Report of Service and Control Station Bainbridge Island Japanese Evacuation

Report of Service and Control Station, Bainbridge Island Japanese Evacuation. Written by Tom G. Rathbone, Field Supervisor. General Correspondence of the Secretary of War; Assistant Secretary of War; General DeWitt; WCD and various Army Commands. Papers of the U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Part 1, Numerical file archive. Reel 2 [894].

Report of Service and Control Station
Bainbridge Island Japanese Evacuation

Upon receipt of information from General DeWitt Commanding General, Fourth Army, to the effect that all persons of Japanese ancestry were to be evacuated from Bainbridge Island, located in Kitsap County, State of Washington, Mr. J.G. Bryant, Regional Representative, United States Employment Service, called a meeting at the Olympic Hotel, Seattle, Washington, 9:00 a.m., Monday, March 23, to discuss the proposed plan of evacuation. Among the agencies represented were delegated representatives of the United States Army, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Public Assistance, Farm Security Agency, Federal Reserve Bank, and the United States Employment Service.

After an explanation of the purpose of the meeting, the various representatives engaged in the establishment of procedures to, first, define the responsibilities of each agency, and, second, to expedite the actual evacuation. The responsibility for the actual physical properties needed was delegated to the United States Employment Service. Mr. Bryant delegated Mr. Tom G. Rathbone, Field Supervisor, United States Employment Service, State of Washington, as the individual to carry out the Employment Service functions.

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Rathbone proceeded to Bainbridge Island to secure proper housing facilities and to arrange for the installation of necessary heating and lighting and telephone service. The assistance of the Office of Emergency Management was requested to secure typist desks, typewriters and chairs, and the services of three typists. Frank Burr, manager of the Seattle office of the Office of Emergency Management, responded immediately, and on Tuesday morning the necessary equipment and stenographic service was available. Additional equipment needed was secured from the Seattle office of the Employment Service through the courtesy and cooperation of Mr. Otto S. Johnson, manager of that office. All equipment was transported to the Island and installed in the space which had been secured. The space mentioned consisted of two empty store buildings known as the Old Anderson Dock Store and the Old Anderson Hardware Store. These buildings were adequate for the purpose and were situated reasonably close together which expedited the flow of traffic in a very satisfactory manner. Very material assistance in the securing of necessary quarters was rendered by Mr. Shaw of the Federal Reserve Bank of Seattle.

At a meeting held in the Olympic Hotel, Seattle, on Tuesday evening, the final procedures were approved and all agency staffmembers received final instructions. The entire group reported to the Center at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning for the purpose of conducting a complete registration of the forty-five families of persons of Japanese ancestry who were residents of the Island. Copies of the procedures established are attached to this report.

If at all possible, more advanced notice to the agencies concerned should be given by Army authorities in San Francisco. The problem of securing necessary housing and equipment is sometimes difficult to meet It would seem that more definite plans could be made by Army authorities as to actual dates, and that this advance notice could be given confidentially, which would allow the agency to prepare to better meet the demands made upon them.

More complete instructions from Army authorities would clarify many of the problems which arose, among which were articles which could be taken, such as radios, personal baggage, amount of bedding necessary; climatic conditions at reception center; type of facilities at reception center; probable duration of stay at reception center; exact time that evacuation would take place; ultimate disposition of properties such as household effects, trucks, tractors, and cars left behind; and an answer to the question as to whether the Government would pay transportation costs on the shipment of properties to the new location when such relocation was accomplished.

The establishment of a central point from which information could be secured, together with the appointment of one person to whom all agencies could refer problems which confronted them, such person being in a position to secure answers within a relatively short time, would materially assist. It is also suggested that this person should have complete information with respect to the financing of such moves. As it now stands, not any one of the agencies represented seems to know from what source these funds will come and just whose responsibility the payment of expenses incurred it will be. In the Bainbridge Island situation, some of the expenses apparently will be borne by the Federal Reserve Bank, some by the Office of Emergency Management, some by the Public Assistance, and some by the Employment Service. The proper distribution of the expenses is difficult at present.

Many services were required by the Army which were not anticipated originally, such as office space, office equipment, stenographic service, telephone service, transportation, and responsibility for contact with United States Attorney's Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and transportation companies.

