Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George T. "Joe" Sakato Interview
Narrator: George T. "Joe" Sakato
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 14, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-sgeorge-01-0029

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: And so when you have a chance to think, I mean, what are you thinking? What goes through your mind? Does it, do you play back all the things that happened?

GS: I had to think back, why, what am I doing here? I volunteered for this? So I went, kept on going, then we had, finally took the hill. I Company is down below, they had to go around and they went into the town of Bruyeres, hand to hand combat, house to house. 100th Battalion was on the other hill, and they went around the other side. So when we was on the end of this hill, we see a tank going out and, "Oh, Germans retreating." But he went out in the open field and, "That's funny, he's turning around," the barrel is kind of facing us. Then I looked again and I see a ring of smoke, pow, hit the tree behind me. He's shooting at us. Over the hill we go, tried to dig in, I'm digging in and they could only go about six inches, hit rocks and trees, roots, and crawled into my, and oh my god, I stuck my foot out to see if I get hit. Didn't get hit, it was the other guys hit.

TI: I'm sorry. So you're, so this is a German tank, he's firing at you almost point blank, you really can't dig in because it's (rocky), so you're essentially...

GS: Right, not gravel, it's rocky.

TI: So you're just exposed, pretty much exposed other than that.

GS: But we're on this side of the hill.

TI: But you said you stuck your leg out.

GS: Let out, well, my leg is still sticking out. After all, it's only six inches deep that I went. So I stuck the other feet out to see if I'd get hit, but it didn't happen, but somebody else got hit, somebody else got hit. But when the artillery hits, the German artillery, it explodes forward, and it hits treeburst, everything comes down. One shell could hit three or four guys, 'cause it sprays shrapnel down like this. And so when we were in certain areas where we could dig in and dig a foxhole, then we chopped down small trees, about an inch and a half across, then we would lay 'em on top of our foxholes and then put pine boughs on top of that, and then throw dirt on top of that. So if any shrapnel comes, hit, artillery hits the trees, treebursts would hit the, those longs before they would hit us, that way we would be underneath.

TI: And would that be enough to protect you? Usually those...

GS: Protection from shrapnel. We were only in there for a few hours and then you got to move. [Laughs] After we, nice hole I dug, and pine boughs in the bottom to keep the water from, 'cause it's raining and snowing and it's wet underneath, sleeping on top of pine boughs to keep off the ground, the water. But then had to move.

TI: But I'm guessing, even with those treebursts, a hot shrapnel, if it were directly overhead and it came down, that would probably penetrate that, too, wouldn't it?

GS: Yeah, some of them would. But it would deflect it a little bit maybe, so you wouldn't be injured as much.

TI: Because I'm thinking, even with the tree bursts, because they're coming from above, in some ways, foxholes aren't as, as protective as... because if the fire was coming horizontally towards you, then foxholes are good. But if it's coming from above...

GS: Above, coming right straight down on you.

TI:'re still exposed.

GS: Oh, yeah. Then when the artillery stops, counterattack, they're going to charge the hill again. So then we have to go down below, then dig another hole, foxhole, keep the Germans from coming and attacking. Then one tank come around the corner, I thought it was ours, Tiger tank. So I'm sitting here, digging, Friday was over, about twenty feet over on the other side, and fired one round and it went between us but went uphill, and all the shrapnel went up forward, so we were all right. Then the tank moved, moved out because somebody with a bazooka was coming down after.

TI: Now, they had tanks, did you ever have tank support on your side very much?

GS: One time I had a, one hill, and on this one hill, a tank was able to get up there, so I'm telling them there's a machine gun by the rock, hundred yards uphill, and shoot at that rock, pile of rocks. I'm in front of the barrel and talking to the sergeant, and before I can get back, he lets off the round, I'm in front of... the barrel's here, I'm right here. And he lets go, my ears are ringing, so I can't hear too much out of this ear.

TI: Amazing.

GS: But that's not even on the records.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.