Uncover a Hidden Part of America’s World War II History in Boise During the AASLH Annual Conference
By Lilith Benjamin, Collections Manager, National Japanese American Historical Society
“The ‘American Alien’…is neither a refugee, nor, at any time, an enemy alien. He is, in reality, an immigrant – a product of American history.”
— Earl G. Harrison, Commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, September 1941, “Axis Aliens in an Emergency,” Survey Graphic
During the Second World War over 125,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated at over 75 known sites of incarceration. Some Japanese Americans were incarcerated in Idaho at Minidoka, one of the ten major confinement sites run by the War Relocation Authority. A more hidden program existed in parallel. Enemy Alien Files: Hidden Stories of World War II presents the history of wartime internment of “Enemy Aliens:” Japanese, German, and Italian residents in the U.S., Jewish refugees, and Japanese Latin Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes under the “Enemy Alien Control Program.” Over 31,000 people were subject to internment at camps run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of Justice, and the U.S. Army.
Less known than Minidoka are places such as: Kooskia, Idaho where an Enemy Alien work camp was set up where more than 250 men, mostly Japanese who had lived in the U.S. for decades, constructed the Lewis and Clark Highway, and so-called, “Forest Camp on Cougar Creek” in the remote wilderness near the Idaho-Montana border where Italians, mostly merchant mariners, worked to fell lumber.
Editor’s Note: The National Japanese American Historical Society is chairing “The Enemy Alien Files of WWII: Reckoning and Recovering our Shared Pasts.” This session at the Annual Conference is on Saturday, September 9 from 9 – 10:15 a.m. You can visit the Minidoka National Historic Site by registering for the “Removal and Remembrance: Japanese American Incarceration in the Idaho Desert” tour. A few spots remain for this tour on Saturday, September 9. The tour is sold out on Wednesday, September 6. You can still add this tour even if you have already registered for the conference by following these instructions. The pre-registration deadline for the conference is Friday, August 18. AASLH members receive the greatest discount. After this date, registration rates increase to full prices and registration will only be available in Boise.