Top 50 Stories: 1942 — Minidoka internment camp

Nearly 10,000 people of Japanese descent were confined in S. Idaho during World War II

npoppino@idahostatesman.comJune 19, 2014 

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Some learned to farm through a work-release program. Others volunteered for the military, serving a nation that had rounded up their families and forced them behind barbed wire.

The camp at Hunt - north of Twin Falls and east of Jerome - was made a national historic site in 2001. Sixty years earlier, it had housed Japanese-Americans yanked from their homes after Japan brought the U.S. into World War II.

Built by Morrison-Knudsen, the Minidoka Relocation Center opened on Aug. 10, 1942. Two hundred internees arrived in the first two days, according to a brief published in the Statesman on Aug. 12.

The paper paid slight notice to the fact that an internment camp was in Idaho, devoting more of its wartime coverage to events abroad and the fates of local soldiers. It doesn't appear that the Statesman noted the camp's official closure in October 1945.

But over the decades, as public opinion about the internment of Japanese-Americans shifted, the pace of the Statesman's coverage picked up considerably. President Bill Clinton named the site a national monument on Jan. 17, 2001; the Statesman marked the occasion with a front page article featuring maps, historical photos and interviews with former internees.

Today, the National Park Service is working to restore barracks and a guard tower at the site, developing it into an educational center and a reminder of how the U.S. revoked the rights of its own citizens. Former internees and their children and grandchildren make an annual pilgrimage; the 2014 visit begins Thursday.

The Minidoka camp is perhaps the best known, but it was not the only World War II detention camp in Idaho. The U.S. Justice Department ran a camp for "dangerous persons" in North Idaho, while German prisoners of war were held at camps near Paul and Wilder.

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