400,000 and $750,000 annually.
The owner of the Honouliuli site, the Monsanto Co., expressed interest in donating the site, the park service said in the Honouliuli Gulch resource study.
The new monument would total about 440 acres, including 285 acres owned by the University of Hawaii, according to the study. Visitors would have the opportunity to learn about the internment camp, internment in Hawaii, martial law, civil liberties and peace and reconciliation.
Mainland sites such as Tule Lake and Manzanar in California and Minidoka in Idaho "tell part of the story of the Japanese American internment during World War II," the park service report said. "However, Hawaii's unique part of that history is only told on a limited scale."
Organizations such as the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii received $117,626 in 2010 from the park service to produce a one-hour documentary film on the Hawaii internees, and $38,565 in 2011 to hire and train guides to conduct tours of the Honouliuli site.
Executive Director Carole Hayashino said the center's goal has been to preserve the former internment camp.
"We will continue our efforts to educate the public on Honouliuli but also to document the history of the experience of the Japanese-Americans who were detained in Honouliuli," Hayashino said. "So we're looking forward to working with the National Park Service on joint educational programming."
Among those interned at Honouliuli was Sanji Abe, a Japanese-American who served in the territorial Legislature.
"He was interned — a Japanese-American leader from Hilo," Hayashino said. "He was a World War I veteran, (and) he was an elected official. He was picked up several times, and he ended up in Honouliuli and he was forced to resign his seat."
Of the 158,000 people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii at the beginning of World War II, about 2,000 were interned in a variety of locations, the park service said. The number was relatively low because the Caucasian power structure "stepped forward and said, ‘We can't do the jobs you want us to do unless we have the bulk of our Japanese-American citizens working,'" Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the park service's Valor in the Pacific monument, said previously.
Honouliuli held about 320 internees and became the largest prisoner-of-war camp in Hawaii with nearly 4,000 POWs from Korea, Okinawa, Taiwan, Japan and Italy.