Incident Near Bruyeres

Author: John Tsukano
Puka Puka Parades, October 1978, vol. 32 no. 5

Club 100 reunites with a Frenchman who during the war was injured in Bruyeres as a young boy and amputated

THIRTY-Four years ago, a 15- year-old boy lay close to death on a deserted street in Bruyeres, France, with shrapnel wounds on his head, stomach and both or his legs mutilated almost beyond recognition. Nearby lay the mangled corpse of a German soldier. A few feet away, a badly wounded German soldier lay gasping for breath and crying for help.

Three of them were caught in the open by a murderous American artillery barrage.

Only moments before, the 15-year- old boy sat huddled together with his family in a damp, dark, cold cellar. They had been there for two weeks without running water and electricity which had been cut off by the intense shelling. As long as they had remained in the cellar, they were comparatively safe. The family could survive without electricity.

But they could not without food and water.

IT WAS AT this critical turning point that the boy left the security of the cellar to look for potatoes and water that he was hit by the American artillery.

DESPITE ALL the pain, he remained conscious and saw German soldiers coming to their rescue. His life ebbing rapidly, he saw and felt a German soldier pick him up and take him to the Bruyeres hospital, thereby saving his life. He never found out what became of the wounded German soldier whose haunting cry he has never been able to forget.

On Oct. 20, 1944, an ambulance took him to an American field hospital. Two Texans and two 442nd Team boys from Hawaii were in the same ambulance. Artillery shells were landing everywhere, some even hitting the hospital. Only now they were German shells. Nobody talked.

The doctors were barely able to save his right leg but his left leg had to be amputated. The head and stomach wounds healed satisfactorily.

THIRTY-FOUR years later, this boy, Serge Carlesso, stepped off the Boeing 747 at Honolulu airport with his wife. He was not able to hold back the tears of joy which flowed freely, as he was warmly embraced by Saburo Hasegawa, 100th Infantry Battalion veteran and also an amputee. They had met in Bruyeres and became good friends.

Days before, back in Bruyeres, Serge Carlesso had to make a decision. His doctor advised him not to make the trip to Hawaii, as an operation had been scheduled to correct the lingering aftermath of a wound he had received in 1944. The trip to Hawaii was interfering with this vital operation.

Carlesso was adamant. He was going to Hawaii. The operation was rescheduled.

The long bus trip to Brussels, Belgium, the massive slowdown staged by air traffic controllers that left travellers [sic] stranded at major European airports, the excitement of the trip almost succeeded where the doctor had failed—preventing Carlesso from making the trip to Hawaii.

BY THE TIME the weary travelers reached London, Carlesso fainted and fell to the ground. His wife thought maybe they should have listened to the doctor’s advice.

Again Carlesso was adamant. He was going to Hawaii, no matter what.

The group from Bruyeres formed a protective ring around him, literally carrying him into the plane. In the plane they surrounded him so that he could have complete peace and quiet. Gradually Carlesso regained his strength.

At the reception at the Club 100 earlier this month, Serge Carlesso wished to say a few words. Barely able to speak English, he bared his soul in French. The interpreter was unable to capture the real meanings English. Carlesso thanked the veterans and the people of Hawaii “from the very depths of my heart and soul.”