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-02-0048

<Begin Segment 48>

TI: Let's go back and now, go to the battle of the "Lost Battalion." And tell me about that.

RT: (In) the battle of the "Lost Battalion," as far as the 442nd went, I think (we did a job nobody else could do. But we lost a lot of men). We never realized it until the whole thing was over. But the thing that bothered me the most was, we were just a regimental combat team. Sure, we got our own artillery and all these engineers and stuff. But a division has three times the amount of men we have. And we're the ones that are gonna go and try to rescue this lost battalion. And finally, well, some of the (442) guys were walkin' up to the front lines. These (Texas) 36th Division guys are saying, "You guys are nuts, if you think you're gonna go and rescue them." Because to make a rescue like that, it is suicide. (You have to be covered on all sides.) You don't say, all right, some of you guys fight down the draw here and some of you fight down the draw there, and have some of you on top of that hill over there (because a draw is a canyon below the ridge). (Most of all the heavy fighting has to be) right on top of the hill. Because that's where the Germans are all (waiting for us.) They're lookin', they're putting all their people right on top of the hill, so they can shoot down at you (if you're in the draw). So you gotta fight them from on top, too.

And so actually, that's the reason why we took such a beating. It's like, this is the reason why I remember Colonel Pursall so well, was, we were takin' a hell of a beatin' up there. And Pursall knew we were takin' a hell of a beating. And we were gettin' pretty close. And General Dahlquist, who was the big boss of the 36th Division, (who) let (his men get surrounded). He let this one outfit get so far out, they got surrounded. In my book, if we never made the rescue, we think it would have been his neck, too. And the place where I respected Colonel Pursall so much was, we were takin' a hell of a beatin'. Casualties were all over the place. And usually, our officers, like captains and things, since they're surrounded by a lotta men, they didn't get killed too often. But on this push, officers and everybody, everybody was gettin' killed. And that still comes from the fact we're fightin' just in that little space of about a hundred foot across, and we're tryin' to push. And the German knows you gotta come through this, so they're settin' up all kinds of defense.

So here we are. We've already taken a hell of a beatin'. And General Dahlquist, who was in charge of the 36th Division, we got stalled, so he was comin' up there to find out what the hell we're stalled about. And so he comes up. Regiment sends him up to 3rd Battalion, because 3rd Battalion, at that time, was on top of the ridge, and (K. Co.) were the forward unit. So they, he comes up to 3rd Battalion, and he wants to know what the hell's holding us up. "I want you guys to charge, charge, charge." That's all he's saying, "I want you to charge." So Pursall makes up his mind he's gonna show him what's holding us up. And like I've always said, "Don't be good friend, too good friend of these guys. Otherwise, you get in a lotta trouble."

So what's he do? Pursall gets me and he says, "Okay, Punch Drunk, let's go." I said, "Where're we going, sir?" He says, "We gotta take the general up, to show him what we're up against." So as we start walkin' out -- maybe I shouldn't say this. That's all right. When we start walkin' out, he whispers to me, and he says, "Whatever happens, I don't want you to hit the ground." And I looked at him and he looks at the general. So then I knew exactly what he was thinkin' already. He wanted the general to be in full view of the Germans, too. So here we go walkin' up there, and get right to the front line. And at that time, Company K was a front line. They were it. So he whispers over to me, and he says, "Okay, Punch Drunk. I don't want you to ever hit the ground." And I'm lookin' at him. Bullets are flyin' through the trees. And I was thinkin' to myself, "Gee, well, if he says I don't hit the ground, I guess I don't hit the ground." So he's standin' up there, and, you know, he's six-foot. And he told me, "I'm six-foot." And he says, "You won't see me hit the ground either."

And he's standing up there, and he's tellin' this general, "You see what's up there? Now there's a machine gun nest right there. They got it pointed at us. Now you see up here, there's a whole rifle squad up there. They're ready to mow us down." And he showed him everything that is up there. And there's four of us standing, and I'm lookin' down the side like this. And here's all the 442nd, K Company guys, they're on their bellies, because you can get shot. So Pursall goes over and he kicks one of the lieutenant, on the bottom of his foot, and he says, "What's the matter, lieutenant? Think you might get shot?" Naturally, the guy says, "Hell, they're right there. They can shoot you any time." That was when -- what was that lady's name?

