Author: Kazuto Shimizu, C Company
Puka Puka Parades, March 1995
Ann Ishida-Ho’s appeal to our chapter members to give her some of the stories we have hidden within us before it gets lost forever made me start this article, says Kazuto Shimizu.
I never believed I had any “story” to tell, in fact, I tried very hard to forget. A recent experience got me to write a long letter to a sister of a buddy from Idaho who longed to hear from someone who knew him in his last days. Then, Ann’s talk got me to thinking about Lt. Ethridge. And here is my story and the little I know of Lt. Harold C. Ethridge.
My recollection is that Lt. Ethridge joined the 100th as a transfer from the 1st armored division. He was a platoon leader of “C” Company when the 1OOth made a frontal attack in the area of Lanuvio, Italy. “C” Company lost about 40 men that day including its Company commander and executive officer. So in the midst of battle, Lt. Ethridge became the acting company commander.
Rome fell about two days later. The 442nd came to Italy and the 1OOth became the 1st Bn of the 442nd RCT. While this reorganization was being put into effect, “C” Company was having a critique on the battle of Lanuvio. Lanuvio was my first battle as a replace[ment] to the 100th so I was very attentive. The “big brothers” gave us an earful where we made mistakes and where we can improve to survive this war. I saw Colonel Pence, in the back listening and nodding his head in approval. He must have been walking by and stopped to listen.
Lt. Ethridge was one of those who spoke up. My recollection of what he said that stuck in my mind was that he was very angry that he couldn’t find out what was going on when he first took over as our company commander. But then, he found out the company was functioning very well without him. The platoon leaders had everything under control. He mentioned that Sakae Takahashi, commanding “B” company on our right, came to him after the battle to apologize that “B” Co. (of course, “B” Co. was not at fault). But I could feel and see in Lt. Ethridge’s eyes and the tone of his voice that he was proud to be leading this bunch of flat-footed JAPANESE Americans that came up only to his chest in height.
The next battle was the battle of Belvedere and Sassetta where the 100th received its first citation. Belvedere was the 442nd’s initiation into battle and the 100th was called from reserve and “C” Co, was the 100th’s reserve company. Next day “C” Company let the 100th in the attack on the town of Sassetta. This where Lt. Ethridge was killed, leading his company and the 100th. Later, I recall, during a bull session, someone stating that he saw Lt. Ethridge, with his 6-foot plus frame, firing his ’45 caliber pistol when he got shot.
This story is about an ordinary soldier giving up his life for duty to country -an unsung hero who story is nearly “Lost”. It occurs to me that this not an ordinary story for members of his family who may have wanted to know more about his last days. As I write this article, I imagine the wide circulation of the Puka Puka Parade may reach someone who may know Lt. Ethridge’s family and maybe there may be survivors among us that may have been closer to Lt. Ethridge to fill the gaps in this story.”