Tag Archives: World War II

Minidoka National Historic Site

Overview

One of the many things that makes this country great is its willingness to remember inglorious moments in its past, such as the internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II.  Most of the 13,000 Japanese-Americans imprisoned in central Idaho were from Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, including Bainbridge Island where a memorial stands today that is considered part of Minidoka National Historic Site.

Highlights

Guard tower, Honor Roll, barrack, mess hall, baseball field, root cellar

Must-Do Activity

The site in Jerome, Idaho is still under construction, with building underway on a new visitor center.  Currently, you can view a few displays at the bookstore in the Hermann House then walk the rest of the 1.6-mile interpretive trail.  There is also a portion of the museum at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument dedicated to Minidoka National Historic Site.

Best Trail

A 1.6-mile trail passes historic structures lined with many interpretive signs.  Highlights include the root cellar, baseball field, and a tarpaper mess hall. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

The guard tower on the North Side Canal stands near the Honor Roll, which was recreated to match one from the 1940s that listed Japanese-Americans serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/miin/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The main access road is paved, but some of the surrounding farm roads are dirt.  Currently, you park at the guard tower and walk to Hermann House, but there will likely be a paved parking lot at the future visitor center.

Camping

Bruneau Dunes State Park offers camping south of Interstate 90 and is a fun spot to visit with sandboards available for rental.

Related Sites

Manzanar National Historic Site (California)

Tule Lake National Monument (California)

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument (Idaho)

Explore More – Minidoka War Relocation Center was the seventh largest city in Idaho on March 1, 1943; what was its maximum population?

Top 10 Non-Fiction Books Set During World War II

Following up on our list of the Top 10 novels set during World War II, these are our favorite non-fiction works.  If you feel that we missed an important one, we invite you to walk into your local library and count how many shelves are filled by this subject.  The choices may betray our preference for pilots and air combat, which is perhaps why our first blog post covered Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.  Do not miss our other book recommendations under the Top 10 Lists tab.

10. God Is My Co-Pilot by Col. Robert L. Scott (1943)

One of the original “Flying Tigers” wrote his autobiography during the war.

9. The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw (1998)

These short biographical sketches focus on the post-war lives of servicemen and women.

8. Going Solo by Roald Dahl (1986)

An autobiography of his time as a young pilot by the author of The BFG, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach.

7. The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory A. Freeman (2007)

A gripping story of the daring rescue of Allied airmen stranded on the Balkan Peninsula.

6. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Capt. Ted W. Lawson (1943)

A first-hand account of the lead-up and aftermath of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942.

5. Night by Elie Wiesel (1960)

The first in a trilogy tells the story of the author’s survival in a concentration camp.

4. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest by Stephen E. Ambrose (1992)

Better known as a TV miniseries, a book by the author of D-Day and Citizen Soldiers.

3. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)

A 20th-century classic featuring writing that still elicits fear and dread in a reader.

2. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (2010)

This well-written biography of Louie Zamperini can be summed up in one word: unbelievable.

1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl  (1946)

This is one of the most inspiring books ever written and it starts with the author’s experience in a concentration camp.

Honorable Mentions

Soaring to Glory: A Tuskegee Airman’s Firsthand Account of World War II by Philip Handleman and Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart Jr. (2019)

The latest in a growing library of books written about and by Tuskegee Airmen.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (2013)

The events described in one of the best non-fiction books ever written culminated in Germany before the war began.

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Top 10 Novels Set During World War II

Since the world just commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we thought we would honor the Greatest Generation with a list of our favorite novels set during World War II, of which there are so many that some great ones did not make the cut.  In 2016, we were on hand for the ceremonies on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawai‘i and can imagine how moving it must have been to be there in Normandy.  We will soon release our list of the Top 10 non-fiction books set during World War II, but in the meantime check out our other book recommendations.

10. The Thin Red Line by James Jones (1962)

A story of the fight to take Guadalcanal from the author of From Here to Eternity.

9. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009)

There are several good books about Japanese-American internment, but this is our favorite.

8. The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean (1957)

An action novel about a commando team that destroys an impenetrable fortress on a Greek island.

7. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (2015)

A fascinating glimpse into the lives of two sisters in occupied France.

6. Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener (1947)

Imperialism and racism are the backdrop to all of these short stories.

5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (2008)

A fun yet sad story told through a series of letters from an island in the English Channel.

4. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk (1951)

Pulitzer Prize-winner based on the author’s experiences in the U.S. Navy.

