Written by Katie Kastner
I have been a Partners in the Field Representative with Historic Hawai‘i Foundation (HHF) in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the past year. In that time I have had the opportunity to explore many important themes in the history of Hawai‘i, work with and learn about the diverse cultures represented here, and understand that wide range of experiences that different cultures have had in Hawai‘i.
The history of Hawai‘i and the development of the military in the state cannot be told without the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The impact of this attack occurring in such a multicultural territory of the U.S. had profound cultural effects and ultimately changed the cultural dynamics in the islands during this time because of the fear that it struck in those living here in Hawai‘i and throughout the U.S.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry to be detained in camps across the country. In Hawai‘i at this time about 40% of the population was of Japanese descent. Approximately 1,440 people were interned, most of them of Japanese descent, but some of German and Italian ancestry as well. On the island of O‘ahu, detainees were first held at the Sand Island detention center before being moved to the Honouliuli camp, which opened March 1, 1943.
Until just a few years ago, little was known about the location of World War II Japanese Internment camps in Hawai‘i. In fact many people, including myself, were unaware that any Japanese internment camp sites remained in Hawaii. The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i (JCCH) began researching these sites in an effort to determine where these camps were located and what, if any, evidence of them remains.
JCCH has been working with various organizations including HHF, the University of Hawai‘i, the State Historic Preservation Division, the National Park Service (NPS), and others to identify, preserve and interpret the Japanese internment camp experience in Hawai‘i. Their work has resulted in the identification of internment sites of various sizes on all of the Hawaiian islands. This work has unveiled an important piece of history from the recent past that had until recently been largely unexplored.
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