WW2 Memories – Cairo-Cassino

Ww2 Memories – Cairo-Cassino

By Tom Nagata (C/Maui)

On February 1, 1944, the 100th Inf. Bn. was in reserve near Cassino. Word came that Platoon Sgts. Takeichi Miyashiro, Francis Kudo and Masanao Otake of C Company were field promoted to 2nd Lt. A Maui soldier from D Company, Tadayoshi Hamasaki, had also been promoted to Lieutenant. Soon after that, the Battalion moved out under cover of darkness and moved quietly into Cairo, a short distance from Cassino, and dispersed into the empty houses. Next morning, a jeep with two news correspondents came up the road to Cairo and got into a hut below us. They ran out and went full speed down the road when enemy artillery shells began falling near them. About half an hour later, I saw an enemy plane from below the valley come roaring up to Cairo and drop a bomb near the hut. It landed with a roar across the street from us and killed a dozen mules. On February 8, the Battalion moved out after midnight and hiked to a spot behind Castle Hill. At daybreak our artillery dropped smoke shells in the draw and C Company, led by Captain Richard Mizuta, attacked Hill 165, climbing terraced fields with retaining stone walls. Surprised enemy soldiers came running out of dugouts and ran behind the farmhouse above Castle Hill. I was ordered by Captain Mizuta to go forward and watch for an enemy tank that had been driven off by bazookaman Tatsuo Kanoura. When I passed Captain Mizuta with his messengers, I was surprised to see Major James Lovell up front with the men, and he was shooting away at the fleeing enemy, wounding one of them. I was impressed to find our Battalion Commander up front with the men of C Company. I went forward and pretty soon I heard the enemy tank returning and positioning itself in the clearing facing us. I kneeled behind a jeep-sized boulder and fired an anti-tank rifle grenade. As it exploded underneath the tank, the enemy fired its half-raised cannon and the shell exploded midway on the ground. My second grenade landed at the same spot and by then the tank had raised its cannon and the shell exploded in front of the boulder, showering me with a bucket of dirt. By then an A Company bazookaman came up. He found shelter behind the boulder and prepared to fire his bazooka, but the tank fired first and the shell exploded on the boulder, causing the boulder to topple over the front of the bazooka in such a way that the bazookaman sustained a compound fracture of his right wrist. He received first aid from the men near Captain Mizuta. I ran back to the C Company area and met bazookaman Masao Awakuni and he volunteered to go with me to the top of Hill 165 and try to hit the tank from there, as the big boulder area was getting too hot. His first bazooka shell did not explode and his second shot was a near-miss that forced the tank to change its position with its flank exposed to us. I jumped down behind a nearby rock wall and fired two armor piercing rifle bullets at the tank’s flank. An A Company man ran up the stone wall and delivered two bazooka shells to Awakuni. Suddenly, enemy machinegun bullets came whipping down and raised dust spurts around Major Lovell’s leg, so I shouted a warning to him and with upraised rifle, turned towards Monastery Hill. By then a second burst of machinegun bullets came skipping all around me and I felt a hammer-like blow on my upper right arm as a hot bullet tore through my arm. Some A Company men behind the rock wall gave me first aid, and about that time Masao Awakuni was destroying his second enemy tank with his bazooka. His first was at Alife. As I sat down behind the rock wall, which was about four feet high, the enemy machine gun fired a string of bullets in front of me and traversed along the rock wall where some A Company men had found shelter. It is possible that Walter “Biffa” Moriguchi was wounded at that time. An artillery shell came screaming up and exploded near the enemy machine gun emplacement partway below the Abbey on Monastery Hill and one enemy soldier jumped out of the emplacement and ran down to a nearby farmhouse. Four more artillery shells bracketed the second enemy soldier as he ran toward the farmhouse and he disappeared into bits as the shells blasted all around him. Further down in another farmhouse, Sgt. Jack Gushiken and his squad had a ringside view of the morning’s battle of the Battalion. Major James Lovell received his second Purple Heart Medal and the Silver Star Medal for Valor, and Masao Awakuni received a Purple Heart Medal and the Distinguished Service Cross for Gallantry in Combat.