Drawing of opium pipe

Asian American Comparative Collection:
The Kooskia Internment Camp Project

Priscilla Wegars, Ph.D.
Volunteer Curator, AACC
875 Perimeter Drive, MS 1111
Moscow, Idaho 83844-1111
208-885-7075
pwegars@uidaho.edu


Kooskia Internment Camp Anniversary Picnic, May 25, 1944.  Photo courtesy of Mickey Barton and the Asian American Comparative Collection, University of Idaho.  The 15 Japanese men pictured are (roughly left to right):  Sokichi Hashimoto, Tomosaburo Kato (front), Naokichi (George) Kobayashi,  Goro Mochizuki, Ichita Yoshida, Haruyuki Nagamine, Tatsuo (Jumbo) Nishimura, Yoneji Imamura, Motokichi Koda (barely visible to right of tree at center), Hisashi Imamura, Riichi Kinugawa, Seisaburo Yogi, Eiichi Morita, Masashi Yamamoto (a.k.a. Chiyogi Okamoto), and Keiji Kijima.  The 4 Euroamerican men pictured are: on the left at top center, Milt Barton, power shovel operator; to the right of Barton is Ralph Wilhite, head mechanic; squatting, lower right, is Merrill Scott, Camp Superintendent (he replaced D. A. Remer beginning in late 1943); above Scott, facing away from camera, is Hans Werner Kempski, then the camp's German internee doctor.
 
NEWS RELEASE

***The Idaho Library Association announced (October 3, 2014) that "As Rugged as the Terrain," was the co-winner of the best book of the year about Idaho for 2013!***

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CAXTON PRESS and the ASIAN AMERICAN COMPARATIVE COLLECTION (AACC) have published AS RUGGED AS THE TERRAIN: CCC  "BOYS," FEDERAL CONVICTS, AND ALIEN INTERNEES WRESTLE WITH A MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS, by Priscilla Wegars with a Foreword by Dick Hendricks. This book has three chapters on the Kooskia Internment Camp: Chapter Five: "A Real He-Man's Job": Japanese Internees at the Kooskia Internment Camp; Chapter Six: Seizing a Buddhist Minister: How New York's Reverend Hozen Seki Became a Kooskia Internee; Chapter Seven: Doctors and Dentists: Medical and Dental Care for the Kooskia Internment Camp.       

Cover, "As Rugged as the Terrain"

Scheduled PowerPoint presentation and book signing:

Please email pwegars@moscow.com to schedule a PowerPoint presentation and/or a book signing.


AS RUGGED AS THE TERRAIN: CCC  "BOYS," FEDERAL CONVICTS, AND
ALIEN INTERNEES WRESTLE WITH A MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS

by Priscilla Wegars with a Foreword by Dick Hendricks

Caxton Press, in cooperation with the University of Idaho's Asian
American Comparative Collection (AACC), has published As Rugged as the
Terrain: CCC "Boys," Federal Convicts, and World War II Alien Internees
Wrestle with a Mountain Wilderness; all author's royalties benefit the
AACC. Rugged, by Priscilla Wegars; is the "prequel" to her Imprisoned
in Paradise: Japanese Internee Road Workers at the World War II Kooskia
Internment Camp (2010).

This Idaho site, where turbulent Canyon Creek meets the wild and scenic
Lochsa River, has an intriguing history spanning well over 100 years.
First a likely Nez Perce campsite, in 1893 it was a footnote in the saga
of the ill-fated Carlin hunting party. Forty years later, in 1933, it
held nearly 200 tent-dwelling Civilian Conservation Corps recruits, most
from New York State. The antics of these "city slickers" provide
colorful insights into both CCC camp operations and the lives of young
men far from home.

In the summer of 1935 the site housed Federal Prison Camp No. 11, a
road-building facility for convicts from the Leavenworth, Kansas,
penitentiary, and later from other institutions. Foreword author Dick
Hendricks, the prison camp's chief clerk from 1937 to 1939
and now 104 years old, described how the authorities
stressed rehabilitation, rather than punishment.

Upon the prison camp's closure in May 1943, the site immediately became
the Kooskia Internment Camp for Japanese non-citizen men (closed in May
1945). While their story has already been told in "Imprisoned in
Paradise," several chapters in "Rugged" present additional information
about the internment camp, including the medical and dental care offered
there.

Another chapter discusses the area's WWII camps for Italian and German
internees (not POWs). The Italian internees could freely visit local
towns near their camps, and thus were more privileged than the Japanese
internees. German internees worked on road access construction in the
Nez Perce National Forest, and sometimes helped fight forest fires.

As Rugged as the Terrain has over 400 pages with 110 illustrations,
including maps; has appendices, notes, a bibliography, and an index; and is $21.95. 
For an autographed copy, send your check for $25 payable to "AACC" to the
author at the address at the top of this page. Price includes tax and postage
(media mail).

