Japanese-American Internment Camp Preservation Initiative: Minidoka
Barracks under construction at Minidoka in Idaho.
Photographer: Francis Stewart. Photo Courtesy of The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley. Caption information provided by JARDA: Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives. Caption and image can be obtained here.
At A Glance
- Nearly 9,500 Japanese-Americans were interned at Minidoka in Idaho.
- Minidoka National Historic Site was established in 2001.
- We've helped protect more than 140 acres.
The story of Minidoka is an important chapter of our collective American history. It is a site that addresses the violation of civil and constitutional rights and the fragility of democracy in times of crisis.
—Wendy Janssen, Superintendent of the Minidoka National Historic Site
At the start of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese-Americans to internment camps. About 120,000 people were interned during the war; families were forced to leave their homes, businesses and belongings to live in isolated camps surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers.
One of those camps was Minidoka in Idaho.
Between August 1942 and October 1945, nearly 9,500 Japanese Americans from Portland, Oregon, Seattle and the surrounding areas were interned at Minidoka. Yet little evidence remained that a camp was ever there. The Conservation Fund has assisted in supporting the expansion of Minidoka’s boundaries and in acquiring lands to add to the historic site.
Conservation Efforts At Minidoka
The National Park Service manages the federal land at the Minidoka Internment National Historic Site and works to promote education and interpretation about the struggles of Japanese-Americans during World War II. When the Minidoka National Historic Site was established in 2001, it included only a fraction of the original 950-acre core area. The park service faced a challenge to preserve this monument: It was not able to expand the property because available lands were outside the authorized boundary of the site. It wasn’t until 2008 when the Idaho congressional delegation helped pass bipartisan legislation authorizing expansion of the National Historic Site that the park service was able to incorporate new land into the park.
But before 2008, two properties neighboring the park went up for sale, and that’s where The Conservation Fund came in. We purchased the properties and held them until the National Park Service could acquire and add them to the site. With this expansion, the park service was able to reconstruct an entire barracks block at the monument, which will serve as the focal point for education and visitor use.
Then in 2011, we protected nearly 140 more acres: the former site of the internment camp’s fire station, water tower, military police headquarters, barracks blocks 21 and 22 and portions of adjacent blocks. The National Park Service will begin to re-establish residential block 22 on its original location, starting with the relocation of a barracks building and a camp mess hall donated by Jerome County from the county fairgrounds.
With the acquisition of this land, the National Park Service is planning to move forward with the reconstruction of several more structures, which will generate jobs and significant economic activity in southern Idaho. The National Park Service anticipates as many as 80,000 annual visitors to the site.
After The War: Farm In-A-Day
The site of the Minidoka camp is historically significant for its use after the war as well. Minidoka Relocation Center was parceled into farms and distributed to veterans through land lotteries, creating an emergent agricultural community. John Herrmann was one of the veterans who acquired some of the property, but when he was recalled for active duty, the development of his homestead and farm was delayed. On April 17, 1952, the North Side Conservation District and Jerome County Farm Equipment Dealers orchestrated a unique agricultural event that mobilized more than 1,500 workers and 200 state-of-the-art machines. In a single day they prepared Herrmann’s land for farming. The event was called and is a major benchmark in the development of the agriculture industry in southern Idaho.