On Feb. 20, the Los Angeles-based Manzanar Committee hailed the declaration of the site of the Honouliuli Internment Camp as a national historic monument by President Barack Obama on Feb. 19.

Honouliuli, located in Kunia, Hawaii (island of Oahu), has long been an “overgrown gulch” on privately owned land. But during World War II, the site was home to an internment camp that incarcerated more than 300 Americans of Japanese ancestry and 4,000 prisoners of war.

Honouliuli Internment Camp (Hawaii Army Museum)
Honouliuli Internment Camp (Hawaii Army Museum)

Honouliuli incarcerees named the camp “Jigoku Dani” or “Hell Valley.”

By proclamation, Obama, under authority granted to the president under the Antiquities Act of 1906, created the Honouliuli National Monument, protecting and preserving the site in perpetuity.

“Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii permanently protects a site where Japanese American citizens, resident immigrants, and prisoners of war were held captive during World War II,” the White House said in a statement. “Located on the island of Oahu, the monument will 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.”

“We’re announcing a new park in my home state, before I was adopted by Illinois, my home state of Hawaii,” said Obama. “Honouliuli was once an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. Going forward, it’s going to be a monument to a painful part of our history so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis echoed the president’s remarks: “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.”

Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey noted that another Japanese American confinement site would be protected and preserved, strengthening the community’s efforts to tell the story of the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

“The designation of Honouliuli as a national monument is simply tremendous and adds an essential chapter to the story of what Japanese Americans were subjected to following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941,” said Embrey. “The Manzanar Committee applauds the president for designating the Honouliuli National Monument on the 73rd anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, and for recognizing the violations of constitutional rights and human rights by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s action.

“Congratulations and thank you to Carole Hayashino, Jane Kurahara, and everyone at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, the Honolulu chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, archeologists Jeff Burton and Mary Farrell, Hawaii’s senators, Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, Hawaii’s congressional delegation, Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai, and everyone else involved in making the Honouliuli National Monument a reality.

“We are truly encouraged by the addition of Honouliuli to the list of Japanese American confinement sites being preserved and protected by the National Park Service. We sincerely hope that serious efforts will be made to develop the site, as the White House said, an important lesson on civil rights and how fragile they can be.”

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