Title: As Rugged as the Terrain: CCC "Boys," Federal Convicts, and World War II Alien Internees
Wrestle with a Mountain Wilderness

Author: Priscilla Wegars
Price: $21.95
Publisher: Caxton/AACC
Format: 6 x 9
Number of pages: 393 + xxxviii  [431]
ISBN: 978-0-87004-540-0
Publication date: April 2013
Illustrations: 110 b&w photographs & documents, 3 maps
Back matter: Appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Foreword by: Dick Hendricks
Distributor: University of Nebraska Press through Longleaf Services, Inc., 116 S. Boundary St., Chapel Hill, NC 27514-3808, Phone: 800-848-6224, Fax: 800-272-6817.
Additional: All author's royalties benefit the University of Idaho's Asian American Comparative Collection (AACC), <http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/aacc/>.


Author information: Priscilla Wegars is the volunteer curator of the University of Idaho's Asian American Comparative Collection (AACC), a resource center of artifacts, images, and bibliographical materials that help a wide range of individuals better understand the history, culture, and archaeology of Asian Americans in the West. She has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Idaho, Moscow, and is also an independent editor, historian, historical archaeologist, and artifact analyst. Her earlier research focused on Chinese immigrants in the West, and her book, Polly Bemis: A Chinese American Pioneer (Cambridge, ID: Backeddy Books, 2003), received Honorable Mention from the Idaho Library Association as the Idaho Book of the Year for 2003. She is also the editor of Hidden Heritage: Historical Archaeology of the Overseas Chinese (Amityville, NY: Baywood, 1993) and is co-editor, with Sue Fawn Chung, of Chinese American Death Rituals: Respecting the Ancestors (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2005). Her next project will be a full-length biography of Polly Bemis.

A preview of As Rugged as the Terrain is also available to audiences as a PowerPoint presentation. For more information, please contact Priscilla Wegars, pwegars@moscow.com.

For illustrations, please contact Priscilla Wegars, pwegars@uidaho.edu.

A limited number of review copies of As Rugged as the Terrain are available. To obtain a copy for review, please contact Priscilla Wegars, pwegars@uidaho.edu.

Read a review of it by John Streamas on amazon.com.

Read a review of it by Inez Hopkins in The Idaho Librarian, May 2014.

Read a review of it by Heather Fryer in the Pacific Historical Review, May 2015.


Photo of Priscilla Wegars by Homer Yasui
Photo courtesy Homer Yasui

 
Cover of "Imprisoned in Paradise"Scheduled PowerPoint Presentation with Book Signing:


Please email pwegars@moscow.com to schedule a PowerPoint presentation and/or a book signing.

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The long-awaited account of Idaho's World War II Kooskia Internment Camp is now available. Titled Imprisoned in Paradise: Japanese Internee Road Workers at the World War II Kooskia Internment Camp, it describes a unique, virtually forgotten, World War II detention and road building facility that was located on the remote, wild, and scenic Lochsa River in north central Idaho at the site of an earlier CCC camp and a former federal prison camp above Lowell, Idaho. Between mid-1943 and mid-1945 the Kooskia (KOOS-key) camp held an all-male contingent of some 265 so-called "enemy aliens" of Japanese ancestry. Most came from 21 states and 2 territories, but others were from Mexico; some were even kidnapped from Panama and Peru. Two alien internee doctors, an Italian and later a German, provided medical services; 25 Euroamerican employees included several women; and a Japanese American man censored the mail.

Despite having committed no crimes, but suspected of potential sabotage, these noncitizen U.S. residents of Japanese descent had been interned elsewhere in the U.S. following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. They volunteered for transfer to the Kooskia Internment Camp and earned wages for helping build the Lewis-Clark Highway, now Highway 12, between Lewiston, Idaho, and Missoula, Montana, supervised by U.S. Bureau of Public Roads employees. [Highway 12, of course, has lately been very much in the news because of the controversial proposal to use this wilderness route, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, for transporting 200 oversize (210 feet long, 30 feet tall, 24 feet wide) loads of heavy equipment (300 tons per shipment) from Lewiston to the oil extractive tar sands in Alberta, Canada.]

Whereas some of the all-male internees held camp jobs, most of these paid volunteers were construction workers, operating heavy equipment or laboring with picks and shovels. The internees found this area of the Idaho wilderness to be a welcome change from the barbed wire of the Santa Fe Detention Center and other places where they were previously confined. For example, Yoshito Kadotani, a landscape gardener from Santa Cruz, California, called it " a paradise in mountains!," saying, "It reminds me so much of Yosemite National Park."

Knowledge of their rights under the 1929 Geneva Convention empowered the Kooskia internees to successfully challenge administrative mistreatment, thereby regaining much of the self-respect they had lost by being so unjustly interned. Here, finally, is their story.

