In the Pacific, a New Kind of Monument Is Proposed
By FELICITY BARRINGER
The Bush administration is taking steps to create a new kind of national monument encompassing Pearl Harbor and other World War II sites in the Pacific.
If the president declares a Pacific war monument, it will require rethinking the concept of how monuments are organized. Unlike land-based national monuments or the relatively new Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument — 139,800 square miles of ocean waters and coral reefs around the archipelago northwest of Hawaii’s main islands — the areas in the monument being contemplated are not contiguous.
“Traditionally, a monument is some fixed piece of geography, and you draw a line around it and that’s it,” said Lyle Laverty, the assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks at the Interior Department.
The idea of a monument that commemorates the Pacific theater “presents an interesting challenge,” Mr. Laverty said, not just because the elements are not contiguous, but also because the monument could be in close proximity to active naval operations.
A memorandum from President Bush to the interior and defense secretaries released on Friday by the White House asked for their assessment of the value of a monument declaration “at Pearl Harbor and other sites associated with the war in the Pacific.” It added that recommendations should avoid “limiting the Department of Defense from carrying out” its mission.
The areas under consideration would include Ford Island, which was adjacent to battleship row in Pearl Harbor, where most of the large ships were sunk by Japanese bombers on Dec. 7, 1941. The memorandum made no mention of other sites being contemplated, but Midway and Wake Islands and Guam saw crucial World War II battles.
Aside from the northwest Hawaiian Islands monument, Mr. Bush has established the African Burial Ground National Monument at Duane and Elk Streets in Lower Manhattan.
There has been a temptation for presidents to declare a spate of national monuments as part of their legacy near the end of their term.
President Bill Clinton declared 21 national monuments. One of the most controversial, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, was declared just before his re-election in 1996; 10 others were designated in his last year in office, including Governors Island in New York and the Desert Sonoran National Monument in Arizona.
In a telephone interview Friday, Kenneth H. DeHoff, the executive director of the Pacific Aviation Museum in Pearl Harbor, said that in 2006 he met with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and began discussions of a monument that would reach beyond the memorial at the battleship Arizona, on which hundreds of sailors died and which is partially submerged.
Mr. DeHoff said the designation could provide the incentive for preserving other structures at Pearl Harbor, like the control tower on Ford Island. By including distant battlegrounds like Wake and Midway Islands, he said, the monument could weave the strands of battles that took place thousands of miles apart.