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Theodore Kanamine, the US Army’s first Japanese American general, dies at 93

Theodore "Ted" Kanamine
via US Army Office of the Provost Marshal General, Dignity Memorial

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    Theodore “Ted” Shigeru Kanamine, the U.S. Army’s first-ever Japanese American general, died on Thursday at 93.

    According to Kanamine’s daughter Linda, the former active duty general died of lung cancer at Linda’s home in Naples, Florida.

    Kanamine, who spent almost 27 years serving the Army, was born on Aug. 29, 1929, to Japanese immigrants and was sent to an incarceration camp in Jerome, Arkansas, with his parents and younger sister at the age of 12, according to The Washington Post.

    Although he was forced to leave his home in California behind, Kanamine joined the Army and became “the most patriotic human being you could imagine,” Linda told The Post. She also shared that her father “never complained” and “never disparaged his country or the government.”

    Throughout his decades-long career, Kanamine notably received several honors, including two awards of the Legion of Merit, two awards of the Meritorious Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal and the Bronze Star Medal. 

    Despite his numerous accolades, Kanamine considered “commanding soldiers in war” to be the highlight of his career, as told to his family. He reflected on being given command of the 716th MP Battalion, which provided security to Saigon, as well as serving as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Creighton W. Abrams during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s.

    He notably moved 21 times while in the Army, ultimately becoming a brigadier general in 1976. That year, he made history by becoming the Army’s first Japanese American general.

    Kanamine’s Army career began after he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Military Police Corps (MP) in 1955.

    The year prior, he had graduated from the University of Nebraska’s law school and married Mary Stuben, a fellow graduate. At the time, Nebraska barred interracial marriage, so the pair got married in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

    Following his time in the Army, Kanamine and Mary retired to Florida in 1981. He joined the American Red Cross in St. Lucie County, serving as its disaster chairperson. 

    In addition to his wife, Kanamine leaves behind their two daughters Linda and Laura; their three sons Ted, Michael, and David; their 12 grandchildren and their 12 great-grandchildren.

    Kanamine is currently in the care of Hodges Funeral Home at Naples Memorial Gardens.

    A viewing will take place at the funeral home from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, while a funeral mass at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church will occur in Naples at 11 a.m. on Monday. Kanamine will be buried with full military honors at Sarasota Veterans National Cemetery on March 14 at 2 p.m.


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