Title: Imprisoned in Paradise: Japanese Internee Road Workers at the World War II Kooskia Internment Camp
Author: Priscilla Wegars
Price: $19.95
Publisher: Asian American Comparative Collection (AACC), University of Idaho, Moscow
Format: 6 x 9
Number of pages: 323 + xxxiv (357)
ISBN: 978-0-89301-550-3
Publication date: August 30, 2010
Illustrations: 110 b&w photographs, 2 maps
Back matter: Appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Foreword by: Michiko Midge Ayukawa
Distributor: University of Nebraska Press through Longleaf Services, Inc., 116 S. Boundary St., Chapel Hill, NC 27514-3808, Phone: 800-848-6224, Fax: 800-272-6817.
Additional: All author's royalties benefit the University of Idaho's Asian American Comparative Collection (AACC), <http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/aacc/>. For an autographed copy, send your check for $25 payable to "AACC" to the author at the address at the top of this page. Price includes tax and postage (media mail).

Author information: Priscilla Wegars is the volunteer curator of the University of Idaho's Asian American Comparative Collection (AACC), a resource center of artifacts, images, and bibliographical materials that help a wide range of individuals better understand the history, culture, and archaeology of Asian Americans in the West. She has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Idaho, Moscow, and is also an independent editor, historian, historical archaeologist, and artifact analyst. Her earlier research focused on Chinese immigrants in the West, and her book, Polly Bemis: A Chinese American Pioneer (Cambridge, ID: Backeddy Books, 2003), received Honorable Mention from the Idaho Library Association as the Idaho Book of the Year for 2003. She is also the editor of Hidden Heritage: Historical Archaeology of the Overseas Chinese (Amityville, NY: Baywood, 1993) and is co-editor, with Sue Fawn Chung, of Chinese American Death Rituals: Respecting the Ancestors (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2005). She is particularly interested in locating families of Kooskia Internment Camp internees and employees.

A preview of Imprisoned in Paradise is also available to audiences as a PowerPoint presentation. For more information, please contact Priscilla Wegars, pwegars@moscow.com.

Illustrations:
1. A photograph of the Kooskia Internment Camp buildings is at http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/aacc/kcamp.tif.  Permission to use is hereby granted. Credit and caption information: Kooskia Internment Camp, north central Idaho, 1943-1945. Photographer unknown. Photo courtesy of the Clearwater National Forest, Lochsa District, Kooskia Ranger Station, Kooskia, Idaho and the Asian American Comparative Collection, University of Idaho, Moscow. Far left, water tower; center, dormitories, wash room, and recreation hall; right, mess hall/kitchen; administration building, containing offices for superintendent and censor, and two bedrooms for guards; laundry/warehouse; boiler room/powerhouse; generator/shop.

2. A photograph of some of the Kooskia internees is at http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/aacc/kmen.tif. Permission to use is hereby granted. Credit and caption information: Kooskia Internment Camp Anniversary Picnic, May 25, 1944. Photographer unknown. Photo courtesy of Mickey Barton and the Asian American Comparative Collection, University of Idaho, Moscow.

3. Other images are available at the University of Idaho Library Special Collections at http://digital.lib.uidaho.edu/cdm/search/collection//searchterm/Kooskia internment camp/. Please apply to them for permission to reprint.

A limited number of review copies of Imprisoned in Paradise are available. To obtain one for review, please contact Linsey Gonzales, Publishing Assistant, Caxton Press, 312 Main Street, Caldwell, Idaho, 83605-3299, on media letterhead.

Read a review of it by Connie Y. Chiang in the Western Historical Quarterly, Winter 2011.

Read a review of it (2nd page) by Eric Walz  in Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Summer 2011.

Read a review of it by Arthur A. Hansen in the Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Spring 2011.

Read a review of it by Kevin Taylor in the Inlander, March 2011.

Read a review of it by Katie Schneider in the Oregonian, January 2011.

Read a review of it by Wayne Maeda in Nichi Bei Times, January 2011.

Read an interview by Leonard Chan with Priscilla Wegars in the November/December 2010 issue of the AACP [Asian American Curriculum Project] Newsletter.

Read a review of it by Robert L. Sappington on amazon.com.

Read a review of it (scroll down) in Densho eNews,  August 2010.

See also the  Kooskia Internment Camp Archaeological Project, directed by Dr. Stacey Camp.


The Kooskia, Idaho, Japanese Internment Camp, 1943-1945

The Kooskia (pronounced KOOS-key) Internment Camp is an obscure and virtually forgotten World War II detention facility that was located in a remote area of north central Idaho, 30 miles from the town of Kooskia, and 6 miles east of the hamlet of Lowell, at Canyon Creek.  The Kooskia Internment Camp was administered by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for the U.S. Department of Justice.  It held men of Japanese ancestry who were termed "enemy aliens," even though most of them were long-time U.S. residents, denied naturalization by racist U.S. laws.

