Frequently Asked Questions


Visitation Questions

Why is Honouliuli National Historic Site closed for public visitation?

Access to Honouliuli National Historic Site will remain limited for several years as the National Park Service (NPS) works in partnership with technical experts, the regional planning team and community stakeholders to prepare the site. In addition to a lack of on-site facilities, NPS-sponsored visits are not possible at present due to logistical access challenges and ongoing cultural resource investigations.

The site is located in a gulch which is filled with dense vegetation and surrounded by private land. This being the case, NPS access to Honouliuli is dictated by right of entry (ROE) agreements with two adjacent landowners. Conditions outlined in these ROE agreements limit NPS access to a certain number of entries per month, and dictate that entry is for administrative, research, or operational purposes only.

Following the closure of the Honouliuli in 1946, the camp was dismantled, bulldozed and abandoned. However, historic features such as building foundations and artifacts still remain. In partnership with the NPS, researchers, community stakeholders and students have been working to uncover features which will provide valuable information about the camp's layout and operations. In the interest of resource protection and preservation, access is also limited to ensure that the identification, documentation and (potential) stabilization, of these features is not compromised.

If you are interested in volunteering with Honouliuli, please visit our volunteer page.

When was the Honouliuli National Historic Site established?

The Honouliuli site was discovered by volunteers from the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i in 2002. Since that time, Honouliuli has become the subject of several scholarship and awareness campaigns. President Barack Obama announced the designation of Honouliuli National Monument by Presidential Proclamation on February 19, 2015. On March 12, 2019, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act redesignated it as Honouliuli National Historic Site.

When will Honouliuli National Historic Site be open to the public?

There is no date set for the opening of Honouliuli National Historic Site, as planning and cultural resource investigations are ongoing. The NPS Regional Planning Office and Honouliuli National Historic Site staff will be working closely with the local community in the coming years to conceptualize a site plan which honors and represents the complex and multifaceted history of the camp. View information and updates on Honouliuli planning.

Where is the Honouliuli National Historic Site?

The Honouliuli National Historic Site is located approximately 15 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor in Waipahu.

Traditionally, the site is located in the Honouliuli ahupua‘a of the Ewa moku, on the Oahu mokupuni. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the traditional Hawaiian system of land distribution divided each Hawaiian island (mokupuni) into major districts (moku). Each district was further separated into self-sufficient sections (ahupua‘a) which were capable of sustaining communities comprised of extended family groups (ohana). The name Honouliuli directly translates as "dark bay" and is in reference to the dark waters of Pearl Harbor which were a part of the Honouliuli ahupua‘a. Learn more about the history, land division, and culture of the Hawaiian Islands.

What is the National Park Service doing to develop the Honouliuli National Historic Site?

Planning for the development of Honouliuli National Historic Site will occur in several stages and will be carried out in partnership with local community stakeholders. At present, the NPS is gathering information to create a Foundation Document. The Foundation Document is the first step in the creation of any new park unit, as it analyzes research which has been conducted on Honouliuli to date, and establishes a roadmap of planning phases and data needs moving forward. The Foundation Document Overview has been posted online for anyone who would like to learn more specific tasks and initiatives associated with site planning.

How can I contact the park?

You may contact the park by email.

Historical Questions

How was the camp used during World War II?

Opened in March of 1943, Honouliuli covered 160 acres and became the largest and longest-used confinement site in the Hawaiian Islands for US citizens and residents of Japanese and European ancestry arbitrarily suspected of disloyalty following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. A total of approximately 400 civilians were incarcerated in Honouliuli throughout the course of the war.

Honouliuli also served as the largest prisoner of war camp in Hawai‘i, holding enemy soldiers and labor conscripts from Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Taiwan and Italy. Approximately 4,000 prisoners of war were confined at Honouliuli in five compounds, and were divided into separate quarters by military rank (officer vs enlisted men), function (combat troops vs labor conscripts), and in some cases, country of origin.

Were there other confinement sites in the Hawaiian Islands?

Yes. Although research is ongoing, 17 sites related to incarceration in Hawai‘i have been identified to date, and it is likely that additional sites could be discovered in the coming years. Many of these sites served as temporary local detention centers, holding detained individuals until they could be sent to the US Immigration Station in Honolulu for interrogation and legal hearings. Individuals who were not released following these hearings were transferred across Honolulu Harbor to the Sand Island Detention Station, which opened the day after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Until the Honouliuli Internment Camp opened in March of 1943, many of the incarcerees sent to Sand Island were transferred to camps on the mainland.

Known holding sites were located on 6 of the 8 main islands of Hawai‘i (see table below).


World War II Confinement Sites

Hawai‘i Island

Kilauea Military Camp;Waiakea Prison;Hilo Independent Japanese Languages School


Maui County Jail and County Courthouse;Police Station


Lana‘i City Jail


Kaunakakai Jail


Immigration Station/Honolulu Police Department, Sand Island, and Honouliuli


Wailua Jail;Lihu‘e Plantation Gymnasium;Kaua‘i County Courthouse;Kalaheo Stockade;Waimea Jail

How many civilians were detained in the Hawaiian Islands during World War II?

The total number of civilians apprehended from Hawai‘i (resident aliens and US citizens) is approximately 2,400 of Japanese ancestry, 100 of German ancestry, and 20 of Italian ancestry. Of the 2,400 individuals of Japanese ancestry who were incarcerated, only 1,400 were officially apprehended by the authorities; whereas the remaining 1,000 were family members who chose to accompany their loved ones. Prior to Honouliuli opening in March of 1943, most individuals were consolidated at Sand Island Detention Station and then transferred to camps on the US mainland.

