Memories: From Anzio To Civitavecchia

Memories: From Anzio To Civitavecchia

by Saburo Nishime

The 100th Infantry Battalion, reinforced by the first replacement from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, moved from San Giorgio near Benevento to the staging area at Bagnoli. Lt. Yamamoto was now the 2nd Platoon Officer.

While still at Bagnoli one afternoon, several of us decided to go to Naples, a short distance away. An electrical tram was running from Bagnoli to Naples. The five of us were Kiyoshi Teshima, Charles Takashima, Rokuro Yamase, another member and myself, all from Dog Company. When it came time to return to Bagnoli, we found the tram had stopped running. There was no alternative but to stay overnight in Naples. There was no problem finding a place to stay for the night. Early the following morning, we all took the first tram back to Bagnoli. When we got to Bagnoli, we found the whole 100th Bn. on the move. We all had to run into the barracks, pick up our bags, etc. and make a mad dash to join our sections on the march.

The 100th Bn. got on a LST at Naples and sailed to the Anzio Beachhead. Under cover of darkness, all companies and sections of the 100th Bn. motored to assigned designated locations, which were mostly farmhouses. These farmhouses were heavily protected with sandbag shelters.

The German artillery batteries could reach all areas of the Anzio Beachhead so movement of men and vehicles was permitted only at night. Most of the battalion and company jeeps, trucks and other vehicles were left behind in the Bagnoli area; and only vehicles needed to distribute meal rations, mail, etc. to the troops were brought along to Anzio.

From about the end of March 1944 to the end of May, it was a period of minimum activity. To keep occupied, we all had to find something to do. Shangy Tsukano liked to draw in pencil. I tried my hand at drawing and found myself fairly good in copying from photos and drawing on V-mail. I sent several V- mail drawings to my sister, but none of them are around anymore. I also had my sister send me a cheap harmonica which, with some “bathtub singing” among some of us, helped to relieve some of the monotony.

The military newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, published instructions on how to make a crude radio by using the field phone for reception. It involved making up a few wire turns taken from the field communication wire, then taking a razor blade to act as a crystal and moving a single stiff wire around the crystal until contact with a radio station was made. We were able to listen to Axis Sally broadcasting from Rome. We all enjoyed the radio entertainment broadcast by Axis Sally and we were sorry to learn after the war that the Allies charged her with treason. The same thing happened to Tokyo Rose in the Pacific Theater. Argument still can be considered: “What was the treason all about?” Tokyo Rose, only in recent years, was exonerated of all the treason charges.

Another member at our Anzio Beachhead was Halo Hirose, who already had a national reputation as a swimmer.

During the early days at the Anzio Beachhead, there was an occasion when two officers with 3rd Div. insignias were walking around in broad daylight, looking at every facility, all from the outside, and talking to no one. Nobody thought it was odd having officers with 3rd Div. insignias looking over the 34th Div. area. “Doc” Hosaka says he remembered seeing them but somehow I didn’t notice them. The only one I know who spoke to them was Charles Takashima. He told them they were not supposed to be walking around in broad daylight. The two did not answer and just walked away. A few days after this incident, the farmhouses occupied by the 34th Div. were heavily shelled by the German artillery. Our farmhouse received a battery shelling but luckily, our building was not hit. Our other machine gun section in another farmhouse some distance away took a hit and we lost Chuji Saito, our platoon sergeant. From our area, we could see the farmhouse where the 100th Bn. and Medics were located. We could see where the building had taken a direct hit causing a large hole in the wall. Kiyoshi Teshima and Motomu Yamamoto were badly wounded and never returned to Dog Company.

A few days later, we were informed by Div. Hqs. that the 34th Div. had contacted the 3rd Div. Hqs. and inquired if the 3rd Div. had two of their officers casing the 34th Div. area on the date the two officers with the 3rd Div. insignias were seen. The 34th learned that these officers were not from the 3rd Div.

While at the Anzio Beachhead, I accidentally drank 80-octane gasoline. In broad daylight I had to go over to our Medics to get the gasoline out of my stomach. As instructed by the Medical Officer, I heated up a cupful of water with plenty of salt and drank it. Then I reached deep down my throat with my fingers and managed to vomit all the water I had drunk and, with it, out came the gasoline. The gasoline was used for our portable field cooking stove, which was issued to each section.

