Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Traveling Tuesday: Idaho is more than potatoes

Traveling Tuesday: Idaho is more than potatoes

When I was growing up, there was a TV commercial that touted Idaho potatoes were the best in the world. There's even a museum! The ad must have run incessantly, because I have never forgotten its claim. However, during WWII, Idaho did more than just raise produce to “do its bit.”

Pilot and air crew training: With three Army Air Force bases located in the southern part of the state: Gowen, Pocatello, and Mountain Home, Idaho trained thousands of airmen how to fly, navigate, and handle fighter jets and bombers. Because of its remoteness, Mountain Home was used for bombing practice. The presence of the bases brought diversity to the state when, according to one site, it nearly doubled the state’s African-American population of 595. Gowen was one of the bases where Women’s Air Service Pilots served.

Japanese-American Internment: Like other western states, Idaho was home to War Relocation Centers where Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during the war. Many of the inmates were brought to the camp from California, Oregon, and Washington. The center at Minidoka housed more than 10,000 inmates, many of whom worked as farm laborers, then on the irrigation project and construction of Anderson Ranch Dam. The Kooskia center was located at the site of a former Civilian Conservation Corp work camp. The internees were used to construct Highway 12.

Soldiers, sailors, and airmen: Like the other forty-eight states, Idaho’s men and women served in the military and auxiliary branches. Thanks to oral history projects these brave citizens’ stories have been captured. Visit http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/military/article112889748.html and http://idahoptv.org/productions/specials/homefront/wwii/interviews.cfm to hear memories of the war.

Museums: Idaho is home to two WWII museums: the Idaho Military Museum and the War Hawk Air Museum. With personal memorabilia and historic artifacts both facilities recount US involvement in the war, at home and overseas.

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