Hawai‘i’s Internment Experience Comes to Life in New JCCH Publication

Kevin Y. Kawamoto
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Imagine being a young adult in school, learning about American democracy from your teacher, when you are suddenly summoned to the principal’s office and confronted by FBI agents who arrest you on the spot and take you away without allowing you to even collect your belongings from the classroom. Or, imagine being awakened in the safe surroundings and comfort of your home late one night and being arrested in front of your family by government authorities without being told where they are taking you, the reason you are being arrested or how long you will be away.

If this doesn’t sound like something that could happen in the United States, a country founded on the principles of individual rights and the rule of law, think again, because some version of this story happened to more than 1,400 people of Japanese ancestry in Hawai‘i after martial law was declared within hours of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and in the months of war hysteria that followed. After too many decades of obscurity, these stories are now seeing the light of day, thanks to researchers who are ensuring that this period in Hawai‘i’s history — and the stories of those who experienced it — are not forgotten.

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