July 12, 2011

Lost but not forgotten: Reliving the past of the Minidoka Relocation Center

Posted in 2011 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Honor Roll, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:02 am by minidokapilgrimage

http://www.magicvalley.com/news/local/northside/article_677072df-26eb-538e-a261-f267b9fb72e5.html

Lost but not forgotten: Reliving the past of the Minidoka Relocation Center 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

By Kimberly Williams-Brackett

EDEN — Veterans of the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team were honored Sunday with a ribbon cutting of the Honor Roll at the Minidoka National Historic Site.

The event was in conjunction with an annual pilgrimage that began June 30 in Seattle and Portland, Ore., and ended Sunday at the former internment camp. Guided tours were held at the site on Saturday.

The segregated U.S. Army regiment was the most highly decorated unit of its size and for its duration of service in American military history, said Wendy Janssen, superintendent of the historic site.

During World War II, 73 soldiers from Minidoka died in Italy, France and Germany while fighting for their country, and two received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Out of 10 relocation centers across the United States, Minidoka had the highest percentage of volunteers, about 1,000 internees — nearly 10 percent of the camp’s total peak population.

The original Honor Roll was built and erected on Oct. 14, 1943, to honor the young men and women who served in the military from the Minidoka Relocation Center, also known as Hunt Camp.

The center panel originally had 418 names. As the war progressed, names were added to two side panels.

The fate of the original Honor Roll is unknown.

Reestablishment of the Honor Roll received wide community support in 2006. In 2010, the Friends of Minidoka received a grant from the Japanese-American Confinement Sites Grant Program to assist with construction costs. It was a collaborative effort made possible by the Friends of Minidoka, National Park Service, and the Nisei Veterans.

Janssen said the original mess hall, currently located at the Jerome County Fairgrounds, will be returned to the historic site in about two weeks.

“It will house exhibits in the near future for educational programs,” she said.

After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and the signing of an executive order, more than 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were given six days to dispose of their homes and businesses and report to designated military holding areas.

Internees could only bring what they could carry and they weren’t told where they were going, Janssen said.

She said during the incarceration of Japanese-Americans between 1942-45, Minidoka became the 7th largest city in Idaho.

The camp was built in less than seven months covering 33,000 acres with more than 600 buildings. A five-mile long barbed wire fence with eight guard towers circled the camp.

Although farming remains the primary use of the former relocation center lands, there are plans to complete the trail, rehabilitate the root cellar, induct a visitor center in the warehouse and expand the museum collection.

Keith Yamaguchi, of Seattle, was emotional about the erecting of the Honor Roll because it pays tribute to everyone who came out of the camp.

Yamaguchi, who’s participated in the pilgrimage for the past six years, said his mother, grandparents, aunts, and uncles were all internees. But, he said, his grandparents nor his parents ever talked about their time in camp.

“All the stories I’ve heard, I’ve heard from other people,” he said.

 

 

 

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