Two months before Pearl Harbor, Walt and Milly Woodward pledged in a front page editorial to "always strive to speak the truth, unafraid, whether it be on a national issue or something purely local." In 1940, the young couple–barely thirty–had purchased the weekly Bainbridge Review, a chatty conveyor of neighborhood gossip. A year later, when the U.S. entered WWII, the couple had transformed the Review into a respected community paper full of current, factual news, and an editorial page that drew national attention.

The day after Pearl Harbor, Milly and Walt Woodward warned, "There is the danger of a blind, wild hysterical hatred of all persons who can trace ancestry to Japan. That some of those persons happen to be American citizens...easily could be swept aside by mob hysteria." Urging Islanders to remain calm, the Woodwards continued, " The Review says this: These Japanese Americans of ours haven't bombed anybody...They have given every indication of loyalty to this nation. They have sent...their own sons–six of them–into the United States Army."

The Woodwards continued, throughout the war, to speak against the constitutional violations inherent in E.O. 9066. The tiny Bainbridge Review has been singled out nationally as the lone newspaper to take such a stand. Also, in an attempt to report accurately on Islanders' lives, Milly and Walt Woodward hired high school students to report from Manzanar and, later, Minidoka on the daily events in the exiles' lives. Thus Islanders could keep track of each other. Perhaps as a result of that, 150 of the 272 exiled Islanders returned to Bainbridge, a greater percentage than most communities.

Slideshow

This is a collection of photos, artifacts, and awards from the Walt and Milly Woodward collection. They span from the early years of the Bainbridge Review to the late 1980s.

The Woodwards did three things with the Review that has earned them several journalistic awards as well as the gratitude of the Japanese American community. The first is that they consistently used their editorial section to warn against letting hatred, fear, and prejudice cloud their readers' views of their Japanese American neighbors that they had known for years. They spoke out against the wrongs done to the West Coast Nikkei in a time when most stayed quiet. Second, they started an Open Forum section of the paper in which all letters to the editor were published as long as they were signed and not libelous. This provided a public platform for Island residents to share their feelings and to communicate with one another.

Several inflammatory letters in opposition to the Japanese return to the Island were published. Soon both Walt and other Islanders wrote in opposition to this stand. This helped calm the atmosphere and allowed for a quiet and uneventful return for the Japanese Americans to Bainbridge Island. The third is the foresight the Woodwards had in hiring camp correspondents to write regular columns for the Review from Manzanar and later Minidoka throughout the war. Paul Ohtaki, followed by Sada Omoto, Tony Koura, and Sa Koura wrote about the daily lives of the Islanders in camp, covering news such as births, deaths, weddings, sicknesses, baseball statistics, and even pranks that were played by the youngsters in camp. These columns helped the Island Nikkei to return not as strangers, but as the same old friends they were when they left.

 

  • Prior to purchasing The Review, Walt was a sports reporter for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska for seven years, followed by six years as a court reporter for the Seattle Times.

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