Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
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-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: And tell me about, we got into it a little bit, but the casualties of the medics. I mean, you mentioned you had to replace someone who was shell-shocked. Was it pretty common for the medics on the front lines to be injured or killed, and had to be replaced? Was that pretty --

TY: Yeah, when a fellow, when I got wounded, the fellow that replaced me got killed the second day. And the fellow that replaced him got seriously wounded. So, and I, now how many, actually the KIA, the killed in action medics weren't that many. Well, one is too many, actually. But I'd say at least a dozen of the group were killed in action. And George Sawada that I was telling about, he was one of the first ones. He was about, maybe a week or so after we're on the front lines.

TI: You mentioned he was shot by a sniper?

TY: Pardon?

TI: He was shot by a sniper?

TY: Sniper. Actually, he was such a valuable personnel that he was assigned to headquarters, also. And he -- when we're in thick of battle, when things are getting so bad that they needed volunteers to volunteer as litter bearers, and he volunteered to go. And on the way back, well, sniper got him. And after, I remember after he got back --

TI: Now, litter bearers, would they have arm bands --

TY: Yeah, at that time we still had arm bands on.

TI: -- designated as Red Cross?

TY: And the Red Cross on the helmet, and at that time we did. As I told you before, it was shortly thereafter we just took 'em all off. We took the arm bands off and helmets off, not that they were particularly picking on us, on medics, but we thought that, well we don't wanna take a chance. I mean, why take a chance and, such a good target that we decided would be best to, not to wear them, so we didn't. Yeah, well, I kept the medic roster and I think the record I have it must be about, not even a dozen, maybe ten or so medics were KIAs. But there were a lot of them wounded, though.

TI: But when your friend was killed, it must have been devastating to the other medics.

TY: Yeah.

TI: Because he was such a --

TY: Because, for one thing, he was one of the first casualties. And so it hit us all real hard. And not only that, I remember Dr., or Major Buckley, or was it Dr.? Captain Hogan, anyway, he lambasted the sergeant who was in charge of the litter bearer to even let George go as a litter bearer. He says, "You shouldn't have let him go even if he volunteered." I remember him bawling him out. But, that's the way things happen in wartime, I guess.

TI: 'Cause trained medical staff were, I mean it was, they were so valuable --

TY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

TI: -- the trained medical staff. That they were to be protected and...

TY: Yeah, he was very valuable man, but, well that's one thing I've -- my philosophy during the war time has changed because I became a fatalist because without being that I think that it would have been difficult to survive psychologically. I began to think that, well, when my time comes, it'll come no matter where you are. We might be just sitting eating lunch and some stray bullet will hit you or, or when your time comes, well, it will just come and it doesn't matter what you'll be doing. You might be in thick of battle and if you're lucky you just be okay. And so I just felt that -- so once I philosophized that, well I decided, then things keep, took, it was little easier to take. Because once when I got, we got assigned to, as a company aid man, Company I, well, every day during the battle you think, "Well, I wonder if today is the day." And I think everybody thinks that. But, in the beginning you worry about it, but then later on you decide that maybe the fate will take care of it and so why worry about it so much. Otherwise you end up in Section Eight, being a psycho case or something so... I think a lot of people, the fellows often, their thinking changed a lot during the wartime like that. And even now I feel that in a way. I feel that one of these days my time comes it will come whether I'm walking in the street or driving a car or, it's just so...

TI: Well, do men turn towards religion or other things at times like this to help them try to regain some sense of control over --

TY: Well, I'm not really a particularly religious individual. I went to Japanese, Seattle Japanese Methodist Church for years until December 7th. And I was baptized a Christian, but of course when I was baptized I was only about fourteen years old and I was -- since the war, after I came back, I really didn't go back to church. But I did become a Unitarian, which is a lot more liberal-thinking. And so, and, but I, I envy people who are very religious because they have something to fall back on when things get really tough. I mean, I think from a psychological standpoint, I think it's very good, but, but I'm not very religious, actually, and --

TI: You mentioned earlier, though, there was something and, and you called it a superstition --

TY: Yeah.

TI: -- with, could you talk about that a little bit?

TY: Oh, well, what I mentioned was that I'm not a superstitious individual, either, really, but at times, stressful time like during the war, I remember I did smoke, not smoke a lot, just smoked occasionally, smoked cigarettes, and we're out in the line just smoking. All of us really took care not to light three individuals with one match, three cigarettes with one match, because that was considered bad luck. And I remember when they lit two, well, we always blew that one out and lit another one and, with another match and I don't think I -- if there was a ladder I would have walked under that, either. [Laughs] Even if I didn't, wasn't superstitious, I thought, well, just in case, why take a chance? Why tip the scale if you don't have to? And I guess lot of people felt that way. Lot of fellows felt that thing. And I say, "Well, are you superstitious?" "No, I'm not superstitious." Yeah, right. [Laughs]

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.