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-02-0045

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TI: Let me ask, there was an important battle that the 442 fought, the battle of the "Lost Battalion." I want to ask you about that battle and what you can remember about it.

RT: Well, when the battle of the "Lost Battalion," the first thing I remembered was the 36th Division. Now you gotta understand, in a division, there's three regiments. And we were only a regiment. Now they came in and replaced us. Three regiments, division comes in to replace a regiment. And we had been, we had been taking quite a whipping, because we're going in, trying to go in to take this town of Bruyeres. And the reason why town of Bruyeres was so important was, right in back of town of Bruyeres was what we called Hill D. And it just shot right up out of the ground. And it must have been up there, oh, I'd say, close to a 150, 175 feet high. And the Germans were using that as a command post. And so it became our job to take that Hill D. And so we turned around, where the other outfits that were trying to get into Bruyeres were there over four months already, and they never went into Bruyeres. And the 100th/442, within seven hours, we walked into Bruyeres. And you see, this is the reason why the people of Bruyeres respected us so much, was they knew that here these other guys had three times the amount of men we had, and couldn't come in and relieve their town, but we come in there and boom. We relieve them.

And it was amazing, because when the 442nd came walkin' through, they looked at us and they said that we were Chinese, Chinez. And then the 442 guys, they're saying, "No Japonese." And they're sayin', "No, no, no, no. See we're Japonese, Japonese." So then they were wondering, "Hey, is it just a Japanese army coming in and relieving them?" But they look, and we got American uniforms on. So this was when they finally realized, "Hey, these guys may be Japanese, but they're Japanese Americans fighting for the United States." And after that, they all came pouring out and hugged everybody and everything.

And this is the reason why I think the town of Bruyeres, even today, respect the Japanese so much. Where else can you go in Europe today where every five years, the town wants to put on a big get-together for you? And where else can you find, on the main drag, if you was to walk down the sidewalk, every 50 feet, you see the 442nd emblem put into the sidewalk. Big square of it like that. You look at this, and they have a big sign that says Rue de 442. They named the street after 442nd and everything.

TI: They're so appreciative, because, were the Germans really harsh in their treatment of the French?

RT: Oh, yes. They were very harsh in their treatment. And they, like they said, actually, they were under siege for over seven years. Because Strasbourg is the next big town. And Strasbourg was one of those places that changed to the French and went back to the Germans, and it went back to somebody else. And then the French took it over again. And it never was a town that was, you can say it was, whether it was German or French. And so that was the reason why Bruyeres was actually the first town that was all French people. And so they really appreciated us coming in there.

TI: I've heard accounts that after the 442 liberated Bruyeres, the townspeople were pretty upset at, I guess, collaborators within that town who worked with the Germans. Do you recall any of that?

RT: Well, no, there wasn't exactly any, well, there wasn't, we never really saw them do anything much to the men, because most of the men were, fought in the free French. But they did bring out some women. I don't care what town you go into, where there's a lot of soldiers, there's always women that's gonna do some kind of a business. And so they brought all these women out. And we were there, we watched it all go on. They brought them out and shaved their heads for 'em, and stripped 'em naked and marched 'em down the street. They were the ones that were the German collaborators.

TI: And what were you thinking when you saw this? Did you know what was going on, or what was...?

RT: Yeah, well, they explained to us what it was all about. But to us, we felt that it's being a little harsh. Sure, they had no reason to be there, but they were there. What are you gonna do? Sure, they coulda locked 'em up in jail or somethin' like that, but they didn't do that. This was one of the things that went on all over France. Any time any of the women was a German collaborator, why, they took 'em to the town square and shaved all their hair off their head, and stripped 'em naked and walked 'em down the street. But like I say, the people in Bruyeres were real appreciative of us.

<End Segment 45> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.