Italy

Breakthrough at Anzio

On March 26, the replenished 100th Battalion was deployed to the Anzio beachhead, about 35 miles south of Rome. Success at Anzio, coupled with the breakthrough at Cassino, would clear the way for the Allies’ assault on the Italian capital, Rome. But German resistance had forced a stalemate, keeping the troops pinned down in the plains.

On April 2, Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Singles assumed command of the 100th, with Major Clough returning to his post as second in command.  The stalemate meant long periods of inaction with the main duty of the 100th being to patrol its assigned area , fight off enemy infiltration  and collect any information about the German’s movements.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Young Oak Kim had devised a plan to obtain intelligence about German strength and movements in the area. Kim, a Korean American from California, was one of the few Asian Americans who had attended Officer Candidate School. He had already developed a reputation as a bold and fearless leader. On May 16, Lieutenant Kim and Private First Class Irving Akahoshi crawled through enemy lines and captured two German soldiers who provided vital information that enabled the Allied forces to break out of Anzio and move on to Rome. For their courageous actions, Lieutenant Kim and Private Akahoshi were both awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

On May 23 the Allied forces began their breakout from the Anzio beachhead.  With a third group of replacements from the 442nd, the battalion was almost at full strength.  Initially held in reserve, the 100th engaged in fierce fighting, resulting in six men earning Distinguished Service Crosses and one, a Silver Star.

Shutout at Rome

In June 1944, the 100th, along with five heavy weapons units, was assigned to clear out German troops holding Hill 435 near Lanuvio, the last enemy stronghold on the road to Rome. Earlier attempts by two battalions to break through had failed. The 100th accomplished the task on June 3. But seven miles from Rome, the unit’s quick advance was suddenly halted and the men were ordered to cease their approach. Disappointed and feeling that racial prejudice had been a factor in the issuance of the order, the soldiers watched as trucks carrying the 5th Army and other Allied troops rolled by, headed towards Rome and a heroes’ welcome. The 100th Infantry Battalion would eventually enter the outskirts of Rome, only to depart immediately afterward.

Arrival of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Even with the addition of the reinforcements from the 442nd, the 100th was still not operating at full strength.

On June 11, the unit was sent to Civitavecchia, where they met up with the entire 442nd Regiment Combat Team, which had only recently arrived in Italy. There were joyful reunions between brothers, relatives and friends. That same day, the 100th Battalion was attached to the 442nd, which was assigned to the 34th Division.

Before any further combat, however, the men were given 10-day passes for furloughs, enjoying pleasant experiences that would contrast sharply with the dark days still to come.

Capture of Belvedere

Two weeks later the 34th Division, including the 100th/442nd, pushed the Germans further north. Their mission was to capture Belvedere. Situated in northern Tuscany, this strategic town was essential to cutting off German resistance and reinforcements. The 100th was initially held in reserve while the 442nd attempted to take the town, but it later joined the fight when German resistance proved too stubborn.

On June 26, the 100th destroyed the right flank position of the German forces in a single, decisive blow, capturing Belvedere and forcing the surrender of the remaining German battalion. For its bold tactics and decisive victory over superior forces, the 100th was awarded the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation (previously known as the Distinguished Unit Citation), the highest award that can be presented to a military unit.

In the aftermath of the battle for Belvedere, Secretary of War Henry Stimson reviewed the troops. Captain Sakae Takahashi and B Company were selected to represent the 100th as the color guard unit. Division commander General Ryder presented them to Secretary Stimson as his “best outfit.”

Belvedere marked the first major engagement of the 100th working with the 442nd. This successful operation was the start of a string of decisive, hard-fought victories for the Nisei soldiers.

“Little Cassino”

The 100th/442nd next faced a five-day battle for Hill 140, also referred to as “Little Cassino,” because it had been heavily seeded with land mines and was fully secured by German troops. It stood in the way to nearby Castellina.

On July 7, the 100th relieved the 2nd Battalion of the 442nd and captured the hill. The 100th/442nd secured Castellina once it was captured and after being relieved, began a slow advance toward the port city of Leghorn which lay in ruins from previous fighting. On July 27, the 100th/442nd moved out once more, this time traveling south to Vada, the 34th Division’s rest camp.

The following month, on August 14, the 100th was formally attached to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and designated its 1st Battalion. However, because of its impressive record in combat, the 100th was allowed to retain its original name. The 442nd’s original 1st Battalion had been left behind at Camp Shelby because its ranks were thinned when many of its men were sent to the battle-depleted 100th Battalion as the replacements.

During this period, the 100th was detached from the 442nd and assigned to patrol an area south of the Arno River and east of Pisa.  On September 1, the 100th crossed the Arno River in preparation for a big offensive against the Gothic Line that protected the Po Valley.  Shortly after that, the 100th was pulled out and trucked to Piombino where, on September 10, they boarded a ship for Naples.

On September 27, the 100th/442nd departed Naples for a new mission in France. Two days later, the men arrived in Marseilles, where they joined the 7th Army.