WWII Memories – Cassino, Rapido River

WW2 Memories – Cassino, Rapido River

By Tom Nagata (C/Maui)

January 24, 1944: It was almost midnight. Company C on the left and Company A on the right were at the line of departure, a road leading into Cassino, on our left. An artillery barrage of 500 guns had been firing on the Gustav Line of enemy machine gun emplacements about a quarter mile from us, for the last half hour. The objective for the 100th Inf. Bn. was the Rapido River. My assignment was to see that the scouts of the first and second platoons of C Company advance together, so I was kept busy as we advanced through knee-deep flooded fields and ditches with the rest of the company following behind. About 400 yards into “no-man’s land,” we came to a wide dry waist-high ditch where we waited for the company to catch up to us. Shortly after we left the ditch an above-ground mine went off wounding all the scouts of the two platoons. Three were able to walk back to the aid station and one had to wait for litter bearers, because of a leg injury. Suddenly, an enemy machinegun opened fire through the dry ditch and Corporal Edward Yoshida was seriously wounded. I tried to help him in the dark of night, but he died soon afterward. Meantime, Platoon Sgt. John Miyagawa took off his pack and with white marker tape in hand, crawled his way through the mine field to the Rapido River cement wall. C Company went through the mine field following the white tape marker without any casualty. Next morning, as I ate my K ration, I gave one to Miyagawa, as he had left his pack in the dry ditch with his K rations inside. Company A, under the command of Captain Mits Fukuda, had also reached the Rapido River before daylight and had suffered casualties also. About mid-morning, our artillery threw some smoke shells around the muddy field that we had crossed the night before. Suddenly, B Company with Captain Sakae Takahashi leading, charged across the field toward A Company and the Rapido River bank. Enemy machine guns opened fire on them as the smoke thinned out and when they went through the mine field, more casualties were suffered. Isoji Iwaishi of Makawao was one of the men that made it to the Rapido River bank that morning, and later that evening he was one of the litter bearers that carried a seriously wounded major back to the aid station. Another Maui soldier, radioman Sueo Noda of Kahului was killed that morning. Soon after B Company had joined A Company, we received orders to fix bayonet and prepare for a frontal assault. I looked over the dry river bed, and the barbed wire and mine fields underneath, and the machinegun emplacements on the hill above that and wondered if any of us would reach our objective that morning. No orders came to attack. Sometime during the day, Captain Mizuta spotted an enemy soldier standing up in his machinegun emplacement and he ordered Platoon Sgt. John Myagawa to take a rifle shot at him. Later, under cover of darkness, C Company was ordered to pull back to our former line of departure. Scout Richard Iriguchi, who was still waiting in the dry ditch because of his wounded leg, was dragged back to safety by his friends. By daybreak, we had dug in behind a row of hedges beside the road when suddenly we heard a short burst of machinegun fire. Taro Tonai, C Company messenger, was seriously wounded while he was on his way to deliver a message. He died before he could get medical help and his body was left in a dry irrigation ditch. Unfortunately, it rained heavily after we left and his body was washed down to the Rapido River before it could be recovered. He is the only KIA from Maui whose body was not recovered in WW2. Platoon Sgt. John Miyagawa and Sgt. Gary Hisaoka of C Company and Captain Mits Fukuda of A Company won the Silver Star Medals for Valor in Combat.