3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012)

A Gestapo interrogation is the center of this tale with a major plot twist.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)

Most World War II novels involve Death, but he is an actual character in this masterpiece.

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

These unforgettable characters stuck at an air base in Italy are both hysterical and poignant.

Honorable Mentions

City of Thieves by David Benioff (2008)

Two Russian prisoners attempt to secure a dozen eggs or face execution during the siege of Leningrad.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (1940)

This classic is set during the Spanish Civil War in the years leading up to WWII.

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Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Overview

Harry S Truman was a farmer, soldier in World War I, judge, U.S. Senator, and Vice President before assuming the duties of Commander-in-Chief after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in 1945.  He is perhaps best known as the man who made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The 33rd President was known for being a straight shooter; this quote speaks to us today: “You can’t divide the country up into sections… and you can’t encourage people’s prejudices.  You have to appeal to people’s best instincts, not their worst ones.”  Truman won a close reelection vote in 1948.

Highlights

Truman Home tour, film, Truman Farm Home

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service (NPS) visitor center in downtown Independence offers a film and a few artifacts, as well as first-come, first-served tickets for ranger-guided tours of the Truman Home.  It was there Harry and Bess (his wife) lived from 1919 until his death in 1972.  It served as the summer White House from 1945 to 1953 and was given to the NPS upon Bess’ death in 1982 (the calendar still hanging in the kitchen is original). 

Best Trail

About a 30-minute drive from Independence, take a self-guided cell phone tour around the ten acres surrounding the 1894 Truman Farm Home, which once stood on a 600-acre farm that is now the Kansas City-suburb of Grandview, Missouri.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There is no photography allowed inside the Truman Home, so your best shot will be from out front behind the fence installed by the Secret Service in the 1940s to keep the public off the lawn.

Peak Season

Open year round, but we caught peak fall colors in late October.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/hstr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

The home tour costs $7 per person (no reservations) or is free with an America The Beautiful pass.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but street parking is limited near the Truman Home.  It is easy to miss the poorly signed turn for the Truman Farm Home in Grandview.

Camping

None

Explore More – Why is a period not required at the end of Harry S Truman’s middle initial?

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Overview

During the National Park Service (NPS) centennial in 2016, a new, ambitious park was established linking three far-flung sites in the states of Washington, New Mexico, and Tennessee.  The purpose is to tell the story of the “Manhattan Project,” the military code name during World War II for the secret undertaking to create the world’s first atomic weapon. 

Highlights

Bradbury Science Museum (NM), American Museum of Science and Energy (TN), Hanford Reach National Monument (WA)

Must-Do Activity

In 1942, hundreds of eastern Tennessee families were displaced in order to construct Oak Ridge National Laboratory where experimental nuclear reactors produced plutonium and enriched uranium.  More than 75,000 people hurriedly built and operated this brand new industrial complex, which continues to be used as a Department of Energy research facility to this day.  Due to security and safety concerns, visitors can only enter on a 3-hour bus tour that leaves from the American Museum of Science and Energy.  The tour is well worth your time, as it is currently the only way to see Y-12, X-10, and K-25 and learn more about what those code names really mean.

Best Trail

The Hanford Reach is one of the last free-flowing sections of the Columbia River in eastern Washington and is an important site for salmon spawning.  The area is ecologically pristine, mostly untouched by development since it became the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in 1943.  It is home to the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor that produced the plutonium used by Los Alamos National Laboratories for its scientific breakthroughs in 1945.  Since 2000, Hanford Reach National Monument has been managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and much of the area is off limits.  Other than boating on the river, the best place to get a feel for the area is to walk around the Ringold Fish Hatchery.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The free Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico offers tourists a closer look at the original and ongoing research conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), including a scale model of the “Fat Man” plutonium bomb built here in 1945.  Nearby, the Los Alamos Historical Museum is located in a cabin on historic Bathtub Row, so named because when the government took over the Ranch School in 1943 these were the only dwellings equipped with that luxury. 

Peak Season

Open year round, but summer is best at the high elevations of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/mapr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$5 per adult for the American Museum of Science and Energy and a 3-hour tour (11:30-2:30, reservations recommended) of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Road Conditions

All roads paved except around Hanford Reach National Monument

Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed in Santa Fe National Forest surrounding Los Alamos and it is not far to the campground in Bandelier National Monument.

Explore More – What was the job of the “Calutron Girls” in Oak Ridge during World War II?