July 3, 2013

Former Internees Trek to Minidoka Relocation Center

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:46 pm by minidokapilgrimage


Former Internees Trek to Minidoka Relocation Center

June 24, 2013 2:00 am  •  By Julie Wootton – jwootton@magicvalley.com

EDEN • Louise Kashino remembers windy days as a teenager at the Minidoka Relocation Center when the dust would fly up and sting her eyes.

At the camp surrounded by barbed wire, it would make it hard to see anything.

Saturday, the weather conditions were much the same as in the 1940s, as the wind whipped the tall grass at what’s now the Minidoka National Historic Site.

But Kashino – who is in her 80s and lives in Seattle – said when she comes back to visit what was once the internment camp, it isn’t the sagebrush and sand-covered landscape she remembers.

“It’s totally different,” she said, sitting in a tour bus during the annual Minidoka Pilgrimage.

Kashino described the experience as “nostalgic.”

She arrived at the Minidoka Relocation Center – about 15 miles north of Twin Falls – when she was 16 .

About 200 people went on the Minidoka Pilgrimage this weekend, participating in walking tours and ceremonies.

Kashino and about 10 other people on the pilgrimage – many of whom were internees – recalled their experiences as they talked to each other on a tour bus.

Most were children or teenagers when they were at the Hunt Camp. Many come back year after year for the pilgrimage.

Tosh Okamoto, who lives in Seattle, said most of the people who were sitting around him live in the Portland and Seattle areas now.

“Most of us are in our 80s,” he said.

Looking back on his time as an internee, Okamoto recalled what it was like to be forced to relocate.

“I think for most of us, it was an injustice against us,” he said.

But Okamoto said he’s proud of the Japanese-American culture.

“We could have been really angry,” he said, but noted most of his peers aren’t.

The anger over what happened hasn’t been so much that it prevented them from moving forward, he said.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in February 1942.

It forced the relocation of more than 120,000 West Coast Japanese-Americans into temporary incarceration facilities.

The Minidoka Relocation Center was one 10 centers.

When internees arrived at the Minidoka Relocation Center in 1942, the camp wasn’t even complete yet. But Hunt, Idaho, ended up becoming the seventh largest population center in the state.

In the 1940s, the camp comprised about 600 structures spanning 33,000 acres. After it closed, many of the buildings were moved. Only a few remain.

Saturday, participants in the Minidoka Pilgrimage wore paper tags on strings with their names, similar to the IDs internees wore at the camp.

Groups took walking tours along a 1.6-mile trail, making stops at buildings such as a root cellar, old warehouse and two barracks with peeling white paint.

But the most of the camp has long been dismantled.

As one of the tour groups stopped in half of an old warehouse, dozens of visitors took pictures and looked up at the old wooden ceiling beams.

In a town that had nearly 10,000 people, the tour guide said, warehouses were essential for storage.

People of several generations – from children to those in their 80s or 90s – looked around the historic site, which was created in 2001.

Many brought cameras and took pictures.

During the pilgrimage, tour groups looked at the honor roll, which lists the names of Japanese Americans from the relocation center who served in the military during World War II.

Okamoto, a World War II veteran, recalls a memorial service for his fellow internees who volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army and were killed in action.

“It was a sad time,” he said.

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


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.