HomeJapanese AmericanPioneering Japanese American military veteran passes away

Pioneering Japanese American military veteran passes away

Theodore Shigeru Kanamine, the first active-duty Japanese American general in the U.S. Army, died on March 2. 

Kanamine, 93, passed away at his daughter’s home in Naples, Florida due to lung cancer. 

In his childhood, Kanamine resided in a Japanese incarceration camp in Arkansas for two years, until a lawyer invited the family to live in his home in Nebraska, Military Times reported. He would go on to major in criminal psychology and attend law school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

Kanamine would wed his wife, Mary Stuben, in 1954 across state lines as interracial marriage was banned in Nebraska. 

His 27-year long military career began in 1955 when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Military Police Corps, then went on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam wars as an aide to general Creighton Abrams, according to Military Times. 

“He never complained,” his daughter Linda Kanamine told The Washington Post. “He never disparaged his country or the government. He just became the most patriotic human being you could imagine.”

Kanamine also headed the Army Criminal Investigation Division as a senior officer that investigated the Mỹ Lai massacre of civilians during the Vietnam War. 

He would soon make history when, in 1976, he was promoted to brigadier general. He was later inducted into the Military Police Corps Hall of Fame. 

Kanamine’s honors include 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 eldest son, retired colonel Theodore Kanamine, told Military Times he hopes people will remember his father for the way he interacted with and listened to people even if he disagreed. 

“He was a very kind and civilized person,” Kamanine’s son said. “I don’t think he ever responded very angrily, aggressively. Even if he felt those [inclinations], he was always very measured in what he did, and I think one of the things he taught us is that things aren’t always as they initially present themselves. Withhold your judgment until you get the whole side of the story.”

After he retired in 1981, Kanamine and his wife retired to Florida, where he spent his time doing volunteer work and serving as disaster chairman for the St. Lucie County American Red Cross. 

“It’s not something that I or anyone I work with even think about,” Gen. Kanamine told the Fort Pierce Tribune. “It’s something that has to be done. I do it because I am capable.”

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