Honolulu, HI – Today, Carole Hayashino and Jane Kurahara joined President Barack Obama in the Oval Office for the official signing of the proclamation declaring Honouliuli a national monument. Carole, the President and Executive Director of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, and Jane Kurahara, a longtime volunteer for the organization who has worked tirelessly to protect and preserve the site, released the following statements after the signing.
“Today, I think about all the people who made this day possible. Starting with the Campbell Estate vice president who spent a full day with us on the search to locate the site of the Honouliuli Internment Camp to the high school students who wrote letters to President Obama,” said Jane Kurahara, staff associate of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i. “All along our journey to rediscover and preserve Honouliuli people have been supportive, people wanted this to happen, and I am very grateful.”
“Jane Kurahara and I have the honor of representing the memories of Honouliuli internees, all Hawai‘i’s internees, their families, and the thousands who have supported the effort to preserve Honouliuli,” said Carole Hayashino, president and executive director of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i. “Witnessing President Obama sign the declaration to establish the Honouliuli National Monument inspires me. I am inspired by the voices of the Japanese American internees, inspired by the dedicated work of community volunteers, inspired by the overwhelming support from the community and inspired to know that Honouliuli will never be forgotten.”
Opened on March 1, 1943, Honouliuli was the longest operating and largest World War II internment and POW camp in Hawai‘i. Built on 160 acres in west Oʻahu, the camp site was hidden from view in a deep gulch that the internees called jigoku dani, or “hell valley.” Honouliuli Internment Camp was constructed on O‘ahu to intern citizens, resident aliens, and prisoners of war. The camp held approximately 320 internees, mostly second-generation Japanese Americans but also Japanese, German and Italian permanent residents who were living in Hawai‘i. Honouliuli was also the largest prisoner of war camp in Hawai‘i, incarcerating nearly 4,000 individuals. In total, during World War II, over 2,300 Japanese American men and women from Hawai‘i were incarcerated, including many prominent community leaders, teachers, journalists, religious leaders, local politicians and World War I veterans.
Support for the designation grew over the spring and summer, when the National Park Service held a series of community meetings throughout Hawai‘i to present their initial findings of a federally-funded study of the site, and invited attendees to offer comments and ask questions.
In December, Hayashino, Jacce Mikulanec, President of the Honolulu Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, and Hawai‘i’s congressional leaders including U.S. Senator Brian Schatz presented petitions to Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell with signatures of more than 6,000 Americans supporting the inclusion of the Honouliuli Internment Camp in the national park system.