Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Susumu Ito Interview
Narrator: Susumu Ito
Interviewer: Stephen Fugita
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: July 3, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-isusumu-01-0024

<Begin Segment 24>

SF: You mentioned Dachau. Of course, the 522 was very famous for its part in the Dachau situation at the end of the war. Maybe you could kind of review those things.

SI: I can tell you a little bit about, although I can only say that I was near there. If you look in that book and look at the march orders of our unit date by date, the battalion records show in one date... someplace in April a few days before the Lost Battalion, it says Lieutenant S. Ito was attached as forward observer to such and such infantry regiment. I have no recollection of this. The movement before then was so hectic, so disorganized, and so rapid that we were just -- no one seemed to know what the hell was going on. We were -- I remember riding on tanks one day about twenty-five miles, riding on trucks another day, and one day walking about twenty-five miles with the infantry, and it was not our infantry. We were separated from the 442nd, it was just the 522nd, we were just giving additional fire power. And being an observer, I would be attached to different units, but I don't have clear recollection of this. And at the time of passing west of the Dachau, we were some oh, ten, fifteen kilometers to the west, our route of march. So it gets very confusing here because we saw a lot of prisoners released, we saw a lot of dead Dachau prisoners with the stripes, dead along the road.

SF: This was earlier as you were going into the area?

SI: The gates were open and they were heading south into Bavaria. It snowed a day or two after, they made lumps in the snow. We took on one fellow who was... became Larry Lubetsky, and he's mentioned in that book also. He was a young Jewish -- I think he was Latvian or Lithuanian. He spoke German well, he spoke English, he became our interpreter. And his recollection of being rescued by -- but he was already out of the camp. Now, there are some... and there was very little firing going on. There was very little fire from the Germans. We captured a lot of them along the way. They would just come up out of the woods. They had no will to fight. Some of them were young kids that looked like they were fifteen, sixteen years old, and this was... although, you see, records say -- and I think one of the best compilation of evidence is what Ted Sukiyama wrote in that portion of Fire For Effect of the chronology, the evidence, of various people gave of our involvement with Dachau. Some claim they saw the gates, some claim they shot open the lock, some claim they went into camp when the prisoners were there. The guards left and left the inmates there. I didn't experience any of this, but there were many small subcamps. We spent a week at the National Archives in the Library of Congress five years ago, I think, with Saul...

SF: Eric Saul.

SI: What?

SF: Eric Saul.

SI: Eric Saul, Rudy Tokiwa, Clarence Matsumoto, and George Oiye and I looking through to see just where we were and whether there were any further evidence that we were attached to an outfit that was directly involved. We didn't find any, but -- so I get asked by Jewish groups to speak to them because they find it a gold mine to try to make a parallel between us, internment camp, the Germans, and concentration camps. And it's good PR and fund raising and so forth. And I think this first came to light when Eric Saul got a hold of George Oiye when we were having our reunion in San Francisco.

SF: What year was that?

SI: I think it's five years, six years ago. We had -- we thought well, we'll have a Charlie Battery reunion, and I said I'm in Boston, but I'll help whatever I can, and we put out a book. Oiye put out a book. He was not working because he got in trouble with social security and he couldn't work. He owed them a lot of money because for some reason or other -- about putting in social security and getting social security funds or so after he was sixty-five and he was still working -- so they put a lien on him for tens of thousands of dollars. So he didn't start work until he was seventy so he had a year of relatively free time, and he did, single handedly, a beautiful Charlie Battery book, and I just helped sporadically. I'd come out. Eric Saul got wind of this, that I had a lot of pictures. So I don't know if you've seen any of these, but some of them are in the Holocaust museum in D.C. They took the whole exhibit to Israel -- I didn't go because my mother died just before that -- and it was made a big deal in San Francisco with the Jewish group so we had sushi and bagel party, and we had the whole media including CNN and the networks here. People in Japan said they saw me on this program because it was CNN, the world news. But this really brought to light... and then there were people who came up and they were on the Dachau side, people who swore that the Nisei soldiers rescued them from some camp or other, and it's a whole handful of these people that support this, but there's no official recognition of our unit being involved directly in the rescue, in the liberation of Dachau.

SF: So the official Army records at Center for Military History or whatever has no entry.

SI: No direct, there's no hard evidence that we were even attached to the group because they were -- each had various segments. We looked at all of these maps. I have copies of them. People in these other outfits also have looked into this because they tend to get upset when the media catches hold of us, saying we were involved in the rescue when -- I think one of the characteristics of Caucasian outfits is that they're zealously protect their credit for, especially for liberating Dachau, or they don't want it diluted by anything else, which is understandable, and they go to all means to conserve this image that they were the ones who liberated. And I think Lyn Crost also doesn't feel that we were directly involved and for right reason. She went soon after. So I can't give any positive information except that...


SI: I feel quite confident that we were not directly involved in the rescue, in the liberation of Dachau, the main Dachau prison camps. Some of our group, they were a very adventuresome group. If they had a weapons carrier or jeep, they would run off in all directions because it's not much danger of being shot at or hurt at this time. And they went on various foraging, or to put it politely, foraging or looting, which was again, in war, fair game, right? So I can't add positive information to this.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.