By ANNAKAI HAYAKAWA GESHLIDER, Rafu Staff Intern
Toshiro Henry Kanbara, who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of Nisei soldiers during World War II, turned 100 on Sunday.
A grand birthday celebration was in the works, to be held at Kanbara’s retirement center in the Inland Empire — but to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the center has been closed to visitors and the party was canceled.
Kanbara was born in 1920 in Oakdale, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. He was drafted into the Army after graduating high school, and served from December 1941 until November 1945. While Kanbara’s family was incarcerated at Heart Mountain in Wyoming, he was stationed in Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, France, and Italy.
Kanbara was a member of the 232nd Combat Engineer Company, a unit of the 442nd. His unit’s responsibility was to look for mines, and build roads and bridges.
“All of his war stories he can remember,” says Kanbara’s daughter, Sharon Apker.
After his time in the Army, Kanbara worked as a farmer and gardener in Southern California.
The local Girl Scouts, along with Kanbara’s family, had been planning the birthday party. Cousins from around the country planned to fly out for the festivities.
“He loves his whole family. That’s his life now, is his family,” says Apker.
Kanbara and fellow residents still celebrated on Sunday with a smaller party and cake. The local Girl Scouts donated 100 cupcakes, and drove by Kanbara’s retirement center with handmade signs and balloons. Kanbara’s community hopes to host the larger celebration in summer or fall.