Memories-Goat Hill-Salerno Bay

Author: Tom Nagata, C Company
Puka Puka Parades, November 1996, #96-11

Tom Nagata reflects on meeting Joe Takata in Africa and his death at Salerno Bay

The 100th Infantry Battalion had landed in Oran, North Africa, on September 2, 1943. Our campsite was a short distance away and previous soldiers that had used the camp had named it “Goat Hill.” Couple of days later, it was my turn for night guard duty. At the guard tent that evening, I met the other NCO, Sgt. Shigeo Joe Takata from B Company and I was from C Company. After posting of the guards, we sat up all night talking and checking up on the sentries. Joe loved the game of baseball, and he mentioned that he played on the Asahi AJA baseball team. We talked of many things that night and parted as friends the next morning.

The Battalion had arrived in Salerno Bay on the morning of September 22, 1943. The sky was clear, and the sea was calm. The enemy was miles away as we started to get off the boat. It was our turn to get down the boat by rope ladder and into the landing barges. As I sat down, I saw our Battalion Commander, Col. Farrant Turner and half of his staff already in the boat. We made a good landing and nobody got wet. I saw mullet swimming in the clear waters of the Sele River as we hiked up the hill. The vegetation turned from cactus plants at sea level to crab apple trees higher up. It had rained heavily the night before, so those of us that had slept in the open field got up early on the morning of September 29, 1943, to clean our rifles. We hiked and rode trucks and then hiked as we neared the battle zone. The farmers had harvested their chestnut trees and the nuts were piled in heaps in front of their farmhouses. Company “B” had taken the lead as we crossed into “no-man’s land.” C Company was in reserve behind Battalion headquarters. We passed some soldiers sitting in their foxholes from another outfit. Suddenly, we heard sounds of machine gun fire, and exploding mortar artillery shells up ahead. A spent shell fragment landed near me. Additional rifle fire was heard and then silence. Then, I heard the voice of Col. Turner ahead, reporting by radio to the Regiment that Sgt. Joe Takata had been killed by artillery shells, but that his heroic action in leading his men to outflank the enemy had caused the enemy to withdraw. The Colonel also said that he was putting the name of Sgt. Takata for the DSC Medal for Gallantry in Action. The Battalion moved forward and as each soldier passed the dead soldier by the road-side, offered a silent prayer to a brave comrade.