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-01-0023

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Talk a little bit about how you were injured. I wanna get that story about your wound and how that happened, 'cause at that point --

AI: And where that was.

TI: Yeah, right. And where, so, if you could explain that because at that point you're in the platoon?

TY: Yeah, I was in Company I, 1st Platoon medic.

TI: At this point I think you were in France.

TY: Yeah, we were in France. It was just, just shortly before the "Lost Battalion."

TI: So this was after the liberation of Bruyeres?

TY: Yeah, it was... well, I know the exact date. It was October 19th and -- there's several interesting incidents about that, too. Now, when I got wounded, we were, I think our platoon leader, the first lieutenant, I think he really, it was a mental mistake. We dug in in an area we thought on the opposite slope of where the German were. And we dug in and we dug our slit trenches. And then shortly thereafter we started getting shelled. And the shell was coming, not from that direction directly ahead of us, but it was from our flank. And so we, we were in the wrong place. And a German .88 from a Hollister was being shot directly at us and their trajectory is just almost straight. And it comes very fast. You hear it going off and split second later you hear a tree, hitting a tree or, and I got wounded by a tree burst. But because we were in the forest, thick forest area, well, it was really lot of people got wounded because it would hit a tree burst, it would hit the tree and then the shrapnel, thousand piece of shrapnel would, fragments would spray down to you like rain. And so even if you're in flat trench, it's coming from top of you so there's no way of getting out and getting away from that. So we had a lot of casualty in the -- shortly thereafter start calling medic so I just run like crazy to patching people up and I must have patched up about four fellows and in the process I got hit. Well, when I heard the shell coming, I hid behind a big tree, about this big. But as luck would have it, I had my leg sticking out, and that's where I got hit, on my right leg, right below the knee. And so I just walked over, limped over to the aid station by myself, and I looked at my wound and it was, it didn't look very serious. So, but I thought gee, God, it's not too serious. They're gonna probably send me right back again. And as it turned out, the shrapnel hit the bone and so that was serious enough so they sent me back. But all that time when I found out that it hit the bone, well, I had a smile on my face. And I remember the chaplain was there and he said, "Tosh," he said, "you're the only one who's come in here for the aid station wounded and you're smiling." [Laughs] Said, "Why?" I said, "I think I have a million dollar wound." And that's indeed what I had.

TI: Explain the "million dollar wound." What was that?

TY: Well, it's -- even if the shrapnel was just, just the size of about half of your small fingernail, tip of your finger, but it embedded in the bone so it was serious enough that they had to send me back to the hospital. And another thing, once little, small shrapnel like that hits the bone, it's small enough so that it really doesn't do that much damage but it takes a long time to heal. And another good thing about shrapnel is that when they, when you get hit by shrapnel, it's hot enough that it's sterile when it goes into the wound so you don't have to worry too much about infection. And so they usually leave it in there. And I still have it in there. And it really doesn't bother me that much but, except when cold weather or something, it does bother me if I stay on my, stay on my feet for a long time it bothers me a little bit. But I'm able to play tennis so that's okay.

So it, being a bone wound, it took several months to heal. And at that time they flew me, we were in France but they flew me back to Naples, Italy to the general hospital there. And I stayed there about three weeks and then one week they send you from the hospital to what they call rehab center. They rehab you for the kill again. Fatten you up for, to send you back out on the line so, I was in rehab center for a month going to physical training and, almost like going through basic training. And then in February they sent me back to the unit when they were in Nice, France.

But the incidents about being wounded -- when we were at the 50th reunion, in Bruyeres, France, I met the fellow that was on the tour group that I was in, he had an artificial hand and... what was his name? Oh, I can't remember. But anyway, I sat next to him, one lunch time, and talked with him and he, I said, "Oh, you must have gotten wounded overseas?" And he says, "Yeah." I said, "Where'd you get wounded?" And he said, "Just before Bruyeres." And I said, "Oh, that's where I got wounded." I told him. And he said -- and so I said, "What company were you in?" He says, "Company I." I said, "I was the Company I medic." He says, "Oh yeah?" Said, "You're the one who must have been, patched me up when I got wounded," and, because he got wounded October 19th. And I was so surprised. [Laughs] So he put his arm around me, says, "Thanks." And I have a picture of him. But anyway, I remember him because he, his hand, he was very seriously wounded. And at that time when I bandaged him I said -- the first thing you think of when they're bleeding badly is where is the best; where is the pressure point. And I thought, God, where would it be? And I panicked for a second deciding where, what'd I'd do with him. And I, if put a bandage on him. So I remember. I didn't remember who it was, but I remember the event happening. But, that was kind of interesting that I met someone I had bandaged up and it was the very day that I got wounded, too, so that made it twice as interesting.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.