Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Kats Kunitsugu Interview
Narrator: Kats Kunitsugu
Interviewer: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: August 22, 1995
Densho ID: denshovh-kkats-01

[Ed. note: Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

FC: How did you, how did you become a member of the staff of the Heart Mountain Sentinel?

KK: Well, I was first working on the Heart Mountain Eagle, which was the high school newspaper. I was the managing editor. I could have been editor but I was kind of... I liked the guy who was editor, I wanted to let him have him have, be the editor. So I was managing editor, and I wrote an editorial about school spirit and everything, and Bill Hosokawa read it and he liked it and so he wrote me a little note and said, "Anytime you want to come work for the Sentinel there's a place for you." So when I graduated, that's where I headed.

FC: And you were at Heart Mountain when the resistance was taking place.

KK: Uh-huh.

FC: Why didn't the Sentinel report on the draft resisters as they were being arrested, resisting the draft, as it was happening?

KK: Well, I think I wasn't that much involved in the running of the Sentinel, its policies and so on, just a cub reporter working for the summer, so I don't know why certain decisions were made. But looking back, I would think that the newspaper was, well, running because in a sense the government was letting it be run. And so they rather toed the mark, the official line so to speak, and all of us Nisei were of the mindset in those days that we were 110 percent American, and we resented any suggestion that we could be disloyal, that there was anything negative about us, we were high achievers. And so anything that tended to be negative would be not mentioned. And I think that was the prevailing attitude.

FC: Did you feel there, or was there the feeling that there would be consequences, bad consequences, if you did report negative...

KK: Possibly because there were riots, we heard about the Tule Lake riots. In fact, one of the families that lived in our block went to Tule Lake and it was the brother of my girlfriend that was shot and killed in that riot: Okamoto. And so we knew about it and perhaps there was a feeling that they would stir up this anti-government type of feeling.

FC: So if you reported on anti-government activity, resisting the draft, this might encourage more in the camp? Was that... is that what you're saying?

KK: Well probably they were afraid that more people would agree maybe with the resisters, that they would be encouraged to, to resist the draft and it was seen as, by the people that that just wasn't done. That when the government said you should serve, you didn't resist the draft. I mean, you can protest and say that, "Why are we being treated this way," being in camp and still being subjected to the draft and all that, but when the government called you, you answered because that was your duty as an American citizen.

FC: Did you fear a white backlash?

KK: No, there was already a backlash, nothing, there was already all kinds of anti-Japanese feeling among the whites anyway.

FC: Whites around Heart Mountain?

KK: No, just in general. If you read the newspaper of that day you can tell that the whole atmosphere of that day was anti-Japanese. And very few people were -- unless they knew you personally, the feeling was very negative against Japanese anyway. So there was nothing, backlash, it was a bad feeling to begin with.

FC: So you didn't, you didn't feel that if you published stories about the resistance that the whites at Cody would get so angry that they'd come out and burn the camp down?

KK: No, I don't think so. No, I don't think so. Because by that time there was some relationship -- although on a very limited scale -- with the people outside, and the Sentinel was published in Cody so a group of us would every week go out and see the paper to bed. And people were getting leads to go harvest sugar beets and all that. So they were having relationships with farmers and all that in the area. And people generally away from the West Coast tended to be, they didn't have that mindset against the Japanese personally.

FC: Did you feel the Heart Mountain Sentinel did a fair job of reporting the news in camp? Or was there another purpose to...

KK: Well, I was not in a position to know whether it was fair or not. It seemed to be pretty much what we were interested in, certainly the everyday happenings in camp. Nothing of very... you know, deep thought or something that would make you think. That was kind of left to the Pacific Citizen, I think, and Larry Tajiri. [Laughs]


FC: Was the Heart Mountain Sentinel, was the paper a free press?

KK: Well, probably not because there was person in charge of overseeing what was published, and although I came to know Bonnie Maco, who was that person at Heart Mountain, and he was a very loose friendly type of person, not one of these government types that would take notes and everything like that, not at all. He was just a regular guy. But still, that was, I think, his job, to see that what was printed was not something that would offend Washington, so to speak.

FC: So the paper... so the real audience of the paper was Washington? Was directed toward Washington?

KK: Well, there was one eye cast toward Washington I'm sure, and also to, I'm sure Bill was quite aware of, that it was being read quite thoroughly by other media.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1995, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

FC: What was the feeling in camp at the time the resistance was happening? How old were you?

KK: Well, let's see.

FC: Just out of high school, seventeen or sixteen?

KK: That was 19-...

FC: '44.

KK: '44, I would be nineteen, so I was out of high school. But very much more involved with parties, boys, not, not too involved in mind-boggling issues and things like that.

FC: So at nineteen someone come in said, "I'm a resister, I'd like you to read this," what would happen? You would run out of the room screaming?

KK: Oh, no. I would probably read it but I probably would not do anything about it, let alone go around talking to people and getting their signature on a petition or anything like that. You have to remember that I spent four years in Japan and had that kind of education in my background, so that although I might deny it, it's there and I tend to be very two-personality, some part of me is very open and all that and another part of me holds back all the time and I think that's the Japan part of me, very much.

FC: Okay, and what is your position here now?

KK: At the cultural center? I'm the executive secretary.

FC: Very good.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1995, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.