A Sobering Legacy

Kay Sakai Nakao looks out at the shore from the back porch of her Bainbridge Island  home. She has lived nearly all of her 97 years on the island — excluding the years during World War II when her family, along with the rest of the Japanese families on Bainbridge, became the first of the Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps. Seventy-five years later, for Nakao, the memories of that difficult period remain vivid.

“What we went through, nobody should have to go through that,” Nakao says.

“When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, I didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was or what it was or anything,” she says. “We were just country bumpkins on the farm.”

On February 19, 1942 — two months after Japanese forces attacked U.S. Naval Base Pearl Harbor in Hawaii — President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the Secretary of War to prescribe certain areas as military zones. The order led to the forced incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans, who were forcefully removed from their homes and sent to 10 concentration camps across the western United States.

When the order was signed, Nakao’s family was part of a close-knit community of Japanese immigrant farmers on Bainbridge.

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Credits:
Laila Kazmi, producer/writer
Resti Bagcal, photographer
Greg Davis, photographer/video editor