Taking Care of the Boys

In spite of that, when Kawasaki received orders that a doctor was needed on Hill 600, he made the trip himself. As the commanding officer of the unit, he could have delegated someone else. “Not only was “Doc” vocal but he was kind of hardheaded,” recalled Otagaki. “Not hard-headed in the negative sense, but in the sense that he was going to do his job, regardless of the safety factor. If they needed a medical officer, he would go there up in the front. So he was very much an exception. Other doctors were there, but they didn’t go up.”

Kawasaki was walking through the bushes with eight medics when he spotted German tiger tanks on a road at the bottom of the hill. The tanks spotted them and opened fire. Kawasaki was the last to retreat. He was hit several times, including in his leg.

Otagaki carried Kawasaki back to the aid station. During the trip back, Kawasaki insisted that his leg was strong enough and shouldn’t be removed. After convalescing for six months in Italy and North Africa, Kawasaki was transferred to Kennedy General Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. He was also involved in training other medical units for overseas field duty. After the war, Kawasaki returned to Honolulu and entered private practice. He retired in 1988.

“The thing that held the 100th together was not that we were nisei, but that we came from a very small area,” explained Otagaki. “And we knew each other. We knew our families.” Thus, any soldier who failed in their duty, jeopardized the lives of their neighbors. “We couldn’t afford to see ourselves as ‘shirkers,’ because we had our families to consider. Our families would have haji (shame), because people would say. We weren’t all brave…. That’s why I say that we were so close.”

On January 10, about a month after Kawasaki was wounded at Hill 600, Otagaki was among a group of seven litter bearers who were evacuating the wounded from the battle of Cassino. A German unit picked out the litter bearers in the snow and began lobbing mortar shells at them. Three were killed and three others, including Otagaki were seriously injured. The only soldier who escaped uninjured raced back to notify the medical unit. Twenty hours passed before Otagaki could be moved from the top of the mountain to the evacuation center. Although he had lost a lot of blood from the multiple injuries he had sustained, he remained conscious throughout the ordeal.

Pages: 1 2 3