Segment 1


Jimmie Kanaya was born in Clackamas, Oregon in 1920 and grew up working on a farm from dawn to dusk. He experienced the Depression years of the early 1930s. He had an older sister and a younger brother. During the Depression, food was hard to get, but he never went hungry. His father usually had one helper with him on the farm. Towards the end of 1935 or 1936, they decided they had enough of farming and moved into town. His father then bought the produce and sold it at the store. They ran food [Annotators note: hard to tell if he says food or fruit, but sounds like food to me] stands and stores. Kanaya graduated high school and in 1940 he saw his friends getting drafted and he saw the war coming. He felt he should sign up and get involved before the war ended. He enlisted in the Army in late 1940. He went to the Marine Corps Recruiting Office, because they had nice uniforms, but they wouldn't let him join and sent him to the Navy. The Navy wouldn't take him and sent him to the Army. He knew the Army was taking everybody, so he went. He had to go through a physical before they would take him. He did good on everything, but his dental test. He had bad teeth. He had to go to his dentist and get his teeth fixed. During all of this time, he didn't tell anyone he was joining the Army, because he was afraid he may not pass the physical. He had a friend that was drafted and had a big party and going away party, but couldn't pass the physical and it was embarrassing. In fact, he skipped work a few days during his final physical and work checked with his parents to be sure he was alright and they found out he was joining the Army. Then, he got his dental work finished, but he wasn't 21 yet and had to have the signature of his parents. His father didn't mind, but his mother didn't want him to. She did reluctantly sign him up. Kanaya was sent straight to Monterey, CA where he got his uniform. He walked down the street downtown in uniform and was very proud. It was around the 12th of April 1941. From there, he was processed out of Monterey. Some went to Hamilton Field for Army Air Corps training. He hoped to be a mechanic and work on airplanes. During his basic training, his Sergeant talked about working on airplanes and that he was waiting his turn to go into that. But, about 3 or 4 weeks into basic training, he was pulled to the side and told he was now a medic. He was then assigned to Santa Barbara to the Hoff General Hospital in Santa Barbara. That was his first experience working in a hospital and he had never had any training in it. Being regular Army he was placed in the Fire Department and since he had a Driver's License, he was going to be the firetruck driver. After 3 or 4 days of fire drill and learning what was expected of them, they went through a dry run of their training and jumped in the truck, rang the bell and turned the siren on while he gunned the engine. It shot out of the barn and he tried to shift from 1st to 2nd gear, but didn't double clutch. This mistake caused the truck to stop. Everyone fell off and that ended his career as a fireman. About that time, a new ward was opened for officers. He was a Private, but was given an assistant and oversaw this ward. They had one nurse, Ms. Higgin [Annotator's Note: unsure of name] that tried to teach him how to do everything. This included cleaning the beds, giving enemas, bathing the patient. He got the hang of it. They had to be Privates for 3 months, but then they got promoted to Private First Class [Annotator's Note: PFC]. Then, he made a specialist rating and eventually had the 2nd highest rating, he made about $61, which was a big increase over the past 6 months. He was then promoted to Corporal, but lost money and made $54 a month. This is where he stayed when the war broke out on December 7th. The Medical Department being very tolerant and with little prejudice involved [Annotator's Note: towards Japanese Americans like Kanaya], they were treated very decently unlike the men in the infantry that had their weapons taken away and put on bad details, etc. Kanaya kept working in the hospital until Executive Order 9066 was passed. With that, he had to move inland in March to Fort Leavenworth and then to Camp Crowder, Missouri, which was a new Signal Corps training camp with a new hospital. He was promoted there to Sergeant. Among the Japanese-Americans there in uniform, there were few who were Sergeants. He felt like he was doing better than the rest of the Japanese-Americans in the service. He was put in charge of the Red Cross building.


All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You will be purchasing the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only specific clips. Please contact the Museum at if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to two weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address. See more information at