Genro Kashiwa
L Company, 442nd RCT


An Infantry Soldier's Memoirs of His Participation in the Exploits of The 442nd Regimental Combat Team in War

[The following is re-printed from the unpublished L Company Memoirs, Volume 1 edited by Genro Kashiwa.]


There have been many books and articles written about the exploits of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion as a whole, most of them being accounts of their battles interspersed with accounts and anecdotes of individual soldiers during certain battles in France and Italy.

I believe that there are very few books or articles which told the story of one single soldier's experience in his participation in the war as an infantryman of the 442nd RCT from the time he volunteered to serve, up to his discharge after the end of war.

I have read three such books with similar objectives, one written by Howie Hanamura of California, one written by Dorothy Matsuo, and the other written by First Sergeant Jack Wakamatsu of F Company. The latter leaning more toward the day to day battles of F Company for which Wakamatsu was First Sergeant. Dorothy Matsuo's "Boyhood to War" brought out the personal experiences of many individual soldiers as they related to specific battles or subjects. Howie Hanamura's article related to his personal experiences in the army from the time he was drafted just prior to the start of war until his discharge after serving as infantryman in the 442nd RCT, very similar to what I am attempting to do.

A few years ago I started to write about my personal experiences as an infantryman of the first platoon of Company L of the 442nd RCT, but I was not able to finish it due to lack of time and motivation. In October of 1994, as a part of the 50th anniversary of the 442nd, I joined a tour group which toured the battlegrounds of the 442nd in Italy and France, its primary objective being to join in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Bruyeres and Biffontaine, France, held separately on October 14th and 15th in Biffontaine and Bruyeres, respectively. I was moved by the trip and the commemoration celebrations which provided me with motivation to finally finish writing this article.

I was one of the few who was not wounded in battle throughout the war and therefore served in the 442nd RCT from its formation in 1943 to the end of the European war in 1945. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity of serving together with the originals of the 442nd and the replacements who joined us from time to time, primarily composed of Hawaii Buddhaheads and Mainland Kotonks.

My experience related in this article are those of a basic infantry soldier who survived the frustrations of "hurry up and wait" policy of the army, whose experience covered a wide range of events, the scary, the amusing, the bizarre, and the sad which occurred at various times and at various places, before, during and after battles.

My experiences are the "everyday ordinary experiences" of a combat soldier, if you can call them that, nothing heroic. Though an insignificant one of many, I nevertheless was a necessary and integral cog in the wheel which formed the machine that was the 442nd RCT. For the most part I literally followed our platoon all over the battlefields of Italy and France. That was my participation as the "platoon guide" of the platoon.

The name they presently use in the armed forces in referring to a lowly soldier is "Grunt.” I find this to be descriptive of the role of a soldier, the person who does things and get things done, the person who finally executes an order which passed through the chain of command. It is necessary to have Grunts to cause the army to be operational. There may be Grunts who may have done heroic things, but for the most part they do their duty as an ordinary Grunt, nothing outstanding. My story is an account of may [my] experiences as a Grunt.

It is easy to write about events and things which happened to me or observed by me. This article is full of that. It is difficult to write about how I felt beyond my feeling of being scared. I was always scared. Many times I was too busy or scared to have refined feelings about the situation. Such refined feeling comes only upon reflection later after the event. However, it was always there to be discovered.
The format of this article is a narration of my tour as a part of the tour group called "2nd Battalion Veterans European Pilgrimage" in the chronological order of our travels, first Italy, then southern France, Switzerland, and finally north eastern France, specifically Bruyeres and Biffontaine in the Vosges mountains and "forests. It is not arranged in the chronological order of the battles of the 442nd, which started in Italy then north eastern France, then southern France and finally in Italy Livorno. Generally the format is a narration of certain segments of the tour in 1994, followed by my recollection of "my experiences during the war 50 years ago in 1944 and 1945, relative to that segment of the tour. I emphasize that this article is my current recollections of events and places of 50 years ago, which are full of blank spaces and may be inaccurate.

I did not do detailed research to verify the veracity of my recollections as to events, dated [dates] and places. For the most part, I simply put them down as I remember them today.

(1945) PROFILE OF 442ND

"Paesano, dove tedesco?" I asked. He answered, "Tedesco tutto scappare." Partly relieved and yet so cautious, with our M-l Garand rifle loaded with a clip of .30 calibre ammunition holding 8 rounds, held at port, ready to react instantly, our platoon together with others entered the Italian town in a single file, 7 paces apart, hugging the walls and peeking around every corner to make sure that the Germans were not there. Truly the Germans had withdrawn and we had not encountered any resistance. Thus, the Italian town of Carrara was "liberated" by the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed of "Buddhaheads" and "Kotonks.”

The liberated Italians were overjoyed to see us, yet cautious and skeptical for the "liberators" were small in stature and looked oriental, but they had American uniforms. They referred to us as "Cinese.” Ah, I thought, vestige of the Marco Polo influence still remaining, still provincial, not having experienced other peoples. We from Hawaii, on the other hand, were worldly by then, though born and raised in sugar plantations in Hawaii, we after all had experienced: a steam ship voyage across the Pacific, a train ride that lasted many days across the continental United States, Hattiesburg, New Orleans, Meridian, Vicksburg, discrimination of blacks, and alien communities with more haoles than Orientals and Hawaiians.

