Excavating Hawaii's Largest Internment Camp
The vast majority know the history of Pearl Harbor and that the world was at war for the second time when this event unfolded. But not many Americans know what happened behind the scenes of the war.
Soon after the Pearl Harbor attack, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 that lead to 120,000 Japanese Americans to be incarcerated in internment camps across the U.S. and in Hawaii. These were Americans and were believed to have pose a threat because of what happened. The camp was called Honouliuli(Ho-No-oolee-oolee), after the land area the camp is located on.
"When I was in elementary school I never even heard that this had occurred. We never studied this in history or talked about it," Belcher, an archaeology professor at the University of Hawaii - West Oʻahu, told NBC News.
The video below is some interviews from Americans that were incarcerated in the internment camps or lived and watched as it happened as young children.
The internment camp did not only hold Japanese Americans, it also held "Japanese leaders and businessmen, clergymen, and those with influence. Several thousand prisoners of war, including Italians and Koreans, were also detained — even after the war ended."
This was actually detrimental to the plantation economy because there were a large percentage of Japanese people that emigrated to Hawaii to work on the plantations. It so happens that before it was an internment camp, it was plantation land.
75 years later, now the site of the old internment camp has begun excavating to turn it into a national monument since it was designated as such back in 2015.
William Belcher and UH West Oahu archaeology students excavating at the World War II Honouliuli Internment and POW Camp on June 24, 2016. Courtesy of University of Hawai'i - West O'ahu
Archeologist William Belcher and his students from UH West Oahu are doing the archaeology work at the new monument site and are one of the lucky few that are allowed to set foot in the area that does not even have public roads to get in and out of the area.
Rebecca Rinas, a planner for National Park Service, told NBC News it could be many years before Honouliuli is open to visitors. Funding isn't guaranteed and the two-year-old national monument is still landlocked by private land.
Because of the location of the area, there is very little air flow and that made it a little difficult for the excavators. There are remnants of concrete slabs that are in the dirt that are the foundations of the buildings that once stood there and making sure we preserve the area to remember an important part of history.
Sometimes it takes long period of time to realize some of the past mistakes help shape the world the way it is today. If we can acknowledge the truth, we can make the necessary changes to move forward and better ourselves to not make this kind of mistake again.
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