Rupert Japanese internment camp

In an effort to appease the public, photos taken at Japanese internment camps showed happy detainees as, in this photo of a children’s performance. An exhibit of such photos will be presented at the Minidoka County Museum in 2015. Prior to the government detaining Japanese-Americans at the Minidoka “Hunt” Camp, officials set up a temporary camp in Rupert on North F Street in 1942.

RUPERT – At one time the government set up a temporary Japanese Internment Camp on South F Street.

Minidoka Museum official Ginger Cooper recently came across the information and announced the discovery on Friday.  According to Cooper, the government created the camp in 1942, just months following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. At the camp, Japanese-Americans, forced from their homes along the west coast, stayed for about a month until contractors finished the Minidoka (Hunt) Camp in Jerome.

Nobody knew anything about this camp until Oregon researcher Morgan Young came across a one paragraph newspaper report from the “Minidoka County News” from 1942 placed online, Cooper said.

After reading the newspaper report, Young assumed that the main Minidoka Camp had been built in Rupert. Many people – and especially Japanese-American descendents of those camps – believe the government built the main camp in Minidoka County. The government transported the internees through Minidoka City via train before taking them to Jerome.

“We get people calling and stopping here looking for the Minidoka Camp. We always have a good supply of maps here to help them,” Cooper said.

Young contacted Cooper about the camp, and, after doing some research, the women realized the report Young came across was that of a temporary camp on F Street.

“None of us knew that it was here,” Cooper said.

The government housed Japanese there in a makeshift tent city for about 30 days prior to moving them to Minidoka Camp.

While there are no pictures available of the temporary camp, researchers have gathered pictures of Japanese internees from throughout the west that will be part of an exhibit to be displayed in Idaho from January to May 2015. For part of that time, it will be kept at the Minidoka County Museum. Officials also plan to display the photos in Jerome and Twin Falls where there were also internment camps.

Researchers have spent years tracking down pictures and identifying those Japanese-Americans photographed.  A National Geographic photographer shot the photos that show pictures of smiling Japanese - living behind barbed wire.  

“The pictures were all staged. It’s so the people who were buying National Geographic wouldn’t feel bad about what we did,” Cooper said.

The photographer took pictures of Japanese internees working in the fields, folding American flags, swimming and going to school.

“He literally took millions of pictures,” Cooper said.

In other museum news, Cooper reminded residents of the museum’s monthly lecture series where various speakers discusses aspects of Minidoka History. The museum holds the events the third Thursday of each month.

In October, Cooper is tentatively scheduling a film created by the late Dr. Kenagy who shot footage of the famed Minidoka County rabbit drives. Around 1914, rabbits destroyed farm fields, driving many farmers into bankruptcy.

“This is a long video tape, but it features more than bunny bashing,” she said.

In November, Cooper plans a veteran’s program, and, during December, the board plans to work with the Mini-Cassia Christmas Council in providing Christmas presents for a low-income family.

“Instead of having a gift exchange, we’ll just gather gifts for the council,” Cooper said.

The museum is open from 1 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and is located at 99 East Baseline Road. In October it will be open from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admittance is free. For more information call the museum call 436-0336.

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