Minidoka National Historic Site

Formerly Known As Minidoka War Relocation Center


Minidoka National Historic Site is a National Historic Site is located in Jerome County, Idaho. Pictured (l-r) Erin Cahill, HAFO/MIN Interpretive Ranger and Annette Rousseau, Education specialist Ranger.


   Minidoka National Historic Site is a National Historic Site that commemorates the Minidoka War Relocation Center of the Second World War. It is located in Jerome County, Idaho, 17 miles northeast of Twin Falls and just north of Eden, in an area known as Hunt, in the remote high desert area north of the Snake River. The site is administered by the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

   The Minidoka War Relocation Center, also known as ‘Hunt Camp’, was in operation from 1942–45 and one of ten camps at which Japanese Americans, both citizens and resident aliens, were interned during World War II.

   In the 1800s, many emigrants from Japan crossed the Pacific Ocean to seek economic opportunity in America. While some originally intended to return to their birthplace, many eventually established families, farms, businesses, and communities in the United States. Although America became their new home, the pioneers (Issei) and their American-born children (Nisei) encountered various forms of racial prejudice in the United States. Congress passed laws prohibiting resident aliens from owning land or obtaining citizenship. Quatas were set restricting the flow of new arrivals. With the rise of militarism in Japan in the early 1900s, newspapers often fanned the flames of prejudice.


Oakland, Calif., Mar. 1942. A large sign reading "I am an American" placed in the window of a store, at 13th and Franklin streets, on December 8, the day after Pearl Harbor. The store was closed following orders to persons of Japanese descent to evacuate from certain West Coast areas. The owner, a University of California graduate, will be housed with hundreds of evacuees in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration of the war.


   Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 intensified hostility towards Japanese Americans. Some newspaper columnists, politicians and military personnel treated all people of Japanese ancestry as potential spies and saboteurs. As wartime hysteria mounted, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. (Editors note:  FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover opposed the internment, not on constitutional grounds, but because he believed that the most likely spies had already been arrested by the FBI shortly after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt was also opposed to Executive Order 9066. She spoke privately many times with her husband, but was unsuccessful in convincing him not to sign it.)

   Executive Order 9066 gave the Secretary of War and the military commanders the power to exclude any persons from designated areas to secure national defense objectives against sabotage and espionage.

   The order led to the internment of Japanese Americans or AJAs (Americans of Japanese Ancestry); some 120,000 ethnic Japanese people were held in internment camps for the duration of the war.

   Americans of Italian and German ancestry were also targeted by these restrictions, including internment. 11,000 people of German ancestry were interned, as were 3,000 people of Italian ancestry, along with some Jewish refugees. The Jewish refugees who were interned came from Germany, and the U.S. government didn’t differentiate between ethnic Jews and ethnic Germans (Jewish was defined as religious practice). Some of the internees of European descent were interned only briefly, and others were held for several years beyond the end of the war. Like the Japanese internees, these smaller groups had American-born citizens in their numbers, especially among the children. A few members of ethnicities of other Axis countries were interned, but exact numbers are unknown.

   Due to public pressure the order was mainly used to exclude persons of Japanese ancestry, both American citizen and legal resident aliens, from coastal areas including portions of Alaska, Washington state, Oregon, southern Arizona, and all of California.

   Over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry (Nikkei) living on the West Coast were forced to leave their homes, jobs, and businesses behind and report to designated military holding areas. This constituted the single largest forced relocation in U.S. history.

   Minidoka’s first internees arrived to find a camp still under construction. There was no hot running water and the sewage system had not been constructed. The initial reaction to the stark landscape by many was one of discouragement.

   The camp consisted of administration and warehouse buildings, 36 residential blocks, schools, fire stations, an assortment of shops and stores, a hospital, and a cemetery. Each residential block included twelve barracks-style buildings (each divided into six small one-room apartments), a communal dining hall, a laundry facility with communal showers and toilets, and a recreation hall. Provisions within the barracks consisted of Army issue cots and a pot-bellied stove. Light was provided by a single hanging bulb.

   Scraps of lumber and sage brush were utilized to make furniture. Coal for the stoves and water had to be hand carried. When coal supplies ran low, sagebrush was gathered and burned.

   The hastily built barracks buildings were little more than wooden frames covered with tarpaper and had no insulation. Temperatures in the winter of 1942 plunged to 21 degrees below zero. Over 100 tons of coal a day was needed for heating the buildings. They had to endure ankle deep mud in the spring and temperatures of 104 degrees and blinding dust storms in the summer.


Mud from rain and melting snow, Minidoka Relocation Camp, December 10, 1942 Photographer Stewart, Francis.


