Bush Mulls Making Pearl Harbor a National Monument

President Bush has asked his defense and interior secretaries to look into designating Pearl Harbor and other historic World War II sites in the Pacific a national monument.

A May 29 presidential memo to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said such status could offer the sites additional protection.

"These objects of historical and scientific interest may tell the broader story of the war, the sacrifices made by America and its allies, and the heroism and determination that laid the groundwork for victory in the Pacific and triumph in World War II," Bush said.

The letter, posted on the White House Web site, doesn't say what specific places Bush has in mind aside from Pearl Harbor.

Parts of the naval base are already under some form of protection or have historic designation.

The USS Arizona, an underwater grave for over 1,100 sailors and Marines unable to escape the ship before it sank during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack, is currently part of the USS Arizona Memorial run by the National Park Service.

Ford Island, where several of the Navy's battleships were moored during the attack, is a National Historic Landmark.

The island, located at the center of Pearl Harbor, is home to historic airplane hangers that survived the aerial assault. A red and white striped airplane control tower on Ford Island delivered the first radio broadcast of the attack.

Next door to Pearl Harbor, the top Air Force commander in the Pacific today has his headquarters in a building that served as barracks for Army airmen in 1941. Bullet holes left by Japanese machine guns are still visible on the outside of the structure's concrete walls.

Outside Hawaii, crucial battles were fought at Midway, Wake and Guam islands. All are still U.S. territory.

Today, Midway is mainly a wildlife bird refuge and key node in the island chain making up the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument that Bush established in 2006. The former naval base, where the U.S. defeated Japan in June 1942 to turn the tide of World War II in the Pacific, was named a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Many areas — particularly Pearl Harbor, Hickam Air Force Base, and Guam — that would likely be eligible for inclusion in the monument are still actively used today by the U.S. military.

Making them part of a monument could complicate daily operations for the services. But Bush's memo told Gates and Kempthorne that national monument classification shouldn't interfere with the military's business.

"Please consider in your assessment that any proposed actions should not limit the Department of Defense from carrying out the mission of the various branches of the military," Bush said.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president the authority to make national monuments of "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest." The president doesn't need Congressional approval to do designate monuments.

Other national monuments include the Statue of Liberty, designated by Calvin Coolidge in 1924, and the Grand Canyon, made a national monument by Herbert Hoover in 1932.