Boris Watanabe, D Company, 100th Infantry BattalionBy Moriso Teraoka
2nd Headquarters Chapter Reporter, Go For Broke Bulletin
Although this incident happened on May 15th of last week, there was a spiritual thread that returned my emotions back 62 years ago, and took me back to the Maritime Alps of the French and Italian border. Company D of the 100th/442nd RCT was assigned to guard the border and to keep the Germans on the Italian side of the border.
This episode occurred Monday morning at Kapiolani Community College in the cactus and succulent garden.
An elderly woman called from the walkway as I was getting some garden tools from our tool closet. “Good morning, you remember me? I’m the one that you gave some mulch to,” she said.
“Oh, how are you. You want some more mulch?” I asked.
“No, not today. I brought my friend to see your garden,” the woman said.
I threaded my way through the herb garden to meet her friend and was introduced to Hatsue Katsura, a visitor from Oakland, California.
Katsura asked me where my home is, and if I were born and raised on Oahu? “No, I was born and raised on the Big Island, and I came to Honolulu to work at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard after the war,” I answered.
“Were you with the 442nd or the 100th ?” Katsura asked.
“Yea. I was in Dog Company of the 100th, “ I answered.
“My brother was in the 100th too,” Katsura responded.
“What company?” was my next question.
Katsura had forgotten but her companion asked her the first name of her brother. “Boris Watanabe. My brother passed away some time ago,” Katsura said.
“Boris Watanabe? He was in my 81mm mortar squad,” my voice quivered as I repeated Boris’s name. I leaned on Katsura’s shoulder as my legs could hardly support me.
The assignment for our mortar platoon with the other companies of the 442nd RCT was to prevent the German army to make a breakthrough from the Italian border into Southern France through the Maritime Alps. We slept and had our ration in a small storage shed built of stones, which the French farmer must have used.
This is where I got to know my eventual buddies of the mortar squad, and Boris was one of the team members of the squad. Boris, as I remember was quiet and kept to himself. I soon noticed that he did not drink coffee during meals, and his stimulant during those chilly nights was hot chocolate. I found out that he was a devout member of the Mormon religion.
When the Regimental Combat Team returned to Italy in the latter part of March in 1945, the RCT’s task was to crack the last defensive line held by the Germans in Italy. Boris was with me, together with the other mortar squad providing cover support to our riflemen who penetrated the Gothic line defended by the Germans.
Just imagine, 62 years ago Boris in my squad, lobbing mortar shells, fighting the war in France and Italy.
Boris Watanabe resting among shells, part of the breakthrough of the Gothic line, where shells were lobbed almost continuously for 1 to 2 days. Italy.
I came home and opened my photo album. I promised Katsura that I would make copies of the photos and send them to her home in Oakland, California.
Moriso Teraoka's anecdote was reprinted courtesy of Moriso Teraoka. Copyright retained by Moriso Teraoka.