The Kotonks on the other hand had hardened and grew up overnight upon experiencing incarceration in relocation camps, losing family fortunes, job and education opportunities. The discrimination they experienced, under the circumstances and in certain aspects, surpassed the hurt of the blacks in their discrimination experiences. The discrimination was by direct actions of the government of the United States. There was nobody to whom they can immediately appeal to correct the situation. Their future looked bleak. Yet undaunted, they put their trust in their tormentors and volunteered and served in the U.S. army.

The Kotonks and Buddhaheads, though of vastly different backgrounds, were twenty year olds, resilient, energetic and full of vitality. At first, due to their differing backgrounds, they clashed and did not get along with each other. But when the chips were down and where it counted, they were one in their "go for broke" resolve and attitude. I might add that for the most part the Kotonks tended to adopt the Buddhahead style, including their colorful Pidgin English.

The people of Carrara, in celebration, fed us spaghetti and wine. That was for the first day only. We found out later that they did, not have food to spare.


Flight 822 of United Air Lines from Dulles Airport, Washington, D.C. touched down at Rome airport at 6:30 a.m. after an 8-hour red-eye flight. This was the last leg of our flight which started in Honolulu on Thursday September 29th, 1994 at about noon with a layover at Washington D.C. where our Mainland contingents joined us. Our tour group of 35 persons, known as the "2nd Battalion Veterans European Pilgrimage,” organized by Alexander J. Oka of Service Company, was led by tour leader Dorothy Matsuo, author of "Boyhood to War.” This tour was one of many tours organized by different individuals and groups, all of whose destination was to be in Bruyeres and Biffontaine, France for the Commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the battles and the liberations of Bruyeres and Biffontaine to be held at Biffontaine and Bruyeres on Saturday October 15th, and Sunday October 16th respectively.

We had a diverse group. There were about 4 veterans from the Medics, about 4 veterans from Anti-Tank, 2 veterans (Albert Nakama and myself) from L Company, one from Artillery, one from Service Company (attached to Regimental) one from 3rd Battalion Headquarters Company, and only 2 belonging to 2nd Battalion: one from F company and one from H company. Wade Wasano of Sons and Daughters club and Karleen Chinen, Editor of Hawaii Herald, were also members of our group. Mr. and Mr. [Mrs.] Yoshio Ajitomi and their son Robert also joined our tour group. Mr. Ajitomi lost 2 brothers who were killed in action while serving in the 100th Battalion. This was a very congenial group who enjoyed each other’s company throughout the 19 days of bus rides through Italy, Switzerland and France.

When I first saw the itinerary of the tour, moving from one hotel to the next in one or two day intervals, I thought that I would not be able to stand it, but I did, and I enjoyed the travels. I learned to live out of a suitcase without unpacking at each stop. The enthusiasm of the others in our group was catching and I was caught up in it. It kept things lively, fun and interesting throughout, notwithstanding continental breakfast every day consisting of breads, coffee and juice, and lunches primarily of sandwiches, no rice. However, I am not complaining, I learned to drink moderate amounts of wine with my meals for my health.

I was apprehensive when we approached Rome. This was a trip to revisit battlegrounds. Will it bring back memories? Will it bring back unpleasant memories which I had unconsciously tried to forget? Will it cause me to remember more events than those which have persistently bothered me throughout the years? We shall see as we visit the places I have been 50 years ago. Will I be able to recognize the places after 50 years have elapsed?

The trip started off on the right foot. On the plane, I sat next to an American of Italian descent who has been working for the American armed forces in Italy for 15 years, then stationed in an airbase in Trieste north of Venice. After explaining the purpose of our trip, I asked him whether he knew a place called Ghedi? He did and stated that it is now being used as a U.S. airbase. Further, I asked him whether he knew a place called Tombolo? He did; he stated that it was a supply depot for the U.S. armed forces. My memory was correct, that there was a place called Tombolo where we were stationed after the war.


It was the 8th day of May 1945, we were just past the City of Milan when the German army surrendered and VE day was declared. The German army in the north Po Valley area all came to Ghedi, a small airport south of Brescia, to be processed in the surrender procedures. 442 RCT was ordered to Ghedi to set up the processing area and to process the German army units reporting there to surrender. The bivouac area was across the street from the airport. The entire regiment was lined up in a row of companies with each company's pump [pup] tents lined up in a neat rows - back to Camp Shelby basic training days. Regimental authorities intended that the regiment be spit and polish, but the men were still in the combat mood, discipline and mentality. I don't remember whether L Company did any processing, but I do remember that we guarded the perimeters of the POW compound.

All of a sudden the men of the 442nd were driving German Volkswagen vehicles, motorcycles and trucks. Some were even driving the vehicles into nearby Italian towns. The most serious incident of misplaced properties seized in the surrender processing was the disappearance of the German army payroll, which was in a strongbox. It was said that it contained [a] huge amount of Italian money in 10,000 lira denominations. The whole RCT had to go through an inspection, company by company. The search was unsuccessful. Our innocent rifle company platoon played the game straight according the rules. While guarding the perimeter of the compound, we kept the Italian farmers from selling their harvest of cherries to the German POW, because contact between prisoners and civilians were not allowed. However, knowing that the POWs wanted to eat fresh fruits, we accommodated by purchasing the cherries from the farmers and literally turning around to resell the cherries to the POWs. Of course, we added a surcharge for services rendered. Somehow, one of our boys got hold of a German motorcycle and was riding it in and around the area we were guarding. If we were innocent, they learned fast. I don't remember what happened to that motorcycle.

