August 4, 2010

This morning Densho staff was surprised to hear one of our interviewees, Tad Sato, included in a local NPR story on the obscure Kooskia internment camp for Issei men. Over 250 Issei men volunteered to transfer from other Department of Justice camps to earn better wages–and to escape the barbed-wire confinement. They were still internees, but they preferred working in the wilderness to idleness in a DOJ camp.Treated like prisoners of war, the Issei men were put to work building what is now the Lewis and Clark Highway between Lewiston and Missoula.

A new book by Priscilla Wegars, Imprisoned in Paradise: Japanese Internee Road Workers at Kooskia Internment Camp, traces the story of this almost forgotten camp. If you’re near Lowell, Idaho, you can attend one of the author’s book signings.

The KUOW radio story by correspondent Tom Banse begins:

When you drive through the Clearwater National Forest in Northern Idaho, you’re surrounded by deep, green forests and wild and scenic rivers. But if you drove through there 67 years ago, signs would have warned you not to stop. The woods hid a World War II Japanese internment camp. This week, archaeologists are wrapping up a dig at that now virtually forgotten site. A new book about this hidden history is titled “Imprisoned in Paradise.”