History & Culture
It all happened so quickly. The Japanese on the West Coast of the United States had made lives for themselves in spite of discrimination, but on December 7, 1941, everything changed. 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. 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.
In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that moved nearly 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans into 10 isolated relocation centers in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. These temporary, tar paper-covered barracks, the guard towers, and most of the barbed-wire fences are gone now, but the people who spent years of their lives in the centers will never forget them. This is the story of one of those centers: Minidoka