Both of my parents were in Internment Camps during WWII, along with many of my Aunts and Uncles when they were all children.
"Most of the 110,000 persons removed for reasons of 'national security' were school-age children, infants and young adults not yet of voting age."
- "Years of Infamy", Michi Weglyn
These Japanese Americans, half of whom were children, were incarcerated for up to 4 years, without due process of law or any factual basis, in bleak, remote camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.
Rather, the causes for this unprecedented action in American history, according to the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, "were motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."
On Aug 6, 2011 The NYTimes writes about a new Wall was dedicated on Bainbridge Island.
A Wall to Remember an Era’s First Exiles
Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times
Holly Wilson visited a newly completed memorial on Bainbridge Island, a cedar and stone wall dedicated to its residents' World War II experience. More Photos »
Published: August 5, 2011
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. — Frank Kitamoto was only 2 when he and his family — and more than 270 others of Japanese ancestry — were forcibly removed from this forested island and sent to an internment camp after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in World War II. Mr. Kitamoto, now 72, said he spent many of his younger years in a severe identity crisis, ashamed of his Japanese heritage and wishing he were white. Other young men went so far as to have plastic surgery to disguise their Japanese features. Some committed suicide.
Bainbridge Island was the 1st experiment to figure out the logistics of shipping hundreds of people, 2/3 US citizens to prison for having Japanese ancestry as a crime.
Japanese-American residents of Bainbridge Island, Washington, boarded a ferry to Seattle. From there, they were transferred to a camp in California. The government chose Bainbridge Island as its test run for mass evacuations. More Photos »
“As a kid, I thought this was the land of equality and freedom, and so this couldn’t be happening because of discrimination,” Mr. Kitamoto, who became a dentist, said the other day in his office, where one wall is covered with photos from that era. “So I thought it was because there was something wrong with me, that I was a bad person.”
One of the most famous photographs from this experiment is a mother with her 13 month old daughter taken by the SeattleTimes.
Everywhere she went, Kayo Natalie Hayashida Ong, now 70, was greeted over and again with delight and recognition as "the baby!"
An iconic photograph of her at age 1, asleep in her mother's arms as her family was forcibly removed from their Bainbridge Island home during World War II, became one of the best-known symbols of a dark period in American history.
MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND INDUSTRY /
Fumiko Hayashida, then 31, carries her daughter Natalie, 1, to the Bainbridge ferry and exile.
If my daughter had been born 70 years ago, she would be amongst the other 1 year olds who were a threat to US security.
At the time, Executive Order 9066 was justified as a "military necessity" to protect against domestic espionage and sabotage. However, it was later documented that "our government had in its possession proof that not one Japanese American, citizen or not, had engaged in espionage, not one had committed any act of sabotage." (Michi Weglyn, 1976).
There was one loan voice in the USA who spoke through the media, a Bainbridge publication.
Two months before Pearl Harbor, Walt and Milly Woodward pledged in a front page editorial to "always strive to speak the truth, unafraid, whether it be on a national issue or something purely local." In 1940, the young couple–barely thirty–had purchased the weekly Bainbridge Review, a chatty conveyor of neighborhood gossip. A year later, when the U.S. entered WWII, the couple had transformed the Review into a respected community paper full of current, factual news, and an editorial page that drew national attention.
The day after Pearl Harbor, Milly and Walt Woodward warned, "There is the danger of a blind, wild hysterical hatred of all persons who can trace ancestry to Japan. That some of those persons happen to be American citizens...easily could be swept aside by mob hysteria." Urging Islanders to remain calm, the Woodwards continued, " The Review says this: These Japanese Americans of ours haven't bombed anybody...They have given every indication of loyalty to this nation. They have sent...their own sons–six of them–into the United States Army."
The Woodwards continued, throughout the war, to speak against the constitutional violations inherent in E.O. 9066. The tiny Bainbridge Review has been singled out nationally as the lone newspaper to take such a stand. Also, in an attempt to report accurately on Islanders' lives, Milly and Walt Woodward hired high school students to report from Manzanar and, later, Minidoka on the daily events in the exiles' lives. Thus Islanders could keep track of each other. Perhaps as a result of that, 150 of the 272 exiled Islanders returned to Bainbridge, a greater percentage than most communities.
I don't think my children could understand why grandma and grandpa were in prison. Which is why the Bainbridge wall is dedicated with these words.
Nidoto Nai Yoni, translated as
"Let It Not Happen Again"
is the motto and mission of the Nikkei Exclusion Memorial.