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-01-0035

<Begin Segment 35>

TI: And so, so it's now dawn, you have this three-prong sort of attack, and so, and your unit is in the middle, kind of, going across.

GS: Caught the Germans by surprise, they didn't know we were behind 'em. So then we chased them off the hill. G Company, if they had stayed directly where they were, they would have caught the rest of the... but they moved them to the right side. So then we chased the Germans off, and then artillery shells started coming in. So then we had to jump into the German foxholes now, that was down in the bottom. So I'm on the bottom, we got, ran to one foxholes, and artillery shells are coming in. Another guy from F Company, he jumps in. I didn't know who was jumping in with me, pretty soon I recognized him. "Hey, you're Mas Ikeda from Mesa, Arizona." He said, "Yeah." "What'd you hear about home?" We talked about home and the artillery shells were... boom, bang, didn't bother us a bit. We were talking about home. It's good to hear somebody talk about home. Artillery's going off, somebody else is hollering for medics, somebody else was... but it didn't bother us.

Artillery shells stopped, counterattack, so Mas Ikeda had to jump out of his foxhole, go to F Company and regroup, and I was on the left side. Kelly Kuriyama was a medic from New York, he was attending one guy's knee when I was in this foxhole. Germans shot him, the bullet grazed his temple and spun around his helmet, dropped down. One inch more that way, he wouldn't be... but he survived that, he got a haircut. The bullet just spun around. I thought he picked it up, but he didn't. But then he had to move the guy he was working with back towards the center of the hill there.

'Cause I'm on the left flank, and since I had the Thompson submachine, I had a machine gun, so I was covering the left flank, rest of the group were on the other side of the hill. G Company was over by the others. And then they counterattacked, so anything that moves, I was shooting at. Wind must have blew, bush, guy must be down there hiding underneath it, so I'd fire down and shoot at it. Next thing you know, I was, ran out of ammunition, both clips were gone. One German wanted to come up, going to throw a grenade at me. So I took the pistol, I couldn't get the other clips out, so I got the pistol, and pow, pow, stopped him, and he stopped. Then no more troop movements, and so I got down in the hole and started filling my clips up. Pretty soon I look and I'm looking uphill this time because I'm in back of the hill, Germans would be down below. But they went around me while I was down in the hole, I didn't see 'em, and they started climbing that hill, they started taking the hill back. "Oh, my god," I started hollering at the guys, "watch out for the machine guns, they're taking the hill back." And Tanimachi, for some reason he got up and says, "Where?" and he got shot. So I crawled over to his hole and picked him up, "Why did you stand up?" And he's gurgling and he's trying to say something, blood is coming out of his... and he just, then he just went limp. Then he went, body went limp on me and then I knew he died. And I cried, hugged him, and, "God, why?" Laid him down and looked at all the blood in my hands and I said, "You son of a bitch." Picked up, threw the pack off, picked up the tommy gun and I got out of the hole and I zig-zagged back up, run this way and I'd run that way. I shot two or three guys, and then pretty soon the guys with white handkerchiefs were waving them, group of 'em coming out, and I made sure that nobody behind 'em had a gun, otherwise I would have had to shoot him. So the rest of the troop came up and took the hill.

TI: And so while you went up the hill first, the others started following you up the hill? And this was going all the way to the top? And was it because of the death of Tanimachi that just, that just put you into this rage?

GS: I was mad, right? I was mad and I just, all these SOB, I was gonna shoot him, no matter if die trying.

TI: This is the same Tanimachi that you went through basic training, and training, the Waldorf Astoria and all that?

GS: Yeah. He joined the army because his parents wanted him to marry some girl and he didn't like her, so he volunteered for the army. Says, "I don't know why you did that." Well, he didn't want to get married. But before we took that trip, he used to have a Browning automatic rifle, and sergeant took it away from him to give to another squad, 'cause they didn't have one, and gave him a grenade launcher. And he said he didn't feel good. So I told him, "Stay back, whatever you do. Don't go, don't go on this trip." He's gotta go. So he wasn't quite in his right sense when he stood up and he got shot.

TI: And so Joe, in doing my research, it showed that in that, that charge that you did up that hill, when you took the hill, you killed twelve enemy, wounded two.

GS: [Laughs] I didn't count.

TI: And took four, and captured four.

GS: I captured more, more than four.

TI: At least that's what the citation says.

GS: Yeah, citation said that, and the citation said the platoon leader got killed, but it wasn't the platoon leader, it was Tanimachi.

TI: Tanimachi. But it was this charge that led to the taking of this hill, which later on your unit received a, a unit citation.

GS: And I got the Distinguished Service Cross for that hill.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.