On December 5, just two days before the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Bush used powers granted by the Antiquities Act to designate the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. The new Monument incorporates a diverse array of nine sites across three States, including five sites in Hawaii related to the battle of Pearl Harbor, three sites in Alaska related to battles in the Aleutian Islands, and one site in California related to the exclusion and internment of ethnic Japanese.
The five sites in Hawaii incorporated into the new Monument are all at Pearl Harbor, the main focus of the December 7, 1941, Japanese bombing raid that plunged America into World War II. The USS Arizona Memorial and visitor center are included, together with the USS Oklahoma Memorial, the USS Utah Memorial, six Chief Petty Office bungalows in Ford Island, and three mooring quays that once constituted part of Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor.
The sunken wrecks of the Arizona and Utah will remain under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense and the Department of the Navy. (The USS Oklahoma, which capsized with the loss of 429 lives at Pearl Harbor, isn't under anybody's jurisdiction. It was sold for scrap in 1946, and in 1947 it sank in a storm far out to sea while being towed to San Francisco.)
The three sites in Alaska are all related to the Japanese occupation of the western Aleutian Islands, the subsequent battles to retake the islands, and the ultimate use of the islands in launching air raids on Japan. The sites include the remains of Japanese defenses on Kiska Island, the crash site of a B-24D Liberator bomber on Atka Island, and numerous battlefield remnants on Attu Island.
Attu, the westernmost island in the Aluetians, earned enduring fame as the site of the only land battle fought in North America during the Second World War. As the proclamation establishing the Monument points out, Attu “still retains the scars of the battle: thousands of shell and bomb craters in the tundra; Japanese trenches, foxholes, and gun encampments; American ammunition magazines and dumps; and spent cartridges, shrapnel, and shells located at the scenes of heavy fighting.”
Kiska was retaken from the Japanese without major fighting, as the Japanese chose to withdraw from the island under the cover of a heavy fog. The harsh climate of these areas is evidenced by the fact that almost as many US soldiers suffered severe cold injuries as were killed or injured by enemy fire in retaking these islands.
The California component of the new Monument will preserve and interpret the site of the Tule Lake War Relocation Center (a.k.a. Tule Lake Segregation Center), one of the ten internment camps for Japanese Americans established on the mainland. (Two other internment camps, California’s Manzanar and Idaho’s Minidoka, are already National Historic Sites.) The Tule Lake Relocation Center was one of the largest of the concentration camps, and being the place where the evacuees deemed most “disloyal” were sent, it had a maximum security character. In addition to the barbed wire fences and guard towers typical of internment camps, Tule Lake had a jail, eight tanks, and the largest military police contingent of any internment camp.
In establishing the new National Monument, President Bush reflected on the fact that 67 years ago, the United States and Japan were bitter enemies, and that today they are close allies. Traveler can certainly appreciate the poignancy of combining in a single national monument sites related to heroism and valor demonstrated in battle in Hawaii and Alaska as well as a site related to one of our Nation’s darkest hours in the internment of Japanese Americans. As President Bush put it in his signing statement, “this monument will help people realize the breadth and the history of World War II and its aftermath.”
There are now 96 national monuments currently designated in the United States, 75 of which (including this one) are in the National Park System. Atka, Attu, and Kiska Islands are currently part of the 4.9 million-acre Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, and will continue to be managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The remaining sites will be managed by the National Park Service, which is considered the lead agency for the new Monument. Additional information about the new National Monument is available at this site.