First Japanese American General in U.S. Army Dies at 93

You may have never heard of Brigadier General Theodore “Ted” Shigeru Kanamine – a highly decorated Army officer, and the first Japanese-American general in the Army who served America admirably for 27 years, including stints in Korea and Vietnam, who passed away at his home after a brief battle with cancer at the age of 93 years old.

Kanamine was born and raised in North Hollywood, California. However, his family, including his parents, younger sister, and himself, were forced to relocate to an internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas in 1942 due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. They spent two years there before being taken in by a lawyer from Nebraska.

When recalling the period when Japanese Americans were held in internment camps during the onset of World War II, Kanamine was quoted saying:

“We’d gather into the viewing room and sit on the floor,”

“All the executives and artists and cartoonists were sitting behind us. They would show these unfinished cartoons that hadn’t been colored in yet.”

Having answered the call to serve, Kanamine deployed in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, serving as an aide to 4-star Gen. Creighton Abrams during the latter conflict. Afterward, he led the 716th Military Police Battalion, which was responsible for safeguarding the capital city of Saigon, as the US wrapped up the Korean War and readied for Vietnam. Throughout his military career, which spanned 28 years, Kanamine climbed the ranks with promotions and new assignments, resulting in his family moving 21 times.

Following his service in Vietnam, Kanamine headed the Army Criminal Investigation Division’s investigation into the Mỹ Lai massacre. His military career culminated as the chief of staff of the First Army at Fort Meade, Maryland. Kanamine attributed his success to his personal discipline and the development of the skills required to accomplish tasks to the best of his abilities, reflecting his belief in the philosophy of “Duty – Honor – Country,” which he adhered to in his military and personal life.

Kanamine’s eldest son, retired Col. Theodore Kanamine, remembered his father as a kind and civil individual who always responded to others with measured words, even in the face of disagreement. He also taught his children to withhold judgment until they had heard the entire story.

Loved ones attested that Kanamine often repeated a certain quote, which emphasized his compassionate nature:

“Life is not always ‘peaches and cream,’”

“Tough times and big problems arise but a close family and good friends can solve almost anything. Home and country must be protected. Have the personal discipline to know what is right and develop the skills necessary to do whatever the task is in the best way you know how.”

Throughout his military career, Kanamine received numerous accolades recognizing his bravery, dedication, and valor. His impressive list of awards includes the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star, and a Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. Kanamine’s greatest military challenge came during his service in Vietnam, where he faced almost constant enemy fire. Despite the danger, his courage and valor were recognized with multiple citations, including two awards of the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, and two awards of the Meritorious Service Medal.

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