Memories Of Hill 600 by Saburo Nishime, Company D
When I returned to Dog Company after making an early recovery from my wounds, the 100th Infantry Battalion was just about preparing for the last crossing of the winding Volturno.
At this time Lt. Kuramoto was our Second Platoon Officer. He came down with word that Col. Turner had just been replaced as Commander of the 100th Infantry Battalion. It came as a shock to all of us members. Furthermore, according to Lt. Kuramoto, the instructions from Command were while in combat, you do not ask, “When the hell are you going to have a break?” Col. Turner may have made that kind of request. It was just as well the colonel got relieved at that time, for he was spared the burden of responsibility of the heavy casualties the 100th Infantry Battalion sustained up to Cassino.
In preparation for the last crossing of the Volturno River, which was at night, in the darkness one could hear voices of those around us. I recall hearing the voice of Shukichi Sato, whom I had known from my home town on Kauai. Shukichi Sato was assigned to F Company, and was later killed during the attack on Hill 600.
All-out batteries of artillery fire were concentrated on the Volturno River crossing area, and when the fire was finally lifted, the 100th Infantry Battalion moved up to the river crossing. The crossing was less than knee deep where we waded across.
After the crossing and moving straight forward, the point of the rifle company was in danger of running directly into German gun position, and the orders sent back were to make a right turn at our location and move on parallel to the Volturno River. So, us machine gunners were now advancing as the point. Our platoon TSgt Harry Miyamoto knew it was wrong, for the machine gun platoon to be the point in an attack. TSgt Miyamoto called back to the rifle platoon and asked them to send up riflemen to be the point
While resting in place, waiting for the riflemen, it was now near daylight, but still dark. Just at this time, I happened to see a lone figure coming toward us through a grove of trees, which I took to be an Italian farmer (I don’t know why). This lone character came quietly up to near where we were resting, and seeing who we were, stopped to take a second look. Just about this time we received machine pistol firing coming from the heavily bushed area to our immediate left front. Our machine gun section set up their machines guns and started blasting to where the machine pistol was firing. The machine pistol firing immediately stopped.
Meanwhile, the riflemen squad had caught up to where we were, and they fixed bayonets and charged the area from where the machine pistol initially was firing. They captured a German who was doing the firing. Our 2nd Platoon had one KIA in this skirmish. Meanwhile this unknown character who accidentally came across us, had pulled back into the night I mentioned this to others in our section and they recalled seeing this character in the dark. The logical conclusion to the stranger is, he was a German.
A previously mentioned location where we turned right from the initial attacking plan, the attacking company failed to leave a guide to instruct following groups of the change of the attacking route. The communication group laying the wires had no idea of the change in the direction of the attack and proceeded directly forward, running into the German machine gun position. All the communication wiremen were killed.
At the coming of dawn our machine gun section was relaxing in an assigned location. One soldier from our section came across two German soldiers, and one of them tried to get away and was killed. The other German was hiding in the rear of the Italian farmhouse and was taken prisoner by Capt Mizuha.
Our break that day was short lived, for orders came down to be prepared to be on the move again. It was now broad daylight, and the objective this time was for the 100th Infantry Battalion to move up, attack, and take Hill 600. In this broad daylight, the 100th Infantry Battalion went into the attacking route, moving up in single file, and our machine gun section brought up the rear end of the attacking column.
While moving up we came across Sgt. Harada, who was in the olive grove. With Harada was Charlie Diamond. Harada, in later years while talking about Hill 600, mentioned where he witnessed the entire column of members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, who passed by “in review,” enroute to the attack for Hill 600.
The command members of the 100th Infantry Battalion tried to pick the covered route of approach as much as possible, but eventually had to cross open areas and become widely exposed to German artillery fire. The leading column of the battalion came under heavy German artillery fire. I remember Capt. Johnson walking back to the rear, being slightly wounded. Later, Major Johnson was killed at Cassino. He had just been promoted to major.
During this portion of the attack for Hill 600, we could hear the German artillery fire go off in the distance, and we knew that battery of German shells was coming directly at our 100th Infantry Battalion column.
