Dr. Leo V. Kanawada, Jr. has lived a full and fascinating life. As a student, soldier, world traveler, teacher and author, there is little that he has not accomplished and his latest book, Captain, Infantry: A Vietnam War Memoir, which chronicles his service to his country in the U.S. Army, lays bare the many things that shaped him into the man he is today.
Born in 1941 in Flushing, Queens and currently residing in Hicksville, Kanawada is a prolific author, having self-published numerous books tackling a diverse number of topics.
Kanawada’s first literary offering was 1982’s Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Diplomacy and American Catholics, Italians, and Jews. He then followed up with Something Worthwhile: The Life and Times of The Parkway Community Church, 1628-1981. Later, after more than a decade of painstaking research and effort, Kanawada penned a five-volume history series entitled The Holocaust Diaries. His latest tome, Captain, Infantry: A Vietnam War Memoir, released through self-publishing service AuthorHouse, chronicles Kanawada’s time in the military while serving in the Vietnam War.
“It was an eye-opener. The things I saw and the conditions the people lived in over there, it stayed with me and shaped my world view,” he said.
While studying for his bachelor’s degree in secondary education at Bucknell University, Kanawada was a member of the ROTC. Upon graduating as a Second Lieutenant, he was obligated to serve a six-year span in the U.S. Army, but first took an allotted two years of inactive reserve duty to earn his master’s degree in American history. Afterwards, he was sent over to Korea to serve as an infantryman.
“I was with the Second Infantry Division along the demilitarized zone in South Korea for a year. After that I volnteered to serve in Vietnam,” he said. “I just thought it was the right thing to do. I really saw how hard things were for the Korean people and the same thing was happening to the Vietnamese, and I thought I could help.”
After taking a brief holiday in Japan, Kanawada headed off to Vietnam for a year, serving as a door gunner with the 71st Assault Helicopter Company. Later, he served in a rifle platoon, carried out search-and-destroy missions and was eventually promoted to captain.
“We wanted to live in the villages with the people and teach them how to protect themselves, offer them medical care and perhaps even teach school, but the Army wouldn’t let us,” he said. “But we were still helping them as much as we could.”
After his term of service was completed, Kanawada returned home, got married to his wife Carol, earned a PhD in history at St. John’s University in 1980 and taught the subject at Hicksville High School for 30 years before retiring in 1998. Afterwards, he started writing books.
Captain, Infantry, Kanawada noted, came from a need to be able to relay his experiences in the military and the lessons they taught him to his family. He pieced together the book based on saved letters and photographs mailed to his parents while he was serving, mixed with his own remembrances and views on the war, making it a deeply personal account of a vital period and a fond recollection of a bygone era.
“I wanted to make sure that my children and my grandchildren know what their father and grandfather did during the war. I always thought that was important,” he said.
Find Captain, Infantry: A Vietnam War Memoir at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and AuthorHouse websites.