Memories: Civitavecchia To Pisa And Beyond

Memories: Civitavecchia To Pisa And Beyond By Saburo Nishime

The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 442nd Regiment started off the attack from Civitavecchia, and the 100th Bn. was initially held in reserve. The 2nd and 3rd Bns. immediately ran into strong German opposition and suffered many casualties. Col. Pence then committed the 100th Bn. The command of the 100th found an opening in the German defense and immediately took advantage and attacked. Our Second Platoon didn’t get into the action until Lt. Pluite called for our section, and we reported to where the lieutenant was located. Lt. Pluite then fired a tracer bullet to show where a number of Germans were located. The Germans were trying to get away and they were already quite a long distance away; so I doubt our machine guns did too much damage. We could see the bullets from our machine guns kicking up the dust where the bullets landed, and some of the Germans ran right through and managed to get away with the bullets dancing around them.

The First Platoon machine gunners had their sights on an Italian “farmer” on a horse-drawn wagon as it was pulling away from the combat area. Before the wagon could get out of sight around a bend, the First Platoon machine gunners opened fire on the wagon, causing it to turn over, and a whole load of mortar shells came tumbling out from the wagon. This prevented the Germans from getting hold of all these mortar shells.

We came across a German tank that was knocked out of action by the 100th Bn. bazooka specialist and we could see several of the tank crew lying outside the tank. The 100th Bn. riflemen captured a number of air-cooled-engine German jeeps and the 100th Bn. drivers were driving them around. They probably were German Volkswagens.

The battle of Belvedere was a most highly successful operation for the 100th Inf. Bn., where so much was won with so few casualties. There would not be another battle like this. The 100th Bn. was awarded its first Presidential Unit Citation for this battle.

With the battle of Belvedere out of the way, and while the members of the 100th Bn. were just lying around, the 2nd and 3rd Bns. of the 442nd came marching up the road and got some friendly kidding from some of the 100th Bn. members.

The following day, the 100th Bn. was moving up, along with a battalion of the 442nd. While on a hill overlooking Sasseta, our machine guns fired on a far off hill at some Germans trying to get away. We didn’t know where our bullets were falling, so Bolo Masaki fired a tracer with our machine gun and we found our bullets were way over the target. By the time we adjusted our firing, the Germans were too far away for our machine guns to be effective.

The next are series of events which took place when the 100th Bn. was advancing with the 2nd and 3rd Bns. of the 442nd, and which involved separate skirmishes with the enemy.

There was this one occasion when Lt. Yamamoto sent us up forward to dig positions to set up our machine guns. Bolo and I worked on one of the positions and Doc Hosaka and his assistant were digging the other. Suddenly, the Germans counter-attacked on the extreme left of our position in a heavily bushed area. Doc Hosaka did not know a German counter-attack was in progress. Bolo quietly called out across to Doc, telling him of the counter-attack. From somewhere in the rear area, our machine guns opened up on the attacking Germans and they all melted away in the heavy brush. While the attack was in progress, one of our officers railed out, “Watch the right flank!” That was right in front of us.

There was that night when our machine gun section was attached to a rifle company. The night attack successfully took over from the Germans a two-story farmhouse in a wooded area. One of the riflemen shot and killed a German who was “taking a crap” outside the building. When we all came across the scene, the German was still in the same sitting position.

The counter-attack is almost SOP with the Germans, to try and regain their lost ground. One of the counter-attacking Germans came past the open window of the building where a rifleman, who was in the room, let loose with his carbine on full automatic and managed to split in half the head of the attacking German. Sometime later, some of us went over to see what souvenirs we could find. One of the guys lifted the German’s head and found a pair of field glasses. Inside the farm house, we were not subjected to artillery or mortar shelling. Those on the outside were subjected to heavy shelling and suffered a number of casualties.

The following day, our machine gun section accompanied the rifle company from this farmhouse to the side of a hill. On this hill, we got caught in the middle of a very concentrated mortar barrage, and the shells pounded down all around our machine gun section. During a short break from the mortar shelling, Yoshio Koji got up and yelled, “I’m getting the hell out of this area!” and he ran back, out of range of the mortar shelling. A number of others of our section also followed Koji and got out of range of the mortar shelling. Soon after, the German mortar shelling stopped, and luckily nobody had gotten hit.

Some days later, the 100th Bn. was moving up in single file, and the Germans were periodically lobbing single long-range shells at our column. At that time, our Dog Co. machine gun section was bringing up the rear with Hq. section. I happened to come across Lt. Tetsu Ebata, who was in reserve at that time. I knew Lt. Ebata from our relationship on Kauai. Ebata was from the town of Koloa, Kauai, and I was from the next town. As we moved forward, I had a long talk with Lt. Ebata, until we came up to a large Italian farmhouse. Our machine gun section was sent to guard the left flank as the 100th Bn. moved down a draw to get maximum protection. After the 100th Bn. had moved past the draw, our machine gun section pulled back toward the farmhouse. One of the long-range shells had hit the farmhouse and had killed Lt. Ebata and another in his party. Our machine gun section went down the draw to join the rest of the 100th Bn. companies, who were all dug in on a small knoll.

The following day, the 3rd Bn. of the 442nd replaced the 100th, but the 100th waited until dark to pull back, following the same draw the battalion had come through the day before. Our machine gun section, following the same route, was almost to the top of the draw when we heard the sound of the long-range German shell; and knowing it was going to fall within our immediate area, we all hit the ground. The shell clipped the “okole” of one of our members, and the shell hit the ground hard; but the shell failed to go off!! By the grace of God, it was a dud!! If the shell had exploded, it was right in our midst and we were all fully exposed!! Thomas Durham Mekata yelled out, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” Needless to say, we all scrambled out of the area A.S.A.P.

The 100th Bn. was pulled back by Gen. Mark Clark to be present at a parade honoring Secretary of War Henry Stimson. The 100th Battalion’s relief from combat was only a short reprieve. It was sent back to relieve the 2nd Bn.

As usual, the 100th waited until dark to start off, but instead of going to relieve the 2nd Bn. directly, the 100th went around the right flank; and by morning, the riflemen were actively engaged in knocking off and capturing the enemy’s strong point. While the riflemen were still fighting, our machine guns were still not committed and we lay somewhere in the background Capt. Takahashi came by and he recommended that we dig in because, if the riflemen did not secure the strong point by daylight, the area we were in would be widely exposed. So we all dug in. In the early morning hours, still before daylight, we experienced machine gun firing that was raking over our position area; but the catch was, the machine gun bullets that were raking our area were not coming from the front where the enemy was located. Instead, it was coming from the rear of our location. By the sound of the firing, we knew immediately that the sound was that of an American machine gun. Them lolo “Beanie” bastards didn’t even know who they were firing at. They even directed a battery of their artillery shelling to rake our area. One of our kotonk sergeants even held up his helmet to attract the “Beanie’s” attention. It soon became daylight and the “Beanies” finally realized who they were firing at and immediately stopped firing. The “Beanie’s” artillery officer came by and made no apology for the shelling but tried to claim credit for a tank that was knocked off by one of our bazooka specialists. By daylight, the 100th Bn. was in full control. It was a good thing we had heeded Capt. Takahashi’s suggestion and had dug in, thereby sustaining no casualties.

In this combat action, Lt. Miyashiro almost single-handedly beat off a German counter-attack with his Browning automatic rifle and carbine and was awarded the DSC medal for exceptional courage and devotion to duty.

Eventually, the 34th Div. advanced to Leghorn. There are photos showing us Buddaheads and Kotonks resting along the streets in Leghorn.

For their extraordinary heroism during this Civitavecchia to Pisa campaign, two members of the 100th recently were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. They were: Kaoru Moto of Co. C and Masato Nakae of Co. A.

After entering Leghorn, the 100th Bn. was detached from the 442nc* and assigned to an AAA Unit and took on assignments along the Arno River Line. Our machine gun section was set up in a courtyard-like location, which could have been a shopping area; and we were in direct line with the Leaning Tower of Pisa which was on our left. The Italian civilians had all been evacuated from this area. Our machine gun positions were set up outside the court area and were manned only at night. It was always very quiet in our area. Our other machine gun section was located in another courtyard, some distance from us. They experienced the enemy coming around at night, more for harassing purposes, and on several occasions, they got into local skirmishes, with bullets flying. Thomas Durham Mekata was killed in one of these skirmishes.

The white peaches were fully ripe on the trees outside our courtyard. We went out at night and picked a bunch for our nightly snack. Also, there were a few chickens running around in our courtyard, and our kotonk sergeant got hold of them and made a fine chicken dinner, together with the ten-in-one ration we were receiving.

About this time, I had a chance to go on leave to the Rest Center in Rome. Besides making the rounds of the various points of interest, I had snapshots of myself taken by an outside photographer who was taking pictures with a German Leica camera. The pictures came out pretty good and they are the only photos of myself taken during the war years.

When I returned to our machine gun section, the whole AAA Detachment had moved forward some miles past the Leaning Tower of Pisa and was now quartered in a village residential building. From this location, the 100th Bn. was reassigned back to the 442nd and was pulled out and headed for France. At this time, a vacancy occurred in our section for a jeep driver and I was asked to fill that position, which I gladly accepted.