In 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, FDR issued Executive Order 9066 giving authorities the right to remove and confine potentially dangerous or suspicious individuals, including American citizens, from military areas. Anyone who violated the order was subject to imprisonment and fines. They almost immediately decided it was necessary to remove Japanese Americans from areas near strategic coastal waters. The nearly 300 Japanese Americans living on Bainbridge Island, WA, were the first ordered to leave their homes. The families were transported under military guard via ferry and train to prison-like detention camps. Three years later they were given $18 and allowed to leave.
Gordon Hirabayashi, a student at the University of Washington at the time, was one of three Japanese Americans to defy the curfew and mass removal of Japanese Americans. He was arrested, convicted, and imprisoned. After a series of court battles, the Supreme Court in 1987 vacated his conviction. President Reagan ultimately apologized for the government’s actions at the time. Gordon was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Gordon wrote the book A Principled Stand, the story of Hirabayashi v. United States. The book club that Cathleen is in read this book. Gordon’s niece, Deann, is also in the book club, adding a very personal angle. They arranged a field trip of sorts, with Fiddler providing the transportation to Bainbridge Island, and met with the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum and took a guided tour of the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. This memorial is on the exact site where the families boarded the ferry under military guard on March 30, 1942. Our personal guide was Lilly, who was only 10 years old at the time she was taken away.
This was a dark part of American history and clearly a misguided decision, at least in hindsight. More than two thirds of the Japanese Americans were US citizens and ended up as prisoners of war in their own country. I can’t imagine rationalizing imprisoning 10 year old Lilly and considering her a threat to the country simply because she is Japanese.
Nidoto Nai Yoni (Let It Not Happen Again)