Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Minidoka Internment Camp

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Minidoka Internment Camp

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Happy Memorial Day. Today we remember the 1.2 million soldiers who have died fighting for the United States, starting way back in 1775 with the American Revolution. May is also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The Asian Pacific American Heritage website features a wide range of information and digital records from the Library of Congress, National Archives and other institutions.

We are Japanese Americans and in honor of this month, today we will be discussing our 2012 visit to the Minidoka Internment Camp in Idaho.

When you drive up you can see a replica of the the Honor Roll, which lists all the men that served in the US military during World War II from Minidoka. Two of our great-uncles are listed on the Honor Roll, both part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and both receiving Purple Hearts for being wounded in battle.

“The 442nd… became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service.” –Densho Encyclopedia

the honor roll
Honor Roll

The site is surrounded by lush farmland. A lot of the local farms harvest sugar beets, our grandma and her family helped during the harvest season while they were interned.

Before we arrived at Minidoka, our first stop was at the Hagerman Fossil Beds, 40 miles away, which had a small exhibit about the Minidoka National Historic Site.

We were happy to discover while writing this post that in 2017, they will begin construction of an official Minidoka NHS Visitor Center. We will have to visit again then.

minidoka
A photo of the Minidoka when it was in use. (Take at Hagerman Fossil Beds, Minidoka Exhibit).

But before we get into too many details, let’s talk a bit about our grandparents.

Both sets of our maternal great-grandparents immigrated to America from Japan in 1906. Our grandma’s parents settled near Portland, Oregon and our grandpa’s parents settled outside Salt Lake City, Utah. They both had large families and were farmers.

minidoka

As you may recall from history class, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt ordered all people of Japanese descent who lived on the Pacific coast to be moved inland and interned in camps.

minidoka

One of the ten camps was in Minidoka, Idaho, which is where our grandma and her family were held for nearly two years. Our grandpa’s family was not ordered to an internment camp because they lived further inland in Utah.

minidoka

The Minidoka War Relocation Center became a National Historic Site in 1979. It is maintained by the National Park Service. Our grandma never had a desire to go back to see the camp after she left, but four years ago, after she passed away, we drove up to Minidoka to see where she was interned.

minidoka

There was a walking path to tour the grounds, and although the buildings were all gone, there were a few concrete slabs left on the ground so you could visualize where some of the buildings were. There were no park rangers at the location but there were several informational plaques along the path to help tell the story of the location. They have made additions to the site since our visit in 2012, including a replica of the guard tower.

minidoka

Grandma was very patriotic and was not angry or resentful about being interned. Maybe the two signs below offers some insight as to why.

minidoka 11

 

minidoka - 8 small

It would have been a great experience to share with our grandma, but even without her it was definitely worth the drive to see the camp.

minidoka

You can stay up-to-date with the progress at the Minidoka NHS website. View all the progress at Minidoka from 2011-present in this PDF by the National Park Service.

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Z.Y. DOYLE

Howdy! We are a two-sister writing team in sunny Arizona. We are authors, photographers, and Woof Trekkers. Read our blog for posts about food, positivity, pets, self-publishing, and travel.
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  1. […] majority of their long lives in Utah, where they had a farm and a fruit stand. Earlier this week, we talked about Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. Well, our grandparents met […]

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