After finishing processing the surrendering German army, we were ordered to go to Tombolo near Livorno next to some railroad tracks. We set up regular tents (not pup tents) and we were garrisoned in the tents. Our job was to guard supply dumps containing German army supplies, for example, clothing, fur jackets and other supply items which did not resemble government issue. Our men were not very good guards in that the supplies kept dwindling down. The losses due to our inattention were negligible compared to the stories we heard about the disappearance of whole truckloads of PX supplies from quartermaster depots.

When we were at Tombolo, the point system for determining who would be sent home first was started. In the early days, the key was to have 85 points. Points were given for length of service, medals and service ribbons. I remember that I did not have enough points to be in the first group to go home. While waiting for the next group to be selected, I received another medal and that gave me enough points to be able to go with the first group, but alas the first group already departed.
While we were in Tombolo, the RCT started giving out passes to go to designated rest areas. Some went to Switzerland while others went to Greece. I was lucky in that I was one of the first from our RCT to go to Greece. When I went to Athens, I saw evidence of the just departed German soldiers all over the historic places.

Tombolo was a relaxed place. The officers were lax and there was no spit and polish. Crap and poker games were in progress every night in the day room. We even had a day room orderly, the late Kazuo "Hapa" Fujimoto was the most suitable person for the job, one of whose duties was to see that the crap and poker games were run in an orderly way. Passes were given out generously. The go for broke spirit which was invaluable during combat persisted in the boys. The boys had a wonderful time. They deserved it after what they went through during the fighting in the hills.


We arrived in Rome too early in the morning. The rooms at the hotels were not ready for us until the afternoon. We therefore, were given a tour of the place called Ostia Antica. I thought that this was just another "ruins" and was prepared for viewing of some dull ruins, but I was pleasantly surprised because it turned out to be ruins of a substantial ocean resort and seaport town outside of Rome next to the ocean. This resort town built in the century before Christ flourished about a century or two after Christ. It was preserved due to the fact that it was covered by sand, when the ocean moved away from the mouth of the river where the town was built. It was amazing to me that the Romans constructed such town and buildings with huge efficient public baths (heated) with clay pipe conduits for the heated air warming up the baths. It is said that they even had horse drawn taxis and ships that were used in their extensive trading throughout the Mediterranean.

Our hotel that night was Hotel Shangri La Corsetti. A welcome dinner was planned for us that night. The first order of business was self introduction. We found out the identity of our tour companions who would be with us constantly for 19 days. Some interesting stories were told. The medics, Tom Nakahara of Paauilo, Hawaii (his wife Bernice also on tour) and Herbert Akamine (dentist of Honolulu, wife Nancy also in tour) related how their fellow medics, George Minata (a pharmacist of Spokane Washington, wife Aiko also in tour) was shot in the neck, carried by Herbert Akamine to the aid station, where Herbert, himself wounded, collapsed as soon as he put George down. Seiji "Stud" Oshiro of Huntington Beach, California (a transplanted Hawaiian, wife Matsue also in tour) and Minoru "Chappy" Kishaba of Miranda, California (a transplanted Hawaiian, wife Molly also in tour) both of Anti-Tank related how they got their nicknames. Oshiro says that he is called "Stud" because he was reading the book Stud Lonigan when Masato Doi seeing that decided to call him "Stud,” so he says. Kishaba got his nickname "Chappy" because he was such a straight laced person, who never smoked or drank, "Chappy" being the short for chaplain. When Kishaba saw the list of members on the tour, he saw the name Seiji Oshiro, he was not sure so he immediately called up Oshiro and asked him whether his nickname is "Stud" thereby finding out that Seiji was indeed "Stud" of Anti-Tank.

Then there was James Ganeko of H Company (of Aiea, Hawaii, wife Katherine also in tour), a short tough person, who walks as though he was still carrying a base plate for an 81mm mortar, a man of few words, but witty joker. He said that in the middle of the battle for Bruyeres, it was so cold, wet and miserable that he decided to quit the army and he would so notify his employer at the first break.

I felt as though L Company had a good representation in the tour. Albert Nakama, 2nd platoon's platoon sergeant, and his wife Beryl were members of the tour. I believe that this was the first time I met Albert since the war. I was surprised to learn that he too went through the war without being wounded. He has forgotten many of the incidents which happened during the war, but as we proceeded through the many places, especially when we got close to Bruyeres, he started to recall many of the incidents and in great detail at that. Robert Owan, brother-in-law of Albert, (of Haleiwa, Hawaii) of Anti-Tank platoon of 3rd Battalion headquarters Company, and his wife Grace were in our tour as well. Like Sam Sasai, he had many stories to tell about his litter bearer days.

