Japanese-American Internment Camps in Idaho and the West, 1942-1945

Heart Mountain Japanese Internment Camp

Issued Feb. 19, 1942, two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Presidential Executive Order 9066 made possible the removal of American citizens of Japanese descent from the West Coast. The three westernmost states were designated as a defense area from which any or all persons could be excluded at the discretion of the military commander. In March 1942 President Roosevelt established the War Relocation Board, and the complete evacuation of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast was ordered as a security measure. Ten concentration camps were established that would eventually hold more than 110,000 people.

Camp Minidoka was located near Hunt, Idaho, 20 miles northeast of Twin Falls. In August 1942 the government began transporting Japanese-Americans to the camp via train. Most Minidoka residents came from Seattle and Portland and were given notice only one week before being forced to move. Ten thousand people (making Minidoka Idaho’s eighth largest city) were interned in tar-paper barracks that had no insulation, running water, or interior walls, and that were heated by coal-burning stoves. Barbed wire, guard towers, armed guards, and watch dogs secured the 950 acre site.

Despite forced internment, many Japanese-Americans served bravely in the U.S. army. An all Japanese-American military unit — the 442nd Regimental Combat Team — fought in the Italian campaigns, and became the most decorated unit in the war, winning 18,000 medals. Minidoka had the highest enlistment — and casualty — rates of any US internment camp: over 1,000 camp residents served overseas. Seattle recently renamed its US Federal Courthouse building after William Kenzo Nakamura, a Minidoka resident who joined the 442nd and was killed by a German sniper in Italy on July 4, 1944.

The last family left Camp Minidoka in October 1945. In 1979 Minidoka was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1990 the US Government began making $20,000 payments to camp survivors. A memorial to the camp internees was dedicated in Washington DC in November 2000, and in January 2001 President Clinton named Minidoka a National Monument. 

(Call numbers are for copies at Boise Public Library)


  • And Justice For All: An Oral History of the Japanese American Detention Camps. 940.5472 And Jus 1999
  • The Bamboo People: The Law and Japanese-Americans, by Frank F. Chuman. 342.73 C471B
  • Behind Barbed Wire: The Imprisonment of Japanese Americans During World War II, by Daniel S. Davis. 940.5472 Davis
  • Beyond Loyalty: The Story of a Kibei, by Minoru Kiyota. 973.0495 Kiyota Kiyota
  • Beyond Words: Images from America’s Concentration Camps, by Deborah Gesensway. 940.5472 Gesensw
  • Camp and Community: Manzanar and the Owens Valley, edited by Garrett and Larson. 940.5472 C15
  • Concentration Camps, North America: Japanese in the United States and Canada During World War II, by Roger Daniels. 940.5317 Daniels
  • Democracy on Trial: The Japanese-American Evacuation and Relocation in World War II, by Page Smith. 940.5315 Smith
  • Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family, by Yoshiko Uchida. 940.5472 Uchida
  • Farewell to Manzanar, by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. 940.5472 H818f
  • Great Betrayal: The Evacuation of the Japanese-Americans During World War II, by Audrie Girdner. 940.531 G442g
  • Hunt for Idaho: Evacuees 1942-1945 and Homesteaders 1947-1949 T.P. Minidoka Prisoner of War Camp 1942-1945, by Bessie Shrontz Roberts-Wright. 979.63 Roberts
  • Impounded People: Japanese-Americans in the Relocation Centers, War Relocation Authority. 940.5472 Impound
  • Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei Couple, by Louis Fiset. 940.5308 Fiset
  • Issei and Nisei; The Internment Years, by Daisuke Kitagawa. 301.453 K646i
  • Japanese Americans: From Relocation to Redress, edited by Daniels, Taylor, and Kitano. OV 940.5314 Japan
  • Jewel of the Desert: Japanese American Internment at Topaz, by Sandra C. Taylor. 979.461 Taylor
  • Journey to Minidoka: The Paintings of Roger Shimomura, by Roger Shimomura. RNW 759.1963 Shimomu
  • Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese American Internment Cases, by Peter H. Irons. 342.73 Irons
  • Manzanar, by John Armor and Peter Wright. 940.5472 Armor
  • Minidoka Interlude, September, 1942-October 1943. RNW 940.5317 Minidok
  • Morning Glory, Evening Shadow: Yamato Ichihashi and his Internment Writings, 1942-1945,by Yamato Ichihashi. 940.5315 Ichihas
  • Nisei Daughter, by Monica Itoi Sone. 325.252 So57n
  • Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience. 940.5308 Only Wh
  • Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese American in World War II, by Roger Daniels. 940.5315 Daniels
  • Remembering Heart Mountain: Essays on Japanese American Internment in Wyoming, edited by Mike Mackey. 940.5308 Remembe
  • Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family, by Lauren Kessler. 979.56 Kessler
  • Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment, by Chiura Obata. 760.092 Obata
  • Visible Target. Video 940.5317 Visible
  • What Did the Internment of Japanese Americans Mean? 940.5317 What Di
  • Whispered Silence: Japanese Americans and World War II, by Gary Y. Okihiro. 940.5315 Okihiro 1996
  • Years Of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps, by Michi Weglyn. 940.5472 W421y


(Boise Public Library Government Documents, third floor)

  • Administrative Highlights of the WRA Program. I 52.2:Administrative
  • Community Government in War Relocation Centers. I 52.2: Community
  • The Evacuated People: A Quantitative Description. I 52.2:Evacuated
  • Legal and Constitutional Phases of the WRA Program. I 52.2:Legal
  • Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Y 3.w19/10: J 98
  • People in Motion: The Postwar Adjustment of the Evacuated Japanese Americans. I 52.2:People
  • Relocation of Japanese-Americans. I 52.2:Japanese
  • The Relocation Program. I 52.2:Relocation
  • Wartime Exile: The Exclusion of the Japanese Americans From the West Coast. I 52.2:Wartime Exile
  • The Wartime Handling of Evacuee Property. I 52.2:Wartime Handling
  • WRA: A Story of Human Conservation. I 52.2:WRA


  • “The Japanese American Experience in Idaho,” Robert C. Sims. Idaho Yesterdays Spring 1978 v.22 n.1 p.2-10
  • “’My Dear Bishop’: a Report From Minidoka,” Jane Chase. Idaho Yesterdays Summer 2000 v.44 n.2 p.3-6
  • “’You Don’t Need to Wait Any Longer to Get Out’: Japanese American Evacuees as Farm Laborers During World War II,” Robert C. Sims. Idaho Yesterdays Summer 2000 v.44 n.2 pp. 7-13


Research and text by Ellen Druckenbrod, Boise Public Library

Last updated: December 4, 2012 - 10:42am by farrit