The announcement Wednesday that President Barack Obama is expected this week to designate the Honouluuli interment camp in West Oahu as a national monument is a long-overdue recognition of discrimination that occurred on our shores.
During World War II, hundreds of Japanese Americans were held at the camp along with prisoners of war from Japan and other nations. While the interment of West Coast Japanese Americans at camps like Manzanar is well known, the story of what happened at Honouluuli has not been fully told.
Hawaii’s congressional delegation had pushed since 2009 for the designation. As The Hill reports, Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka included language in an appropriations bill that year while then-Rep. Mazie Hirono introduced legislation in the House.
Sens. Dan Akaka and the late Dan Inouye at a hearing in Hawaii.
Inouye, who died in 2012, was a Japanese American who served with distinction in Europe during the war. Akaka, who retired in 2013, also served during the war.
Hirono, the first Japanese immigrant to serve in the U.S. Senate, calls the Honouliuli interment “a dark chapter in Hawaii and our nation’s history.” She had this to say about the president’s actions in a press release:
“The stories of those detained at Honouliuli and internment sites 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. 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.”
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai (Takai is Japanese American) also welcomed the designation, as noted in the press release from Hirono’s office. The office of Sen. Brian Schatz issued a separate press release hailing the news and detailing his own efforts to push for monument status.
Sen. Mazie Hirono
Of note: The grandfathers of former Rep. Colleen Hanabusa were interned during the war, one at Honouliuli and the other on the mainland — “targeted by the United States for their work as co-founders of the Waianae Hongwanji Mission.”
Obama is expected to officially make the monument announcement Thursday. In addition to Honouliuli, the president will protect Chicago’s Pullman Historic District and Colorado’s Browns Canyon as national monuments.
“The announcement will come 73 years to the day after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the executive order paving the way for the internment of Japanese Americans … a few months after Japan bombed Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor and drew the U.S. into the war,” West Hawaii Today reports.
The monument will be managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.
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