Japanese-American Internment Camps in Idaho and the West, 1942-1945
Issued Feb. 19, 1942, two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Presidential Executive Order 9066 made possible the removal of American citizens of Japanese descent from the West Coast. The three westernmost states were designated as a defense area from which any or all persons could be excluded at the discretion of the military commander. In March 1942 President Roosevelt established the War Relocation Board, and the complete evacuation of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast was ordered as a security measure. Ten concentration camps were established that would eventually hold more than 110,000 people.
Camp Minidoka was located near Hunt, Idaho, 20 miles northeast of Twin Falls. In August 1942 the government began transporting Japanese-Americans to the camp via train. Most Minidoka residents came from Seattle and Portland and were given notice only one week before being forced to move. Ten thousand people (making Minidoka Idaho’s eighth largest city) were interned in tar-paper barracks that had no insulation, running water, or interior walls, and that were heated by coal-burning stoves. Barbed wire, guard towers, armed guards, and watch dogs secured the 950 acre site.
Despite forced internment, many Japanese-Americans served bravely in the U.S. army. An all Japanese-American military unit — the 442nd Regimental Combat Team — fought in the Italian campaigns, and became the most decorated unit in the war, winning 18,000 medals. Minidoka had the highest enlistment — and casualty — rates of any US internment camp: over 1,000 camp residents served overseas. Seattle recently renamed its US Federal Courthouse building after William Kenzo Nakamura, a Minidoka resident who joined the 442nd and was killed by a German sniper in Italy on July 4, 1944.
The last family left Camp Minidoka in October 1945. In 1979 Minidoka was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1990 the US Government began making $20,000 payments to camp survivors. A memorial to the camp internees was dedicated in Washington DC in November 2000, and in January 2001 President Clinton named Minidoka a National Monument.
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- Ikeda, Tsuguo; Akio Yanagihara. Minidoka stories: I and II. 2003.
- Inada, Lawson Fusao, editor; preface by Patricia Wakida; afterword by William Hohri. Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience. Berkeley, California: Heyday Books; San Francisco, California: California Historical Society, 2000.
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- Mackey, Mike, editor. Remembering Heart Mountain: Essays on Japanese American Internment in Wyoming. Powell, Wyoming: Western History Publications, 1998.
- Matsuda, Lawrence. Shape shifter: a Minidoka concentration camp legacy: poems. Burton, Washington: Endicott & Hugh Books, 2022.
- Matsuda, Lawrence Y.; with an introduction and afterword by Tetsuden Kashima. A cold wind from Idaho: poems. New York; Aspinwall, Pennsylvania: Black Lawrence Press, 2010.
- Murray, Alice Yang. What Did the Internment of Japanese Americans Mean? (Historians at Work). Boston, Massachusetts: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 1st edition.
- Muller, Eric L. Free to Die for their Country: the story of the Japanese American draft resisters in World War II. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2001.
- Obata, Chiura. Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment. Berkeley, California: Heyday Books, 2000.
- Okihiro, Gary Y.; and Joan Myers, photographer. Whispered Silences: Japanese Americans and World War II. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 1996. 1st edition.
- Olinger, John C. A Place of Conscience: Camp Downey. Pocatello, Idaho: Pocatello State University Press, 1991.
- Shimomura, Roger. Journey to Minidoka: The Paintings of Roger Shimomura. Ogden, Utah: Collett Art Gallery, Weber State College, 1983.
- Shimomura, Roger. Minidoka Revisited: the paintings of Roger Shimomura. Clemson, S.C.: Lee Gallery, Clemson University; Seattle, Washington: Distributed by University of Washington Press, 2005.
- Shrontz Roberts-Wright, Bessie. Hunt for Idaho: Evacuees 1942-1945 and Homesteaders 1947-1949/T.P. Minidoka Prisoner of War Camp 1942-1945. 1994.
- Smith, Page. Democracy on Trial: The Japanese-American Evacuation and Relocation in World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.
- Sone, Monica Itoi. Nisei Daughter. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 2014.
