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“We had to prove ourselves…worthy of recognition when we came back to the States and that our parents and the rest of the Japanese-American community would be proud of us.” (Video Interview, Part 2, 27:16)

   Jimmie Kanaya
Image of Jimmie Kanaya
Jimmie Kanaya, 2004
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953; Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army; Army; Army
Unit: 3rd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT)
Service Location: Pacific; European Theater; United States; also:
Rank: Colonel
POW: Yes
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As a youth, Jimmie Kanaya became fascinated with the military, and at 20 he jumped at the chance to enlist in 1941—months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After helping his parents relocate from their Oregon home to an Idaho internment camp, Kanaya took his skills as a medic to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He aggressively looked out for his men, even negotiating a halt to fighting to bring in casualties from the battlefield. Captured by German troops, he escaped three times and at war’s end was the only non-Caucasian in his POW camp. Kanaya continued to serve his country during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (13 clips)
» Part 1 |  Part 2   (119 min.)
Interview (Audio)
»Complete Interview  (137 min.)
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»Asian Pacific Americans
»The War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (13 items)
First awareness of his difference from other kids in his multi-ethnic community (02:08) His first attraction to the military, through the National Guard; trying to enlist in the Marines and Navy; Army took him, with his parents signing for him. (04:03) Hoping to be an airplane mechanic; assigned medic duties after failing his audition as a fire truck driver; learning to be a medic on the job; his Pearl Harbor Day experience; how life changed for Nisei in the Army. (05:36)
Going back to Oregon to help his family move out of their house on their way to a relocation camp; visiting them in Camp Minidoka, Idaho; getting a chilly reception from his friends who were interned there. (05:10) Conflict among the Nisei recruits—mainland vs. Hawaiians--to the 442nd while training at Camp Shelby, Alabama. (02:10) His parents’ reactions to the internment experience; dispersal of many families throughout the country; allocation of resources to setting up and running the camps. (05:42)
POW experiences; Jews concealing their identities; Patton sending a company to rescue his son-in-law from Kanaya’s camp; his three escapes; on the loose and being strafed by his own planes. (13:54) Eisenhower’s offer to soldiers returning to the States; shipboard warning about carrying contraband ashore turning out to be wrong. (01:57) Adapting to the battlefield in Italy; his capture after three weeks in France; embarrassing moment while trapped overnight in a trench; wandering through France lost with his captors. (13:11)
Dealing with Caucasian officers; Army eventually promoting from within the ranks of the 442nd; Kanaya given a free hand to run his unit; stopping a battle to get casualties off the field and getting infantry soldiers to help him. (06:27) The 442nd proving their loyalty to the U.S. in battle; encountering no instances of cowardice among his own team. (02:30) His actions that merited a Silver Star; telling off a captain for not helping to recover casualties. (03:20)
His duties as an interrogator during the Korean War. (05:27)  
  
 
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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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