It was starting to get dark very late in the afternoon, when our group came upon an area where the Germans had laid a mine field. We understood one of the rifle company men went on his hands and knees to feel around for the mines, and managed to clear a path through the mine field. The route was marked off with white toilet paper, and this managed to get most of the 100th Battalion members through the mine field. Somehow our column, bringing up the rear, lost contact with the column that had gone ahead through the mine field.
It was already dark when our column tried to go through the mine field. In the initial try “Alikoki” tripped a bouncing baby personal mine, which exploded up in the air, and the resulting shrapnel from the exploding mine killed one of our members, wounded an officer and one of our buddies, Yoshinao Omiya, who was wounded in the eyes. In that instant Omiya was blinded for life. None of us will forget when we first saw Yoshinao Omiya’s picture on the front page of Life Magazine with bandages covering his eyes.
A paratrooper came down from the hill and said he knew another path through the mine field. While in the process of leading us through the mine field, “Alikoki” tripped another bouncing baby personal mine and the resulting explosion killed the guide who was supposed to have led us through the mine field. The decision was made not to try and get through the mine field that night, and we bivouaced in our slit trench at the bottom of the hill. “Alikoki” tripped and set off two bouncing baby land mines that night, killing two, but he got away without a scratch.
Sgt Miyao came down from the hill the following morning and led us through the mine field. At the top of Hill 600, our machine guns took up predesignated positions. My position near the gun was almost solid rock, so I had to gather the rocks from around my area to build up my slit trench. Izumi, who was next to me was in an area that was almost all dirt, so he dug and dug until he had a slit trench that a good waist deep, which also made it ideal cover for a small fire. The combat rations came in heavily waxed cardboard boxes. In combat we used the waxed boxes to start a small smoke free fire, and one box was just about enough to make a canteen cup of hot coffee.
While on Hill 600, for several days we didn’t get our regular rations. There was a good chunk of beef hanging from a tree, which presumably was left behind by the retreating Germans who had previously occupied this area. I went over and cut off a piece from the beef hanging from the tree. In no time other hungry members had the same idea, and soon no more beef was left hanging.
On Hill 600, in the area where we picked up the rations and other goods that were delivered and unloaded, there was a member of the 100th Infantry Battalion who was KIA. He was covered over with his raincoat and left in a sitting position. Talking about Hill 600 with Kenneth M. Higa, he asked me if I knew who that person was. I didn’t know and didn’t ask, but I’m sure the mentioned scene was permanently impressed on all who came across that scene on Hill 600.
We were on Hill 600 for a couple of days when a German machine gunner came from nowhere, setting up his machine gun position in supposedly our rear area. The German set up his machine gun on an elevated area some distance away from our location and started firing his machine gun in our general direction. One of F Company’s riflemen located near us started firing away with his rifle but was stopped by his sergeant. It was too far away to be effective. A rifle squad took a covered route to try and approach the German machine gun. Meanwhile, out of nowhere a “Beanie” from another organization appeared in the rear of the German machine gunner and took the German prisoner.
While on Hill 600 we got reports that our 81 mm mortars were wreaking havoc on the counter-attacking Germans. We also received the sad news that 3 members of the mortar platoon, Lt. Ray and two assistants, were instantly killed by a tree burst from a German artillery shell. All this occurred on Hill 600.
While still on Hill 600, it was now getting pretty cold and near freezing, and there was snow on the nearby higher hills. Some of us had our jeep drivers dig out our woolen underwear from our barracks bags and had them sent up to us.
We finally got word that Hill 600 had been phased out from the front line area, with the advancing of the division front. The 100th Infantry Battalion pulled back from Hill 600. All the companies went into a rest area just below Hill 600.
A Battery of our 155th Artillery set up position in the 100th Infantry Battalion rest area and started to fire away. The Germans spotted the 155th Artillery Battery. The Germans first fired a single artillery shell to get the range of the location of the 155th. When the Germans found the range, the full German Artillery Battery swept over the American 155th Battery area, and in the process, hit one of the 100th Battalion Company’s rest area, unfortunately, causing serious casualties. Our 155th Artillery Battery immediately pulled out of this area.