Today, U.S. President Barack Obama publicly designated a former World War II internment camp in Hawaii as a national monument. The Honouliuli Internment Camp in Kunia, near Honolulu, is on land donated by Monsanto to the federal government to honor and preserve the legacy of the hundreds of Japanese-American people who were forcibly kept there during World War II.
Monsanto has donated 123 acres to be included in the national monument. An additional 22 acres is planned to be donated in the future.
“We’re very excited about reaching this significant milestone in the community’s efforts to preserve the Honouliuli Internment Camp into perpetuity as part of the U.S. National Park System,” said Alan Takemoto, Community Affairs Manager for Monsanto Hawaii. “Transferring ownership of this land to the Federal Government is the result of years of hard work by numerous individuals and organizations who have been diligently and patiently working, step by step, to make this community vision a reality. We at Monsanto Hawaii are very proud to be a part of this tremendous collaboration.”
The Honouliuli land designation is allowed under the 1906 Antiquities Act without approval from Congress. Monuments are typically managed in a manner similar to national parks. Today also marks 73 years to the day after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the order that authorized the imprisonment of more than 100,000 people in an attempt to protect the country after the Pearl Harbor attack.
According to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, Honouliuli was the last, largest and longest-used World War II confinement site in Hawaii. It was used as a camp from 1943 to 1945. It held 320 internees, mostly second-generation Japanese-Americans, but also held approximately 4,000 prisoners of war including Japanese, German and Italian nationals. The site has come to symbolize Hawaii’s part in the discrimination that was directed against Americans of Japanese descent after the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack and America’s entry into World War II.
In 2007, Monsanto acquired farmland in Kunia which includes the site of the former internment camp. At that time, the company pledged to work with the community to preserve the site for its historic value. Since then, Monsanto has been collaborating closely with local organizations, including the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i and University of Hawai‘i West O‘ahu, to work with the National Park Service in the hopes of preserving the camp in perpetuity. Monsanto had committed to donating the land to help achieve that vision.
“We understand that the process to create a National Monument is long and complex, and there’s still a ways to go,” Takemoto said. “However, this site is an important part of Hawaii’s history and should be preserved for future generations, which is why Monsanto Hawaii is committed to and very passionate about this effort.”
Department of Interior: Secretary Jewell Applauds President Obama’s Action to Establish Honouliuli National Monument.
Hawaii News Now: Obama to designate Honouliuli internment camp as national monument
Monsanto Hawaii: Honouliuli Internment Camp (background)
World War II Internment in Hawaii: slide show on the various sites used in Hawaii (pdf file).
The Honouliuli Internment and POW Camp has a Facebook page.
Los Angeles Times: New national monument on Oahu is “a gift for future generations.”
White House Fact Sheet on New National Monuments.
Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii: Japanese-American Leaders Applaud Announcement that Honouliuli Will Become a National Monument. The center also has a video on the history of the internment camp: