100th Infantry Battalion
The Gothic Line and Po Valley Campaign
The Germans had been constructing fortifications, known as the Gothic Line, along the top of the Apennines for nine months.
In April 1945, together with the 92nd Infantry Division, the 100th/442nd is ordered to spearhead a diversionary assault on the western sector of the Gothic Line in Italy.
The 100th/442nd breaches this formerly impregnable stronghold. This battle, known as the Po Valley Campaign, effectively ends the war in Italy.
[The following text is excerpted from "My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" by Moriso Teraoka.]
Gothic Line / Po Valley Campaign
Under the veil of secrecy, the Combat Team was shipped back to Livorno, Italy. Together with the elements of the 92nd Division, the Combat Team was to crack the western anchor of the Gothic Line in the mountain ranges north of Pisa, which the Germans had fortified and strengthened for [nine] months.
The quick penetration of the Gothic Line opened the Po Valley to the Allies and the routing of the enemy. This last battle, called the Po Valley Campaign, effectively ended the war in Italy.
I can still recall the morning the assault began. The whole sky was lit with the booming of the artillery to soften the enemy defense. After a lengthy barrage, the rifle companies made a move towards the enemy line.
Our 81 mm mortar squad began our hike up the mountain path where the riflemen had passed earlier that morning in April 1945. My first day in combat was of fear and apprehension, not knowing how I would react in battle.
While hiking up the path I could hear the whistling of incoming shells. All the old-timers hit the ground; we first-timers were a second late. I learned real fast to hit the ground, especially when a flutter is heard, because it’s always a close one.
Further up the same trail, one of the men was lying face down with one leg gone, killed in action.
Eventually our squad set up our mortar and started lobbing mortar shells over the hill to provide cover to our advancing riflemen. I remember firing hundreds and hundreds of rounds throughout the day.
The pack mules were the beasts of burden for the entire regiment. Jeeps and trucks brought ammunition to the foot of the mountain, but it was the mules that had to make the final trip to the gun emplacement. I still remember the night our squad was walking along the ledge of a mountain path. The mules loaded with mortar shells were following. We heard a rumble behind us. One of the mules lost it’s footing and fell over the ledge.
Still pursuing the enemy, our platoon came into the town of Carrara where the world’s supply of white marble comes from. This is the marble Michelangelo’s statues are made of. The whole mountain was white marble; huge blocks of this white marble, some as big as a one-story three-bedroom house were cut out with pneumatic tools. The huge blocks were winched down to the foot of the mountain and cut into slabs.
Shielding our eyes with our hands we could see the trail winding up the mountain slope. Our squad had to climb to the top of one of the mountains.
The 81 mm mortar was disassembled into three parts while being transported. Each piece weighed about 45 pounds. Even the mules couldn’t help us this time. We had to lug the tube, tripod and base plate bodily as we climbed, hand over hand. But help came in the form of ten-year-old to twelve-year-old kids from the village. They relieved us of our backpacks and climbed to the top without a break. The kids had to wait a long time before we got to the top. We paid them with candies and cigarettes.
One day our squad took a break in a farmhouse. We unloaded our backpacks in a room overlooking the enemy ground. The room was being used as a forward observation post by an artillery unit. We went into the kitchen to cook our rations. An enemy shell made a direct hit to the room and destroyed the observation post. One of the guys had just cooked a pot of rice in a clay pot when the shell hit the room. “Sacramento,” the guy cussed in Italian. The concussion of the hit had cracked the pot cleanly around the base, and he held a bottomless pot in his hand.
Towards the end of the fighting, an accident befell a rifleman who had stopped for a break. While taking off his backpack, this rifleman’s grenade somehow snagged its safety pin and before anybody realized what happened, the grenade exploded. He had covered it with his body and died instantly. We were in the next room when the call “medic” was heard.
"My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" was reprinted with the permission of Moriso Teraoka. Photographs courtesy of Moriso Teraoka.