Bill seeks historic site status for Oahu internment camp

HONOLULU (AP) — A bill going before Congress would designate a World War II internment camp on Oahu as a national historic site, allowing it access to more protections and funding.

The Honouliuli Internment Camp opened in 1943 to hold hundreds of Japanese-Americans and thousands of prisoners of war, Hawaii News Now reported Monday. It was established as a national monument in 2015.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa introduced the measure that aims to give the site the new designation.

“What happens is that monuments have to always struggle for independent funding sources,” Hanabusa said.

Under the new designation, the site would be entitled to additional funding, Hanabusa said. The measure would also open up opportunities for more preservation efforts and archaeological research.

Two of Hanabusa’s grandfathers were held in internment camps during the war, one was in the Honouliuli camp.

“We say it’s one of the darkest moments and it is because we remember they were citizens that were put into internment camps without due process or anything simply because of their race,” Hanabusa said.

The public is not currently allowed to visit the site, but a public memorial is being planned.

The National Park Service said the site plans to give the history of internment, martial law and the experiences of prisoners in Hawaii.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done at Honouliuli to preserve it and to, more important than that, to ensure that people understand what happened so that we never repeat that mistake again,” Hanabusa said.