   Despite the harsh conditions at Minidoka, internees were resourceful. They built baseball diamonds and small parks with picnic areas. There baseball team was virtually unbeatable. Taiko drumming and other musical groups were formed, and a newspaper written by the internees was published, the Minidoka Irrigator. (The Jerome County Historical Society Museum, located at 222 N Lincoln, Jerome, Idaho, has a complete set of the “Minidoka Irrigator”, the relocation camp newspaper written by internees.)

   To create beauty in an otherwise dismal landscape, paths were lined with decorative stones and traditional Japanese gardens were planted. By the time the center closed in 1945 internees had cleared and cultivated 950 acres of inhospitable land and constructed the ditches and canals needed to irrigate them.

   Despite their internment, most Japanese Americans remained intensely loyal to the United States, and many demonstrated their loyalty by volunteering for military service. They were segregated into all Japanese American combat and intelligence units commanded by non-Japanese Americans. Of the ten relocation centers, Minidoka had the highest number of volunteers, about 1,000 internees – nearly ten percent of the camp’s total peak population.

   The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army was an all Japanese American unit. They fought primarily in Europe during World War II, beginning in 1944. There were a self-sufficient fighting force, and fought with uncommon distinction in Italy, southern France, and Germany. The unit became the most highly decorated regiment in the history of the United States armed forces, including 21 Medal of Honor recipients. The motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was “Go for Broke.” (Editors note: The information I have found on the 442nd Regimental Combat Team is so vast, an entire article could be composed on the teams.)


Japanese-American infantrymen of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team hike up a muddy French road in the Chambois Sector, France, in late 1944. (Army Center for Military History file photo)


   During the years of incarceration the internees had transformed many acres of high desert into viable agricultural land. After the camp closed in October 1945, the land was subdivided into smaller farms and auctioned to the highest bidders or given to WWII veterans along with two barracks buildings and one smaller building. The drawing was by lottery. Preference was given to WWII veterans on both the lottery and sale of the farms. Many of the buildings from the camp were also dispersed to government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Today, most of the former Relocation Center remains privately owned farmland.

   The internment camp site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 10, 1979. The site was established in 2001, and as one of the newest units of the National Park System, it does not yet have any visitor facilities or services available on location. However, a temporary exhibit and information about the monument is on display at the visitor center of the nearby Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. Currently, visitors see the remains of the entry guard station, waiting room, and rock garden and can visit the Relocation Center display at the Jerome County Museum in nearby Jerome and the restored barracks building at the Idaho Farm and Ranch Museum southeast of town. There is a small marker adjacent to the remains of the guard station, and a larger sign at the intersection of Highway 25 and Hunt Road, which gives some of the history of the camp.

   Executive Order 9066 was rescinded by Gerald Ford on February 19, 1976. In 1980, Jimmy Carter signed legislation to create the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC). The CWRIC was appointed to conduct an official governmental study of Executive Order 9066, related wartime orders, and their impact on Japanese Americans in the West and Alaska Natives in the Pribilof Islands.

   In December 1982, the CWRIC issued its findings in Personal Justice Denied, concluding that the incarceration of Japanese Americans had not been justified by military necessity. The report determined that the decision to incarcerate was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” The Commission recommended legislative remedies consisting of an official Government apology and redress payments of $20,000 to each of the survivors; a public education fund was set up to help ensure that this would not happen again (Public Law 100-383).


U.S. President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted reparations for the internment of Japanese Americans


   On August 10, 1988, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, based on the CWRIC recommendations, was signed into law by Ronald Reagan. On November 21, 1989, George H.W. Bush signed an appropriation bill authorizing payments to be paid out between 1990 and 1998. In 1990, surviving internees began to receive individual redress payments and a letter of apology.


Copyright 2011 All rights reserved.

Ed Walter

Published in September/October El-Wyhee Hi-Lites

Source: Wikipedia & NPS & on site location tour by Rangers Erin Cahill and Annette Rousseau (Thank you!).

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Minidoka Relocation Camp




Japanese-American Vets Receive Bronze Star Medals

by C. Todd Lopez, Army News Service


   WASHINGTON - In a ceremony here on Nov. 2, 2011 more than 66 years after hostilities ended in World War II, 40 Americans received the Bronze Stars they deserved for combat service in that conflict.


Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno pins a Bronze Star on Medal of Honor recipient George Joe Sakato at a Nov. 1, 2011, ceremony in Washington, D.C., in which 40 World War II soldiers from all-Japanese-American units -- the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service -- were awarded the Bronze Star. U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez


   The Japanese-American soldiers fought as part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service.

