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.

When the National Park Service established the Minidoka National Historic Site in 2001, it included only a fraction of the original 950-acre core of the camp. The park service faced a challenge to preserve this monument; it was not able to expand because available lands were outside the congressionally-authorized boundary of the site. In 2008 the Idaho congressional delegation helped pass bipartisan legislation authorizing expansion of the National Historic Site, allowing the park service to incorporate new land.

Conservation Efforts at Minidoka

Before passage of the boundary expansion, two properties neighboring the park went up for sale. The Conservation Fund purchased the properties and held them until the National Park Service could acquire and add them to the site. With this acquisition, 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.

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.

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 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 farm-in-a-day and is a major benchmark in the development of the agriculture industry in southern Idaho.

Why This Project Matters

The acquisition of these lands allows the National Park Service to reconstruct key structures of the original site that fully tell the story of the hardships endured by Japanese Americans. These projects also generate jobs and significant economic activity in southern Idaho. The National Park Service anticipates as many as 80,000 annual visitors to the site.

Historical Propaganda Film About Internment Camps: “A Challenge To Democracy”

Watch the 1940-era film "A Challenge To Democracy" produced by The War Relocation Authority to get an idea of what the camps looked like, including apartments and facilities, and how the government explained the removal of Japanese to internment camps.