The German aircraft would come flying over at night, dropping personnel bombs or propaganda leaflets. At the same time, all the ack-ack guns would come to life over the entire beachhead. Some of the leaflets had 4-letter words in the messages. I sent a few of these leaflets to my sister. At first the censors let those leaflets go through the mail. It didn’t take long before the censors put a stop to sending propaganda leaflets in the mail.

Also, nightly the Germans would send over a low flying aircraft barely clearing the ground. From all indications, this aircraft was to draw fire from the ground troops.

There was an occasion in the spring when the entire beachhead just burst forth with red flowering poppies. I don’t know if the Italians extracted opium from these poppies.

In the latter part of May, the 100th was up to full strength and the battalion companies moved out of the farmhouses and, for several days in the dark, moved around the areas of the beachhead. I only have a vague recollection just where we moved to. During this period, officers of the 1st Platoon went strolling around in the night but we never knew what the purpose was. They got shelled by the Germans the first night and got away unscathed. These same officers again went patrolling the second night and again were shelled by the German artillery. One of the officers dove into a bomb hole for protection. He was instantly killed when a booby trap which the Germans had rigged in the hole went off. About two days later, when Dog Co. pulled out of this area, this officer still laid face down in the bomb hole.

Finally, the 34th Div. started the attack to break out of the Anzio Beachhead. The 100th was fully committed on June 2, 1944. Our machine gun section took over a gun position, which was formerly occupied by the 135& Reg. Bn. The machine gun alignment was already set, so our machine gun was set in place and immediately we started firing away to support the attacking infantry company of the 100th. Lt. Takemoto was with the 81mm next to our position. He was talking on the phone with Nikaido and giving instructions. In short order, we received instructions to lift our fire because our machine gun bullets were falling in the area of our attacking and advancing rifle company. For the rest of the afternoon, our section was in an area away from enemy artillery and mortar shelling. A number of riflemen from the “Beanie” attacking units came wandering around our area, having been separated from their attacking units and had no idea where their units were. We gave them some of our rations and sent them on their way.

The riflemen of the 100th successfully fought their way through enemy opposition. Meeting up with Takao Kubota sometime later, he mentioned that a German tank had come up in their area and the bazooka specialist’s weapon misfired. By the time the replacement bazooka came by, the German tank had moved out of range. In this final successful engagement at the Anzio Beachhead, numerous members of the 100th were awarded DSCs. In recent years, two were upgraded to CMOH. They were Shinyei Nakamine (KIA) and Yeiki Kobashigawa, who received a Lt. commission.

By the third day of the attack, we had moved up and our artillery had lifted. We always dug in during any kind of break. On this one occasion, while everybody was digging in, this one member of the First Platoon presumed it was all clear and, instead of digging in like the others, came around to talk story. One of our 155 batteries had not lifted their guns, and the resulting shell landed right in this particular area and killed this member who did not dig in. In combat, to live long, you dig in.

On June 5, 1944, we woke up in the morning and started moving out. We found we were moving along the paved highway without any opposition. A lone German tank was waiting up on the highway, and when the U.S. tank appeared, the German tank fired a lone shell, which penetrated the turret of the leading tank, knocking the tank out of action. The crew members, dead and living, of the knocked-out tank were on the side of the highway when the 100th marched past them on the highway to Rome.

A few miles out of Rome, the 100th was pulled off to the side of the highway and watched as the armored tanks and military vehicles of the 5th Army rolled past on their way into Rome and beyond. It was dark when the 100th got on wheels and took a route that bypassed Rome and eventually ended up in Civitavecchia. Here, our organization became the 100th Battalion of the newly arrived 442n£* Infantry Regiment and remained as such thereafter.

Interesting Information:

During this period, from Anzio to Civitavecchia, the following Nisei officers joined the 100th Battalion’s Dog Company:

Lt Herbert Yamamoto, Lt. Robert Taira, Lt Edward Yoshimasu, Lt. Denis Teraoka, Lt. Francis Takemoto.

These officers all remained with the 100th Bn. until the end of the war.

The original officers who went into combat with Dog Company were:

Capt. Jack Mizuha, Lt. Shigeru Tsubota, Lt. Sparky Matsunaga, TX Richard Kawamoto

These original officers were all gone by the time we got to Cassino.