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-01-0034

<Begin Segment 34>

TI: Okay. Let's talk about the Gothic Line then. I interrupted you when you were just going to talk about the Gothic Line.

MW: One of the last real combat experiences that I had (was our successful assault on the main fortress of the famous Gothic Line). (A Sansei reporter from) San Francisco and her father returned to the Gothic Line to video -- it was Honor Bound -- (...) where we were. So that would have been the best illustration of where we were. But from my perspective, that was one of the most crucial battles that we had, and the most successful. We breached what was an impregnable defense line in a matter of hours by the way that we climbed up this horrible mountain, and when we reached the top, all the emplacements -- I'm talking about concrete emplacements -- anyway, we were behind 'em. So it was the first time in a long time that we ever attacked downhill. But that was a main fortress of the Gothic Line, Mt. Folgorita and we had breached it to a point where we took the place in a matter of... well, I was going to say minutes, but hours. We broke the line, that part of it, that segment, but that being the heart of the line. It really did a lot of damage to the Germans.

TI: Well, so the Germans were totally unprepared for an attack...

MW: These little Japs coming up from the back.

TI: ...from the back side.

MW: Yeah.

TI: So all their guns were pointed the other direction. Which, yeah, I guess, I'm trying to imagine for them to be so unprepared for the 442 to essentially scale that mountain must have been totally unheard of or unthought of by the Germans.

MW: That's right.

TI: What was it like climbing that mountain?

MW: Scary.

TI: With approximately how many people? You had three battalions.

MW: Yeah, but then each battalion, the whole battalion isn't fighting at the same time. So you have one company in reserve and then like us, we were one of the lead companies. But even within the company, we had two platoons forward and one platoon back so the organization of a battle was by triangles. And at this point because I kind of pinpointed it as a crucial battle, I'd like to give credit to the Italian partisans. Without them we couldn't have gotten where we did. And they housed us the night before we left, and each squad, practically, had a partisan to lead them up the hill. I mean, they knew the hill back-, I don't think we could have done it without them. They knew the trails and how to get up there and best way and where the Germans were. So with due credit, we did what they had hoped we would do. And that in turn became what I considered the most crucial battle that we had.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.