Kenmotsu, Shigeo


Shigeo Kenmotsu was born on March 16, 1922, in Pico, California, the second son of Eijiro and Shizuye. While Kenmotsu’s older brother, Yasuo, graduated from El Monte High School and went on to junior college before enlisting in the military, Kenmotsu worked on his father’s vegetable farm after graduating from El Monte High School in 1941 because the family did not have the money to send two children to college at the same time. Kenmotsu and his parents were sent to Pomona Assembly Center, arriving on May 15, 1942 without Yasuo, who was still in the Army. Kenmotsu and his parents arrived at Heart Mountain on August 19, 1942. They lived in apartment 6-9-F. While in camp, Eijiro Kenmotsu worked in a warehouse and Shizuye Kenmotsu worked part-time in a mess hall kitchen, though both were in poor health. In the spring of 1943, Kenmotsu purchased a camera from Shigesato Yasuda, presumably to take photos of life in camp. Arrested for violating the Selective Service Act on April 7, 1944, Kenmotsu was convicted in June 1944 and sentenced to three years in the federal prison at McNeil Island, Washington. On October 28, 1944, his brother Yasuo, a corporal, was killed fighting with the 442nd RCT in the midst of the “Rescue of the Lost Battalion” in France. 

The elder Kenmotsus, incarcerated without either of their sons, attempted to stay at Heart Mountain for as long as possible because they were concerned about how they could support themselves outside of camp. They left Heart Mountain for Los Angeles on October 24, 1945. Kenmotsu was released in July 1946 and pardoned by President Harry Truman on December 24, 1947. Eventually he returned to southern California and ran a farm in Puente. Shigeo Kenmotsu died on April 12, 2012, in Brea, California. He was survived by his daughter, Vivian.