Jimmie K.

Tom Taylor Family YMCA

Colonel Jimmie Kanaya was a member of the 442 Regimental Combat Team during World War II. During the war, Jimmie was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp, where he was able to endure the harsh conditions with the help of supplies to sent to them by the YMCA's War Prisoners' Aid program, which was first established during World War I and supplied POWs with sports equipment, musical instruments, art materials, eating utensils, and other nonessential items.

After the war, Jimmie and the 442 Regimental Combat Team were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Citation. Jimmie went on to serve in Korea and Vietnam. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, POW Medal, French Medal of Valor, the Combat Medical Badge and others. Recently, he shared his story with staff at the Tom Taylor Family YMCA, where he is currently a member:

"In October 1943, I was serving as a U.S. Army Medic in France when I was captured by the Germans and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Poland.

"During that time, the YMCA donated and shipped sports equipment for the POWs. We received baseballs, bats, books, writing paper, and pencils. Escape and evasion items were hidden inside the sports equipment. MIS-X, a secret US military intelligence service, sent maps, compasses, razors, and saws.

"We constructed a short-wave radio, lovingly called the 'canary.' The radio was assembled daily and parts dispersed nightly to avoid detection. We were able to hear information about troop movements and BBC news. The access to information let us know that the U.S. was winning the war. More importantly, the radio gave us daily hope that the war would soon be over and we might survive. Pictured above is my YMCA notebook, in which I wrote names and addresses of others in case they didn’t get home. I am holding a commemorative softball.

"When we were forced to march 400-miles out of the Polish camp to Berlin, the 'canary' came with us. Many of the weak and frail POWs dropped out and were recaptured by advancing Russian troops. I survived the march and was sent to POW camps in Hammelburg and Nuremburg, until the troops were liberated in April 1945.

"Maintaining good physical condition helped prisoners endure the hardships of POW life. The value of exercise has stayed with me through the years. The YMCA gave the prisoners hope. At 97 years old, I continue to exercise at and support the Tom Taylor Family YMCA."

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