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-01-0035

<Begin Segment 35>

TI: Now, going back -- I guess the, so the Italian partisans, helped guide you up the hills. I wanna know, roughly how many soldiers scaled that mountain?

MW: Well, we were one of the lead companies. There were two companies that went up, and each company there's two platoons that lead, and one platoon behind. But, because of the treacherous trails and things, we went up in a single line at times, or two lines at the most. So we didn't go in a battle formation, per se. So it was one squad at a time. It was a real rough climb.

TI: And so a squad is about ten or...?

MW: No, twelve, roughly. Yeah.

TI: Twelve. And roughly how many squads do you think went up in total? I mean, a platoon has what, how many squads?

MW: Three.

TI: Three squads.

MW: But then, the trails were so narrow, one squad went up at a time.

TI: Right.

MW: I mean, it wasn't like a battlefield, where you can space out people. If you had a small trail, you go one at a time.

TI: Right, right. Were there any, I guess, accidents, going up the hill?

MW: Yeah, I heard of several. And, I say, "I heard of," because I didn't hear them falling down. But there's been several stories of guys who slipped and fell, and I didn't hear 'em. But the medics were talking about, "Gee, this squad, we lost one guy, but we didn't -- nobody heard 'em."

TI: So, literally, they were climbing the mountain...

MW: Oh, yeah.

TI: ...and then they would slip and fall.

MW: Fall.

TI: To their death? Or injury?

MW: Well, in one case, a guy fell to his death, and then another, he broke a few bones. But we didn't hear a thing. So they were pretty well glamorized, because they were so silent.

TI: As they fell.

MW: I would have probably screamed like hell.

TI: And then when you got to the top, what... I would imagine you would wait for everyone to reach the top.

MW: Yeah, once our squad was intact, got up to the top... I'm gonna, it's a crummy term to use in a war, but, boy, it's the first time we were up above the Germans. And all the gun emplacements were aimed south. We were above 'em, and we attacked 'em when the guns were facing the other way. So we took a couple of emplacements just like that.

TI: 'Cause I imagine the Germans up there had not...

MW: They had no idea we were.

TI: Had no idea. And in some ways, they probably were sitting up there for a long time, just waiting, they weren't really...

MW: Yeah, they were just having a good old time.

TI: ...and so they weren't really, probably, as battle-tested...

MW: They weren't ready, that's right.

TI: you were.

MW: Well, they were veteran troops, but, gee, who would've thought that there'd be a squad coming from the north, you know?

TI: Yeah.

MW: Fantastic, huh?

TI: Yeah, that's amazing. Because that did, that broke the line that, you're right, that had been there for a long time and no one had been able...

MW: That was the bulwark of what they called the Siegfried -- Gothic Line. Which stretched, I don't know how many miles, across Italy, east to west. And Folgorita was probably the highest peak of the row of mountains that constituted the Gothic Line. And once we got past that, you could see the whole Po Valley, and you could even see parts of the Alps, I believe it was. So it was smooth sailing once we got past that. That's why I think it was such a crucial battle.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.