Seventy-three years ago last week, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, a decree that ultimately led to the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans in camps across the country.

It’s an ugly chapter in our nation’s history, one experienced in highly personal and painful ways by individuals, families and communities in many areas, but particularly so in Hawaii. Given the singular role that the Pearl Harbor attack played as the predicate to the executive order and the subsequent incarceration of 400 civilians and 4,000 prisoners of war in the Honouliuli camp here on Oahu, 9066 is an important part of our state’s history and its anniversary, cause for solemn remembrance.

President Obama’s welcome signature Tuesday of the designation of the Honouliuli National Monument ensures that “the difficult story of the internment camp’s impact on the Japanese American community and the fragility of civil rights during times of conflict” will be shared for generations to come, as the White House said in a statement.

Honouliuli_Internment_Camp

World War II-era view of the Honouliuli Internment Camp.

National Park Service

Despite the camp’s status as the largest and longest-used such facility in Hawaii, the canyon site, a short distance from Pearl Harbor, had been neglected and forgotten by many since its closure in 1946 until it was rediscovered in 2002. A delegation of individuals representing the Japanese American community in Hawaii traveled to Washington at the request of the White House to take part in Tuesday’s private signing ceremony.

The president announced the establishment of the monument last week on the anniversary of 9066 and in conjunction with a new initiative to encourage young students and their families to visit national parks and other federal lands over the coming year.

Though the newly designated monument here won’t have formal discovery or interpretive programs for a while yet, families who live here or who plan a visit to the Aloha State will want to make it a destination for the future. Like the experiences at Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, it is sure to provide a window into a dark period in our past that offers valuable, enduring lessons for our future.

Read the complete text of President Obama’s proclamation on the establishment of the Honouliuli National Monument here.

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