- Takeuchi, Thomas, editor. Minidoka Interlude, September, 1942-October 1943. Published by the Thomas Kaname Takeuchi family, 1995. Originally published: Hunt, Idaho: Residents of Minidoka Relocation Center, 1943?
- Taylor, Sandra C; Roger Daniels; Leonard J Arrington; Harry H L Kitano. Japanese Americans: From Relocation to Redress. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 2013.
- Tateishi, John, compiler; foreword by Roger Daniels. And Justice For All: An Oral History of the Japanese American Detention Camps. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 1999.
- Taylor, Sandra C. Jewel of the Desert: Japanese American Internment at Topaz. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1993.
- Tremayne, Russell M.; Todd Shallat; Melissa Lavitt, editors. Surviving Minidoka: the legacy of WWII Japanese American incarceration. Boise State University, College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs in partnership with College of Southern Idaho and generous support from National Park Service, Idaho Humanities Council, Idaho State Historical Society and Friends of Minidoka. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Publications Office, College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs, 2013.
- Uchida, Yoshiko. Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 1982.
- Wakatsuki, Hanako; Mia Russell; Carol Ash. Minidoka National Historic Site. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2018.
- Wegars, Priscilla; with a foreword by Dick Hendricks. As rugged as the terrain: CCC “boys,” federal convicts, and World War II alien internees wrestle with a mountain wilderness. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 2013.
- Wegars, Priscilla; with a foreword by Michiko Midge Ayukawa. Imprisoned in Paradise: Japanese internee road workers at the World War II Kooskia Internment Camp.Moscow, Idaho: Asian American Comparative Collection, University of Idaho, 2010.
- Weglyn, Michi. Years Of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 2003, 1996.
- Burgan, Michael. Japanese American Internment. North Mankato, Minnesota: Compass Point Books, a capstone imprint, 2018.
- Conkling, Winifred. Sylvia and Aki. Berkeley, California: Tricycle Press, 2011.
- Goldstone, Lawrence. Days of infamy: how a century of bigotry led to Japanese American internment. New York: Scholastic Focus, 2022.
- Grady, Cynthia; illustrated by Amiko Hirao. Write to Me: letters from Japanese American children to the Librarian they left behind. Watertown, Massachusets: Publishing, Inc., 2018.
- Harris, Duchess; Marne Ventura. Japanese American imprisonment during World War II. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Core Library, an imprint of Abdo Publishing, 2020.
- Heinrichs, Ann. The Japanese American internment: innocence, guilt, and wartime justice. New York : Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2011.
- Hughes, Kiku. Displacement. New York: First Second, 2020.
- Larson, Kirby. Dash. New York: Scholastic Press, 2014.
- Lee-Tai, Amy; illustrations Felicia Hoshino; Japanese translation, Marc Akio Lee. A Place Where Sunflowers Grow = Sabaku ni saita himawari. San Francisco, California: Children’s Book Press, 2006.
- Marrin, Albert. Uprooted: the Japanese American experience during World War II. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.
- Mochizuki, Ken; illustrated by Dom Lee. Baseball Saved Us. New York: Lee & Low Books, 1993.
- Partridge, Elizabeth; Lauren Tamaki. Seen and Unseen: what Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake and Ansel Adams’s photographs reveal about the Japanese American incarceration. San Francisco, California: Chronicle Books, 2022.
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- Takaki, Ronald; adapted by Rebecca Stefoff. A Different Mirror for Young People: a history of multicultural America. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2012.
- Takei, George; Justin Eisinger; Steven Scott; art by Harmony Becker. They Called Us Enemy. Marietta, Georgia: Top Shelf Productions, an imprint of IDW Publishing, 2019.
- Uchida, Yoshiko. The Invisible Thread: An autobiography. New York: Beech Tree Paperback, 1995.
- Uchida, Yoshiko; illustrated by Joanna Yardley. The Bracelet. New York: Putnam & Grosset Group, 1993.
- Warren, Andrea. Enemy child: the story of Norman Mineta, a boy imprisoned in a Japanese American internment camp during World War II. New York: Holiday House, 2019.
- Welch, Catherine A. Children of the Relocation Camps. Minneapolis Minnesota: Carolrhoda Books, 2000.