How is the history of incarceration in Hawai‘i distinct from the history of incarceration on the mainland United States during World War II?

Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, hysteria over national security led to racial profiling, discrimination and the arbitrary incarceration of civilians of Japanese ancestry. However, there are several ways which the history of civilian incarceration in Hawai‘i during World War II is distinct from the mainland US. These distinctions are summarized below.

  1. The legal mechanism used to authorize incarceration in Hawaiʻi was martial law, as opposed to Executive Order 9066 on the mainland. Martial law was declared in the Hawaiian Islands just hours after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and gave the US military jurisdiction over the islands, in addition to becoming the legal mechanism for incarcerating civilians until October 24, 1944. Immediately before martial law was lifted, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9489, modeled after Executive 9066, that authorized Hawai‘i's military to incarcerate enemy aliens and expel from the islands any U.S. citizen who were considered a security threat.
  2. Compared to the mass incarceration of all civilians of Japanese ancestry on the mainland's West Coast, less than 2% of civilians of Japanese ancestry in Hawai‘i were incarcerated during the war. Although officials in Washington D.C. were concerned about the threat of sabotage or espionage from the 160,000 civilians of Japanese ancestry living in the Hawaiian Islands, mass incarceration of 40% of the population was logistically impossible and would have crippled the economy and social order of the islands. Furthermore, the declaration of martial law in Hawai‘i rendered mass incarceration largely redundant, as military leadership had the authority to suspend civil liberties and impose broad restrictions on social and economic activities.
  3. Although the more limited incarceration in Hawai‘i was less damaging to the morale of the general population, it may have had even more insidious effects on the targeted individuals. Incarceration on the mainland was psychologically and financially devastating for the entire Japanese American population. In Hawai‘i, to be designated a possible traitor and incarcerated was arguably more stigmatizing for those involved. Residents of German and Italian descent were similarly labeled and incarcerated.

What was life like in Hawai‘i under martial law?

Martial law is when military authority assumes control of the government in times of emergency, and is implemented when civilian law enforcement agencies are deemed inadequate to maintain public order. Amidst fears of a Japanese invasion, martial law was declared just hours after the attacks on Pearl Harbor until October 24, 1944. At 35 months, army rule in Hawai‘i during World War II comprised the longest period in US history when the civilian population has ever been subjected to rule by martial law.

Under martial law, full power was granted to military commanders to govern all aspects of political and civilian life on the islands. Military leadership took control of the courts and suspended the writ of habeas corpus, regulated labor and employment, and imposed restrictions on nearly every aspect of daily life. Some of the military orders issued were applicable only to persons of Japanese ancestry and enemy aliens. For example, people of Japanese ancestry were restricted from residing in certain areas of O‘ahu and were forcibly removed from their properties. These types of discriminatory policies created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion. During this time, the presence of military personnel also drastically increased in the Hawaiian Islands, which in some cases, disrupted and upset a pre-established social order.

Why were certain individuals targeted for incarceration in Hawai‘i?

The round up and incarceration of civilians in Hawai‘i was ordered by the War Department and began while the attack on Pearl Harbor was taking place. Individuals apprehended included religious, political and/or thought leaders in the Japanese community who held significant influence; those served in an unofficial consular capacity with Japan, or had access to transportation or communications; and community members who promoted the Japanese culture through language instruction or martial arts. Kibei (American citizens of Japanese ancestry who had been educated in Japan) were also targeted. In some cases, those arrested were considered "guilty by association" or were identified by informants, many without just cause. European nationals and US citizens thought to sympathize with axis countries were also apprehended.

Is there an appropriate terminology to use when referring to the US government's wartime policies towards civilians of Japanese ancestry?

Many different words have been used and highly charged debates over words and terminology continue to reflect intense feelings and diverse perspectives about what occurred during World War II. There are several good resources available which offer a retrospective on this terminology and provide resources for personal reflection on appropriate nomenclature; including, the Power of Words Handbook, created by the Japanese American Citizens League, as well as Roger Daniels article Words Do Matter: a Note on the Inappropriate Terminology and the Incarceration of Japanese Americans. The NPS acknowledges that not everyone may agree with the use of certain words in specific contexts.

How many civilian incarcerees were held at Honouliuli during its years of operation?

Honouliuli opened on 1 March 1943, and received those who had been housed at the Sand Island Detention Station on O‘ahu, as well as other confinement sites throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Honouliuli typically held an average of 250 civilian incarcerees although the numbers were in constant flux due to transfers to the continental US and paroles. The last incarcerees were released in September of 1945, following Japan's surrender.

Honouliuli did not completely close until January 27, 1946 when the last prisoners of war had been repatriated. In addition to the prisoners of war which were held at Honouliuli, after war's end it was used as a gathering and transfer point for prisoners of war from the continental US prior to being sent on to their home country.

Who were the prisoners of war were held at Honouliuli?

Honouliuli served as both a base camp and a transfer point for prisoners of war from both the Atlantic and Pacific Theatres. Five of the seven camp sections were created to serve as prisoner of war compounds, and eventually held prisoners from Japan, Okinawa, Korea, Taiwan and Italy. At its peak, facilities at the camp were capable of accommodating 4,000 prisoners of war, with conditions of incarceration dependent upon factors such as ethnic background, political status and reputation. A substantial number of the incarcerees held at Honouliuli were non-combatant labor conscripts.

Last updated: October 7, 2023

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Honouliuli National Historic Site
1 Arizona Memorial Place

Honolulu, HI 96818

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