A Pilgrimage – And a Memento Out of the Past

Author: Ben Tamashiro, D Company
Puka Puka Parades, October 1977, vol. 31 no. 5

Ben Tamashiro writes a story about Yozo Yamamoto’s journey back to Bruyeres in 1977, 33 years after he was almost killed. Yozo and others revisit the farmhouse where it happened.

October, 1944- Bruyeres, France

The 2d Platoon, Company B, 100th Infantry Battalion, is part of a combat force moving across a short, flat piece of ground in an effort to reach the surrounding hills to drive the Germans out of the high ground.

A lone farmhouse stands at the edge of the flat ground. It is presumed that all the Germans have withdrawn to the cover of the hillside forests.

Suddenly, from the second-story window of the farmhouse comes the crack of rifle fire. Platoon Sergeant Yozo Yamamoto goes down. He has been hit on the head. Luckily, it is not fatal. If the bullet had come in just a “bit lower, he would have had his brains blown out. Lt. Ken Kaneko and others come to the aid of Yozo. This is the end of combat for him.

Thirty-three years later:

June 26, 1977 – Bruyeres, France

It is a Sunday afternoon. The people of Bruyeres are hosting a picnic for a group of veterans from the 100/442, their wives, and others from Hawaii.

To one of his new-found friends, Yozo expresses the reason for his return to Bruyeres – to find the farmhouse from where he had been hit 33 years ago. Yozo describes the lay of the land, as he remembers it. Incredibly, the friend exclaims; “Ah, I know the place! It’s nearby!” Yozo and Ken Kaneko climb into the friend’s car. Ben and Gloria Tamashiro accompany them.

The road takes a series of turns through some low undulating ground, then swings down a long downgrade loop. As the road comes out of this loop, it leads into open, flat ground, at the end of which, about a mile away, lying in a half circle, are high hills covered with a forest of green.

The car zips along the road. Yozo says the farmhouse should be somewhere to the right. “There it is! There it is! That’s the one!” he suddenly cries out. The car moves off the main road onto a narrow dirt road leading to the farmhouse.

Although the surrounding grounds look well tended, the farmhouse looks deserted. All climb out of the car. The driver knocks on the door. A long moment passes. The door opens. Standing in the doorway is an aged farmer, and his wife. The driver explains the mission of the group. The faces of the couple light up. Come in. Come in.

It is a neat, well-kept farmhouse. Upstairs, Yozo looks out the window. Wow! The German sniper sure had a clear shot at him coming across the open ground. Yozo is entranced by the scene. He now knows how he almost happened to get killed. A kind of blissful satisfaction comes over him.

Downstairs again, the farmer breaks out a couple of bottles of white wine. Here’s to their health. And ours, too. All feel the excitement of the moment. Then, walking in the woods back of the farmhouse – what’s that? The driver picks it up. Ken identifies it as a German gas mask canister.

Goodbyes are said. Some francs are slipped into the farmer’s hands. Back into the car. The driver takes off down the dirt road, onto the main road. No one looks backward.