New Memorial Honors Internment Detainees

Hundreds of Japanese-Americans stripped of their homes and livelihoods here and imprisoned in World War II internment camps will be honored with a long-sought memorial.

On Thursday, residents of what is now an affluent bedroom community on this island west of Seattle dedicated an 8-acre site to the memorial called Nidoto Nai Yoni, "Let it not happen again."

The estimated $5 million project will include a stone-and-wood wall leading to a 150-foot pier at the site of the former Eagledale ferry dock, from where the residents left the island. The wall will contain the names and stories of all the island's Japanese-American residents in 1942.

An interpretative center, pavilion and native plantings also are planned.

So far, the state has contributed $2 million to the project, while $200,000 has come from private donations.

"This American story is one that is a cautionary tale and reminder of the fragility of the American Constitution," said Clarence Moriwaki, chairman of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial Committee.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the detainment of tens of thousands of Japanese, two-thirds of them American citizens, as a wartime precaution.

At the time, more than 14,000 Japanese lived in Washington state. The first in the nation to be transferred came from Bainbridge Island.

On March 30, 1942, 227 Japanese men, women and children were given just six days to gather their belongings before Army soldiers rounded them up and loaded them on a ferry to Seattle. They then boarded a train to the Manzanar camp in California's Mojave Desert.

With more than 60 years passed, many of the detainees have died, moved away or never returned to the island. Among Thursday's gathering, fewer than 10 Nisei — second-generation Japanese-Americans — were present.