Tom Kosobayashi settled his family here because of the fair treatment he had received at Fort Snelling.
When Pearl Harbor came under attack in December 1941, Tom Kosobayashi was sent to an internment camp with thousands of other Japanese-Americans. By the end of World War II, he was translating documents and interrogating Japanese prisoners of war for the U.S. Army.
Kosobayashi, a longtime Roseville businessman, died Friday from lung cancer. He was 88.
Kosobayashi was born in Oregon, and in the 1920s, when he was a young boy, his father took him to the family's ancestral home in Japan. That's where he became fluent in Japanese.
His family returned to the United States and after the war's outbreak was sent to Tule Lake internment camp in northern California, the largest of 10 camps that imprisoned more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans.
As part of the camp's work release program, Kosobayashi worked in nearby farm fields and laid tracks for the Great Northern Railroad. He eventually took a loyalty oath and was drafted into the U.S. Army.
When induction officers realized his Japanese proficiency, they sent him to military language schools in Savage, Minn., and at Fort Snelling.
"When he was here, my father found the people of Minnesota very cordial and not prejudiced against the Japanese," said his oldest son, Thomas, of North Oaks.
The Army sent his father to the Philippines, where he translated documents and questioned Japanese prisoners. He was ordered to join the invasion fleet just as the war ended. Kosobayashi went to Tokyo anyway and served under Gen. Douglas MacArthur's command until his discharge in 1946.
By then, his parents and siblings had been transferred to an internment camp in Wyoming. Kosobayashi decided to settle his family in Minnesota after residents impressed him with their fairness while he was at Fort Snelling, his son said.
Working as a private contractor, Kosobayashi returned to Tokyo to interview witnesses and defendants during war crimes trials of Japanese military officers. His son said he seldom discussed the war, but granted an interview to a group researching Japanese-Americans' experiences during World War II.
Kosobayashi was the former owner of St. Paul-based Pyramid Trim Products, a wholesale upholstery business specializing in fabrics for cars, boats and small planes.
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Marian, who lives in Roseville. In addition to his son Thomas, he is survived by another son, Kent, of Minneapolis; a daughter, Joy, of Menlo Park, Calif.; two sisters, Mieko and Yaeko; a brother, Shiro, and a grandson.
Visitation and a memorial service are scheduled for Saturday, at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. respectively, at Holcomb-Henry-Boom Funeral Home, Hwy. 96 and Mackubin Street, Shoreview.
Curt Brown • 612-673-4767