Moriso Teraoka
100th Infantry Battalion

End of War

In May 1945, Germany surrenders. After almost a month of processing surrendering German soldiers in northern Italy, Moriso’s platoon is sent south to Livorno (Leghorn) to guard German POWs.

At Livorno, Moriso befriends Robert Theirfeldex, a POW in his seventies and a former music professor at the University of Munich. After evening chores, Robert plays the accordion for the soldiers and eventually teaches Moriso to play the accordion.

[The following text is excerpted from "My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" by Moriso Teraoka.]

After breaching the Gothic Line and with the German army retreating north, my company reached the city of Alessandria and the war ended on May 2 in Italy. The German soldiers gave up their arms and surrendered en masse at Ghedi Airport. Complete victory in Europe came on May 9, 1945, when the unconditional surrender became official.

After almost a month of processing the surrendering German army, the Combat Team folded up their tents, packed up, and my 3rd Platoon of Company D traveled south to Livorno (Leghorn) where our platoon was assigned to guard a group of POWs who worked at the facility moving military supplies at the docks of Livorno.

View of German prisoner of war camp. Livorno, Italy. July-October 1945.
View of German prisoner of war camp. Livorno, Italy. July-October 1945.

Our platoon took over a farmhouse near the POW compound. I believe the farming family maintained their residence in the back of our quarters.

Our platoon’s daily duty routine was to march the workers to the waterfront warehouse, stand watch, and return the POWs to their compound. This was a period of leisure. Someone was always on a three-day or a one-week pass. Switzerland, Rome, and other recreation centers were established by the armed services.

A POW was assigned to clean our living quarters. He was an elderly worker who would not have been in the service had it not been for the desperate situation of the Germans in the latter part of the war. The elderly man must have noticed the accordion on the floor adjacent to my bunk bed during his daily clean-up of our quarters.

Robert Thierfeldex, a former professor of music at the University of Munich, posing on the roof of D Company 3rd Platoon’s living quarters in Livorno.
Robert Thierfeldex, a former professor of music at the University of Munich, posing on the roof of D Company 3rd Platoon’s living quarters in Livorno.

One day he asked me in perfect English if he could play on the instrument. “Go ahead,” I said.

How he enjoyed the accordion. I would sit next to him on my bunk and listen to his music. He told me that he was a professor of music at the University of Munich. I asked him how old he was. I forget his exact answer, but he said he was seventy-something. Hitler’s army was desperate to fill the ranks in their armed services and drafted him for clerk duties, which he could do.

He used to obtain permission from the guard in the compound after his evening chores were done and play the accordion for us.

One evening I asked him if he would teach me to play the accordion and, without hesitation, he said, “Sure.” And the lessons began.

I knew how to read simple music notes for I used to be in the high school band in Hilo and reading a simple music sheet was not unfamiliar.

Encampment on outskirts of Livorno just before taking up residence in a nearby farmhouse. August 1945.
Encampment on outskirts of Livorno just before taking up residence in a nearby farmhouse. August 1945.

By the time his departure orders came for him to return to Germany, I had learned to play “Home Sweet Home,” “Aloha Oe,” and a few German folk tunes.

His name was Robert Theirfeldex. I bid him a fond farewell and gave him cartons of cigarettes and chocolate. Cigarettes were worth their weight in gold, and I was sure that my gifts would reach home safely. But of course, he went home not knowing if his family was still alive in Germany.

"My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" was reprinted with the permission of Moriso Teraoka. Photographs courtesy of Moriso Teraoka.

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