A Path Through The Minefields

A Path Through The Minefields

As recounted by Calvin Shimogaki

From 11:30 P.M. to midnight, jump-off time, five battalions of artillery sent a cascade of fire at the German positions. The three battalions of the 133d then moved ahead abreast, the 1st on the right, the 3d in the center, and the 100th on the left, south of the barracks. Men of the ammunition and pioneer platoons cleared paths though the mines for Companies A and C, which led the 100th’s advance. Sergeant Calvin Shimogaki, his mine detector disabled by a bullet, crawled in the mud, searching with his hands for trip wires, and cleared a path five feet wide and fifty yards long…from Thomas D. Murphy’s “Ambassadors in Arms.”

Combined with the rains and a dam blown by the Germans, the Liri was a flooded valley as the 100th jumped off after midnight on the 24th of January 1944. Able and Charlie companies were at less than half their normal strength. Calvin Shimogaki as a platoon sergeant, together with Robert Fukumoto and Shizuo Toma, were attached to Able. It wasn’t long before the company came up to the minefield, and Calvin and his two men were called up front.

Because of the deep mud, the Germans could not install their deadly “bouncing babies,” those trip mines with their steel pellets. Instead, they set out a cross-pattern of stake mines; dynamite shaped mines molded in concrete and steel mesh placed on wooden stakes 6 to 8 inches above ground, with trip wires leading to a detonator triggered to blast at about 15 pounds pull.

His mine detector useless, Sergeant Shimogaki crawled through the mud to locate each trip wire, cut the wires and then neutralized the mines. In this slow, painstaking manner, Shimogaki cleared a path through the minefield, with Fukumoto and Toma following right behind him laying out the white guide tapes.

In the following nights, the path cleared by Shimogaki, Fukumoto and Toma was used to haul food and ammo to the rifle companies who could not move beyond the retaining wall of the east bank of the Rapido River, stopped by the overlooking machine gun fire of the Germans.