Facebook Twitter

Internment memorial site OK’d

SHARE Internment memorial site OK’d

WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday approved a long-delayed plan to designate Bainbridge Island, Wash. — where hundreds of Japanese-Americans were once forced from their homes on the way to prison camps during World War II — as a national historic site.

In March 1942, 227 Japanese-Americans were forced from their homes under order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and marched to the Eagledale Ferry Dock, on their way to internment camps in Idaho and California.

The men, women and children — two-thirds of them U.S. citizens — were the first of what eventually became more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans imprisoned on the West Coast during the war.

On Tuesday, the House unanimously approved a bill to make the former Eagledale dock and a memorial under construction there part of the national park system. The site would be a satellite of the Minidoka Internment National Monument Idaho, one of two U.S. internment camps that now have national-park designation.

Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee, who lives on Bainbridge Island, sponsored the bill, which he has pushed for nearly five years.

"Congress took a strong stand today by making the Nidoto Nai Yoni Memorial part of our national heritage — let it not happen again," said Inslee, citing the memorial's Japanese name and motto.

"This victory has been a long time coming," Inslee said. "My constituents — survivors, their families and friends — have been waiting for decades."

Inslee's bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, whose district includes the existing monument in southern Idaho.

The measure builds on legislation Inslee sponsored last year, an effort that was boosted last fall when Fumiko Hayashida — described as the oldest living Bainbridge Island survivor — urged a House committee to include the Bainbridge site in the national park system.

Hayashida, now 96, testified in September about the day she and her infant daughter, Natalie, were taken from their home at gunpoint and imprisoned under presidential order.

The slight, soft-spoken Hayashida, who now lives in Seattle, said that was the saddest day of her life.

Her late husband was arrested following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

"I don't want it to happen again for anyone," Hayashida told The Associated Press last year. "I'm just glad I got to come here, since I'm still living. No one else is old enough to know what happened."

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is leading a similar bill in the Senate.