Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Masao Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Masao Watanabe
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 19, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-wmasao-01-0029

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: Sort of switching gears here a little bit.

MW: Be careful. Geez. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] I know. We'll switch gears here. We, you've been talking about the closeness of Seattle boys. And in a similar way, I want you to talk a little bit about the closeness of just the 442. Because, as we talked about earlier, it came across that the 442 was a very special unit. And what I'm trying to do is get a sense of what made it special. And so I want to get some of your thoughts about what made the 442, and primarily the men who served in the 442, a special group.

MW: You ask very easy questions. This is pretty deep, because, I think I mentioned before, that my conclusion or my review of what went on and the relationships goes right back to the Isseis and where they were from, and what they were teaching their kids regardless of whether they were in Seattle or Hawaii or whatever. And I think the growing up from the same mold made it so much easier for us to get together so much faster. There was nothing mysterious about some of the philosophies or, you know, "Oh, God, that's what my dad used to tell me," or something. It was very, very easy in my way of thinking for us to get together.

TI: And so this commonness, how did that sort of manifest, or show itself on the battlefield? I mean, what were some sort of things that would happen that, because of that closeness that might have been different than other units?

MW: To show it? [Laughs] I think I guess the best way I can explain it for myself is, you've heard of these scary patrols and things. You know, combat, recon patrols. And I can't ever recall going on one where I didn't have faith in the Hawaiian or mainlander in front of me or in back of me, if something happened to me, that they would somehow get me back or do everything they can do to help. Regardless of where they were from. And I think that's the kind of trust that you, that's very hard to explain.

TI: And you felt the same way, that if one of your buddies went down...

MW: Or Hawaiian, yeah.

TI: would do everything to help.

MW: It didn't matter to me, Buddhahead or not. In fact, I had the experience of being between two guys -- we had volunteered to go get some ammo and food -- and one was a Hawaiian and one was a mainlander. And I was in the middle. They both got hit so it was my (decision as to who I take first. We were still quite a ways from the aid station) and the only thought that came in my mind at that time was not Hawaiian or mainlander, but who was hit the worse. And I like to think that that's just the way the rest of the guys felt. You know, who needed the help initially. I think this closeness came real fast.

TI: Because it is extraordinary. The 442 is the most highly decorated unit for the period of time, for that short a of period of time. And so I'm just trying -- because as I read and hear more about it, it sort of falls along with what you were saying. Because oftentimes, men would put their lives at risk to really help others, or because their unit was threatened, they would do things to take it out of action and so...

MW: What's your question? As to...

TI: Well...

MW: How come they did this?

TI: Yeah, there wasn't a question there. I guess, that was just an observation in my...

MW: I'm going to respond with an observation. Okay. There were quite a few times when we were on patrols, and it used to shock me that we would see a Caucasian soldier here or we would pick up a black soldier here. And the impression that I had was they just took off. You never heard about that about the Buddhaheads. We went in together or we came out together. I mean, we didn't -- gee, like in the Vosges Mountains or something. Boy, we picked up a lot of these stragglers, and I can't recall when we picked up a 442 guy or a 100th guy. Something about us that we went in together or came out together. We didn't just leave guys flat. I think, at least that's an indication or if that tells you something. It sure tells me something.

TI: No, I...

MW: There is a lot of trust. And, well, I think you depend on each other, but you can depend on 'em.

TI: That's good.

MW: I hope that's an answer.

TI: No, that is. That's very good.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.