Anzio Beachhead—May 1944 “In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow”

It was a beautiful morning as our LST docked in Nettuno harbor. We got off the ship and dispersed in groups for our trucks from the 100th Infantry Battalion to pick us up. I had been wounded during our second push against Cassino in early February. It was now May and the 100th had been in Anzio beachhead with the 34th Division since late March. The trucks came at night to take us to the front while German planes flew high over Nettuno harbor to bomb the ships there. Red machine-gun tracer bullets climbed skyward and anti-aircraft shells exploded in the darkened sky. There was also a German coastal gun on rails that threw a large shell around the harbor area from Civitavecchia, a seaport west of Rome. We stopped at the company kitchen and were fed fried Spam mixed with wild turnip greens that the kitchen crew had gathered that day from the nearby fields. Next morning we went to the nearby Mussolini canal to wash up and somebody threw a concussion grenade into the canal and couple of fishes floated to the surface. There was a soldier with mosquito netting that was scooping up shrimps. Further upstream a well-built soldier in his shorts was swimming with a beautiful freestyle stroke and somebody told me that he was a world class swimmer from D Company. That evening we went forward to join the 100th in the frontlines. Near the company command post lay a dead soldier who was killed in combat that day and he was only about 19 years old and had joined the 100th only a short time ago. The next day dawned bright and clear and as I sat next to the platoon messenger we heard a loud explosion nearby. One of our men had stepped out of his foxhole into a field of beautiful red poppies and had died instantly upon stepping onto a hidden field mine that the Germans had placed before withdrawing. So on Memorial Day when I visit our Maui Veterans Cemetery at Makawao I think of that day in May and offer a prayer for our fallen comrades.