JN: Oh, Sinclair Lewis' son. (Mother was also an author).

RT: Yeah. Sinclair Lewis' son, who was the aide to General Dahlquist. So now he's the aide to General Dahlquist, and I'm the aid to our colonel. That's when the aide got shot. Got him right smack on the head. Now if we'd have been laying on the ground or somethin' like that, I don't think that woulda happened. But he was mad enough to wanna show him exactly what would, could happen. Well, when the general's aide got shot, the general took down off the hill. And we went down runnin' after him. We finally caught him, and he was goin' in a rampage. "I'm ordering you, you will attack. I want you to fix bayonet and attack. That's an order."

So then our Colonel Pursall, picks up this general. He coulda been court-martialed, 'cause he picks up the general and just shakes him like he was a rag doll. And he's saying, "These are my boys you're trying to kill. And nobody kills my boys like that. Nobody orders them to go up there and get killed. I'm the only one that can do it." Well, about that time, why, the general, he's all shook up already, so, and he's practically outta his mind. So the medics came and got him and took him down. So he goes, we go back up there again. And he whispers to me, he says, "You think we gotta fix bayonet and charge?" I said, "Well, I don't know, sir. I don't wanna say nothin' about that. I don't wanna be, said that, 'Oh, he was one of 'em that said yeah, let's get them guys runnin' up the hill with fixed bayonet.'" And the next thing, I turn around, I see this six-foot colonel runnin' up the hill. And he's got two pistols in his hands (shooting), pow, pow, pow, pow. And he's shootin' as he's runnin' up the hill. I look down, and here's K Company rushin' up the hill. They're all following him. And that's how we broke the line. Can you imagine what, gee, we get up top there, and after it was all over and I looked at the colonel, I says, "Hey, Colonel, you know you coulda got shot runnin' up here like that." He says, "Well, I'm still kickin'. I'm all right. You all right?" I says, "Yeah, I'm fine." "Okay, we're happy," he says. But can you imagine that he was so perturbed at the fact that the General Dahlquist had no feeling for us. All he can think about was sending us in the line, and he didn't give a damn if we all got shot.

TI: Yeah, I've read some place, too, that he was so upset after this incident, that he ordered the 522, the artillery unit, to fire a barrage, and actually the coordinates were that he gave them, or told them, were actually the location...

RT: Yeah, were right on top of us.

TI: Well, the "Lost Battalion." And that the 522 didn't obey, because they knew that that was where they were.

RT: It's, I look at, I look at things that happened at that time, and I've always said, "It actually, you're not fighting a war, because you don't fight wars like that, not anymore. But that was the only way we can get in there, because of the trees and everything. You had to fight it like that." And I've always given Pursall a lotta credit. Because I don't think you'd have found another colonel that woulda (gone) to the front line, and standing up, six-foot tall, and our rifle people are (lying) on the belly right down the road there, where I can see 'em. And he's showing the general what we're up against. That was just like saying, all right, so I get shot doin' this, I get shot doin' it. I give the man a lotta credit. He wanted the general to know that what he was trying to order, was tryin' to get his boys killed. And he was not about to do it. And it's like I say, when he picked him up, you know, he was six-foot tall, big, strong man. So he just picked him up and just shook him like that. Hollerin' at him, "Those are my boys you're tryin' to kill."

TI: That's an incredible story.

RT: Yeah. And then, then he gets up there, and he asks me, he says, "Do you think we really have to fix bayonet and charge?" And I says, "I don't know, sir. That's not my job to say anything." And I look like that, and here he's runnin' up the hill, and he's got two pistols and (shooting) pow, pow, pow. And then I look down the line to see where K Company was, and they saw him goin' up, so everybody's movin'.

JN: But they didn't use bayonets?

RT: No, we didn't use bayonet. We used rifles. But that's the way, that's the way the back of the Germans were finally broken on that push.

TI: That's a good story.

<End Segment 48> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.