Hawaii Nikkei Legacy Exhibit

Internment Experience in Hawaii

The Nikkei comprised nearly 40% of Hawaii’s population at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Detaining such a large portion of the workforce would have been impractical and economically damaging. The U.S. Government took a different approach to the internment of the Nikkei in Hawaii.

Anticipating war with Japan, a Federal Bureau of Investigation-led committee reviewed information on individuals prominent in the Nikkei community in Hawaii — priests, language school officials, consular agents and businessmen with ties to Japan — to determine who would be interned.

On December 7, 1941, over 400 men were arrested. They were initially detained in tents at Sand Island in Honolulu Harbor and at other locations across the Hawaiian Islands, then relocated to the Honouliuli Internment Camp in Central Oahu or to internment/detention camps on the Mainland. Over 2,000 people were eventually interned at the various facilities.

Tents at Sand Island Detention Camp, Honolulu (ca. 1942).

Honouliuli Internment Camp Overview, West Oahu (ca. 1945-1946).

Honouliuli Internment Camp Mess Hall Interior (April 1943).

Honouliuli internees making crafts (April 1943).

Nisei Veterans Legacy