James J. Kanada
442nd Regimental Combat Team
100th Battalion, A Company
James J. Kanada, son of Suejiro and Tatsumi (Fukugawa) Kanada, was born on September 3, 1923, in Concord, California. He was one of six siblings – Frank Masao, Aki, George, Harry, James J., and Tatsuki. His father, Suejiro, was born in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. Suejiro first arrived in the US in 1907, and returned from a trip to Japan on May 14, 1916 on the Persia Maru, with his wife, Tatsumi.
Jimmy, as he was known, was a farmer at the time the War broke out. He registered for the draft on June 20, 1942, at Local Board No. 54, in Martinez, Contra Costa County, California. He was 5’7” tall and weighed 135 pounds. At the time, his home address was in Concord, but he was living at the Turlock Assembly Center, where the family had been incarcerated. He was employed as the Center Manager.
His family was sent from the Turlock Assembly Center to the Gila River WRA Relocation Camp in Arizona, entering the camp on August 12, 1942. Harry and Tatsuki were released on May 18, 1944, to Fort Douglas, Utah – and Jimmy on August 4, 1944. Fort Douglas was a major Army Reception Center in the western United States.
The two eldest sons, Frank and Aki, were released on July 27 and March 22, 1944, respectively, to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their parents were released to Minneapolis on September 18, 1945.
He was inducted into the Army in Phoenix, Arizona, on June 14, 1944. He listed his occupation as “Farm Hand, Fruit.” He received his basic training at Camp Blanding, Florida.
Private Kanada was sent as a replacement for A Company due to heavy casualties in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign. His exact date of arrival is not known; however, on November 19, 1944, 382 replacements arrived in France and the 442nd was thus brought up to about half its intended strength. The 442nd was in bivouac near Nice until November 23 when it was sent to Sospel for the Rhineland-Maritime Alps Campaign. After almost four months, they were sent back to Italy and arrived in Pisa on March 25. They were not allowed to leave the staging area as their presence in Italy was a closely kept secret. Their assignment was to crack the western anchor of the enemy’s “Gothic Line.”
On March 28, the regiment moved to a bivouac area at San Martino, near Lucca. This move was made in absolute secrecy and under cover of darkness. While there, all units utilized their time for training. New replacements who had seen little or no combat practiced small-unit problems with their squads and platoons far into the night.
On April 3 the 100th moved to a forward assembly area near Vallecchia, again under cover of darkness. During the night of April 4 the battalion moved up to its line of departure on the “Florida” hill mass, the southernmost of a series of sawtooth hills culminating in the Mt. Folgorito peak to the north.
At 5:00 a.m. on April 5 the 100th Battalion attacked behind a tremendous demonstration of fire power by large number of American battalions. Their first objective was the mountain peak designated “Georgia,” which was heavily mined. The leading men had advanced abut 150 yards when someone tripped a mine. In the scramble for cover, seven more mines went off, causing heavy casualties and bringing down grenades and machine-gun fire from the enemy’s emplacements. The attack faltered and stopped, inasmuch as many of the men in A Company were inexperienced replacements.
Nevertheless, due to the heroic actions of Pfc. Henry Y. Arao, leading scout for his squad, and Pfc. Sadao S. Munemori, assistant squad leader of A Company, the path was cleared for their company’s advance. By 5:20 a.m. “Georgia” peak was cleared and the Combat Team had accomplished what the best efforts of friendly troops had not been able to accomplish in five months of effort.
The A Company men then started down the back of “Georgia” peak to attack “Ohio 1.” The battle raged furiously all day on April 5. After an hour-long firefight at close quarters at midnight, the enemy fell back. Enemy losses were great, but it had cost the Combat Team 20 men killed and 123 wounded.
Private James J. Kanada was killed in this battle on April 5, 1945, during the last push in the Po Valley Campaign in Italy; just weeks before the war ended in Europe. He was buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Castelfiorentino, Italy.
For his military service, Private James J. Kanada was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Distinguished Unit Badge. James was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on October 5, 2010, along with the other veterans of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team. This is the highest Congressional Civilian Medal.
Pvt. Kanada’s remains were returned home aboard the USAT Lawrence Victory, which arrived at the Brooklyn Army Base in New York Harbor on November 5, 1948. The ship carried 7,137 war dead from the ports of Naples and Livorno (Leghorn), the largest group from Italy to date. A memorial service was held dockside at Pier 3 at 11:00 a.m., with the Port of Embarkation Chaplain, Col. Edward R. Martin, officiating. Kanada was among 323 other Californians on the ship, 31 of whom were from the Bay Area. His body was later shipped to California at the request of his father, Suejiro S. Kanada, of Route 1, Oak Grove Road, in Concord, who was listed as his next of kin.
On December 17, 1948, James J. Kanada was interred at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California, Plot J, Block 3, Site 817.
Three brothers also served in the 442nd RCT: Pfc. George Kanada, L Company; Sgt. Harry H. Kanada, K Company; and S/Sgt. Tatsuke Kanada, F Company.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.