After a four-year hiatus, the Minidoka Pilgrimage resumed its in-person visit to Minidoka National Historic Site. The Minidoka Pilgrimage was held on July 6-9, 2023, in Twin Falls, ID. As was the case in many of the Pilgrimages I have attended, it was so nice to see old friends from past Pilgrimages and make new friends. The 2023 Minidoka Pilgrimage was attended by survivors, descendants, allies, and supporters of Minidoka and its lessons of courage, perseverance, and strength by our Issei and Nisei generations. This year’s Pilgrimage included participants from the Midwest, Washington, California, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, Canada, and Japan.
A special moment for me was the unveiling of the updated Minidoka Honor Roll at this year’s closing ceremony. For those readers that are not familiar with the significance of the Minidoka Honor Roll, I will share some historical information.
One of the first things one sees on entering 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 in 1943 to honor the young men and women from Minidoka who served in the military. The number of names listed (including the side panels) totaled approximately 700. Minidoka had the highest percentage of incarcerees from the ten War Relocation Authority camps to serve in the military. This necessitated the addition of two side panels to accommodate the names of additional people as they 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, WA prior to WWII and their incarceration at Minidoka. Chief Gardner 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.
After Minidoka closed in 1945 and was deconstructed for farmsteads, the original Honor Roll was lost.
In 2011, a replica was created in partnership with the Friends of Minidoka using historic images. As a living interpretive exhibit, the replica Honor Roll is periodically updated to include the names of Minidoka WWII veterans who were not listed on the 1943 original Honor Roll. As a result of a yearlong update project, headed by Emily Teraoka, Interpretation Ranger at Minidoka National Historic Site, 140 names were added to the Honor Roll, just in time for this year’s Pilgrimage.
A question about adding more names to the Honor Roll was asked after the dedication ceremony, and I posed this question to National Park Service (NPS) leadership and the answer to that question is – YES. The NPS will continue to update the Honor Roll. I have listed the requirements to have names added to the Honor Roll.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
According to the Code of Federal Regulation, 3.2(d), World War II service is defined as “December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946, inclusive. If the veteran was in service on December 31, 1946, continuous service before July 26, 1947, is considered (WWII) service. Only WWII veterans (defined above) who have direct ties to Minidoka concentration camp are eligible for inclusion on the Minidoka Honor Roll. This includes veterans who were themselves incarcerated at Minidoka and those whose immediate family members (inclusive of parents, grandparents, siblings, children, or spouse) were incarcerated at Minidoka.
HOW TO APPLY
If you are interested in adding/editing a name, please contact the park rangers at Minidoka National Historic Site by email, phone, or mail. The staff at Minidoka National Historic Site will send you an application form on which you can provide your contact information and basic information about the WWII veteran.
Phone: (208) 825-4169
Subject Line: Minidoka Honor Roll 2022 update (name of veteran)
Mailing address: Minidoka National Historic Site, 1428 Hunt Road, Jerome, Idaho 83338
ARE ANY DOCUMENTS NEEDED?
If you are applying to make changes to a name that is already listed on the Honor Roll, you need only to submit the application form. Minidoka staff will confirm your request. If you are applying to add a new name to the Honor Roll, NPS will need documents to confirm the veteran’s dates of service. Military personnel records (e.g., discharge papers) are preferred. For cadet nurses, a Cadet Nurse Corps membership card or other identifying record will suffice. If you do not already have a copy of these records, please let NPS know as soon as possible. NPS will help to locate those records or find an alternative option to confirm dates of service.
If you feel you have a family member whose name has been missed (and qualifies by the above-mentioned criteria) there is a list of the original 418 names on the Minidoka Honor Roll (listed alphabetically). It would be very easily confirmed by providing the name of the veteran in question and submitting that veteran’s name to NPS personnel.
I have provided a link to the list of Honor Roll names (this does NOT include the 95 new names). I also caution you that the information regarding deadlines for documents and other paperwork applies to the 2022 Honor Roll update project only. There have been no new deadlines established for documents for names to be added to the next Honor Roll update. I only include the Honor Roll Update 2022 link so you will be able to check for the name of your veteran: https://www.nps.gov/miin/getinvolved/honorollupdate.htm
I would like to acknowledge the hard work and support from the Minidoka National Historic Site personnel and other U.S. National Park Service personnel who participated in the 2023 Minidoka Pilgrimage.
The Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee should be commended for a job well done, and I am looking forward to a possible return in 2024. I hope to see you at the next Pilgrimage.