The Heart Of The Matter

“After the end of the World War of 1914 there was a deep conviction and almost universal hope that peace would reign in the world. This heart’s desire of all the peoples could easily have been gained by steadfastness in righteous convictions, and by reasonable common sense and prudence. The phrase ‘the war to end war’ was on every lip, and measures had been taken to turn it into reality.”

So does Winston Churchill begin Vol. I – The Gathering Storm – of his history of the Second World War. And in a small measure we have contributed our share to that history.

The following is a chronology of dates and events leading up to our first days in combat. The narrative is the; same as that which appeared in the September 1957 issue; however, the re-telling, we feel, is necessary because those were the times in which were forged the basic substance and ideal which compose the very heart of our organization today.

September 22, 1943. It was about 10 AM and we were scrambling down the rope ladders from the S.S. Frederick Funston, into the landing barges bobbing beneath us.

September 23. The big allied push out of the Salerno plains begins.

September 25. The 34th Division enters the chase after the retreating Germans. The following message is flashed to all 5th Army units; “There has recently arrived in this theater a battalion of American soldiers of Japanese ancestry. These troops take particular pride in their American origin. Your command should be so informed in order that during the stress and confusion of combat, cases of mistaken identity may be avoided.” The 34th Div, is under command of Gen. Ryder. Our companions are the 3rd Div. and the 45th Div.

September 26. The autumn rains have begun and we are sleeping that night in Italian mud. Bivouac is the S. Angelo-Montemarano road.

September 27-28. Captured our first prisoner. Still on the move forward. Still raining.

September 29. On the move at 6 in the morning. The 100th is now the advance guard for the combat team. Co. B leads off. It is now about 10 AM. 3rd Platoon rounds a bend in the road, on high ground near Chiusano. The Germans have the bend zeroed in. Sergeant Joe Takata says that since it’s the first time, he is going in first. Spotting a Jerry machine gun nest, he walks towards it, firing his automatic rifle. Shrapnel catches him in the head. He falls. And before the action is over, another has died, seven are wounded.

That is the way it happened, that day in September, 18 years ago, when the 100th Infantry Battalion first saw the flash of combat and turned the first of its rifles, bayonet down, into the tough and bloody soil of Italy.

Of the more than 1,400 men who left the islands on June 5, 1942 on the transport Maui, many did not return. Including postwar and Korean decedents, the following is a tabulation of deceased members of our organization and their place of burial, distinguished only between those buried at Punchbowl and “all others.”

Of course, over and above the 1,400 were the many replacements who came to our unit. But nevertheless, the 370 total appears to be an exceptionally high mortality figure for a battalion-sized combat unit.

And it is for these 370 that the memorial services are held each year. They are the ones whom we do not propose to forget.