The House on Tuesday approved a long-delayed plan to designate a spot on Bainbridge Island, Wash. — where hundreds of Japanese Americans were once forced from their homes on the way to prison camps — 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 World War II.
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 Jerome County in southern Idaho.
The measure builds on a measure Inslee sponsored last year, an effort that was boosted last fall when Fumiko Hayashida — described as the oldest living Bainbridge Island survivor _ appeared before a House committee to urge Congress to include the Bainbridge site in the national park system.
Remembering the day
Hayashida, now 96 and living in Seattle, testified last September about the day she and her infant daughter, Natalie, were taken from their home at gunpoint and imprisoned under presidential order.
Hayashida, a slight, soft-spoken woman who wore a bright yellow lei during her testimony, told the committee that the day she was taken into custody was the saddest of her life. A photo on display at the Smithsonian Institution shows a solemn Hayashida holding her sleeping daughter in her arms. Both are wearing tags identifying them as prisoners.
Hayashida's husband had been taken into custody earlier, 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. "I'm just glad I got to come here, since I'm still living. No one else is old enough to know what happened."
Under Roosevelt's order, Bainbridge Island residents of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes by the U.S. Army and marched to the Eagledale dock, where they boarded a ferry to Seattle.
From there, they were taken by train to Manzanar, a remote camp in California's Mojave Desert. Most were later transferred to the Minidoka Relocation Center. In all, nearly 13,000 Washington state residents were incarcerated without trial.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is leading efforts for a similar bill in the Senate.