Immediately following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, numerous Japanese, German, and Italian aliens were arrested and detained on no specific grounds, without the due process guaranteed to them by the U.S. Constitution, and were sent to INS detention camps at Fort Missoula, Montana; Bismarck, North Dakota; and elsewhere. The INS camps were separate and distinct from the ten major camps under War Relocation Authority (WRA) supervision. The WRA camps, including Minidoka (now the Minidoka National Historic Site) near Jerome, in southern Idaho, housed some 120,000 American citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry who were unconstitutionally removed, relocated, and imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II.

Although there were a number of Justice Department internment camps throughout the United States during WWII, the Kooskia Internment Camp was unique because it was the only camp of its kind in the United States.  Its inmates had volunteered to go there from other camps, and received wages for their work.  A total of some 265 male Japanese aliens; 24 male and 3 female Euroamerican civilian employees; 2 male internee doctors, one Italian and one German; and 1 male Japanese American interpreter occupied the Kooskia Internment Camp at various times between May 1943 and May 1945.  Although some of the internees held camp jobs, most of the men were construction workers for a portion of the present Highway 12 between Lewiston, Idaho, and Missoula, Montana, parallel to the wild and scenic Lochsa River.

The Japanese internees at the Kooskia camp came from Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawai'i, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Washington. They included  Reverend Hozen Seki, founder of the New York Buddhist Church; Toraichi Kono, former employee of Charlie Chaplin; and Japanese Latin Americans kidnapped from their respective countries, chiefly Peru, by U.S. government agencies. "Digging in the documents" has produced INS, Forest Service, Border Patrol, and University of Idaho photographs and other records. These, combined with internee and employee oral and written interviews, illuminate the internees' experiences, emphasizing the perspectives of the men detained at the Kooskia Internment Camp.

The Kooskia Internment Camp project was partially funded by an Idaho Humanities Council Research Fellowship and by a grant from the federal Civil Liberties Public Education Fund (CLPEF). The CLPEF was authorized by the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which awarded apologies and redress payments to citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry unconstitutionally evacuated, relocated, and interned during World War II. The Act also provided for the establishment of the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, financing endeavors that inform the public about the internment in order to prevent the recurrence of any similar event. Wegars' report to the CLPEF is entitled, "A Real He-Man's Job:" Japanese Internees and the Kooskia Internment Camp, Idaho, 1943-1945," emphasizing the perspective of the Kooskia internees. Although no more copies of that report are available, it has been excerpted for several publications, a book is available, and a PowerPoint lecture has been presented to numerous public groups.  Wegars also received a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program (CCLPEP), a product of the California State Library. That project was Golden State Meets Gem State: Californians at Idaho's Kooskia Internment Camp, 1943-1945; some 82 of the Kooskia internees (31 percent) had ties to California.  In connection with that grant, slide presentations were given during early 2002 at a number of locations in California.

For further reading, Wegars' essay, "Japanese and Japanese Latin Americans at Idaho's Kooskia Internment Camp," appears in Guilt by Association: Essays on Japanese Settlement, Internment, and Relocation in the Rocky Mountain West, Mike Mackey, editor, pp. 145-183 (Powell, WY:  Western History Publications, 2001). A brief trailer for the documentary film Toraichi Kono: Living in Silence, about Kooskia internee Toraichi Kono, a former employee of movie comedian Charlie Chaplin, is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrhqD0bwt0Y.

Wegars is interested in communicating with former Kooskia Internment Camp internees and employees, or their descendants, in order to interview them. She is also eager to locate additional letters, diaries, photographs, or other documents relating to the Kooskia Internment Camp experience.  She would also enjoy hearing from any man, or descendants of any man, who was at CCC Camp F-38 or who was incarcerated or worked at Federal Prison Camp No. 11 at Canyon Creek.

Click here for a list of California towns of origin or residence for Kooskia internees.

Click here for information on how to obtain Department of Justice (DOJ) Closed Legal Case Files (CLCF) from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Click here for a table of Justice Department and U.S. Army Internment Camps and Detention Stations in the U.S. during World War II.

Click here for tables related to food and clothing at the Kooskia Internment Camp.

Click here for tables related to bids for services, if needed, covering hospitalization and death [no deaths occurred] at the Kooskia Internment Camp.

For more information or to schedule a talk, please contact:

Priscilla Wegars
Kooskia Internment Camp Project
735 East Sixth Street
Moscow, Idaho 83843
(208) 882-7905;  pwegars@moscow.com

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March 2016/kooskia.htm/pwegars@uidaho.edu