- Yamasaki, Katie. Fish for Jimmy: inspired by one family’s experience in a Japanese American internment camp. New York: Holiday House, 2013.
- Yancey, Diane. Life in a Japanese American Internment Camp. San Diego, California: Lucent Books, 1998.
Federal Government Publications
- A Statement on Handling of Evacuee Property. War Relocation Authority. 1943.
- Administrative Highlights of the WRA Program. War Relocation Authority. 1946.
- Community Government in War Relocation Centers. War Relocation Authority. 1946.
- The Evacuated People: A Quantitative Description. War Relocation Authority. 1946.
- Impounded People: Japanese-Americans in the relocation centers. War Relocation Authority. 1946.
- Legal and Constitutional Phases of the WRA Program. War Relocation Authority. 1946.
- Minidoka Internment National Monument: Abbreviated final general management plan and environmental impact statement. Seattle, Washington: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Pacific West Region Park Planning and Compliance Division. 2006.
- Nakadate, Neil. Looking after Minidoka. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. 2013.
- People in Motion: The Postwar Adjustment of the Evacuated Japanese Americans. War Agency Liquidation Unit (formerly the War Relocation Authority). 1947.
- Relocation of Japanese-Americans. War Relocation Authority. 1943.
- The Relocation Program. War Relocation Authority. 1946.
- The Relocation Program: a guide book for the residents of relocation centers. War Relocation Authority. May 1943.
- Tamura, Teresa. Minidoka: an American concentration camp. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press. 2013.
- Token Shipment: the story of America’s war refugee shelter. War Relocation Authority. 1946
- Wartime Exile: The Exclusion of the Japanese Americans From the West Coast. War Relocation Authority. 1946.
- The Wartime Handling of Evacuee Property. War Relocation Authority. 1946.
- The War Relocation Work Corps: a circular of information for enlistees and their families. War Relocation Authority. 1942.
- WRA: A Story of Human Conservation. War Relocation Authority. 1946.
- Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. 1982.
- Publications of the War Relocation Authority digitized by the Federal Reserve
- War Relocation Authority by Greg Robinson. The Densho Encyclopedia. This article provides context for understanding War Relocation Authority documents.
Magazines and Newspapers
- “The Japanese American Experience in Idaho,” Robert C. Sims. Idaho Yesterdays Spring 1978 v.22 n.1 p.2-10
- “’My Dear Bishop’: a Report From Minidoka,” Jane Chase. Idaho Yesterdays Summer 2000 v.44 n.2 p.3-6
- “’You Don’t Need to Wait Any Longer to Get Out’: Japanese American Evacuees as Farm Laborers During World War II,” Robert C. Sims. Idaho Yesterdays Summer 2000 v.44 n.2 pp. 7-13.
- Japanese Internment Camp Newspapers, 1942 to 1946 – Library of Congress. Includes the Minidoka Irrigator.
- Osaki, Jon. Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066. Film. Trailer. JJML Productions.
- Ostrander, Lucy. Fumiko Hayashida: the woman behind the symbol. DVD. Bainbridge Island, Washington: Stourwater Pictures, 2009.
- Tanabe, Barbara; Kurt Horn; Tony Read. The Fence at Minidoka. Video recording. Seattle, Washington?: KOMO TV?, 1974?
- Minidoka: an American concentration camp. National Park Service. Video. 1921.
Collections and Websites
- Densho Encyclopedia
- Friends of Minidoka
- Japanese Internment Camp Newspapers, 1942 to 1946. Library of Congress.
- Japanese Relocation and Internment – National Archives.
- Kooskia, Idaho, World War II Japanese Internment Camp Archaeological Project. University of Idaho.
- Kooskia Internment Camp Archaeological Project Blog
- Minidoka National Historic Site. National Park Service.
- Robert C. Sims Collection on Minidoka and Japanese Americans, 1891-2014. Boise State University.
- Shitamae Family Letters. University of Idaho.
- Wassmuth Center for Human Rights
Research and text by Ellen Druckenbrod, Boise Public Library. Updated by Ronnie Joiner February 3, 2023.