The Battle Of Lanuvio

The Battle Of Lanuvio

By Kazuto Shimizu

The 100th was to pass through the positions held by 135th Infantry of the 34th Division which had suffered heavy casualties before the 100th came in. The morning of the attack was nice and sunny. As we passed over the 135th position, I saw young replacement soldiers with brand new rifles and uniforms huddled in fox holes in utter confusion while the Sergeant, probably their squad leader, took down their names from foxholes to foxholes. I thought to myself, what a horrible thing, to be a replacement soldier joining the combat unit at the front lines! This could have happened to me.

Then I saw Sgt Nakamoto deploying the 1st Platoon of C Company in a skirmish line for the attack as we left the 134th position. Lt Sueoka was next to him, walking upright and forward. This glimpse was the first and last time I saw Lt Sueoka, who had replaced Lt Jon Chinen and Lt Okada, who were our platoon leaders up until the night before the attack when both of them were wounded. This was the beginning of my initiation into combat. My first encounter with a German soldier was immediate. Not more than ten yards away, there were two of them with their hands up. I did not see them raise their hands so they must have seen me first. Yoshio Tengan and Edward Ogawa were to my right. The three of us would have been easy target for their machine pistols if they had not decided to surrender. Their foxholes were well camouflaged. We were probably saved by the boldness at which we advanced, which scared them into submission. From then on my eyes were bubbly wide and alert. I heard St Robert Takeo yelling at us not to waste time on souvenirs. I saw Edward Ogawa grab the muzzle end of a P-38 pistol and toss it into the bushes. We later found out that this pistol could have been exchanged for about $100, with one of the rear echelon soldiers or Merchant Marine personnel.

We advanced at a walking pace through the vineyard. Yasumasa Nagamine on my left was shooting in standing position at the enemy between the grapevines. He got several of them. The German soldier I encountered next was on his knees with all his weapons removed from him. I was scared but this German soldier was pale and white as a sheet. He had surrendered and would have done anything I told him to do. Here I was 20 years old pointing a gun at a man old enough to be my father. These thoughts went through my mind in fleeting seconds. But then the war couldn’t wait for these thoughts. All I did was frisk him to make sure there were no weapons on him and directed him to walk in the general direction from which we came. There was no time to hold or to escort prisoners. This prisoner was at the mercy of any mines along the way, or his comrades shooting him in the back as he surrendered, or from American troops in the rear that may mistake him for a German soldier, not a prisoner.

We kept on advancing until we reach a clearing. Our Squad (2nd Squad, 1st Platoon, C Company) reached this position without a single casualty. We had swept clear the right flank of the German first line of defense in this area. But the rest of the Company did not fare so well.

Lt Mazano, our Company Commander, and Lt Mitchell, our Company Executive Officer, were wounded and out of action. Our Squad was extremely lucky.

But the battle was not over yet. This was just the beginning. At this moment, I realized that I had fired only three rounds, and these shots were fired into possible concealments, not directly toward a definite target. How could I have gone through a fire fight at close quarters, like this, without firing a clearly directed shot? It all seemed incredible.

Then suddenly in front of us, two German tanks with identifying crosses, moved up from behind a farmhouse. The tank commanders had their heads above them. Then someone to my right yelled, “Don’t shoot, those are tanks.” I thought to myself how can that be, but held my fire since this was my first battle and I had to hesitate. In the meantime the German tanks were firing at our supporting tanks and moved out of sight.

And I wasn’t the only one hesitating like this. There was a German soldier behind a bunker with a white flag and Sgt Takeo was yelling not to fire at him because he was surrendering. Tom Miyoken, another replacement like me in his first battle was yelling back, “But they are shooting at our men!” The machine gun bullets that raked the ditch into which Toshimi Sodetani, by some instinct, refused to dive into for cover probably came from this bunker. Comical to think of it now.

The company dug in at this point for defensive action. A short while later some phosphorous smoke artillery shells started falling around us. One of these shells spattered incendiary particles on Rusty Nakagawa and he was out of action at this point. We replacements were too green to recognize that these smoke shells are used to zero in on a target and that an artillery barrage will soon follow. The barrage was so intense, that the exploding shells made a rumbling sound instead of a series of explosions. But we were lucky again and although we were covered with dirt and debris, the only injury was Edward Ogawa’s large bump on his forehead and a trickle of blood down his face. He was bandaged by a Medic and returned to the Squad immediately. I will make no accusations but to this day, I will swear that those artillery shells were coming from behind us, not from in front of us. This artillery was probably what prevented us from making further advances that day. We had to pull back from our forward positions, out of the shelled area, and formed a defensive position again. That was all for that day.

The next morning Sgt Takeo and part of our Squad including myself went forward again in the area of our advance of the previous day on a reconnaissance patrol to see whether or not the Germans had returned to the positions we had evacuated. The patrol took the narrow road that led forward. We did not find any enemy.

The 100th moved forward the same morning, made a night attack near the Alban Hills, moved forward to lead the 5th Army towards Rome. The 100th stopped short of Rome when enemy resistance ended and the 5th Army entered Rome that day. We saw the 5th Army roaring past us on all afternoon. Tanks, trucks, artillery units, Red Cross, everything movable.

June also saw the 100th, on orders, attached to the 442nd Regtl Combat Team and become its 1st Bn replacing the one left back in Shelby, depleted in ranks through having been used as the front-line replacement source, primarily for the 100th. But the 100th still remained part of the 34th Red Bull Division as the 442nd came under its command.

The rest is historical account too. And that’s the predominantly chronological history of the ONE PUKA PUKA PURPLE HEART BATTALION: 1,000 plus Purple Hearts; 73 Silver Stars; 96 Bronze Stars; 21 DSC’s; 6 Legion of Merits, and 16 Division Citations!