Firearms Confiscated by the FBI

Firearms Confiscated by the FBI

In the week following Pearl Harbor, many West Coast Issei previously identified as "suspect" by the FBI were arrested, questioned, and confined. On February 4, 1942, the FBI, along with Washington State troopers and Kitsap County sheriff deputies, entered and searched every Island Issei home. Contraband such as dynamite and rifles, items which two months earlier would have been described as common farmers' tools, were confiscated and many of their owners taken.

Thirty–four men and one woman were arrested and questioned. Some were returned to their families. Thirteen men were eventually interned as "enemy aliens" in Department of Justice camps, some released only after the end of the war. "They were arresting anybody who was a teacher or leader in the community," said Paul Ohtaki, an Island teenager.


The FBI seized guns, cameras, radios and anything else they deemed contraband and stored them in warehouses. Many of these items were never returned to their owners. Some Nikkei families destroyed or hid cultural items they felt would make them appear loyal to Japan. The Issei men, who were taken into custody and were separated from their families for months and in some cases years, did not talk much about their incarceration. We can only speculate on how difficult it was for them to be away while their wives or eldest children prepared their families for evacuation.


  • Owned by the Suyematsu family for shooting game. It was buried during the raids and later dug up after the war. (Credit: Bainbridge Island Historical Society. Digitally photographed by Fenwick Publishing.)

Photo Information: Firearms Confiscated by the FBI — Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Post Intelligencer Collection

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