Sunday, October 7, 2012


Camp Minidoka:

It sounds like a place where kids tie lanyards, swim in an icy lake and sing silly songs around a roaring fire. Well, in our case it isn't.

We arrived here in southern Idaho after a two-day bus trip from Puyallup. Everyone's tired, irritable and homesick (in that respect I suppose, it is like summer camp), but prepared to make the best of it. The landscape is a stark, wind-whipped desert surrounded by jagged mountains and irrigated fields of sugar beets. The camp itself consists of rows of tarpaper bunkhouses lined up as far as the eye can see like ranks of soldiers at attention. We're surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers that we're doing our best to ignore.

Aunt Michiko's especially bothered by the weather. The air's so sharp and dry, she says that every time she steps out of the bunkhouse she feels like she's been slapped in the face. We have no running water and will have to fetch coal by hand when it gets cold, which I gather will be soon.

But Jack's more upset about privacy. The three of us are in one room, with no furniture except Army cots and a pot-bellied stove. I'm getting together with some of the other fellows to try to build tables and chairs out of scrap lumber, but it will be a while before we're even slightly comfortable. Worse, we have communal showers and toilets, used by our entire block of twelve barracks. And of course there's a dining hall, just as we had in Puyallup.

We're trying to stay useful. The men are setting about farming, though these conditions are strange to most of us. All the internees in Camp Minidoka are from Oregon and Washington, where we're blessed with abundant rain and gentle temperatures. None of us has ever tried to grow anything in a place like this. But I believe we're up to the challenge.

I try to remind Jack that we're contributing to the war effort in our own way, by freeing up the Army from policing the risk of sabotage. "But we're all loyal," he retorts. "Yes," I say, "but if people were worrying about us all the time, that would be a big distraction."

But no matter how many times we have this argument Jack's never convinced. I think nothing will satisfy him until he can join the Army.

I hope all remains well with you and your friends at the Boeing factory. I wish I could see you, but I'm sure now that won't happen until the war's over. Do your best to make sure it's soon.

Love, Uncle Orren.