One of the first things that you see as you enter Minidoka National Historic Site is a large three panel structure topped with a Bald Eagle cutout with bright yellow and dark brown wings and a white head: the Minidoka Honor Roll.
The Honor Roll was built to honor the young men and women from the camp who served in the military. The center panel originally consisted of 418 names. Minidoka had the highest percentage of incarcerees from the ten camps to serve in the military; this necessitated the adding of two side panels in order to list the names of additional people as people volunteered or were drafted.
The Honor Roll was designed and painted by Kenjiro Nomura and Kamekichi Tokita, creative artists who were business partners in Seattle, Washington prior to World War II and their incarceration at Minidoka. Chief Gardener Fujitaro Kubota led a landscaping project that created the ornamental garden which provided a stunning backdrop to the Honor Roll and served as a place of beauty and repose.
The work of creating the Honor Roll was done in Warehouse 20, the Minidoka sign shop. The center panel was completed and erected in the autumn of 1943. The crest of the Honor Roll was a carved and painted eagle with a wing span of nearly 5 feet. The fate of the original Honor Roll is unknown. Historic photographs provide the only clues to its appearance. Little historical information exists regarding its physical dimensions or coloration.
Minidoka NHS staff was able to determine the dimensions of the Honor Roll by scaling the existing historic photographs. However, not all the details of the Honor Roll could be determined from the historic photos. None of the historic photos were clear enough for staff to ascertain all the names on the right side of the structure. Visitors are asked to notify the park if they know of a missing name on the Honor Roll. Contact information is available on the park website.
When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt activated the 442nd Regimental Combat Team on February 1, 1943 he stated, "Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart. Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry." That quote is on the right corner of the center panel of the Honor Roll. On the left side is a quote by Secretary of the War Henry Stimson, "It is the inherent right of every faithful citizen, regardless of ancestry, to bear arms in the Nation's battle."
The Honor Roll is not only an interpretive element at the site but it is a memorial to the over 950 people, from Minidoka, who served in the military. The presence of the Honor Roll provides an opportunity to discuss important concepts such as injustice, patriotism, wartime incarceration, and conscientious resistance. Honor Rolls such as the one created at Minidoka were found at other War Relocation Centers.
In 2010, the Friends of Minidoka received a grant from the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program to assist with construction costs. The reestablishment of the Honor Roll was a collaborative effort made possible by the Friends of Minidoka, National Park Service, and the Nisei Veterans.
The Honor Roll was installed in June 2011 and dedicated on July 3, 2011 as part of the Annual Pilgrimage to Minidoka National Historic Site. The new Honor Roll, which greets visitors as they enter the park on Hunt Road, is a visible sign of Minidoka War Relocation Center coming to life again as Minidoka National Historic Site.
Last updated: December 6, 2023