WWII Memories, Majo Hill, 1944
By Tom Nagata
While the 100th Infantry Battalion was in reserve in mid-December, 1943, I went for my first hot shower and as soon as the hot water hit my foot, it began to pain from frostbite. I struggled halfway to the aid station, but gave up when returning trench-foot patients told me they had no medication, but advised us to rest our foot. By January 1st, 1944, I felt much better as the 100th Inf. Bn. was trucked to the front amid falling snow. We all had winter wear, now, as we joined the Special Services Forces fighting their way toward Cassino among the Majo Hills covered with snow. One day, I saw one of our P38 Fighter planes in combat with an enemy plane high above us, but it lost the battle and fell down behind enemy lines. In the morning, formation of our bombers flew over enemy lines to drop their bombs, but on one occasion, one of the anti-aircraft shells made a direct hit on one of our bombers and it exploded and fell in yellow flames behind enemy lines with two opened parachutes floating behind. Lt. Harry Miyamoto, from D Company, who had won a field promotion from Platoon Sgt., took charge of our platoon. As the 100th Inf. Bn. came under enemy machinegun fire one morning, Lt. Miyamoto led us to the top of a nearby hill and we began to lay a harassing rifle fire on the enemy machinegun position. Two enemy soldiers ran up the slope of the enemy hill to reinforce the machine gunners. We opened fire at them and one of the enemy fell dead in his tracks while the other dived into a hole. Later, in the dark of night, B and C Companies made a direct frontal attack on the hill and took it, but lost one officer each as they bravely led the attack. The enemy counterattacked into our platoon sector, but we drove them off with rifle fire. However, Lt. Miyamoto, and rifleman
Kaoru Matsumura were wounded as they sat exposed on the snow-covered slopes. Lt. Miyamoto crawled to safety with the help· of Sgt. Satoru Okamura, and I crawled up to Matsumura and dragged him behind my rock. I had also had a painful, but non-purple heart machine pistol bullet slam under my right toe as I sat behind a waist-high rock. With the help of scout Masaru Yamashita, we dragged Matsumura back to safety behind the hill. Next morning, the 1OOth Inf. Bn. attacked the last Majo Hill and the enemy machine gunners started firing, but within seconds a direct mortar shell hit silenced the gunners. D Company was right on target with their 81-mm mortar crew. From the top of that last hill, we could see across the Rapido Plains the pink-colored Abbey of Monte Cassino, with the town of Cassino nestled about the base of Monastery Hill. The coral pink colors of the Abbey reminded me of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki.