Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Fred Shiosaki Interview
Narrator: Fred Shiosaki
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: April 26 & 27, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-sfred-01-0031

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: Okay, so, so then what happened after this?

FS: Oh, God. I don't know. [Laughs] We, we... at some point, they, they said, "You're going, going to rest, going, we're gonna pull you back," and they, they said, "You're gonna have five days off line, we're gonna pull you back." We, our platoon moved into an old, old tavern, something, building at the crossroads there somewhere, and God, we got a hot shower, and had a hot meal, got clean clothes.

TI: Now, how important were these rest times? When they say "five days' rest," what does that mean to you?

FS: You know, the tension is off, you get a chance to write letters, you get a chance to just, you really let down. It's like any other high-tension thing, you get, you get to let down. There's no longer the worry about, this guy gonna take a shot at you, or artillery shell's gonna land or something. And it, you just, the amenity is, hey, you get to take a shower and eat warm food. And if you're lucky, the mail comes in, and then you get to write home. So, so we were out, down, rest, at two o'clock that morning they came and says, "You're moving back up." Oh, Christ, so you put your gear together and pack up.

TI: There must be grumbling, though, happening, when something like that happens, or you guys again, just take orders and just...

FS: You know, but just, I think maybe we accept those things. I don't recall that there was any, any proposal to revolt or anything, it just, hey, just, that's, if you're a dogface you accept those things, and that's it. You're gonna, you're gonna do what they tell you. So yeah, you fall out on the road, you're gonna, you're out on the road here, "I want you out here in an hour," or something, I don't remember the time, and we're going. So you pack up, and I tell you, it's, you're in the woods in the wintertime, days are short, and it's blacker than the inside of a wolf. Can't see a damn thing, and all you hear is, "Hey, we're moving out," and so basically you hang onto the guy in front of you, you can't see.

TI: So literally you're, you're holding onto the person in front of you.

FS: Oh, yeah. Yeah, other, it's like putting a bucket over your head. You can't see anything, there's just absolutely nothing. You walk along, you stumble, you bump into the guy in front of you, the guy behind you bumps into you, but you're moving and it's pitch dark, and light doesn't come for a few hours. Gradually, I, and the engineers had corduroyed the road, logs across it for some distance, and then it just got muddy. Along, along about daylight -- and daylight probably didn't come 'til seven o'clock -- we hear a firefight going on ahead of us. And, and we, we move up, move up, and finally the whole column stops. And so when the column stops like that, you dig in. We were, we were on a trail along the ridge, and you dig in and you, just a little slit trench or something, but just gets you off the ground. The fire, firefight gets intense, intense, intense, usually the thing, the firefight ends and you move up a little bit more, geez, we didn't move at all. This firefight kept going and going. And the next morning, we were, I'm still in there. I think, I think I'm still in the same trench, or somewhere another ten yards up, and we're stuck there; the platoon is stuck there. This general comes marching, walking alongside us.

TI: This is General Dahlquist?

FS: I learned later it was General Dahlquist. And with him is, is his aide de camp and some other officers. And up ahead he meets our battalion commander, Colonel Purcell, and they're talking. And it's very apparent that the general is agitated about something.

TI: So this is, you can actually see this.

FS: Yeah, I could see part of it, if you looked. And what he was saying is, obviously was saying, "I want you to rescue my lost battalion up there." And our whatchamo is talking back to him, you know, trying to move troops, I guess. And we're stuck there. I think we might have moved up a few yards that day, but that's the same situation. We were in the mortar section, so what can we do with the trees over? And it goes like this, every morning the general comes up there. Finally, maybe the third day, he comes up there, and there's a burst of machine gun fire, a shell, and the general has blood on him and he's walking back, and his aide de camp isn't with him. It turns out that, that aide de camp was Wells Lewis, Sinclair Lewis's son, which was a major, major problem, publicity problem, too. We, the struggle went on for three or four more days, and we move up gradually. One night I hear a tank off on, we hear a tank off on the left, and there's a German tank clanking in there. And you knew at daylight that son of a bitch was gonna open up on us. A guy named Yogi crawled down there and hit that tank with his bazooka. He was the guy who took my job as a bazooka man. He was killed, got DSC for that, 'cause the Germans could have wiped us out if that tank had stayed in that way.

TI: So he, he essentially sacrificed his life, because he knew that...

FS: Well, either that, I don't know whether he was killed there or what, but he was killed up, the "Lost Battalion." Finally that, finally after the fourth day, fifth day, we started to move and move and move. And the general isn't up there, and the colonel is pushing us up, and this terrible firefight is taking place. And the, finally we, the path goes this way and then we curve up to, to hit, finally, the German strongpoint. And just, artillery coming in, and rifle fire, small arms fire, and God, as I started up that slope, I see this kid I was friends with, with a bullet in his head. Jesus, I don't know... finally, we were all moving up, the colonel, we'd been ordered to move, and so we're moving, and the firefight is going on. And a shell hits the tree above me and I get knocked down, and Jesus... I said, "God, I'm hit." And one of the guys comes over to me and says, "Are you," pulls the sweater up, and there's a big piece of shrapnel in my side, and I'm, I'm not bleeding a hell of a lot, but I'm bleeding. And the medic patches it up, puts something on it, that's it, so we keep going. But as we cleared... the ridge is like this, and the ridgeline drops over here, and the main, main attack is up this side of the ridge, and there's Colonel Purcell, big as, big as God, six-feet-six, standing there and waving us on: "Come on, you guys, let's go, let's go." And I'm sure that that finally just did it. Everybody just moved, and suddenly in combat, you know the battle is over when the firearms stop, and it just quit, it just, whump, and it was quiet. And all you heard, all you heard then was artillery fire off in the distance, and, "My God, it's done." I don't know, there was just hardly anybody left.


TI: So the, the firefight stopped, which, I guess, says to me that you broke through.

FS: Broke through the German strongpoint, yeah.

TI: And, and then I imagine, sooner or later, was able to break through and get to the "Lost Battalion."

FS: Yeah, I, and I don't know what time of day it was or anything, you know, it was light. And we sat down and kind of licked our wounds, and I guess it was later in the afternoon, these really, these guys start filtering back through there, and they bummed some cigarettes, and asked for water, and they wanted, they headed on back, they walked on out.

TI: So did you know who these guys were? Did you know that you rescued them?

FS: You know, we didn't know anything about this, except the general really wanted us to do something. And hey -- [laughs] -- it was not until we got off line and we, and we heard what it was all about. Hell, just another battle, as far as I'm concerned. No, there was no, hey, we're gonna rescue these guys, kind of stuff. Nobody ever told us that. But then, you're dumb, dumb infantrymen, what the hell. [Laughs]

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.