There were also items of printing, rubber stamps, and other expendable supplies which were difficult to obtain on short notice but which, fortunately, were secured through the Office of Emergency Management.

From the experience gained at Bainbridge Island it would seem that some of the procedures in effect there could be altered to the advantage of everyone concerned, including the evacuees. The evacuees were required, by reason of the procedure, to make many return trips to the center, which, had the plan been better organized, could have been avoided. It seems unnecessary to conduct a registration on one day and then require subsequent return visits on each of the following days during the period of preparation for actual evacuation. With proper organization of work, the flow of traffic through the center could be so handled that, in most instances, not more than two visits on the part of the evacuees would be necessary. However, such planning would have to contemplate the ability to answer the type of question which occurred and the ability to give accurate and definite information which would enable the evacuee to close out his business and be prepared to report at the designated point with necessary baggage, etc.

Following the first registration, additional interviews and assistance were provided the Japanese on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. These services were of various types and included Public Assistance services in personal matters, Farm Security assistance in arranging for the disposal of farm properties and equipment and/or securing powers of attorney for further handling of properties, Federal Reserve Bank assistance in the securing powers of attorney by that Agency to protect the interests of the Japanese, and Employment Service assistance in securing the services of two registered nurses to accompany the evacuees to the Owens River Valley center and other assistance wherever needed.

The actual evacuation took place Monday morning, March 30, at 11:00 a.m. All agencies mentioned had cooperated with the Army in developing the necessary plans and in the securing of the necessary transportation facilities from the Island to the mainland. Trucks were secured to transport the Japanese from their homes to the ferry dock, and assistance of army personnel was secured to handle baggage which the Japanese were allowed to take with them. The move was carried out with precision and orderliness, and there were no incidents of any description detrimental to the interests of the evacuees. The actual leave-taking between friends of long standing was a sad occasion, and everyone involved tried to cooperate understandingly in ever way possible. The ferry left the Island at 11:20, and upon arrival in Seattle the Army cleared the immediate area around the train and the Japanese were escorted to the train immediately. The whole process was orderly and very well handled. The Army authorities, in particular Lieutenant-Colonel Malone and Major Bisenius, are entitled to commendation for their very fine administration of their portion of the evacuation program. The train was quickly loaded and left Seattle at 12:40.

Following the evacuation, arrangements were made to provide office space on the Island for the Farm Security Agency and the Federal Reserve Bank, both of whom will have continued activity in the management of the properties left under their supervision Office equipment necessary was assigned to the Farm Security Agency and the services of one stenographer secured. This office will continue in operation for an indefinite period of time.

The responsibilities of the Employment Service having been met, the center was closed and all equipment returned by motor truck to Seattle. The actual clean-up work was accomplished by 8:00 p.m. Monday evening.


The following suggestions are made in light of the experience gained at Bainbridge Island. There is no particular continuity attempted but rather a listing of situations which arose that might be anticipated in any subsequent evacuations that perhaps could be met in a more satisfactory manner than was the case at Bainbridge Island.

The question which seemingly caused most of the hardships, and likewise most of the questions, had to do with the disposition of evacuees' property following their relocation. We received tentative information late Friday afternoon to the effect that it was presumed that the Government would pay the transportation costs of such personal belongings and equipment to the point of relocation upon proper notice. When this word was given to the evacuees, many complained bitterly because they had not been given such information prior to that time and had, therefore, sold, at considerable loss, many such properties which they would have retained had they known that it could be shipped to them upon relocation. Saturday morning we received additional word through the Federal Reserve Bank that the question had not been answered and that probably no such transportation costs would be paid. Between the time on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning some Japanese had arranged to repossess belongings which they had already sold and were in greater turmoil than ever upon getting the latter information. To my knowledge, there still is no answer to this question, but it should be definitely decided before the next evacuation is attempted.

In closing this report, the writer wishes to express appreciation for the very excellent cooperation which was afforded every agency concerned. It seemed highly improbable on Monday morning that such effective coordination could be established in so short a period of time. However, fortunately, this was not the case, and all of the evacuees expressed satisfaction and gratitude for the efforts of those persons who were operating in their behalf. The Army officers in command of the evacuation detail certainly deserve the highest commendation for their gentlemanly, as well as soldierly, conduct during the entire procedure. They won the admiration of not only the Japanese but the citizenry as well.

1 January 1997