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Minidoka, Idaho

(Click on images to enlarge)

I’m standing in the high desert of southern Idaho twelve miles northeast of Twin Falls. The sun is bright and puffy clouds gather on the eastern horizon. I’m reading a plaque that marks the Minidoka Relocation Center, a concentration camp that incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II. It is one of the most direct and unvarnished views of the incarceration that I’ve seen at many of these camps. Please read the text in the photo above to get an impression of the history and location.

I’m here for two weeks to document the buildings at the Minidoka National Historic Site for the park, which is run by the National Park Service. Chief interpretation ranger Hanako Wakatsuki invited me out to work on this project. I hope to also photograph some of the camp barracks that are scattered around the counties here that have been used as storage or out buildings by homesteading farmers.

The small parking area is described as the camp entrance and from 1942-45 it was the actual entry to Minidoka. Remnants of a reception center and military police building are there, informational plaques, an honor roll of incarcerees that served in the U.S. military during WWII and a recently reconstructed guard tower looming over the entrance.

An interesting quote is included on a panel: “The sentry towers are always silhouetted in the distance. It is not enough that they are not being used—to the residents they stand waiting for the day when they will be used. The eight sentry towers are ever present as a symbol of their confinement….no other single factor has had a serious effect on the residents’ morale as the erection of the guard tower.”—War Relocation Authority, 1943 (The administering government department).

The guard tower was reconstructed in 2014 by students in Boise State University’s Dept. of Construction Management program.
A facsimile of a barbed wire fence was constructed along a canal near the entrance, where a fence would have been during the war.
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