Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Rudy Tokiwa Interview II
Narrator: Rudy Tokiwa
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Judy Niizawa (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: July 2 & 3, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-trudy-02-0033

<Begin Segment 33>

RT: You know, there's a fella that lives on the opposite side of the street, what is that? Three doors down? Three doors down from us. And I could never understand for the longest time. The guy across the street from me, he says, "Yeah, I hear you're one of the 'Little Iron Men.'" You had to be in Europe in order to know that phrase, because the Germans were the one that used to call us Little Iron Men. And so when this guy says, "Rudy, I heard you was one of the Little Iron Men," I said, "Where in the hell'd you learn that phrase?" So he told me, he says, "Oh, you know that German fella who lives down the street?" "Yeah." "He fought against you guys." I said, "He did?" He says, "Oh, yeah. He says you guys were one of the best fighters around. And he says the German soldiers all used to call, call the, call you guys the Little Iron Men, because you were such good fighters." So you see, the more I look at all this stuff that happened to us, and if the United States government would do something for us and say something, I think the recognition would be much higher.

TI: Well eventually, you're, the 442, met up with the 100th...

RT: Yeah.

TI: Italy. Tell me about that, how it went when you met up with them, and...

RT: Well, the one thing good about the 100th was -- well, a lotta the 442 guys went in as replacements to the 100th. And we joined them right after Rome. We were in Anzio when they jumped off to go into Rome. And we find out that this order came from above Mark Clark's position, so it had to be either Eisenhower or somebody in Washington, D.C. The 100th was ready to walk into Rome. They were the first to reach Rome. And then as soon as Rome was considered an open city, the 100th got pulled back and the Caucasians went in as conquering heroes. Then right after Rome, then we met with the 100th in this area they call the Civitavecchia. And that's when the 100th became our first battalion.

TI: How did the 442 guys view the 100th? Because they'd been there, they'd gone through a lot of battles.

RT: Oh, yeah. They were, we felt that they were our bigger brothers. We would listen to anything they say, because they had experience now. And you don't think about these things when you're just training and you're goin' over. It's like they would say to us, "You're walking down the road. You see a place that has one tree growing. Don't go by that tree." See? You were wondering why? It's zeroed in. It's just like they say, "Now, you're walkin' down the road, you see a bend in the road. Get off the road and go around it, because that bend is gonna be zeroed in."

TI: Zeroed in by their artillery?

RT: Artillery, yeah.

TI: Right.

JN: Or a sniper.

RT: And like, there's a bridge, they say, "Never cross over the bridge. Go underneath." And we found out that that's the way you stay alive. So they were our big brothers. They took a pounding and they learned it all, too, that way, by takin' a pounding. And to show you how good the 100th was -- now this guy here, this German that lives down the street from us, he was at, at the Monte Cassino in the German army. And he said, he told me, he says, 'cause I was curious, and I went to talk to him. "Oh, yeah," he says, "now I know, we saw four days, you Little Iron Men come to about 150, 100 feet from the top." He says, "If the rest of the outfits woulda come even near there, you guys coulda came over the top. But you can't go over the top when everybody that's on top's just lookin' at you." He says, "Yeah, we saw this."

TI: So, let me understand. So, so all the units, the 100th was the closest, but the other units couldn't go as close?

RT: Yeah. They wouldn't go up as close, see.

TI: Right. So the Germans could focus on the 100th.

RT: Yeah, the 100th. So they'd all have to pull back. And like he said, that it was their group that started calling the Japanese Americans the Little Iron Men, because he said, "Oh, then after that, when the 442nd came in, then we saw how you guys just pushed through everything. When other outfits get stuck, put the 442 in. You guys go through." And so he says, "We kept that going as Little Iron Men." Berlin (Axis) Sally, when she used to talk, talk over the radio, every once in a while, she would bring up, "You Little Iron Men, you came over in boats and stuff, and here your government has your family and all your girlfriends and everything in the camp. What the hell are you guys giving your life up for?"

TI: So this was the radio announcer, I think it was Axis Sally...

JN: Axis Sally.

RT: Yeah.

TI: Axis Sally, who would bring this up.

JN: All the propaganda.

TI: Right.

RT: Yeah. And she used to come over the radio, and she played pretty good music. We used to like the music -- [laughs] -- 'cause it didn't bother us.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.