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Title: Tosh Yasutake Interview
Narrator: Tosh Yasutake
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: November 14, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-ytosh-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Going back to Shelby a little bit, just in terms of how you were bonding with the other men.

TY: Uh-huh.

TI: So, it sounds like it was more bonding with the other medics rather than --

TY: Yeah.

TI: -- with the...

TY: For us it was. But I think for aid men that were assigned to various companies, I think they probably bonded with the infantrymen that they were, that their company, that company were assigned to. And some of the close -- I'm thinking about some of the close friends I had during basic training were people like myself who were pretty young and we... one of the fellows that I got acquainted with very well was one of the Hawaiian fellows. And he was kinda like me. He was kinda naive. And when we were overseas I remember, he and a couple of us who were about the same type of personality, went to museums and things like that while some of the other fellows went elsewhere. [Laughs] And somehow you pick up, friends that you pick up are people with common interests, I think, a common personality. Like some of the medic friends that I have now, the old army buddies, I really wasn't that close with them during basic training. Not at all, in a matter of fact. One fellow who is a retired MD now, that I in fact talk to him about once a week over the telephone. He's in New York. He lives in Long Island and he and I met on the fiftieth reunion in Hawaii, re-met, re-met. And until then I really knew him fairly well but not, but wasn't really close to him. And then we really bonded at that time. I don't know, for some reason. We've been really close since then. And we've been exchanging e-mail and... but he was one of the cadres. He was much older than, he's about four years older than I am. Four or five years older than I am. He was --

TI: And so I was going to get to that next. Curious, so, the officer in charge of your unit, was he a Caucasian? Or was he --

TY: The top, the top two officers, the medical -- Major Buckley, who was the head of the medical detachment, he was a hakujin. And one fellow under him, assistant to him was Dr. Hogan, he was a dentist, and they were two hakujins. But rest of then were all, most of them were Niseis.

TI: Were there Nisei doctors in the unit?

TY: Yeah.

TI: Actually had medical degrees?

TY: And then, when we went overseas, there were two doctors assigned to each battalion aid stations. And they were all Niseis. And Dr. Hogan and Dr. Buckley and Dr. Hogan went overseas with us. And there were, I think there was another hakujin doctor but I don't think he went overseas with us. Somebody mentioned them and I don't really remember him. But most of the MD's, all the MD's were, except for the two top officers, were Niseis. And one interesting, one fellow's name is Okonoge. He grew up in Brooklyn in an Irish neighborhood. And I remember we, at first when he came we used to call him Okonoge, Dr. Okonoge or Captain Okonoge, and he said, then he -- couple of weeks after he says, "It's not Okonoge. There's an apostrophe after the O. It's O'Konoge." [Laughs]

TI: So he had an Irish last name?

TY: Well, no. Okonoge is his name.

TI: Oh, it is but then --

TY: Okonoge is, but then all you do have to put an apostrophe after the O, and they call him O'Konoge. [Laughs]

TI: I got it. Okay. That's good.

TY: I thought that was really funny.

TI: Yeah. Oh, it's unusual that he was a captain, also.

TY: Yeah.

TI: Was that unusual to have a Nisei as --

TY: No, no... now what did he come there as? I wonder if they got promoted... no --

TI: In the field?

TY: Dr.... I think they were all, most of the battalion surgeons were captains. So Dr. Ushiro was a lieutenant when he went over and he got his, became a captain and got a battlefield promotion. So, but the other doctors I think were already captains when they went overseas.

TI: For a medical, sort of, in the field medical unit, was the sort of level of medical expertise pretty similar to what you would see in other, perhaps Caucasian units? Do you have a sense of that in terms of how the 442 medical team sort of compared with the other units?

TY: Well, I thought that our doctors were always a little better, but maybe that's just, not necessarily so. I don't know. But I felt that they were better. But I think that's more -- I'm not sure whether that's true or not.

TI: That was just from your sense? Or did people just kind of feel like that in the unit, that the doctors were --

TY: It was just my sense, I think. Yeah. I'm not too sure whether that's a rational summation of the whole thing, but I think it was true. And I always, well, I felt that way about the 442 itself, so, that's more emotional than intellectual conclusion, I think.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.