Of course, we had a representative of Service Company, Ted Yamate of Princeville, Kauai. He was for the most part a part of Regimental Headquarters assigned there every day, who throughout the war had 2 weapons, his rifle and his typewriter. He and his wife Clara were friendly tour companions making our trip a pleasant and relaxed one. However, to me he was a very good source of information as to many facts unknown to me, which was [were] available and observed by him. He filled many blank spots in my recollections of the war and 442nd.

Henry Ikemoto, a replacement of Anti-Tank, and his wife Mildred from Downy [Downey] California, joined our tour. He had a very interesting army career. He remained in the service and retired as a light colonel after a very interesting army career in the intelligence section. He related his interesting incidents which happened to him in Tokyo and in Korea.

Wade Wasano, a member of sons and daughters, a professional scuba diving teacher and a person full of youthful energy, was a refreshing member of the tour. His late father was a member of the Medics. He showed keen genuine interest in the battlegrounds and historical sights of the tour. What amazed me was the fact that he did not feel cold wearing shorts, when I was shivering even with a heavy winter jacket.

George and May Shirozawa of Eastsound, Washington, were in our tour. He was a member of 522nd Artillery, a forward observer. He added greatly to our knowledge of what happened during the war.

Toshie and Nellie Ishibashi of Gardena, California, and Sumako Fujita, Toshi's sister, were members of our tour. He was a member of G Company. After the war he studied and went into the prosthesis business. He had many famous celebrities as his clients. He is a very gentle and caring person.

Masatoshi Hokama, owner of Hokama Music store in Wailuku, Maui, though walking with a cane, joined our group. He was a replacement for F Company, and had to enjoy Italy for many months after the war because he did not have enough points to go home with the other boys. Even then, he was an enterprising business man. He somehow managed to accumulate large amount of lira currency which financed him during his many jaunts to the nearby cities, such as Florence. While in Livorno on this tour he insisted that he wants [wanted] to find the bank he dealt with during the war. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to do this.

Karleen Chinen, editor of The Hawaii Herald newspaper, joined our group as part of her assignment to cover the 442 pilgrimage to Europe. She seemed to have enjoyed the trip, but she was very busy interviewing people, taking tape recording of her interviews, taking pictures and lugging around her laptop computer all over Italy and France.

Dorothy Matsuo, our "fearless" leader of the tour, did a wonderful job, arranging all the small details involved in moving 34 people all over Italy, Switzerland and France, coordinating all our special requests with our tour guide, Marilen Hartmann. She worried about our morale and comfort, and even sang songs for us. Many times, in anticipation of visiting one of the battlefields, she would read passages from her book, "Boyhood to War" to remind us what happened there. This raised the interests of the group to greater heights, the veterans volunteering to tell their stories to the tour group while travelling on the bus.

Dorothy was a seasoned traveller [sic]. She made great effort to bring along a rice cooker in her bag. I don't know how she was able to do this while bringing along other things like the many leis she had senior citizens group make in Hawaii. The leis were for draping over the crosses over the graves of men of the 442nd buried in the Cemetery at Epinal, France. The rice cooker turned out to be a much appreciated equipment. Toshie Ishibashi's birthday was celebrated on the bus one day and instead of a birthday cake, Dorothy passed around "onigiri" wrapped in "nori" to everyone. She had made the onigiris by getting up 2 hours earlier that morning and cooking rice twice in her small rice cooker. She even placed a candle on the onigiri she presented to Toshie. Dorothy and Karleen got together to plan and prepare for this birthday event. When they went out shopping for the birthday card and the candle, they realized that they could not speak the language. They somehow conveyed the message to the sales clerk that they were looking for a birthday card and some candles. It seems that it took some effort on their part, using hands and gyrations, including singing happy birthday, to get their message across.

The same day we were taken on a tour of Rome, including the Vatican, St. Peter's cathedral, the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Forum, and the Catacombs. These were magnificent places, amazing us to no end that these structures were made centuries ago over a period of years and sometimes over centuries. What amazed me was that I had forgotten about these places and vaguely recollected that I did see them when I came to Rome while in Italy 50 years ago. Tom Nakahara and Stud Oshiro have wonderful memories. They recollected exactly what they did and saw when they came to Rome 50 years ago from a rest area in between battles.

Our tour guide, Marilen Hartmann of Germany and our bus driver, Garrit, a Dutch[man?], joined us that day and were with us throughout the 19 days of tour through Europe. Marilen was a very professional tour guide, who studied and memorized all the detailed history of the many places we visited. She was a very warm person who made great efforts to learn our foreign names. She was able to distinguish between Kishaba and Kashiwa about 15 days into our trip. She kept our morale up by her renditions of her imitation of a French horn. She forever had to worry about our comfort during our bus trips. She became an expert in timing and arranging our "shi-shi stops.” Before parting, I taught her that sometimes we use the numbers "544" in such situations. Garrit was a very skillful bus driver. He maneuvered the bus through many tight squeezes, at times coming so close to other parked cars that only a piece of paper would have fitted in the space between the bus and the car. However, no matter how skillful he was, he could not negotiate the physically impossible job of making the hairpin turns in the road from Nice to Sospel with a bus 3 feet longer than the allowed length of a bus for that road. We therefore were regretfully unable to visit Sospel and Col de Bra on this trip.

The next day we went on a full day trip to Naples and back, visiting Monte Cassino on the way. Cassino was the battleground where 100th Battalion attached to the 34th Division distinguished themselves as a fighting unit and suffered many casualties. I believe that one of the Ajitomi brothers was killed in combat there. The Abbey of Monte Cassino situated on top of Monte Cassino had a commanding view of the town of Cassino and the extensive valley surrounding the town. With field glasses the Germans were able to detect the slightest movements in the valley. It was not difficult to see why the Allied Forces had such a difficult time taking Monte Cassino. The veterans in the group, seeing the situation all said that the Allied Forces should have by-passed Cassino and the mountains after that. I believe that Anzio was one such strategy.

After Cassino we headed for Naples, the seaport where 442 landed in Italy after a 28 days voyage crossing the Atlantic from Newport News, Virginia, 50 years ago. Though we did not stop in Naples, I noticed that the city itself was dirty, crowded and loud, the same words [that?] described it 50 years ago. We were cautioned from the day we started on this tour, that we should be careful about our wallets and our money. This was so 50 years ago. It would have been an experience to walk the streets in Naples again and mingle with the loud, arm-waving people, saying "capish, capish" [capiche] and "quanto costa.” There simply was not enough time in a day to make a round trip from Rome to Naples and to see the sights of Pompeii.

Visiting Pompeii was the first time for me though our boys visited it soon after we landed in Naples 50 years ago. Again we marveled at the advanced culture of Pompeii.

Judging from the ruins, pictures and artifacts the people left behind, the civilization was advanced beyond its time. What impressed me the most was the fact that they had lead pipes for their water and the pipes had valves to shut off the flow of water. They did some things in excess it seems, way beyond their time. In the area of sex, it seems that they surpassed our current permissive lifestyles.


The 442 RCT stayed at Newport News, Virginia, our port of embarkation (POE), for about a week. The boys, knowing that we were to depart for the European theater of war, were full of nervous energy. They were allowed to go to the PX every night and they did. Every night they would get in fights with the Caucasian outfits. Usually because they used he [the] word "Japs,” sometimes derogatory, and other times innocently when they were actually praising the AJAs. In any event, somehow the word would come down to our barracks that we should wake up and go to the PX to help out our boys in a fight. There were times when someone actually walked down the rows of bunks and shook our beds to tell us to get up and help. In any event, us law abiding quiet soldiers did not go to help because we would not know how to fight fist fights. This continued night after night until it finally became a serious matter when the military police of the camp had to bring out armored scouting vehicles to quell the fights. This show of fighting energy was a preview of what the boys would eventually display at the war front.

The day after we shipped out from Newport News on Liberty Ships as part of a large convoy, everything quieted down and the boys went back to shooting craps, playing poker, singing songs and getting sea sick, just like what it was when we crossed the Pacific from Hawaii to San Francisco about a year ago. Only this time the voyage was so long that most of the boys got over being seasick after one week. This was the real thing and the boys sensed it. Their seriousness and sensitivity began to show through their generally carefree nature. Their "go for broke" attitude which up to now were [was] more for situations related to their pleasure situations and for their 10-mile or 20-mile hikes was slowly beginning to change to be for the more serious situations to come when they are in harm's way.

Upon arriving in Naples, we had to march a ways down the streets of Naples in [a] column[s] of twos [two?], also in the town of Bagnoli just outside of Naples, where we bivouacked. Somehow the news got around town that the Japanese were coming, just how they got such classified news is beyond my comprehension. The little boys with ragged clothing marched alongside us asking us whether we wanted to eat fish and rice and if so we should visit their homes. Others asked different questions as to what we wanted. They had those too at their homes.

Some of the boys got passes to go to Pompeii to see the ruins. I was not able to go. My friend, probably Cowboy Matsumura, went to Pompeii and bought me a present from there. It was a "flying duck" a replica of male private parts with wings spread out, made out of some metal. It was about an inch and a quarter wide, triangular in shape with sharp points. This would have been alright and would not have caused any consequences, except for the fact that he said that this was a good luck charm and would keep me from harm as long as I wore it.

Giving this to me at a time when we are to go into combat shortly, I had no alternative but to wear it with my "dog tag" hanging from my neck in front of my chest. I wore this throughout the war and even brought it back home. I still have it among my medals. Still this would have been alright, except for the many times I had to hit the dirt for incoming shells and small arms fires. However, I went through the entire 442nd campaigns without getting wounded.


Tuesday October 4th, we departed from Rome and headed for Florence. We would be passing the area where the battlegrounds around Grosseto, Belvedere, Sasseta, Cecina River, Vada, Colle Salvetti, Pisa, and Livorno were located. The veterans' excitement fever rose and upon slight urging, many volunteered to relate their experiences in the battles there, especially about Hill 140. Many were disappointed because the bus was unable to make detours from the highway to get into the hills and farm areas where most of the battles took place. We saw signs on the highways which showed the off-ramp to the towns above mentioned and were able to only point in the general direction of the battlegrounds. However, even to point in the general direction, we were not positive. It was difficult to point out the direction when trying to identify mountains and hills from the highway, when we are only familiar with the shape of hills, mountains and surrounding contours of the battlegrounds as viewed from our foxholes. However, for me it was sufficient that we were in the vicinity. The names and the fact that we were passing the areas brought out memories of 50 years ago.


