A day of remembrance, preservation at internment camp site

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOULIULI GULCH, Oahu (HawaiiNewsNow) - For years they have been a hidden part of Hawaii's history. But now, there are efforts underway to preserve World War II era internment camps in the islands.

One of those sites is Camp Honouliuli, which housed 1,200 individuals, mostly Japanese Americans, from 1943 to 1945. It was located in Honouliuli Gulch, a humid, mosquito infested area in Central Oahu near what is now the Royal Kunia subdivision.

"December 7, 1941, FBI agents came to our home and took my father away, and we didn't see him for a whole year," said Ramsay Hishinuma, who was 16 at the time. His father eventually turned up at Honouliuli.

His father remained held at the camp, even when Hishinuma wanted to join the Army. "I tried to volunteer, but I was underage.  I had to come here to the internment site to ask my father for his approval to volunteer for the 442nd."

People showed up at the Monsanto Kunia Facility Sunday in a Day of Remembrance to learn more about the camp, and to hear more about its neglected history.

"There was reluctance to talk about it, to share their experience, and only recently did people really start thinking it was an important part of our history that needed to be thought about and told and preserved," said Frank Hays, Pacific Area Director of the National Park Service.

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii also sponsored a pilgrimage to the site itself, to see what's left, including the former mess hall. Visitors left flower petals at an aqueduct, which was the camp's boundary between the Japanese-Americans who were interned, and prisoners of war, including some Italians and Germans.

The Park Service is looking at turning Honouliuli into a historic site, which pleases those who remember the history first-hand.

"It can happen to any ethnic group," said Hishinuma. "This is a good reminder, to keep reminding people that what happened to me should never happen to anybody."

The Park Service is also conducting a "Special Resource Study" of other World War II confinement sites the islands. So far, 13, including Honouliuli, have been identified. The Park Service will also hold several public meetings next month for input.

Tuesday, March 1, 3-5 pm and 6-8 pm: Kona Outdoor Circle, 76-6280 Kuakini Hwy., Kailua-Kona.

Tuesday, March 10, 3-5 pm and 6-8 pm: Hawaii Japanese Center, 571 Kanoelehua Avenue, Hilo.

Tuesday, March 17, 3-5 pm and 6-8 pm: Mitchell Pauole Center, 90 Aiona Street, Kaunakakai, Molokai.

Tuesday, March 22, 3-5 pm and 6-8 pm: Lanai High & Elementary School, 555 Fraser Avenue, Lanai City.

Thursday, March 24, 3-5 pm and 6-8 pm: Nisei Veterans Center, Kahului Beach Road (where Kahului transitions with Wailuku), Kahului, Maui.

Tuesday, March 29, 3-5 pm and 6-8 pm: Kauai Veterans Center, 3125 Kapule Hwy. #1, Lihue, Kauai.

Thursday, March 31, 6-8 pm: WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Pearl Harbor Visitors Center.

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