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World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is Established by Presidential Proclamation


USS Utah capsizing after being hit by a torpedo in the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This was a sad fate for an old (1909) ship that had already suffered the humiliation of being used as a mobile target for gunnery practice. The wreck of the Utah won't be part of the new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, but the Utah Memorial at Pearl Harbor will. Photo from via Wikipedia.

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.


While I am certainly happy that those sites are protected as Monuments and Memorials , I hope this National Monument will not stay for long. This hotch-pot of nine different sites in three states and under the jurisdiction of four cabinet departments will be hell to administer and impossible to cherish as a visitor.

Hopefully congress will create some decent umbrella park unit for all Hawaiian Wold War II sites, the Alaskan sites are out of the focus anyway and no one cares how they are administered. And finally Thule Lake deserve to become unit in its own right. A NHS would be nice, following Manzanar and Minidoka. Or to think bigger, how about a highly visible Memorial for the Japanese internment in downtown LA or SF at the site of one of the assembly centers? Besides the actual internment/concentration camps that were of course in very remote parts of the country. Have any of those first assembly points been in a federal building that still is owned by the federal government? Could a part of the first floor be cleared as a small museum and visitor center? Something along the African Burial Ground NM in Manhattan?

Why would President George W. Bush have used the word "Valor" to name this national monument?

Is "Valor" the best word to describe a national monument or national historical park, or the best description of this national monument? There is no "valor" or any comparable word, in the title of Valley Forge, or Gettysburg, or Shiloh, or Cowpens, or African Burial Grounds, or Guam/War In the Pacfic.

Are these the best exemplars of "Valor" represented in the Pacific war?

Does "Valor" come closest to describing what makes each site within this new National Monument distinctive? I would have thought the key story with the USS Arizona was an unprovoked sneak attack, perhaps adding the related story of the vulnerability of the American Fleet and our sailors in the way they were positioned at Pearl Harbor. The heroism of American sailors fighting to save their doomed ship and comrades seems to be the equal of the greatest stories of valor in the war in the pacific; but, were there not many, many examples of equal valor by Americans all over the Pacific? With Attu, I had thought the key story was the only occupation of American soil; my history books always said the war in the Aleutians was treated, and was, a sideshow -- not to take anything away from the suffering and courage of American troops and Aleuts. But is Attu particularly notable for "Valor?" And, is "Valor" the best way, or first way, to describe what makes the Tule Lake Relocation center nationally significant?

Is it a good idea to stick descriptive words of human behavior in the titles of national parks? It the past, the name of the place itself has overwhelmingly had the greatest dignity and meaning.

Why would the President in this case so title a new national monument? Would somebody in the National Park Service have recommended the word "Valor," after careful professional analysis, to the President? Something the NPS apparently did not do for two of his other national monuments, African Burial Ground and Governors Island: in their way, couldn't each of them have an argument for a valorous history?

Or did the President choose this title because he was trying to bring attention to himself, he was pandering, after a decidedly un-valorous Presidency, and trying to enhance his "legacy?"

National monuments, national parks, don't need this President's editorial opinion of the significance of the experience of the participants at each one of these sites. The experience of the heroes and/or the perpetrators stands for itself, just as it does in all national historical parks.

MRC - There actually is a prominent memorial to Japanese internment already... the cumbersomely named National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II is located just off the National Mall in Washington. It, along with other prominent memorials such as the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and the George Mason Memorial, is part of the "National Capital Parks" Unit of the National Park System - and I haven't yet seen a satisfactory explanation as to why those Memorials don't get "counted" while others do. Still, the Memorial is very well done in my opinion, and I highly recommend it as a stop for anyone's visit to the Nation's Capital.

I think you raise an interesting point about the possibility of an assembly centers, but the so-called "assembly centers" were not so much office buildings in big cities, but instead were more typically fairgrounds or racetracks that often evolved into semi-permanent camps. This excerpt has some poignant details on them:

While this far-flung Memorial will be difficult to administer, the National Park Service may decide to establish a separate Superintendent for the Tule Lake site, while giving the current USS Arizona Memorial superintendent jurisdiction over the Pearl Harbor sites. A similar approach is used for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, which has separate superintendents for the Seattle and Skagway units.

The paragraph on KIska in the Aleutians. The US and Canadian forces who retook the island suffered no casualties from enemy troops in the invasion as the Japanese had evacuated the island 2 weeks before. 29 Allied troops were killed however by friendly fire, to be real accurate.

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