On or about June 11, 1944, the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the 442 RCT met the 100th (the "older brother" battalion) in the vicinity of Civitavecchia. Many of the younger brothers were visited by their older brothers in the 100th. The message [messages] were always the same. Why did you have to volunteer to do battle? And now that you are here, be careful. I heard that somebody in the 100th accidentally shot and killed [a] cattle and the meat was being distributed to those who are interested.

[The] 100th battalion was attached to the 442nd RCT as its 1st battalion, and 442nd was in turn attached to the 34th (Red Bull) Division. June 26th was the day of baptism of fire for the 2nd and 3rd battalion. 3rd battalion was on the left, 2nd battalion on the right and 100th was in reserve in the attack to take the first battle objective, Suvereto, and then to Belvedere. I don't know which company in the 3rd was the lead attack company, but L Company was in reserve. In many situations, it seems that the order of the alphabet determined the order of the attack and reserve companies. In any event my recollection of that first day of battle, was to wait and wait in [a?] column of platoons, on the roadside, while we heard guns firing in a distance.

Later I learned that the 2nd and 3rd were stalled by enemy fire and [the] 100th, the reserve battalion, was committed into battle. [The] 100th maneuvered between the 2nd and 3rd and pierced the enemy defense line to end up behind Belvedere catching the German defense units by surprise and practically annihilating the German defense units. Later as we marched through Belvedere, we saw the destruction caused by the 100th. There were many burned out vehicles lining up the side of the roadway still smoldering. The 100th received their first presidential unit citation for that battle.
For the most part the 2nd and 3rd were still not battle tested. This writer especially was "lost.” Being a platoon guide, I always brought up the rear of the platoon. Further, I did not have any men directly under me. I remember going into battle, I believe it was for the town of Sassetta, where we were all sitting on a hillside, the forward slope, with a grand view of Sassetta. I remember hearing that the Anti-Tank unit nearby sighted some enemy tanks and were able to destroy them. In any event we received enemy shelling on the forward slope. Fred Kameda, a Waialua boy, was killed here.

3rd battalion headquarters drew up a strategy to flank the enemy in the town of Sassetta on the left. L Company under the battalion leadership of Major O'Conner was to do the flanking. The whole company started the flanking in single file around a company fighting with the enemy on the left of Sassetta. Something happened and evidently we cut to the right too early or too sharply and we came under enemy fire. We were still in a single line, the men before us scattered as soon as firing started up front, it was by then getting dark. I was the last man in the platoon. The men following me were from a mortar squad of the 4th platoon under Sgt. Robert Yukitomo. We scattered and hid behind a cord of stacked firewood on the hillside. There were other stacks of firewood nearby all on fire. Our efforts to find the rest of the company in the dark was impossible so we had to spend the night there. That night we heard much yelling from the road below us. The yelling and talking were all in German. Evidently all of the commotion down below were [was] the Germans pulling out of the town of Sassetta. The next morning we went down to the road to rejoin the company. We learned that Hiroshi Watanabe of 4th platoon, another Waialua boy, was killed by enemy fire during the night. I was still inexperienced in battle, always having to bring up the rear of the platoon.
The enemy withdrew and established defense position in the hills (Hill 140 included) beyond Cecina River. In the attack, again L Company was in reserve position. [The] 2nd battalion ran into stiff opposition at Hill 140 and battled the enemy in a never to be forgotten battle. There were many incidents of tragedy and bravery recounted by the men of the 2nd battalion. H company firing of the heavy weapons, especially the mortar, from the hill behind Hill 140 continued endlessly throughout the night according to the accounts I heard of the battle. [The] 3rd battalion was committed from reserve position and passed through [the] 100th battalion men. This was during the day. We were led to a roadway that ran down a small hill veering right down the slope. This was an exposed road on an exposed hillside already zeroed in by German artillery. Our orders were to run down the road in intervals in bunches of 4 to 6 men so that we would not present a good target for the German artillery.

One group, a squad of machine gunners from the 4th platoon got a direct hit while running down the roadway and was wiped out. Our platoon safely came down the hill without casualty and stopped in a vineyard in a shallow hollow. When we came down the hillside road, we went through a ditch occupied by men of the 100th who were watching us running down the hillside road. Their comment was that we were crazy to come down an exposed road already zeroed in by the enemy artillery, in broad daylight. First platoon was scattered in the hollow laying down, waiting for word to advance forward. An enemy artillery shell fell into our midst and three of our men were killed, Dennis Hashimoto, Mitsuo Furuichi and Martin Iida. I was shocked into realization that this was real war and that people close to you got killed.

We finally moved forward in our replacement of the 100th battalion. However, we were on the left flank of our RCT battle formation. Hill 140 was to our right. Night fell and we dug our holes the best we can [could] on hillside trails with more rocks than dirt. We were spared from direct firefights with the enemy which happened throughout the night on Hill 140 right next to our position. Thomas "Sleepy" Inada, wasn't able to dig his hole so he decided to outline his "hole" with rocks and he slept on it that night. Sleepy was to be later killed in [a] fight with local Italian police in Lecco on Lake Como, after VE day. Early next morning though still dark, the company moved off. I was again the last person in the line formed by the platoon. I asked the person in front of me to wake me up should the line move forward. He forgot, and when I woke up it was already daylight and nobody was around. I hurried forward along the trail and caught up with the company which was already in a maze of tunnels which honeycombed the next hill. Some of the men decided to sun themselves in the morning sun at one of the tunnel entrances which was located on the forward slope. They did not realize that the enemy was still on the hills in front of us. An enemy shell came in and exploded at the entrance where the men were gathered. We lost Katsumi Motooka.

