An internment memorial is sought on Taylor Avenue.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:43 PM
"The appropriate way to memorialize the forced removal of the island's Japanese-Americans during World War II is to re-create the long walk they took down to Eagle Harbor, and onto the boat that carried them away.That's the view of a committee working on a memorial to those events.The group will ask the city council tonight to set aside all of Taylor Avenue from Eagle Harbor Drive down to the water for the memorial.I think it's a tremendous idea. It's part of history, said Paul Ohtaki, who was 17 years old in 1942, when he and his family were forced to leave the island and were sent to concentration camps by executive order of the federal government.Ohtaki, who now resides in San Francisco, Calif., and returned to the island for the Walt Woodward memorial service, became the first camp correspondent for the Bainbridge Review. He and his successors filed stories throughout the internment with news of the island's Japanese-American community in exile.This week, on a grey Tuesday morning, Ohtaki visited the Taylor road-end with Gerald Nakata, another islander who was 19 when he boarded the ferry that took him and his family to the Manzanar camp in California.I distinctly remember getting onto the ferry, and my classmates from school rowing across the harbor to say goodbye, Nakata said.According to Ohtaki, the whole scene had an air of unreality to it.We didn't really believe that it would happen, he said.The proposed memorial is a joint undertaking of the Bainbridge-North Kitsap Interfaith Council and the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Community.We want the memorial to be experiential, said Deborah Hickey, co-chair of the memorial committee. People who come to pay tribute would walk down the road.The dock from which the internees departed disappeared long ago, when ferry service was consolidated on the north side of Eagle Harbor.The city owns the Taylor Avenue road end, and has previously approved the concept of a memorial there. Now, the road itself north of Eagle Harbor Drive has also been nominated as a possible National Historic Site, or for inclusion on the National Historical Register.A memorial on Bainbridge Island is considered especially appropriate because the island's Japanese-Americans were the first to be interned under a World War II directive ordering the removal of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast.The order was given on the island in March 1942, and the removal itself was carried out on March 30. Army trucks circulated through the island to pick of Japanese-American citizens, and drove them to in Eagledale, where they were taken to Seattle by ferry, then to California or Idaho.The Bainbridge Review was the only West Coast newspaper to protest the removal, which editor Walt Woodward consistently maintained violated the constitution. I wish they would honor the Woodwards in some way, Ohtaki said. They were very much part of this story. "