The Mysterious Life of Tsuneyoshi Koba, a Medical Doctor at the Kooskia Internment Camp

NOTE: This blog post was written by Grace McBride, an undergraduate student at the University of Idaho.

Tsuneyoshi Koba (12 other aliases) is a famed medical imposter who was highlighted in many medical journals throughout the country. He single-mindedly pursued a medical career to the point of being labeled a possible psychopathic case. His history is untraceable because of the web of lies he spun, but the most likely story is written in this blog.

Koba’s Life

Dr. Tsuneyoshi Koba

Tsuneyoshi Koba used a fake passport to illegally enter America from British Columbia in 1913. He attended Broadway High School in Seattle, WA from 1914 to 1919 before going to the University of Washington for two years, then attended Columbia University for one school year and one summer and left due to poor academic standing in 1922. He went to Johns Hopkins University Medical School after working as a busboy but failed again. Koba worked as a busboy in 1924 for one year, living with his uncle in Seattle for six months while looking for money to continue school. In LA he met an artist who forged a diploma from Johns Hopkins for $200.

Koba then went to Minneapolis, MN and did lab work for cancer specialist Dr. Williams who he had conned into giving him the job. He convinced the doctor so thoroughly that he was proficient that he performed surgery on a cancerous breast while Dr. Williams was absent. He borrowed money and left for Fargo, North Dakota to find work under the name of Tsuneo Kuba, but was arrested by the Immigration and Naturalization authorities who took his [fake] Japanese birth certificate.

Koba's Forged Diploma

In New York City Koba was arrested for attempted forgery in 1928 and served 10 months on Welfare Island before being released because of good behavior.

Koba worked at the Presbyterian Medical Center in NYC for six months, then at the New York Post-Graduate Hospital doing urinalysis work in the lab for two months. He went to the Strong Memorial Hospital in 1937 and then returned to NYC and married Josephine Salla, telling her his name was Akira Matsuzaka. She did not know until his arrest that he had multiple aliases. He worked as a butler in Rochester, New York under the name of Kanda Matsuzaka until 1939. His employer gave him one year’s tuition at Johns Hopkins Medical School, which he enrolled in under the name of Masao Matsuzaka using forged grades from a Kyoto Medical School. He was discharged spring of 1940 because of poor grades.

Koba's Aliases

On April 16th, 1939 he married Kathryn Fogarty, telling her he was an American citizen born September 25, 1906 in CA. He did not tell her he was still married (although separated) to Josephine Salla. He attempted to enroll in Washington University Medical School as a 3rd year but was refused because he failed at Johns Hopkins. My wife went back to live with her mother in Rochester, and Koba left St. Louis February 11, 1942 headed to Baltimore and registered at Emerson Hotel. He did not obtain an alien permit to travel, and was therefore arrested at that hotel. He had meant to get an internship at the West Baltimore General Hospital under the name of Dr. Masami Iwataki Kanda.

Koba had been friendly with the Japanese Consuls in various places and was invited to the funeral of the Japanese Ambassador to Washington D.C.. Tsuneyoshi Koba was ruled a threat to American security and ordered to be detained. Koba tried to leave the country by pleading his case but he ended up in multiple internment camps and was eventually transferred to Fort Missoula, Montana. There Koba conned his way to Kooskia to be the camp doctor before the background check from the FBI showed him to be a medical imposter. He had already ordered medical supplies before he was sent back to Fort Missoula.

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