The enemy was not to be seen in the wide open valley in front of us. We received order from battalion headquarters that we were to send out a reconnaissance patrol to attempt finding the enemy that had withdrawn. Sgt. Wallace Doi was selected by the then platoon sergeant Koizumi to head the patrol with 3 of his men from the 1st squad. One of the men was Hapa Fujimoto. The four of them marched out. We followed them going out until we were no longer able to see them. According to Sgt. Doi, they went out quite a ways, but did not contact the enemy. Sgt. Doi decided to reconnoiter the left side further by himself and one of the men. He left Hapa and another person in a ditch to wait for Sgt. Doi to return. Hapa and the other person both fell asleep in the ditch. Hapa was awaked [awakened] by someone kicking him. He looked up to find a German soldier kicking him with both arms raised saying "Comrade.” He wanted to surrender to Hapa. It turned out that he was German soldier from Czechoslovakia and had lost his will [to] fight for Germany.

The next thing which comes to my mind was the fact that we advanced forward through some gently rolling countryside farms and stopped for the night next to the roadway we were advancing on. Everyone dug their holes for the night and guards were posted. As usual, I dug my hole in the rear of the platoon positions. Jacob Jichaku was leading the second squad. I must have fallen asleep in my hole in the rear and must have gone into deep sleep, for I did not awaken until the next morning. When I got up Jacob related to me the events which happened that night. The enemy counterattacked that night and our platoon had a close firefight with the enemy throughout the night, killing a number of Germans. Things such as this, I remember, but I do not remember the details of the location and details of our troop movements. (I must ask Jacob to recall these incidents, verify that such things happened and it was not just my dream. I wish I was at that mini-reunion recently held in Las Vegas, when Jacob and the other boys told many of their stories before TV cameras for Wendy Hanamura, who is making a TV program focused on her father Howie Hanamura, who was in 1st platoon).

The regiment was pursuing the retreating German army, which was falling back to form a new defensive line. 3rd battalion was advancing over flat farmlands; their objective was to take Colle Salvetti. 100th was advancing to our left in their efforts to take Pisa and Livorno. One incident I clearly remember is that while walking on a dirt farm road wide enough for two oxen drawn farm carts, we saw tank tracks left by German tanks, it must have been made by a tiger or panther tank. The tracks mark for one side of the tank was on one side was of the shoulder of the road and the track on the other side was on the other shoulder of the road. I was frightened by just the Sight of this. How would I ever stop a tank this big should I happen to encounter one?

I literally blacked out before reaching Colle Salvetti. It was one of those relatively quiet advance [advances] with many stops in between. As usual, I was bringing up the rear of our platoon. At one of our stops, I found myself in a peach orchard with full of fruits growing on the trees. It was mid July. The peaches had some color and looked ripe and edible to this boy from Hawaii who until then had not seen peaches growing on trees. I helped myself to a few while on these frequent 5-minute breaks. All of a sudden, I blacked out -- out cold. I don't know exactly what was the cause [what the cause was], but I believe that it must have been those peaches which were not yet ripe. I was lying down in a ditch next to the road where the company and other 3rd battalion companies would be marching in their advance towards Colle Salvetti. I could not move, but I was able to hear what they were saying. Many of them recognized me and said, “Poor Kashiwa" thinking that I was killed. I eventually landed in the hospital with very high fever and did not rejoin the company until after they had secured Colle Salvetti and 100th secured Livorno and Pisa, and they were in the Vada rest area.

In the Vada rest area, we pitched our tents in the vineyards of the farms. We regressed from being combat troops to garrison like troops with drills and classes. There was one class conducted by the 232nd Engineers, primarily on mines and explosives. They had one truckload of mines and explosives at the class site. I would say that they had classes for one or two companies at a time. L Company finished the class and marched to its bivouac area not far from the class area. All of a sudden there was a loud explosion and black smoke arose from the class area. The whole truck with mines and explosives exploded. Many men from 232 Engineers were killed. It was a tragic event and I will never forget that incident.

In one of the training exercises, we had to march out towards the hills nearby. To my great surprise, I saw again the road running down the hillside where we took German artillery shelling before Hill 140. In my estimation, Hill 140 was very close to Vada. I understand that the regiment stopped their advance at the highway which ran from Livorno to Pisa to Firenze (Florence) before it was relieved and pulled back to Vada for rest.


Upon arriving at Livorno (Leghorn) our bus headed for the waterfront and the ports. There we saw a very big U.S. military baseyard near the port with many military vehicles parked there. Livorno and Tombolo must be the supply depot for the U.S. forces in Italy. At Livorno we turned left to go to Pisa to see the leaning tower of Pisa. It is a big tourist attraction. We toured the church there and saw the leaning tower of Pisa. We then continued by bus eastward to Florence, the city with world renown [renowned] museums, art sculptures and buildings. We were billeted in Hotel Adriatico. The following day, Wednesday, October 5th, our itinerary called for a sightseeing tour of the battlegrounds at Arno, Scandicci, Voltera [Volterra] and Siena and leaving Florence the next morning for Genoa, via the coastal highway.

