Chronology of World War II Hawaiʻi Internees

Honouliuli internee barracks, ca. 1945-46.
Photograph by R. H. Lodge. JCCH/Hawai‘i’s Plantation Village Collection.

Pre-War Context

1885 — Large scale migration to Hawai‘i begins.

1898 — The United States annexes Hawai‘i.

1908 — The Gentlemen’s Agreement curtails the further migration of laborers from Japan to Hawai‘i.

1924 — The Immigration Act of 1924 effectively ends Japanese immigration to the U.S.

1935-37 — Lt. Col. George S. Patton, Jr.’s plan “Initial Seizure of Orange Nationals” outlines a response for Hawai‘i in the case of attack by Japan that includes “hostages” from among the local Japanese community. His plan includes specific names of ethnic community leaders to be detained. It is one of several such lists of those to be detained in the event of war compiled by various intelligence agencies since 1933.

1940 — Persons of Japanese descent in Hawai‘i numbered 157,905 making up 37.3% of the total population.

World War II

Dec. 7, 1941 — 7:57 am: Japan attacks Pearl Harbor. 4:25 pm: martial law declared by Gov. Joseph B. Poindexter. Detention of local Japanese begins

Dec. 8, 1941 — Sand Island camp activated; it housed about 300 Issei and Nisei men and a handful of women. Camps are also activated on the islands of Hawai‘i (Kīlauea Military Camp), Kauaʻi (Kalaheo Stockade), and Maui (Haiku Camp) over the next few days.

Dec. 9, 1941 — Total arrested as of Dec. 9: 473. Breakdown: 345 Issei, 22 Nisei, 74 German nationals, 19 citizens of German ancestry, 11 Italian nationals, 2 citizens of Italian ancestry.

Dec. 18, 1941 — Lt. Gen. Delos Emmons appointed as head of the Hawai‘i command.

Feb. 19, 1942 — President Franklin Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9066, laying the groundwork for the mass forced removal and detention of 110,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast.

Feb. 21, 1942 — 199 prisoners at Sand Island are transported to mainland detention centers. Five more shipments take place in 1942 and 3 more in 1943. Meanwhile, prisoners held in neighbor island detention centers are transported to Sand Island.

March 30, 1942 — Total number of detainees by this date: 733, with 515 Issei, 93 Nisei, the remainder Germans or Italians.

June 5, 1942 — 1,432 members of the all Japanese American Hawai‘i Provisional Infantry Battalion leave Honolulu for San Francisco. These men would become the original members of the famed 100th Infantry Battalion.

June 6, 1942 — The Battle of Midway ends with a resounding Allied victory, permanently turning the tide of the war.

Nov. 1942 — The first group of immediate family members of men interned in mainland camps leave Hawai‘i to join their husband/fathers. By March 14, 1943, 900 family members had “voluntarily” left for mainland internment camps to rejoin their husbands/fathers.

Feb. 1, 1943 — The 442nd Regimental Combat Team is activated. Nearly 10,000 Nisei from Hawai‘i volunteer and over 2,600 are accepted for induction. Over 100 of those accepted have fathers who are internees.

March 1, 1943 —Sand Island closes; remaining detainees are transferred to a new camp in Honouliuli gulch.

Oct. 24, 1944 — Martial law ends.

Aug. 14, 1945 — Japan surrenders.

Nov. 14, 1945 — 450 internees return to Hawai‘i; 300 more return on Dec. 19. Total number of Hawai‘i internees: approx. 2,270.

Post War

1952 — Immigration Act of 1952 passes. Among other things, it allows for a token immigration quota for Japan and allows Issei to become naturalized citizens.

1959 — Hawai‘i becomes the 50th state.

1988 — President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 into law. Its provisions call for Japanese American survivors of the World War II internment to receive $20,000 reparations payments and a letter of apology from the President. The first recipients of reparations receive their checks and letters on October 9, 1990.

2006 — President Bush signs Public Law 109-441, a measure alloting $38 million towards the preservation and acquisition of historic confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II.

2007 — The Hawai‘i State Legislature approves SB 1228, calling for a plan for how best to memoralize World War II confinement sites in Hawai‘i.

Feb. 24, 2015 — President Barack Obama signs the Presidential Proclamation designating the site of the Honouliuli Internment Camp as the Honouliuli National Monument.