President Barack Obama signed a proclamation Tuesday that establishes Honouliuli National Monument.
The proclamation states: "The Honouliuli Internment Camp serves as a powerful reminder of the need to protect civil liberties in times of conflict, and the effects of martial law on civil society."
The new monument will encompass 155 acres at its former location in Kunia, but a general management plan for its development could take several years and needs funding, said the National Park Service, which will manage the site.
Honouliuli is "nationally significant" for its role during World War II as an internment site for a population that included American citizens, resident immigrants, other civilians, enemy soldiers, and labor conscripts, the proclamation said.
While the treatment of Japanese Americans in Hawaii differed from the treatment of those on the mainland, according to the document, "the legacy of racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and failure of political leadership during this period is common to the history of both Hawaii and the mainland United States."
After the Japanese Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Oahu, government officials began selectively rounding up Hawaii residents on suspicion of disloyalty. They were confined at local jails, courthouses, and other facilities on six Hawaiian Islands before being transported to the U.S. Immigration Station and Sand Island Detention Camp on Oahu, the document states.
"Nearly all of the internees were of Japanese descent, including leaders in the Japanese American community who were educated, were teachers or priests, or were distinguished by virtue of their access to means of communication with Japan or to transportation from Hawaii," according to the proclamation.
Most were sent to the mainland to be held for the duration of the war.
The primary difference between internment on the mainland and in Hawaii was that in Hawaii a relatively small percentage of the ethnic Japanese population was targeted.
"Despite the government’s allegations of disloyalty, none of the Japanese American internees from Hawaii was ever found guilty of sabotage, espionage, or overt acts against the United States, and all later received formal apologies and many received redress compensation from the United States," the Honouliuli proclamation said.
The declaration of martial law served as the basis to authorize internment in Hawaii, as opposed to the mainland where mass exclusion was authorized by Executive Order 9066.
Honouliuli is significant for having been used as both a civilian internment camp and a prisoner of war camp, with a population of approximately 400 civilian internees and 4,000 prisoners of war over the course of its use, Obama’s proclamation said.
Documents indicate there were 175 buildings, 14 guard towers, and over 400 tents among the seven compounds on 160 acres.
The majority of Honouliuli’s civilian internees were American citizens or permanent resident aliens — predominantly Japanese Americans who were citizens by birth — interned on suspicion of disloyalty, according to the new proclamation.
The remaining group comprised predominantly German Americans, though there were also Americans and immigrants of Italian, Irish, Russian, and Scandinavian descent. Honouliuli also held women and children who were Japanese civilians displaced from the Pacific.
The 4,000 prisoners of war in Honouliuli included enemy soldiers and labor conscripts from Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Taiwan, and Italy. The prisoner of war compounds were guarded by an African American infantry unit as well as units of Japanese Americans from the mainland, the federal government said.
The proclamation said Honouliuli closed in 1945 for civilian internees and in 1946 for prisoners of war.