National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Archaeologists Are Excavating a WWII Internment Camp in Hawaii

National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Archaeologists at the University of Hawaii West Oahu have begun unearthing a long-forgotten relic from a dark period of American history.

The Honouliuli internment and POW camp was open for three years. In that time it saw the detention of more than 1000 Japanese-American citizens and thousands of prisoners of war.

UH archaeologist William Belcher is leading the excavations. He says that after the camp was bulldozed in 1946, it seemed to vanish from public consciousness. “When I was in elementary school, I never even heard that this had occurred,” he told NBC News. “We never studied this in history or talked about it.”

Thanks in part to former President Obama, that’s beginning to change. Obama, who was born and raised in Hawaii, designated the camp a national monument in 2015. Now Belcher and his students are digging in to help clear the site of seven decades’ worth of earth, grass, shrubs, and debris.

It’s a difficult task made even harder by the landscape. The camp is hidden inside a steep gulch that Japanese-American internees called "Jigoku Dani," or "Hell Valley." It’s unreachable by public roads and gets very, very hot during the day. Belcher and his students are clearing the site with machetes. "The basic technology is to walk in a systematic fashion across the entire landscape," he told NBC News.

The internment situation during World War II looked different in Hawaii than it did in California or Washington state. Forty percent of Hawaiian citizens were of Japanese ancestry, and many of them were plantation workers. To protect the islands’ plantation economy, the government decided to confine some, but not all, citizens within the camp’s crowded enclosures and barbed-wire fences.

In naming the site a national monument, Senator Mazie Hirono told NBC News she hoped that recognizing our country’s troubled history might prevent us from committing similar atrocities in the future.

"The stories of those detained at Honouliuli and internment sites like it across the country are sobering reminders of how even leaders of the greatest nation on Earth can succumb to fear and mistrust and perpetuate great injustice," Hirono said.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Blue Water Ventures International
Gold Artifacts Discovered in 19th-Century Shipwreck That Was the ‘Titanic of Its Time’
Blue Water Ventures International
Blue Water Ventures International

On June 14, 1838, the steamship Pulaski was sailing off the coast of North Carolina, headed for Baltimore, when one of its boilers exploded, killing numerous passengers and causing colossal damage to the ship. It sank in less than an hour, taking two-thirds of its passengers with it. In January 2018, divers finally found the wreckage, and their latest expedition has brought back numerous new treasures, according to The Charlotte Observer, including a gold pocket watch that stopped just a few minutes after the boiler reportedly blew up.

The Pulaski disaster, which the Observer refers to as “the Titanic of its time,” was notable not just for its high death toll, but for whom it was carrying when it went down. The luxury steamship’s wealthy passengers included former New York Congressman William Rochester and prominent Savannah banker and businessman Gazaway Bugg Lamar, then one of the richest men in the region. At the time, the North Carolina Standard called the sinking “the most painful catastrophe that has ever occurred upon the American coast.”

An engraving showing the 'Pulaski' exploding
An 1848 illustration of the Pulaski explosion
Charles Ellms, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Divers from Blue Water Ventures International and Endurance Exploration Group (which owns the rights to the site) have located a number of artifacts that support the belief that the wreck they found is, in fact, what’s left of the Pulaski.

While they have yet to find the engraved ship’s bell (the main object used to authenticate a wreck), divers identified a few artifacts engraved with the name Pulaski, as well as numerous coins that were all produced prior to 1838. The 150 gold and silver coins discovered thus far are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars today. They’ve also discovered silverware, keys, thimbles, and the ship's anchor.

A close-up of the gold pocket watch
Blue Water Ventures International

And in their most recent expedition, the divers found a unique gold watch that further supports the claim that this ship is the Pulaski. The hands of the engraved solid gold pocket watch on a gold chain—a piece only the wealthiest of men could afford—are stopped at 11:05, just five minutes after the boiler reportedly exploded.

The excavation of the remains of the ship will hopefully illuminate more of its story. Already, it has changed what we know about the ship’s final night: The wreck was discovered 40 miles off the North Carolina coast, a bit farther than the 30 miles estimated in initial newspaper reports of the disaster.

The investigators hope to eventually find evidence that will allow them to pinpoint why the deadly explosion occurred. While such explosions weren’t rare for steamships at the time, the crew may have pushed the ship beyond its limits in an attempt to reach its destination faster, causing the boiler to burst. Expeditions to the wreckage are ongoing.

[h/t The Charlotte Observer]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Evening Standard, Getty Images
$2.5 Million in World War II-Era Cash Discovered Beneath Winston Churchill's Former Tailor's Shop
Evening Standard, Getty Images
Evening Standard, Getty Images

A valuable secret has been hiding beneath the floorboards of a sporting goods store in the UK since World War II. As the BBC reports, about £30,000 in roughly 80-year-old British bank notes was unearthed by a renovation project at the Cotswold Outdoor store in Brighton. Adjusting for inflation, their value would be equal to roughly $2.5 million today.

Owner Russ Davis came across the hidden treasure while tearing out decades-worth of carpet and tiles beneath the property. What he initially assumed was a block of wood turned out to be a wad of cash caked in dirt. Each bundle held about £1000 worth of £1 and £5 notes, with about 30 bundles in total.

The bills are badly damaged, but one surviving design element holds an important clue to their history. Each note is printed in blue, the color of the emergency wartime currency first issued by the Bank of England in 1940.

At the time the money was buried, the property was home to the famous British furrier and couturier Bradley Gowns. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his wife, Lady Clementine Churchill, were reportedly regular customers.

The reason the fortune was stowed beneath the building in the first place remains a mystery. Davis imagines that it might have come from a bank robbery, while Howard Bradley, heir to the Bradley Gowns family business, suspects it might have been stashed there as a getaway fund in anticipation of a Nazi invasion, as he told the New York Post.

The hoard will remain in the possession of the Sussex police as more details on the story emerge.

[h/t BBC]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios