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Interview with George Taro Sakato [n.d.]

Unknown interviewer:

Now, for the editor--just state your name and spell your last name and tell me where you're from.

George Taro Sakato:

George T. Sakato. G-E-O-R-G-E, T stands for Taro, T-A-R-O, Sakato, S-A-K-A-T-0. I'm from Denver, Colorado now, but I was born in Colton, California in 1921. And I went to school in Colton Grammar School. And then we moved to Redlands High School, where I graduated from high school in 1941.

Unknown interviewer:

In Rutland?

George Taro Sakato:

Redland.

Unknown interviewer:

Redland.

George Taro Sakato:

60 miles east of Los Angeles.

Unknown interviewer:

And tell me a little bit about your childhood. Were you involved in sports? Were you working? What were you doing, you know, during your teenage years, and who did you look up to?

George Taro Sakato:

I was born in Colton and I went to elementary school there. Then we moved Redlands, California which is 60 miles east of Los Angeles. And we had a grocery store. We formerly in Colton--my parents were barbers. And we used to run a barber shop and a pool hall and a bathhouse. And they got tired of that, so many years of cutting hair. So, my brother-in-law talked them into running a grocery store. So, we bought a grocery store and a meat market, fruit stand in Redlands. And we went to Redlands and I graduated--my senior years in Redlands--I graduated from high school there in 1941.

Unknown interviewer:

Who did you look up to and who were your, if I can say, heroes. It doesn't have to be a hero. It has to be somebody you kind of looked up to and said I want to be like that person. Who--who was that?

George Taro Sakato:

Well, at the time when I was a kid they used to have planes--airplanes were flying around. And Roscoe Turner was a pilot of one of the planes. I wanted to become a pilot. So I--'43--that's when the war started. In '41 we had just opened up our shop and I heard the newscast. Franklin Roosevelt said--Pearl Harbor was being bombed and I couldn't believe that Pearl Harbor's be bombed. My goodness--what are we going to do now. And they gave us orders to--that we couldn't travel over 3 miles from our residence. So, that lasted for about a length of 2 months. And then we had the orders--we're going to have to move or go to relocation centers. The prison camps. Barbed wire fence, guard towers on each corners. And machine guns were pointing in, not out. And so, we're like a prison camp. Although the prison camp itself wasn't like a prison camp in the Philippines or Germany or like that. But you were still concentrated in one area and--tar-papered back barracks. Had 4 units in each barracks. And everybody--10 by 15 rooms. Only 6 could live in one unit. A family of 8, 2 of them would have to live with somebody else. So, they had this setup in the prison camp as--although the kids, teenagers--they didn't mind it cause they had ball dances and stuff like that. But it was hard for the parents that it was--they couldn't go in here and do anything. Couldn't leave the place.

Unknown interviewer:

What happened to your father's business? He couldn't--

George Taro Sakato:

So, they gave us 3 days to move out. So, we just had recently bought a meat case for 800 dollars. And then we had to turn around and sell it. Sold the meat case--got what we could get for it and through in the rest of the store. And we had a produce man that brought us produce in the mornings in Los Angeles, and he helped us move--move our articles into his little small truck and moved us to Phoenix, Arizona. And we were on the southside of the tracks, and a group of people living on the southside of the tracks said--you better move to the northside of the tracks. So, they were going to have to go to the camps, too. They were going to have to go to post and relocation center just near Blythe, California--out in the desert area. So, we moved to the northside. And then I became a farmer. I was no farmer, I was a cityslicker. [LAUGHS] We lived always in the city, and farming was nothing that I intended to do. That year I had to pick cantaloupes. 110 degrees temperature. I weighed 165 pounds when I was graduated. That season I lost 35 pounds. Then I tried to get in the Army--Air Force. And I--

Unknown interviewer:

Let's talk about that a second. Why--I mean, the--the country is not treating your family well. Why did you want to enlist?

George Taro Sakato:

I'd show that we are Americans and show my loyalty to the country. I wanted to show that I'm an American and I should be--join the service. I wanted to be a pilot. So, I volunteered for the Army--Air Force, but my draft card says 4-C. That indicated that I was an enemy alien, so the Air Force wouldn't take me. The unit of Hawaii was a National Guards. And they didn't know what to do with them. So, they shipped them inland to Camp McCord, Wisconsin. They took their basic training and shipped overseas to Sicily--Mount Casino [sp?], Arno River--fighting the campaign. I was trying to climb this Mount Casino and the Germans were shooting down on them and that was the area up there and they didn't want to bomb it. So, everytime our troops tried to climb that hill it was being shot. That's when it became known as the Purple Heart battalion. And then General Mark Clark says--send me more men like that. So, we were able to--so Roosevelt changed the decree that we would be able to join the Army. Therefore, they formed 442nd Regiment Combat Team in Hattiesburg, Mississippi--Camp Shelby. And I took basic training there. In the meantime, I volunteered for the Air Force, and I was called up. Went the first of April--March, '44. And I got on the train and ended up in Camp Bradley, Florida. And I'm looking for the planes and there's this--where's the planes, I says. Well, I'm sorry--you're in the infantry.

Unknown interviewer:

Oh no.

George Taro Sakato:

[LAUGHS] Thanks a lot, Captain. So, I took my basic training in the infantry. Went to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Then went overseas.

Unknown interviewer:

That must have been a shock.

George Taro Sakato:

Yes--oh, airplanes--on airplanes. So, I didn't become a pilot.

Unknown interviewer:

Tell me a little bit about your first action. Okay, you were shipped over. Where were you shipped?

George Taro Sakato:

To--it took us 28 days to get across the ocean.

Unknown interviewer:

Wow.

George Taro Sakato:

We went on convoy--convoy going north, going south, north and then south. Another groups of ships joined us. So, we had a big convoy going across. And it took us 28 days. And in the meantime, we had these destroyers moving up and down--boom. But then another boom--they're down in the hold--what's going on? Submarines patrol came down. So, then we lost 3 transport boats then. 3 ships went down, but we finally made it to Orion. And then from Orion we went to Naples. And I joined--that's when I joined as a--the 442 as a first replacement to that. My older brother was in the Army. He was a first draftee before the war started. So, he was in Fort Ordon--on the West Coast. And then they shipped him inland to Ft. Leonardwood [sp?], Missouri and then that group--the first draftees had to take their basic trainings over again. So, they had to take their basic and then they all got together and was in Camp Shelby, Mississippi. And then we went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey area--and then we shipped overseas--about 28 days of traveling.

Unknown interviewer:

Would you like a glass of water?

George Taro Sakato:

Yes. [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unknown interviewer:

Okay, so let's talk about your first action--first time you actually met the enemy. And what were you thinking and what was happening? Where was it?

George Taro Sakato:

Well, at first we went to Italy and joined the unit in Italy. There we got on board ships, went to the Corsica Straits. And as I was going across the Corsica Straits--the wintertime--September--it was waves of--I was on guard duty on top--and the waves were coming over, about washed me over the board, and I--this isn't for me. I went down in the hold and I told the sergeant, no German's going to be sense enough to get on board--ship--the waves are coming over like that. So why should I be on guard duty? So, he says--ah, you can stay down here. We finally made it to the Marseilles, France. Marseilles, France we had to climb the rope ladders down to little barges. And so, we had to take the patrol around the ships and the sailor gives me a paper bag and says--oh here--I says--what's that for? And he says--well, you might have to use it later on. So, after an hour of going around that ship over those waves and things--yes--when we hit the shore, I used that bag. [LAUGHS] And then we got out--outskirts of Marseilles and we bivouacked--put up 2-men pup tents. And it's starting to rain and it was raining and everything. They finally put us on railroad cars. The--I think they used--in the old days they used to call them--40 and 8's. They were cattle cars. So, we traveled three miles north and then stopped and they lead back up a couple of miles. I swear. And then we go 3 more miles or 4 miles and then we back up again. And this went on for a couple few hours and then finally took us off the train and put out on trucks. So, they trucked us up to the area called Epinol [sp?]--northwestern France. It's near the Swiss border and the German border. And we were fighting the--Voges [sp?] Mountains, which is part of the Alps of Switzerland. And our first day in battle, we had to climb this hill to get up on top. I couldn't climb that hill. You had to pull the branches and roots and pull myself up in there. I had to have somebody else carry my pack up. Somebody else carried canteens and-- Only thing--when I got to the top, I was the last one up. All I had was my rifle. Cause I couldn't give that away, they says. But I finally made it up on top of that ridge. Then we followed that ridge for the day. So, the first platoon, second platoon was up in front 200 yards ahead. We were in the 3rd platoon. So, we was in the rest area--about 200 yards back of the 1st platoon. And then artillery south started coming in. And then--we was talking together my friend and I said--what are we going to do when we get out of the Army? And this and that. And in the meantime, they had--90 day [?] lieutenant come in and his name was Lieutenant Schmidt. And he was of German descent, I found out. He was pacing back and forth and he was kind of worried. Until I stuck my two fingers underneath my nose and--zieg heil, I says. I thought he'd get a kick out of it. Instead, he chewed me out--[????]--and then artillery shells was coming in and--when they hit next to me, I picked myself from here to that cabinet there and I looked at myself. Oh gee--I ached all over. I had a little scar on my lip, my wrist here. But I looked down and my buddy is laying down--face down. And he had hit--the schrapnel tore his left shoulder blade area. And the blood was coming out of there like a lead pencil--just stream of blood. I couldn't stop it--not without choking him. I don't know. I tried to hold it for a while and then I let go and then I'd hold it. I called the medics--they gave him blood plasma. But he died on the way down. He lost too much blood. And--that--just that day--the day before was marching up--I saw Germans did--heads shot off and blown off. One was bloated up like a stuffed pig. And that didn't bother me--didn't think nothing of it. When one of our men was--dying--my buddy dying--that--that's hard to take for a while. But then we had to go march. And we--got--stopped because we hit landmines. So, we all had to spread out, lay on our stomachs and got our bayonets out and poked for landmine. Every inch we drew forward--a couple inches go slow--fired the width of our shoulders and went the other side and-- But I didn't hit any mines. But two others had hit the mines and blew up.

Unknown interviewer:

They blew up?

George Taro Sakato:

Yeah. And the others we finally found--[????]--landmines. And then we was able to--[?] north. And we followed this ridge for a while--couple days and then--fighting back and forth--delays. And then we had--got pinned down and machine gunned. So happened we had a tank come up--Sherman Tank. So I told him--I was in front talking to the Tank Sergeant. I said--there's a pile of rocks over there in that area. The Germans had built this machine gun nest in there. I want you to blow that out. I'm in front of the barrel yet and he lets go. Whoooo--they couldn't wait til I got to the other side of the barrel. And my ears are ringing back and forth. So I can't hear too well in this ear. And then finally made it--and we chased them off the ridge there. I Company was on the valley. 100th battalion was on the other ridge. So we were forming--going into this town of Berreres [sp?]. I Company went in--house to house combat--into the town of Berreres. So we liberated the town of Berreres. And then we kept that out. Cause they will take out the--Germans out.

Unknown interviewer:

Were you part of the hand to hand combat?

George Taro Sakato:

No. The--I-Company was--3rd Battalion was not--no, we're on the 2nd Battalion--we're on top of the ridge there. We was beating--and then after that, these counterattacks-- Saw a tank go out and we thought--whoa, he's leaving. He went out of town and turned and went into an open field. And pretty soon I see the barrel of the gun facing us and a ring of smoke coming out of the barrel. And--pow! Hey, he's shooting at us! [LAUGHS] Over the hill we went and I ran--I was trying to dig out the other side of the hill--oh. He couldn't dig about 4 or 5 inches and hit rock. And I couldn't dig--and artillery shells are coming in--and I crawled and grabbed my helmet and I'm crawling into the helmet as far as I could go. Stuck out my foot and see if I get hit--and I can get out of there. Nothing happened like that. So--artillery to the 88's--German tanks. It would hit the trees and the tree burst--and the shells would all fly down and rain down on us. And we're dodging them--this schrapnel or that schrapnel. They're just coming down on you. And a lot of them--we got hurt and wounded. So, I'm digging on the other side--digging a foxhole--I couldn't dig it and artillery shells are coming in. And I--then I looked up and I says--see the guy next to me and I say--he didn't recognize anybody. Hey--what company is this? F Company. Where is E Company? Oh, they're on the other side. Thought I--I still had to dig the hole cause the Germans are starting to come up the hill again. So, I fought with the F Company, shooting down and then finally after the [?] stopped, I was able to join my company again. And then we took that town of Berrerres--and liberated it. And the other hills we had to go to Belmont. And I took this one ridge--we took. And it--the road turns in rights--all the hills and another hill went up. And it turns to the right. So--but we got pinned down because the machine gun fire was over there. I kind of saw the smoke areas that were on the right side of the hill. And the front area was being hidden down also and machine gunned on the other side. So, I crawled down the hill, down across the road. Went down the hill and came back up the hill. And I crossed the road and I saw this great big log sitting there. Well, I'll get behind that log. Saw 2 Germans running up the hill. I thought--well, there's a machine gun--let's fire up at them. And lo and behold, on the other side of that log--here comes the machine gun up and the lieutenant comes up, hands up--the machine gun was still on the other side of that log. So, that was the first machine gun that I took. I didn't know it then--at that time. So I was able to get the Luger pistol in the belt. I kept that. And I stole the prisoners--that way--my guns to the left--so we took them as prisoners. And we took that hill and then we had 3 or 4 other hills to go to. So, a couple of weeks go by and then we took another hill. And only about 40 of us--we took the hill and went down the hill and we're 50 feet apart on this one knoll. If the guy was sitting down, I was sitting down, they couldn't see--we couldn't see each other. We'd stand up and we can see each other. So, in the meantime the Germans were shooting at us and I was shooting down at them. And we're at the bottom of this hill now and I have to climb that hill back up. The Sergeant says--let's go. So, they all went back up the hill and I'm shooting at a German that's shooting at me again. So then, I finally got up to the top of the hill. Whew. I looked up, nobody there. They left me. They thought I got shot down there. Cause I was the last one coming up. I don't know--where's our lines? It's getting dark. So, I piled into a bunch of bushes and I tore some of the branches off and I covered my face up. At night, when you're looking through those trees you couldn't see your hands in front of you. If you shook your hands in front. But at night, as long as you looked up in the air, then you could see--as long as you have the moonlight coming down. So, I laid in those bushes and I put the bushes to cover my face. And I hear foot--something--branches being cracked--somebody's coming up the hill. And I waited and I looked--silhouette I could see the outline of the German helmet. That's the German patrol--that's not ours. So, I didn't make a sound--I didn't breathe til that patrol left. So, I'm waiting another couple hours--I guess I'll have to wait til daylight. Another patrol comes up--then I says--the round helmet. Hey--that's ours. So, I called--hey, what company is this? Scared the living daylights out of him. F Company again. Where's E Company? I don't know where the hell I am, so how do I get back? So, I finally got back down and then I got down to the bottom of the hill and he--the Captain--Lieutenant--Sergeant, he says--he tells the Captain--well, you can cross Sakato off the list as missing in action. He's back. So, they had me listed in action--missing in action already. But then that day--that night--they were writing up citations for that hill. And we had to go be in another 36th division officers on a hill. And this one fellow that was--he's a college graduate, so he was writing up the citation for that hill. So, he had that in his--he put it back in his pocket and we had to go on this patrol. So, we met this colonel up there--he says--find his unit. It's somewhere 2000 yards up ahead. So, we followed the ridge and you could hear people chopping wood on this side of the hill and somebody was chopping wood on that side of the hill. And I thought--well, the troop--they're going to put cover over their foxholes. And when we dig a foxhole, you dig deep enough you can cover it with wood slots and branches, boughs on top of that. And throw dirt on top of that. And that was protection from the schrapnel. When it--hit the trees it hit the cover that you put on this instead of getting hit. So, I thought that's what was doing down there. And we met the boys up there and here in the foxholes and--I says--you see where the Germans are? Oh, he said--why couldn't they go up there and see where the Germans are? So we went up--headed 2000--200 yards--got pinned down in machine gun fire. Then a sniper was there. I hit the ground and I was behind a bush and a rock. Two other fellows--the guy that was writing the citation was on my right side and another fellow was on the other side of him. But they were out in the open. And I had another fellow on this left side. He was out in the open. All three of them just stuck their head up and the sniper hit them--through the temple, right up-- And the sniper couldn't see where I was, because I was behind this bush. They were supposed to hide behind the bush, but they didn't do it. And--so I crawled back--ask for the group back--we're pinned down up here--give us some help. They wouldn't get out of their hole. And so, we had a radio artillery man with us. So we called back the company to come back. So I crawled back and we pulled out of that unit. The next day we had to take that hill. And we rescued--got them out of the way and went to find our bodies--we found 2 of them. But the educated one that was writing all the citations had them in his pocket. I'm sure he died, but they said he was missing. He was missing. We couldn't find his body. But today, they said his body was in Italy. You got to go to the Alps--Alps--go to the other side to cross the Italian border and you go into Italy. I don't know how he got over there. But they may--the troop was still in that area--southern part of German--Italian Swiss Alps, and below Monaco and that area of the Italian border. So they were in that area and they could move back into Italy, across the Alps and go into Italy from there. They may have taken his body from there, but I don't know how he got there. But they said they found his body in Italy. But I don't think he was alive. But they thought maybe he was alive and find a way back there. But we finally took that hill and then we had to go to the town of DeFontayne [sp?] in France. This is another-- END OF SIDE A START SIDE B [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unknown interviewer:

Okay, so now you're continuing to move north.

George Taro Sakato:

We're going--southwest--southeast now. And we have taken this other area and we're going southeast to take this one ridge that overlooks the whole valley. And this ridge has a little mound of rocks casing down--and slopes down towards the meadow down here. All the trees were growing up here. So, the German soldiers were on mortars, you know, it was up here on the hill. Underneath that was the machine guns. Then another group of machines down--[???]. There was a valley--meadow sitting in front of this hill and the railroad tracks comes--the railroad supply route from Strasbourg, Antes, Belmont, Berrerres--Pierfonteyne [sp?] and to Paris. So, that was the German supply route. So, they-- And then they could see for miles, the troop movement, a mile away. So they had control of that valley and they wanted us to take that hill. Every time we crossed an open meadow, across the railroad track, an open meadow again, we were pinned down. We'd get mortar shells and artillery shells were coming in--the Germans could see us coming across. There was a bunch of trees on this side, but they couldn't spot us exactly which part of the trees or forest we were in. But if someone got in the open area, well they could see us there. Machine gun was fired up and so we had to spend the--we couldn't cross that railroad tracks. So, that night we got on trucks--they trucked us around a couple of the hills and we came back. And this time we were across enemy lines. And we marched all night. And we're now on the back of this ridge--

Unknown interviewer:

How many of you--?

George Taro Sakato:

E Company and F Company was coming across.

Unknown interviewer:

How many guys would that be?

George Taro Sakato:

Well, there's 40--platoon is 12, 4 squads of 12 men--48 people. And then--have another unit behind us. So we had a whole--on the backstraps as we marched that night, cause we couldn't see that fire--til you hit a tree. But way out here, you could barely see your hand if you--it was so dark. So dense--the forest was so dense. As long as you looked up, you could see the sky--and see. So, we marched all night and then at dawn we started our attack and we sped up our-- We sped out--were part of the original--with the center of the area. Following this ridge and where this rocky area was. So we caught the Germans off--off guard. They didn't know that we were in back of them now. And we were behind them now. So, we--took 3 machine guns out of that area and then we chased them off the hill. Chased them out of the foxholes and they scattered the other way and then--the meantime, I was taking prisoners back and we got all these souvenirs--the pals patches and-- And the group behind us--20 guys was supposed to hold the prisoners. And they--but then when we got back to them, all the insignias and everything was off of the prisoners. So, they wanted to join us--so they joined us. Now, they were 15, 20 feet behind us instead of--200 yards in back. So, we got this bond. So, we got surrounded. And then, the prisoners we had--escaped. So we--now, they're going to counterattack. Our artillery sites are coming in. So, we had to jump in the Germans' foxholes this time. And we--finally, the Germans as they try to come up the hill. And artillery shells are coming in and--I jumped in my hole and--pretty soon another guy jumps in with me and--ooh, from F Company. And he's from my hometown--Arizona. Hey--so we forgot all about the war and we just talked about home--shells were going off, boom--artillery shells. So we were talking about home. And then the counterattack really started coming in. Then the Germans would come up--here they got us--find another hole. From the left side, the left flank, then-- I had a Thompson submachine gun that I found from the tank that blew out. Funny, in basic training I was taking target practice with a rifle. The guy that's taking care of the targets, he would always give me a signal like this--a little pole with a red star indicating where you hit the target. They would-- But he waved it back and forth and--they call that Maggie's Drawers. I didn't even hit the target. I couldn't even--I couldn't hit the target. I--eeeehgads. What am I going to do with-- So, I found this Thompson submachinegun out of this tank. So, I took that. I had all kinds of firepower. As long as I leveled the Thommy--through the horizontal position, he would fire this way, fire the hell and upright--he would fire up and I wouldn't hit anything. So, we sort of decided I would fire like this for the shooting--all the bullets would go out. I didn't have to have a target. I can just--if somebody's in that area I'm going to shoot him. [LAUGHS] So, I had all kinds of firepower. So, I had--two boxes of ammunition, a pack and [???] in my pants pocket. 45 mil--when you're that small--about 2 or 3 boxes, they start to gettin' heavy. But I carried those and I put two clips together. I taped them both together. Each round clip had 30 rounds of ammunition. So, I emptied one of them--I reversed them. So had 60 rounds of ammunition firing. When the German attacks starts coming--charging up--I fired 60 rounds of ammunition--going out. I ran out and I picked a German rifle that the Germans had given up because they surrendered. So, I picked up that one and I started shooting. But I couldn't shoot that rifle. I had--I had used my pistol that I had from the German lieutenant. And I fired that. Then they stopped charging. So, there was a lull. And they were going to regroup. So, they were going to counterattack. So, I start filling my clips back up with ammunition. I was leaning back and I was looking up the hill and I see this group of German soldiers going up the hill with machine guns. So I says--hollered at the [???]--watch for the machine gun up at that end. So then, my buddy turns around and he stands up for some reason--I don't know why. And he says--where? And the machine gun shot him. So I crawled over to his hole and I picked him up and he's trying to say something to me. There's a gurgle and then pretty soon his body went limp on me. And I knew he died. I sat there and I held him--why? I told him to stay there--he didn't feel too good when we were going on this trip. Because he used to have--[???] automatic rifle. And the platoon sergeant give that to another squad. And gave him the grenade launcher. He didn't feel right. He didn't feel safe that he--like he was running out of money. He had all kinds of firepower--he felt good. But when he didn't have that--I told him to stay back for sick call. And he says--no, he's going to go and-- When he died, I was so mad I cried and ran up that hill. Where I got that energy to run that hill, I never had before. I could never climb a hill before. I had an excess surge of energy. I run up at that hill--zigzag back and forth--they're firing at me. As I ran up the hill I shot a few Germans and I brought some prisoners that gave up and I sent them back and--we took the hill. Told the rest of the platoon, let's go. They followed us, so we were able to take that hill. Then we had to go to another unit. We were there for two days and then we held up the area and we had to go to rescue the last battalion The unit--141st unit of the 36th division was surrounded by Germans for several weeks. They were running out of ammunition. They would parachute supplies to them, but the supplies--the Germans got it. So, this colonel--General Douglas, the 36th division says--442, go and rescue them. Men out of 36th division. So--100th battalion was on the right side and it was I-Company again, was in the middle. And in the valley--we were second platoons--the battalion was on the other ridge. We followed this ridge. Second day, I heard this mortar shell go off and hit the other hill the 100th battalion was on. I hit the ground, 2nd round went over there and I hit the ground again. And I heard the thing go off--boom--again. So I go--well, that's the final round on that hill. I had the final round--landed in back of me. Boom--blew up--picked myself up and artillery shell started coming in--and showers of artillery's coming in so we had to dig a foxhole. I laid--took my pack off and laid down, I'm trying to dig a hole, foxhole. I couldn't lift my elbow up--but I couldn't bring my arm up to toss it back. What's the matter? I get this far--but I can't get my arm up. I looked at the pack and I got a hole in that pack. I had an overcoat that was getting heavy and I was going to throw it away. But it started snowing, getting cold. So, I said--oh, I better keep it. So I folded it all--packed it in my backpack. Good thing I did. That artillery shell went through that overcoat to--the momentum of the overcoat--stopped the momentum. Hit my spine, richocheted--little schrapnel like this--in my lung here. It's still there. My souvenir. So, I went to the hospital. In the meantime, the [??] battalion--the I Company finally got them. Out of 40 men in the I Company, only 12 men could stand and walk. The rest were shot or killed or wounded. But we rescued the lost battalion of 280 men. But 800 of us were shot or wounded or killed in the battle to rescue them. But we did rescue that lost battalion. At the meantime, I'm down there in Epinol [sp?] in France--at a convalescent hospital there. They put me on a plane to go to England and the weather changed. And I was able to walk, so they set me on a pile of ropes. And the weather's coming in--I had to get off. But my records went with that plane. So, I will still back in the hospital in Epinol again--Thanksgiving--Christmas comes. The Battle of Verbot [sp?] started. Well, I guess I'm going to have to get my rifle--arm or no arm, I'm going to have to go back up. But the Battle of Bowes [?] was finally ceased. They were able to rescue--Battle of Bowes--Bastone. And then I finally got on a plane to go to England. Birmingham, England. I'm sitting in an England hospital there and I hear this motor going off--mmmmmmm. And it stopped. And everybody in the hospital was ducking under beds, ducking under tables and ducking under-- What's going on? Get under the table! Get under the table! They thought a bomb was--it wasn't a bomb. Buzz bomb. The rocket bombs the Germans had just started. And it would come over to the hospital area and the motor would die. And that's going to fall someplace. It finally landed in the next town--next--adjoining--where we had the hospital--Coventry. And they threw buzz bomb after buzz bomb going into that factory where they did all the supply [?].

Unknown interviewer:

Unbelievable.

George Taro Sakato:

And I'm sitting out there--finally get out and I hear the song--I Walk Alone. I cried. I was homesick. Finally, I got on board ship and took--going it took us 28 days. Hospital ship, like a Queen Mary. 5 days we was in New York City. New York Harbor. I saw the Statue of Liberty--was happy. [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC] Felt good to be home.

Unknown interviewer:

So, when did you find out that you were--you were going to receive the Medal of Honor. Where were you and who told you?

George Taro Sakato:

Well, the 8th month I was in Vancouver, Washington--hospital--and a month had gone by and then I get this letter from my kid brother--younger brother. And he sends me a newspaper clipping of my hometown, Redlands--one of his classmates had sent to him in Arizona. So he sent that to me and he says--why didn't you tell us you received the Distinguished Service Cross? I didn't receive a Distinguished Service Cross. Well, it says here in the paper--they know about it. So, I gave that to the Chaplain of the hospital there in Vancouver, Washington. So, he went to look for it. Next month I was shipped to--[???] convalescent hospital in San Diego, which would be closer to home. In the meantime, I was way out east, west--never near home. So, they sent me there. The day I was supposed to be discharged, Lieutenant Campbell comes up and says--we want you to stay over. The band is on furlough and they'll be back home and we'll have a big parade for you. Let's wait for them--to pin this medal on you. It finally came--Distinguished Service Cross. So, he pinned it--I said--I don't have time for it. Cause they other boys were being discharged the same time--they got the flights to go back to Hawaii and we'll go to Arizona. We're going to Arizona and then he spends a few days with us and then go home. So--he pinned the medal on in his office. So I went home--got discharged. So, I went to school--I started to go to school after discharging. And I was working--become a diesel mechanic. And nights I would work in the post office. So then I finally got out of school, got a job in Arizona converting marine diesels into water pump service. But the farmer says--well they can stay in their kitchen and pull the switch and electric motor or pump would go out there and irrigate the land. He said--if you bought the diesel engine here they'd have to get in his pickup go over and start it on and start the diesel engine and come back for breakfast. Said he couldn't sell them. So, one of us is going to have to leave. So I says--I'll leave, because my sister-in-law is going to have a baby. So my wife and I is going to go there. So we moved to Denver. I said--well, the diesel jobs--trucking companies, railroads--so I applied for a job. He says--you got 10 years experience? I just got out of the Army, how could I have 10 years experience. Alright, one year of schooling and they want me--10 years experience. Then he looked at me and he says--well, he's Japanese. So they wouldn't hire me. So I got another job as--fish plating trucks--extending the bodies of the trucks and making it a little longer. I busted my knuckles on this and that--what am I doing here? I'm going to the post office. There's no discrimination at the post office. I went to the post office. Retired 32 years in the post office--and retired. So, I'm at home--retired, enjoying fishing and golfing and everything and I get this call from the Pentagon. Mr. Kirk Gliders [???]--this is the Pentagon. We want you to come to Washington, DC--to the White House. What for? We're upgrading your Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor. June 20th--55 years later I go to Washington. June 20th, 2000. President Clinton gave me this medal. And the next day we went to the Pentagon office unit--the Hall of Heroes, they call it. Our names is inscribed in the Hall of Heroes names. In the unit there. So, they had a big ceremony in the--Pentagon itself--octagon--in the middle there's like a park and trees and going in--they had a big tent set up there. So they had a big ceremony. General Simsecki [sp?] and Kildare gave a presentation with my picture in a frame and my citation on it. Then he gives me his flag pin for the--his car-- [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC] So we went to the Pentagon and had this ceremony there in the tent. And all the dignitaries and senators and congressmen were in there. And so, we had--they made this presentation. Each one of us received a framed picture of us and our citation and we got to bring that home--shipped that home to us.

Unknown interviewer:

What does the Medal of Honor mean to you now? What does it mean to you?

George Taro Sakato:

When I--I couldn't believe they're going to give me the Medal of Honor. After all, I--90 days of actual combat. I was just a recruit. I was just a raw private. They sent me up for--well, they said--our records show that they had 52 recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross. So, they had a committee to go investigate--check each citation, and they said--my citation said that I was up for the Medal of Honor, but I was only given the Distinguished Service Cross. Senator Di Innoie [sp?], we were both in the same company. He was in the first platoon, I was in the third platoon. And we both received the medal that same day.

Unknown interviewer:

Really? It must have been thrilling.

George Taro Sakato:

Yeah.

Unknown interviewer:

Did--do you remember what President Clinton said to you? Was it anything memorable?

George Taro Sakato:

I don't know. He was pretty tall. Clinton. He didn't have to reach over--he just reached down and pinned it on me and I shook his hand. He gave me a salute. I salute back.

Unknown interviewer:

So--so what does it mean to you, though? When you think about it.

George Taro Sakato:

Well, to me--I didn't deserve it. There's others--more than what I did. But to--able to receive the medal--I just couldn't believe that they were going to give me a medal, actually. And the others in my--my platoon sergeant should have--he got the Distinguished Service Cross. And the others--Colonel Kim, he was Korean--he's a lieutenant--90 day wonders. They put him into the Army with us and they--officer says--you're Korean and these boys are Japanese. Koreans and Japanese don't get along due to the--previous wars. He says--he knew that. He says--that's alright. The boys will accept him. We're fine. We're all Americans. And so, we're going to fight this war. He was a damned good soldier. He was a good lieutenant. And he got the DSC. He should have received the Medal of Honor.

Unknown interviewer:

If you tell your--I mean, how has the medal changed your life?

George Taro Sakato:

Since I received the medal, I've been called to go to various places to talk to various--at the various hospitals, various army camps and army, air force--units. Of course, they paid my way there. And so I would talk to a group and explain what happened. How I actually went to combat.

Unknown interviewer:

What do you--tell younger kids, like teenagers? What do you tell them--

George Taro Sakato:

I went to class today--at the high school--east of here--talked to the students there. I says--first thing you want to do is get an education. When I went to school, I was running around with a bunch of rich boys that had cars. And we ditched school. I didn't finish my schooling that good. I passed, but--I kick myself 10 times over for not learning, staying--taking care of my schoolwork. So, I told the kids--be sure you get your education and if you can--for the boys, I think it's--2 years in service to learn discipline--how to take orders. The kids nowadays--they don't seem to want to take orders. They don't want to do things. And a little background of Army discipline would change the whole system around, and the kids would be a lot better going off. And as long as they get their education, learn discipline and how to live in this world. But first, they've got to respect the flag. This is your country. I'm an American. Jim an Italian. They're all Americans. But the Germans--Italians didn't have to go to camp like we did. But some did go, I hear. And then, but at least they were able to get around and--as the kids would learn to respect the flag and do their duty for America, I think this would be a better country, altogether. Respect each other, no matter what nationality or religion they have--respect them. I feel sorry for the Arabs now, cause they're in the position that we were in. But I don't know if they'll put them in camps, something like that. Because I think the government has realized that putting us into camps was wrong and they realize that now. So--maybe this world will come together, gel together, become a nation. And we won't have anymore wars and stuff.

Unknown interviewer:

Thank you very much. It's been a great interview. [END OF TAPE]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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