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Bainbridge Island's Japanese American residents become the first to be interned under Executive Order 9066 on March 30, 1942.
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On March 30, 1942, the U.S. military removes 275 Japanese American residents from Bainbridge Island. The removal comes after Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 gives the military the authority to intern anyone they consider "dangerous." The order set in motion the expulsion of 110,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast to 10 inland prison camps, based on their ethnicity and heritage. None was accused of any crime or charged or convicted of any act of espionage or sabotage. Bainbridge Island's Japanese American residents were the first in the country to be removed, most likely because of the nearness of the Bremerton Navy Yard and other military installations.
Protesting an Injustice
After the first announcement of the executive order in February 1942, the only West Coast newspaper editors to write against internment were Walt and Milly Woodward of the Bainbridge Review. In their editorial they wrote that they "hope that the order will not mean the removal of American-Japanese citizens, for it [the Review] still believes they have the right of every citizen: to be held innocent and loyal until proven guilty" ("Not Another Arcadia").
When a short time later, on March 22, 1942, the Japanese Americans were ordered to evacuate in just eight days, the Woodwards spoke out again, arguing that this was not enough time for the evacuees to settle their affairs. Among the unresolved issues were the fate of the expected three-million-pound crop of strawberries that were farmed on Bainbridge Island mainly by Japanese American farmers. Some Filipino American employees sign agreements with the Japanese American landowners to harvest the crop and to manage the farms until they can return. White island residents also assist in caring for assets.
A Sad Day
Sadness marked the day the military removed Bainbridge Island’s Japanese American residents. Military trucks traveled from house to house gathering the 275 people and only the belongings they can carry. Families left pets behind. A Filipino American husband stayed behind as his Japanese American wife left, and the sheriff boarded up the community hall windows and posts guards to protect the stored belongings the evacuees left behind.
At the Eagledale dock, the Bainbridge Review reported, the evacuees remained composed as they board the boat. Onlookers, including some of the soldiers carrying out the order, "wept unashamed" ("Evacuees Sing on Trip").
Ichiro Nagatani, head of the Japanese-American Citizens’ League at the time of internment, told the Review that most of the Japanese Americans harbor no bitterness, but declared, "We are just as good Americans as the next guy ... only we haven’t had a chance to prove it" ("Johnny and Ichiro ...").
The Bainbridge Island residents were sent to the Manzanar War Relocation Center in the Owens Valley of east central California.
After the War
After the war only about half of the island’s Japanese American residents return. According to the Bainbridge Island School District’s Minority History Committee, some stayed away because they did not want to return to start over. Others found new places to settle, having seen other parts of the country during the war. Those who returned to the island settled back in largely without incident. One local group tried to prevent their return but receive little popular support.
An internment memorial marker stands at the former site of the Eagledale dock, at the end of Taylor Street. The memorial reads:
On the morning of March 30, 1942, 227 Bainbridge Island men, women, and children, most of them United States Citizens, were escorted by armed soldiers to the Eagledale ferry landing. They solemnly boarded the ferry Kehioken and departed on a lonely journey with an unknown destination and fate. They were exiled by Presidential Executive Order 9066 and Civilian Exclusion Order No. 1 because they were Nikkei -- persons of Japanese ancestry. With only six days' notice they were forced to hastily sell, store, or make arrangements for all of their possessions, businesses and property. They were allowed to take only what they could carry or wear. They were the first of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans to be forcibly removed from their homes and experience three years of unconstitutional internment. Not all were interned. Some were drafted into the military, some were unjustly imprisoned, and some moved away -- but all were forbidden to remain. We dedicate this site to honor those who suffered and to cherish their friends and community who stood by them and welcomed them home. May the spirit of this memorial insire each of us to safeguard constitutional rights for all.
Nidoto Nai Yoni -- "Let It Not Happen Again."
In addition, in 2007 Joel Pritchard Park along the waterfront adjacent to the dock site is being developed and will include a memorial to the Japanese American internment.
"Century on the Harbor" Bainbridge Island Review, August 8, 1990, p. 19; "Evacuees Sing on Trip," Bainbridge Review, April 2, 1942, p. 1; "Island Japanese Accept Army Mandate for Move to Owen Valley, California," Bainbridge Review, March 26, 1942, p. 1; "Johnny and Ichiro ... They’re Two Fine Fellows," Ibid., March 26, 1942, p. 8; "Memorial," The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community website accessed August 27, 2007 (http://www.bijac.org/home.html); "Not Another Arcadia," Bainbridge Review, February 26, 1942, p. 4; "Not Enough Time," Ibid., March 5, 1942, p. 1; They Cast a Long Shadow: A History of the Nonwhite Races on Bainbridge Island ed. by Brian Roberts (Bainbridge Island: Minority History Committee of Bainbridge Island School District No. 303, 1975); Jeffery F. Burton, et al., Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites (Western Archeological and Conservation Center, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1999) available online at (http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/anthropology74/index.htm).
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