Bainbridge Island is located in Puget Sound in western Washington. To the south, it is a short 35–minute ferry ride to downtown Seattle, and to the north it is connected by bridge to the Kitsap Peninsula. During World War Two the only access to Bainbridge Island was by ferry. In 1941 there were approximately 276 people of Japanese descent living on Bainbridge Island. Most were strawberry farmers. A few others owned small businesses. At that time Bainbridge was a small rural community with a diverse population (with total population of approximately 3000 full time residents).
During the war, the Navy regarded Bainbridge Island as a highly sensitive area. Fort Ward, a strategic military listening post monitoring communication in the Pacific, was located on Bainbridge Island. To the west were the Bremerton Naval Shipyard and the Naval Torpedo Station at Keyport. To the east were the Boeing Aircraft Company, Seattle shipyard, and Sand Point Naval Air Station. Bainbridge Island was selected as the first community to be evacuated and detained, most likely because of its close proximity to several military installations. Many also speculate that Bainbridge Island was chosen as the first “test” case because it is an isolated community surrounded by water. Terminal Island in California was evacuated weeks before Bainbridge Island but those Japanese residents were not sent to a relocation center. They were evicted from their homes and forced to live as refugees in the greater Los Angeles area.
In January 1942, the FBI began to raid the homes of the Japanese families living on Bainbridge Island. They were searching for and seizing war contraband. On February 4, 1942 the FBI arrested, questioned, and confined several Japanese Issei who born in Japan. President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, allowing for the creation of areas from which “any and all persons may be excluded.” On March 24, Civil Exclusion Order No. 1 was issued, designating Bainbridge Island as the first area from which American citizens and their alien parents would be forced to leave. Islanders were allowed six days to prepare. On March 30 they were evacuated to the then called Manzanar Assembly Center (later became a Relocation Center.) In February 1943 most of the Bainbridge Island families were moved to the Minidoka Relocation Center where many of their friends and family from the Seattle area were already detained.
After the war more than half of the original Bainbridge Island families were able to return to their homes and re–build their businesses. All were grateful to Walt and Milly Woodward, owners of the Bainbridge Review newspaper. Through editorials, their open forum letters to the editor, and by posting news from the camps, the Woodwards helped make sure their Japanese American neighbors were not forgotten while they were away and were welcomed back home. Today a memorial in honor of the Japanese Americans excluded from living on Bainbridge Island during World War Two and the community that stood behind them, is being built at the sight of their departure, the Eagledale Ferry Landing.
[Excerpted from The Bainbridge Island Internment Experience Lesson Plan]
Some important dates to set the chronological context:
· December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attacked by Japanese Imperial Navy, US enters WWII
· February 19, 1942, Executive Order 9066 (by Pres. Roosevelt)
· March 2, 1942, Public Proclamation #1 issued (by Gen. Dewitt)
· March 24, 1942, Civilian Exclusion Order #1 issued on Bainbridge Island, WA (by Gen. Dewitt)
· March 30, 1942, Forced removal of Bainbridge Islanders
· April 1, 1942, Bainbridge Islanders arrive Manzanar Assembly Center, Independence, CA
March 30, 1942/2012
A Day of History, Honoring, and Healing on Bainbridge Island
March 30, 2012 marked the 70th anniversary of the day the Bainbridge Island Japanese American community were forced to leave their homes, farms, livelihoods, and our Island, for an exclusion that would last through WWII. This day and that era that would forever change the lives of our neighbors of Japanese ancestry. That experience and the events surrounding it also changed the fabric, culture, agriculture, economy, and identity of Bainbridge Island as a whole, not to mention the world at large.
Suggested Readings & Resources about Bainbridge Island
[Historical Overview, Biographical] Woodward, Mary. In Defense of Our Neighbors: the Walt and Milly Woodward Story. Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community: 2008.
[Historical, Biographical] Seigel, Shizue. In Good Conscience: Supporting Japanese Americans During the Internment. AACP, Inc.: 2006.
[Film] Visible Target, a documentary film by John deGraff and Cris Anderson, 1985.
[Film] Behind Barbed Wire, a documentary film by Kathyrn Crawford
On-line oral histories from Bainbridge Island Japanese Americans available at www.BIJAC.org and www.Densho.org
[Fiction] Guterson, David. Snow Falling on Cedars. Harcourt Brace & Company: 1994
[Article] “Behind ‘Snow Falling On Cedars’ is an island’s story.” Bainbridge Island Review, Dec 04 1999. http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/kitsap/bir/news/19672319.html.
• Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community, http://www.bijac.org/
• Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, http://www.bainbridgehistory.org/
• Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association, www.Bainbridgememorial.org
• Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, www.BainbridgeHistory.org
• Japanese American National Museum, www.JANM.org
• Densho, www.Densho.org
• Manzanar Historic Site, www.nps.gov/manz/
• Stourwater Pictures, www.stourwater.com/
[Article] Broom, Jack. “Honoring those who left, those who stuck by them.” Seattle Times Newspaper, March 31, 2002. http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20020331&slug=internment31m
[Article] Baurick, Tristan . “Bainbridge School Studies and Celebrates its Namesake.” Kitsap Sun, February 22, 2010.