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Minidoka Historic Site to hold grand opening of new visitors center on Saturday

Minidoka Historic Site to hold grand opening of new visitors center on Saturday

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Minidoka National Historic Site visitor center

Scott and Yelena Truax browse the different displays Thursday at the visitor center at the Minidoka National Historic Site north of Eden. The National Park Service will hold a grand opening for its newly renovated visitor center on Saturday.

HUNT — Just months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans at so-called relocation camps across the nation.

Wednesday marks the 78th anniversary of Roosevelt’s order to calm the nation’s fear of Japanese residents after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, catapulting the country into World War II.

Thousands of American citizens and resident aliens from Japan were imprisoned between Aug. 10, 1942, and Oct. 28, 1945, at a 33,000-acre camp in Jerome County about 7 miles north of Eden.

“After the attack on Pearl Harbor, panicked people believed every Japanese person could be a potential spy, ready and willing to assist in an invasion that was expected at any moment,” the park service says on its Minidoka website. “Many political leaders, army officers, newspaper reporters, and ordinary people came to believe that everyone of Japanese ancestry, including American citizens, needed to be removed from the West Coast.”

Visitor Center

The National Park Service turned this warehouse at the Minidoka National Historic Site into a visitor center.

Most of the 600 buildings used to house the prisoners were nearly immediately dismantled and removed from the site at the end of the war. Much of the land was given to veterans returning from the war.

The site of the Minidoka War Relocation Camp, now a national historic site, is operated by the National Park Service. The park service will hold a grand opening for the site’s newly renovated visitor center from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Tarpaper barracks in a dusty desert

Some 120,000 people of Japanese descent on the West Coast — from Los Angeles to Alaska — were removed from their homes. At some time during the war, up to 13,000 were housed at Idaho’s internment camp located miles from anywhere.

Some say the action protected the internees from the anti-Japanese wartime hysteria that had swept the nation after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Others say the action was a national travesty.

Visitors come to the camp every year to understand how the incarcerated must have felt in the isolated camp.

Minidoka National Historic Site visitor center

Annette Rousseau, education specialist with the National Park Service, points out different areas on the map Thursday at the visitor center at the Minidoka National Historic Site north of Eden.

Seattle native Mira Nakashima was an infant when she and her family were ripped from their home in 1942 and sent to what was then called the Minidoka Relocation Camp.

Nakashima returned in July for the camp’s annual pilgrimage.

Minidoka National Historic Site visitor center

Displays are in place Thursday in preparation for the grand opening of the newly renovated visitor center at the Minidoka National Historic Site north of Eden.

“‘Wounds healed over and left no scars,’” Nakashima said her father told her when she was old enough to understand what happened at Minidoka. Her story is one of the thousands of memories from the camp waiting to be told.

Hundreds of Hunt Camp survivors and their descendants gather at the site each summer to seek answers and find peace.

Gallery: Survivors, relatives and friends of the Minidoka Interment Camp tour the grounds July 8, 2017.

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Central Washington University graduate student Ian Reischl is looking for the current location of the internment camp buildings — such as barracks and mess halls — for his thesis and hopes Times-News readers can help.

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