History of the Japanese-American Internment Memorial

In 1998, the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Council (BIJAC) partnered with the Bainbridge Island/North Kitsap Interfaith Council to create the Bainbridge Island World War II Nikkei Internment and Exclusion Memorial Committee. The committee created the concept for a memorial to the internees at the former Eagledale ferry landing from which they were forced to leave Bainbridge Island. In 2007, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to make the Eagledale memorial site an extension of the Minidoka Internment National Monument in Idaho. The movement has received broad support both nationally and locally. When the project was conceived, its total projected cost was $5 million.

The memorial is intended to enforce the message of “Nidoto Nai Yoni,” or “Let it not happen again.” It recreates the walk that Japanese-American Bainbridge Islanders were forced to take so many years ago. A 272-foot “story wall” containing the names of the 272 Japanese-American residents on Bainbridge Island in 1942 leads to a 150-foot pier at the water’s edge where the ferry dock once was. Each foot of the pier represents one of the citizens who ultimately returned to Bainbridge Island after the internment ended. The site may expand eventually to include other elements such as sculptures and an interpretive center. As of the time of this writing, construction on the site was still progressing.

On February 19, 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which allowed Japanese-American citizens on the West Coast to be removed from their homes and forcibly relocated. On March 30, the first group of internees in the country was assembled on Bainbridge Island and forced to march to the Eagledale ferry landing near what is now Pritchard Park. The group numbered 272 men, women, and children, and all were allowed to bring only one suitcase and what they could carry or wear. The internees were eventually moved to the Mojave Desert in California from Seattle, where they remained until after the end of World War II. About half would return to Bainbridge Island to rebuild their lives. The editors of the Bainbridge Review, Walt and Milly Woodward, famously (and, among West Coast newspapers, uniquely) opposed the internment for the duration of the war.

Soldiers overseeing the removal of the Japanese Americans from Bainbridge Island in 1942