Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Kats Kunitsugu - Paul Tsuneishi Interview
Narrators: Kats Kunitsugu, Paul Tsuneishi
Interviewer: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: August 22, 1995
Densho ID: denshovh-kkats_g-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

FC: So in this atmosphere, how, to resist must have been a terribly extraordinary thing.

KK: You couldn't imagine what it must have taken, what strength of soul or maybe desperation, but I still think there was a strength of heart there that saw straight into the heart of the matter and said, "Well, if I have but one life to live I'm going to make a decision that is right, and this is my decision." And they stuck to it and I really admire them because the forces against that kind of decision were just overwhelming, just overwhelming. You couldn't imagine. Your own parents, your peers, the, of course the Sentinel itself was very much against the resisters because to resist the draft was un-American, and we as Nisei were brought up to be 110 percent Americans, although we felt of course that it was unjust for the government to be putting us into concentration camps. But still, when the government called and you were drafted, you served because as an American citizen that was your duty. That type of thing. And so there were all kinds of rationalizations to make and so on and most people did that but the resisters, they made a deeper decision there somewhere and it took a lot of guts.

PT: I think you have to realize, too, that in that time, the, all the organizations within the Japanese American community collapsed under the pressure of the government, and so that you had a strange situation in early 1942 where out of Los Angeles, telegram was sent to Attorney General Biddle saying that we're, we are all Americans and you can trust us and we, and we have even become... not spies but turned in names of people who we thought might be suspicious. And the interesting thing is that was, that was signed not only as you might expect by the Japanese American Citizens League, but the Japanese American Church Federation, and there were Buddhists, there was a Buddhist priest's name on there, and there was a Japanese American union, so you have to understand that all of the organizations within the Japanese community, once they felt that they had to go to camp, decided to cooperate with the government, and it's against this kind of pressure that resisters of conscience responded. They were responding not to the powers of the state, but they were responding to what was laid out in the, in their Bill of Rights, and due process, and to a higher law.

FC: So if there was this much pressure against them to resist, once they resisted, the community, how did the community respond to that?


KK: There was a lot of pressure for them to change their minds and to go along with the official line, so to speak.

FC: Were there consequences after camp for the resisters?

KK: Well, of course they were in jail and had to serve time until they were pardoned, and that part of their life is a blank.

PT: It's important to remember, though, that there were other federal trials, under three other different federal judges, and those trials were, two of those were, the judges refused to hear the case saying it was unconstitutional, the other judge of course fined them a penny, I believe, and let them go. But we're living with the consequences of that today because that dichotomy between, between staying with your community and staying with the government versus the idea that the Constitution has a higher value than the state, is with us today in the Japanese American community. And those resisters of conscience are still paying the price and those who have died are beyond being recompensed in any way. It's a valid and live issue in our community.

FA: The churches.

PT: Churches are interesting situation, especially in the camps because the one person who has done a study on this and wrote a book on ministry in the assembly centers and the relocation centers, wrote a very interesting part of his book which said that all ministers and religious leaders who came to the camps to preach or to be, or to make speeches, like internationally famous people like E. Stanley Jones, were told before they came as a condition of coming into the camps, what they could say and what they could not say, and it's spelled out in that book that that was the conditions under which they came in. So the churches, of course, you can understand why they did what they did under those pressures, but beyond that, all the ministers' training, and I'm talking about the Protestant ministers, the Japanese Protestants, the training was in Western seminaries. And so in that particular training, all the values came from the Anglo culture. But beyond that, within the Christian tradition, for ministers there's a pastoral role and there's a prophetic role, and one of the things that have never surfaced even fifty years after is any kind of Japanese American theology about what that theology of resistance should look like. This is a very valid part of the Old Testament, Amos and the other prophets who call the kings in the government to account for what they have done. And that has not happened in the Japanese American Christian community.

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