When the 442nd Regimental Combat Team left for Europe in April 1944, the 100th Infantry Battalion were fighting in Italy for eight months. The 100th Infantry Battalion was connected to the Fifth Army's 34th Red Bull Division, controlled by General Charles W. Ryder and created mostly of men from the Midwest. The 34th Division, (the first American division sent to Europe at war's attack), was recovering in North Africa after its African crusade. On September 19, 1943, the 100th Infantry Battalion left North Africa and started their journey to Italy.
On September 22, 1943, the men landed in Italy, on the beach head at Salerno. Then, on September 29, Sergeant Shigeo "Joe" Takata was hit in the head as he proceeded toward an enemy position. He became the first rifle-carrying Japanese American to die in action. Also, he became the first of the 100th Infantry Battalion to receive a Distinguished Service Cross.
From October to November, the 100th crossed the cold, waist-deep waters of Italy's Volturno River three times in battle. During that time, they had their first conflict with the Germans. It was about 4 a.m., and all the front line yelled "Banzai," and the Germans let their guns down. All of them stopped fighting; they were astonished to see Japanese Americans all along the Italian front. . . fighting against them!
The hills around
Volturno were greatly mined. Many soldiers were
getting either hurt or killed. For every
Medal of Honor,
there should have been many more. If you did
something heroic, and told people, no one would
believe you. You usually had to know the officers
and have good enough write-ups to get a
Congressional Medal of Honor, and other
The hills around Volturno were greatly mined. Many soldiers were getting either hurt or killed. For every Congressional Medal of Honor, for every Distinguished Service Cross, there should have been many more. If you did something heroic, and told people, no one would believe you. You usually had to know the officers and have good enough write-ups to get a Congressional Medal of Honor, and other medals.
Roy Nakamine is another example of an unsung soldier. Nakamine told of his tour in Italy. He remarked, "I remember four of us carrying the wounded, making our way through the mine fields. We worried more for the wounded that ourselves. We didn't want the wounded to suffer even more. So we were careful making our way through the mine fields. We saw people doing even more than we did, but they never got medals."
In mid-January 1944, just before the fighting at Cassino, a soldier, Mr. Otagaki was hit. He and six others were part of a lookout that had volunteered to save an injured soldier. "You can't abandon your friends, you just can't abandon your friends," exclaimed Mr. Otagaki. Once an explosive called a mortal shell hit the lookout, the explosion killed three men, and the other three men were wounded, including Mr.Otagaki.
The remaining soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion proceeded with their Northward drive. They met blizzards, mud, rain, and German troops at Cassino. The fighting was so brutal, that some of the 100ths platoons were decreased to only three men. According to the men of the 100th, Cassino would eternally become "Purple Heart Valley."
Late March up to May 1944, the American soldiers were at Anzio, a beach head which was exposed to great German firepower such as rockets, weightless bombs, machine gunfire, and an artillery gun. Here at Anzio, the 100th Infantry Battalion assisted to set the stage for the strike at Rome!
The 100th took a key pass, which the other two regiments didn't succeed in doing. Some officers questioned General Ryder about the 100th taking the pass. "How can you expect one battalion to take it?" The general said, "I have other regiments, but I don't think they can do it. I know that 100th can take the pass." The next day, they took the pass.
On June 5, the 100th Infantry Battalion's tired soldiers noticed Rome and were excited to enter the welcoming city. The 100th Infantry Battalion moved to a place near Civitacchia. With about nine hundred soldiers that were either injured or killed by that time, the battalions usual strength was reduced to less than half.
Soon, the Buddhaheads, (Japanese Americans from Hawaii) would meet with the Kotonks, (Japanese Americans from the Mainland.) The ships which were carrying the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were nearing the Italian Coast.
The 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team went through many painful struggles in their experiences at war, but they still had faith that they could defeat the Germans....and they did!