According to the Convention of 1929 relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 118 LNTS 343, entered into force June 19, 1931, prisoners of war were subject to “internment” and may “be interned in fenced camps.” The Geneva Convention of 1949 also used “internment” as the definition for incarcerating prisoners of war. (NPS)
On July 7, 1937, Japan invaded China to initiate the war in the Pacific; while the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, unleashed the European war.
World War II (WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that was underway by 1939. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor and the US entered the conflict.
American entry into World War II necessitated a rapid expansion of facilities in dealing with enemy prisoners. Following the transfer of 50,000 German POWs from the British in September 1942, Civilian Conservation Corps camps were secured to house the first arrivals; more camps were constructed throughout the war.
By mid-1945, the American POW camp system consisted of 155 base camps in 44 states, Alaska, and Hawai‘i. At its height, the system held 371,683 German, 50,571 Italian, and 5,413 Japanese POWs. (Encyclopedia)
Of the 50,000 Italian captured soldiers and sailors, 5,000 Italian prisoners of war were sent to Hawaiʻi and held at Schofield, Kāneʻohe, Kalihi Valley and Sand Island.
Japanese Americans were also incarcerated in at least eight locations on Hawaiʻi. On December 8, 1941, the first detention camp was set up on Sand Island.
The Sand Island Detention Center held war captives as well as civilians of Japanese, German or Italian ancestry who were under investigation.
Another prisoner of war facility was in Hilo; it was simply known as Camp POW. It was in Ponahawai, up Kaumana Drive.
Land use in Ponahawai Ahupua‘a was used as homestead lands. The ahupua‘a of Ponahawai appears to have been given by Kamehameha to Keawe-a-Heulu, one of his trusted warriors.
At the start of the Māhele, Ponahawai was given up by Keawe-a-Heulu’s nephew Kinimaka. The ahupua‘a became Crown Lands during the Māhele and in the following years numerous, small Land Grants were awarded within the ahupua‘a.
Following the Māhele, the population of Hilo grew and scattered upland habitation gave way to other activities. Visits by ships representing foreign governments, whaling, the establishment and development of American Protestant missions in the Hilo area and the foreign sandalwood trade brought changes in long-established patterns of settlement and land-use patterns. (Escott)
Hilo became the center of population and settlements in outlying regions declined or disappeared. Sugar cane plantations dominated the uplands, displacing traditional farming, and processing and shipping facilities were established near the shore.
Commercial sugar production lasted in Ponahawai until the mid-twentieth century, at which time many of the fields were converted to pasturage associated with cattle ranching.
In 1894, the government opened the Ponahawai Homestead Lots. Road improvements over the next six years gave access to more lots and spurred development in the area. In 1901 Antone Carvalho bought 110 acres on the upland agricultural zone above Hilo. Carvalho sold the property to Charles Chong who subdivided it into house lots.
During WWII the Army’s 27th Infantry division was housed and trained on the property. Later, the Marines were stationed there and Japanese prisoners of war were confined there.
The camp became known as Camp POW.
After the war, Chong converted the camp buildings into rental properties. For safety reasons the buildings were eventually demolished in the 1980s.
In an archaeological survey of the area in 2012, two concrete foundations were identified – they are in close proximity to each other. It was determined these were from a modern (1940s to 1970s) structure, most recently used as a residential rental, based on household refuse that dates to that era.
An archaeologist concluded the site is likely part of the remains of the Camp POW buildings used by the military during WWII. (Lots of information is from Escott) Camp POW appears to have been in, or in the immediate vicinity of Kaumana Lani County Park.
Many of the photos in the album are from Raymond W McCracken’s son’s post on flickr. McCracken was with the 5th Marine Division spent time in three camps on Hawai‘i Island. The photos were taken during his stay between April 13, 1945 and August 25, 1945.
Camps Tarawa and Banyan were camps where they were trained for the attack on Iwo Jima and Camp POW was the camp they were at after Iwo Jima preparing for the invasion of Japan until the war ended.