On the morning of March 30, 1942, army trucks appeared at Island Nikkei homes to transport families to the Eagledale ferry dock where the Kehloken waited to take them to Seattle. Bainbridge High School allowed students to miss school to say "good–bye" to their friends; many younger students played "hooky" to see their friends off. Earl Hanson, a 1941 graduate, told one of the soldiers, "You're taking away some of our best friends. "Adults, as well as young people, came to wish their departing neighbors well.
A frightened, well–behaved group of Americans, allowed to take only what they could carry, waited to begin a journey without knowing where they were going, nor how long they would be gone. In Seattle they would board a train. With curtains drawn, they rode through the night.
On April 1, they transferred from the train to buses and traveled through the California desert. After a few hours, Kay Nakao looked out the window and saw a desolate piece of land with tarpaper–covered buildings. She told a woman sitting next to her, "I would hate to have to live there." Her heart sank when the buses turned into this compound that was the Manzanar Assembly Center (later the Manzanar Relocation Center.) There were a few Japanese bachelors already living there who were completing the construction of the camp. The Bainbridge Islanders were the first families to arrive. For weeks they had no sewer system and the facilities were very crude.
Two hundred twenty–seven Bainbridge Islanders were forced to leave on the morning of March 30, 1942. For many this was their first long trip away from home. From Zenmatsu Seko, age sixty–nine, to Chiseko Kitamoto, age nine months, evacuees of all ages had to wear numbered identification tags and carry special permits to travel. They were brought to the only government facility ready to accept prisoners. At that time Manzanar was to be a "Reception Center," a place to temporarily house evacuees. It would later become a "Relocation Center" with a population of approximately 10,000 persons of Japanese ancestry
A collection of artifacts from the day of forced removal
Because Bainbridge Island was the first community to be forcibly removed to a "Relocation Center," there were several press reporters and photographers out to cover the story. Today many photos taken by the Seattle Post–Intelligencer of this infamous day are in a collection owned and distributed by the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle, Washington. These images illustrate events similar to what would soon happen to communities all up and down the Pacific Coast. Army convoy trucks picked up the Bainbridge Islanders at their homes and brought them to the Eagledale Ferry Dock.
They walked onto the ferry Kehloken for a special evacuee only trip to Seattle. They would travel by train and then bus from Seattle to the California desert. It was April Fools Day when they arrived at Manzanar. Being the first group meant they did not have to stay at an Assembly Center as did future evacuees. However, when they arrived at Manzanar the facilities were still under construction and it would be weeks before the plumbing, sewers, and other infrastructure would be complete.
Images of leaving the island and boarding the train in Seattle
Copyright: Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Post–Intelligencer Collection
- Tears in father's eyes - Jerry Nakata (OH0005)
- Leaving home, ferry ride, train ride - Michi Noritake (OH0008)
- Describes feelings while leaving home - Vic Takemoto (OH0015)
- Manzanar first days, basic facilities, cleaning house - Kay Nakao (OH0021)
- Saying goodbye, Coleman dock, train, bus - Yae Yoshihara (OH0036)
- A young child's view of evacuation - Hisa Matsudaira (OH0049)
- Leaving on ferry followed by train ride - Matsue Watanabe (OH0064)
- Leaves work to say goodbye - Earl Hanson (OH0070)
- Friends say goodbye - Mary Woodward (OH0088)
- BI School District support of their Japanese American students - Mary Woodward (OH0089)
- Paintings by Sada of four stages of evacuation - Sada Omoto (OH0091)
Photo Information: Soldiers and Mr. and Mrs. Moji on Day of Forced Removal — Left to right: Unknown soldier, Ume and Yosuke Moji, unknown soldier. March 30, 1942. Bainbridge Island, WA. Seattle PI Photo N339. Library of Congress