   Army officials decided that all soldiers who wore the Combat Infantry Badge from World War II were owed a Bronze Star; some, however, never received theirs.

   Getting such an award, in many cases, depended on "how good your clerk was, ... and some of the clerks were not that great," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Peterson. It's really a matter of poor paperwork that the soldiers had to wait so long to get their Bronze Stars, he added.

   The general organized a three-day recognition of Japanese-American soldiers in Washington, D.C. The highlight has some 800 of those veterans being honored with the Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. But for the soldiers who gathered at a posh hotel, the day was about finally getting the Bronze Star they had earned.

   At the event, 31 of those soldiers were present to have the medal pinned on their chest by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno. Another nine Bronze Stars were provided to the family members of soldiers who could not attend or who have died.

   "It's amazing to get a star like this," said Don K. Masuda, one of the recipients of the award. The former soldier attended the event with his wife, his daughter, and two of his grandsons. He said he's led "a pretty good life" since leaving the Army, which has included being a co-owner of a shipping business in his native Hawaii, and also working six years for the postal service.

   He served as an infantryman in World War II, in both Italy and France, as part of the 442nd RCT. He earned two Purple Hearts during his service. He said he's been waiting "a pretty long time" to have a Bronze Star.

   Fellow 442nd RCT soldier George Joe Sakato was also at the award ceremony -- both as a recipient of the Bronze Star and as a speaker. Sakato is one of 21 Japanese-American Medal of Honor recipients to come out of the 442nd RCT and 100th Infantry Battalion.

   On behalf of the 33,000 Japanese-Americans soldiers who served in World War II, Sakato thanked Congress for the Congressional Gold Medal they are received. He also thanked his country for the opportunity to earn that honor.

   "We also thank the government, which allowed us to serve in the U.S. Army to defend our country and to prove our loyalty to America," Sakato said.

   Odierno reiterated for those at the event the greatness of the Japanese-American soldiers' service and the service of all who served in World War II, calling them "the greatest generation."

   But the general also touched on the tragedy those soldiers faced that other soldiers did not. Many of their families back home were locked away in camps and branded as enemies of America, even while their sons served to defend the country's ideals.

   "From the shock of Pearl Harbor, and out of fear and prejudice, 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were sent to internment camps," Odierno said. "But what's incredible to me is that many of them did not allow that grave injustice of the internment to stand in their way. They remained steadfast in their commitment to their country, and volunteered to serve a nation in combat -- a selfless act of devotion."

   Those Japanese-American soldiers, he said, served as infantrymen, linguists, military intelligence specialists and artillerymen.

   "Over 33,000 Japanese-Americans served in the war," Odierno said. "And of those, over 13,000 served in the 442nd, and earned over 9,000 Purple Hearts."

   The 442nd became the most highly decorated unit in the Army's history, Odierno said. The 442nd and the 100th Infantry Battalion together earned seven Presidential Unit Citations, two Meritorious Service Plaques, 36 Army Commendation Medals, and 87 Division Commendations. Individually, soldiers earned 21 Medals of Honor, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, more than 354 Silver Stars, and more than 4,000 Purple Hearts.

   "Together, they define the ethos that we all live by today: 'Never leave a fallen comrade,'" Odierno said.

   The experience of World War II provided a lesson about tolerance, the general said.

   "The lesson of the Japanese-American experience is that fear and prejudice make our country weaker, not stronger," Odierno said. "Japanese-Americans, like others, have more than earned their place in our country, in our Army, and in our society -- a melting pot to include African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and today, Arab-Americans."

   About 240 veterans attended the Bronze Star event. Another 100 spouses of deceased veterans also attended, as did about 500 family members representing soldiers.

   Peterson, who has Japanese ancestry, said the event was both to honor those soldiers who served, and to educate America.

   "It's educational for our nation to know that a group of soldiers and a group of Americans, who because of the mass hysteria when the imperial military of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor -- were classified enemy aliens," Peterson said.

   About 120,000 Japanese-Americans were rounded up, Peterson said, and put into any of 10 internment camps across nine states.

   "Out of those camps came a demand, by 65 percent of them -- 65 percent of 120,000 internees -- to serve their country in a time of war," he said.

   Those soldiers who served in units like the 442nd RCT, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service, Peterson said, averaged number three individual awards for heroism.

   "They are the most decorated unit in U.S. military history of its size and duration of the conflict," he said.


Medal of Honor recipient George Joe Sakato speaks at a Nov. 1, 2011, ceremony in Washington, D.C., in which 40 World War II soldiers from all-Japanese-American units -- the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service -- were awarded the Bronze Star. U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez