Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: John Kanda Interview
Narrator: John Kanda
Interviewer: Ronald Magden
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 12, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-kjohn-01-0008

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RM: The war ended, you were in France? Where were you when -- did they go back to Italy?

JK: Yeah, I joined the unit at the time of the "Lost Battalion," and they were so beat up. My squad, that squad, the rifle squad I joined, normally has twelve people, and it was down to two people. This is in our company. And our company was down to about one-fourth of the full strength. And our three guys that joined it kinda made a half strength because one of our wounded guys came back about the next day after we joined them. And so then it was a matter of getting well down at the French Riviera. [Laughs] They called it a Champagne Campaign, and it kinda was, in a sense. There was no real fighting. We're on the front line, and so you had to send out patrols, and they sent out patrols. And there was artillery fires and things, but -- and there were different kinds of trip wires and things around, but very few got killed or injured. I know one of my guys I trained with in Shelby was captured, and, wounded and captured, and he spent the rest of his wartime fixing railroads, lines for the Germans after the U.S. Air Force bomb it. They'd fix that middle of the night, and the next day the bombers would come again and bomb it again -- [laughs] -- and this is what he told me, just a workforce.

RM: At the end of the war, let's say VE Day, April '45, you were, where in Europe were you?

JK: Well, we were, after we got to full strength again down in the Riviera, the unit was sent back to Italy. And they took a, you know the original guys that were there, they almost back to where they ended, before they went to France. I mean, the Arno River there. They were on the north bank of the Arno when the war, I mean they were shipped out to France, southern France. But we started a couple of miles north of the Arno River for this last big push that broke the so-called Gothic Line, and made the war in Italy basically come to end a lot quicker. And we lost a lot of people there. I lost lots of guys I graduated high school with in Tule Lake. I lost two killed in action, I mean they were good friends of mine. Out of the squad, when I joined the group and before we went back down to Italy, I lost two out of there, that group.

RM: Were they eighteen-, nineteen-year-old people...?

JK: They were just, they were all nineteen. I guess you had to be nineteen before they sent you into battle overseas. And we're all nineteen, you might say, not all of us, but most of us. Some of the original guys, my squad leader, the second squad leader -- had, the first one was wounded badly -- but the second squad leader is one guy in the whole 442nd that went through all the battles every day without a scratch. And he deserves a medal for just being able to do that.

RM: They're awarding a great many medals this week or next week. Twenty Congressional Medals of Honor.

JK: Yes, this is what I understand. They upgraded many of the so-called Distinguished...

RM: Service Crosses.

JK: Yeah. And lot of the army, combat people wonder why the 442nd never received more than that one originally, the one Medal of Honor. And...

RM: It's usually awarded to people who are killed. Are there many who are still alive, who receive that medal, do you know?

JK: You mean how...?

RM: Usually you had to get killed to get the Congressional Medal of Honor.

JK: Well, not always, but usually it would be the killed that would get the Medal of Honor.

RM: They're going to have a memorial, I understand, in Washington D.C. for the Nisei World War II veterans.

JK: Yes.

RM: You've been intimately connected with that, haven't you?

JK: Yes, I've been very much connected with those efforts, yes.

RM: That's a commitment to those who were killed? A commitment to the belief that you're as good Americans as anybody? What is the...?

JK: Yes. I had a, really the pleasure and the honor, having come back with the 442nd -- at that time, a presidential review was, has been set up for us, to receive the so-called, the seventh Presidential Unit Citation for the last battles on the Gothic Line. And, I was a tech sergeant at that time -- that's a platoon sergeant -- and luckily, my, our company was considered the alert company, that, the crisis company to take care of any problems in Italy while we were there. So we were well-trained and kept, you know we did calisthenics every day and got bigger guns, bigger machine guns, and we got armored cars, and whatnot. So my group, under, being the platoon leader I had one-fourth of the riflemen under my, shall we say, direction and we marched, did exercise and, regular and whatnot. And every time they had a so-called award center and wanted -- cities that were liberated along the way, they would have lot of, on an anniversary of one year or whatever, they'd wanna celebrate that. So we used to go march for them, because we marched better than anybody else. [Laughs] And because of that, we got nice placing in the regiment. When they came back, the regiment was smaller in number by that time. So President Truman put on the eighth -- I mean the seventh unit citation, basically right in front of me. And being a staff sergeant, we had the right flank you might say. I mean, the staff sergeant and the tech sergeants were all, and I was a tech sergeant. So we got to see the nice... and then, two of my classmates, I graduated the Tule Lake high school together, they were twins. They were not identical twins, but they were twins and they looked like twins -- [Laughs] -- you might say. And they were the flag bearers, Conrad and Laverne Kuwahara, from the Sacramento area.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.