Muriel and some of the other ladies wanted to be real sure that they had time to see the famous churches, buildings, museums and paintings and sculptures and so the Kashiwas, Owans, Dorothy and Karleen decided to skip the bus ride for the day and instead tour the central part of the city on foot after viewing the city as a whole from the heights. That group, including myself had a wonderful time going through the third-floor of Ufitzi museum [Uffizi Museum] which had originals of world famous paintings on display. And of course the ladies had their time for shopping including shopping at the famous ponta vecchio [Ponte Vecchio]. Standing on ponta vecchio [Ponte Vecchio] and watching the flow of the Arno River below, I was able to determine that our stay near Florence on the banks of the Arno River was towards the west from the bridge.


From about the middle of August, 442 RCT was trucked from the Vada rest area to orchard and farm area west of Florence and on the south bank of the Arno river. It was a time for holding and probing actions. L Company was about the last company holding the left flank of the regiment. In addition to holding the left flank position, our mission was to establish contact with the British forces to our left and slightly to the our rear [to our rear]. We dug our fox holes in the deep irrigation ditches which ran across the orchards and farms. We had guards posted 24 hours each day.

One day, on the road which ran across our position next to the banks of the Arno, Captain Hempstead of M Company was wounded by enemy fire and he lay on the road near the German positions on the south bank of Arno River. Medics had to go and bring the captain back on a litter. Waving the red cross flag, the medics, litter bearers and Reverend Yamada walked down the road to where the captain lay. It was a tense moment because we were not sure that the Germans would honor the red cross flag. There were instances when the Germans disregarded the red cross flag and shot and wounded or killed our medics personnel. It was a tense moment and we all watched the proceedings, ready to give covering fire in the event the rescue did not go well. There they talked to the German soldiers and was able to negotiate and bring the captain back to our lines.

It was quiet and monotonous even during the day. Most of the boys were asleep that day about 3:00 p.m. There was a listening outpost about 50 yards in front of our entrenched position, manned by 2 persons on 3-hour shifts. I was the only one awake in the ditch. Later I was joined by - Shigeo "Tonto" Aoki and we were talking. All of a sudden I saw a group of about 4 German soldiers walking directly toward the listening outpost. They did not see the men in the listening outpost for they were lying down. Not only were they lying down, but both of them were asleep. Tonto told me to hold my fire while he went back to his position to get his BAR automatic rifle. I aimed my rifle at the incoming enemy soldiers, withholding my fire. The German soldiers, probably on a scouting mission were not carrying rifles. They were fast approaching the listening post, in a few seconds they would be upon the men sleeping in the listening post, Tonto had not returned with his BAR, I had to fire for the safety of the "guards" in the listening post. I fired 8 shots from my rifle in rapid succession, the whole clip. None of the German soldiers fell; in fact they spun around and bounded off into the orchard. I had missed them, not one of the 8 rounds struck home. The men in the listening post got up with a start and raced back into our line in the ditch.

Later, when we examined the site, we found traces of blood on the ground. At least I wounded one of them, but not seriously it seemed. I believe that I was too excited and could not hit my target at 50 yards. (Many years later at our recent 50th anniversary of the formation of the 442nd in 1993, I met Tonto for the first time since the end of the war. He reminded me of the incident and was not too pleased because I fired before he could get his BAR and return to our position). I guess I could never live that down.

One night, I accompanied Sgt. Jacob Jichaku and his squad on a contact mission to the British outfit on our left rear. We found a house at about the place we were told to contact them. Nobody was around, so we knocked at the door. A few seconds later the door flew open and a British soldier was at the doorway with a weapon in his hand ready to shoot. We were surprised because there was no one on guard, no one challenged us and yet there were soldiers in the house. (I should ask Jacob to write more in detail as to what happened there, for that is all that I remember of that incident).

A few days later, I learned that I and K Companies crossed the Arno River with much casualties and pursued the withdrawing enemy some distance beyond the Arno river. Thereafter, we were pulled back from the front on or about the first week in September and boarded some LST ships and set sail from Italy to unknown destination. We had heard prior to that that our Anti-Tank company was detached from 442 RCT and was doing glider training. We were really confused at first by this movement because the battle was still raging in Italy. We later found out that our destination was Marseille, France. We were attached to the 7th Army.


On Wednesday, October 5th, we checked out of Hotel Adriatico in Florence, Italy and headed for Genoa, travelling west toward Livorno and the Ligurian Sea, passing Lucca. Upon hitting the ocean, we turned right and headed north, travelling on the seacoast highway. We would be passing the battlefields that 442nd fought in on the second trip to Italy, after about 5 months of the holding action between the borders of Italy and France, that campaign often being referred to as the "champagne campaign.”

I was very excited because we would be passing Mount Folgorito which held many detailed memories for Company L, especially the 1st platoon. I requested a special "shi-shi stop" so that we would stop and it would give me time to survey the mountains to make a definite determination that the mountain range was in fact the mountain which contained Mount Folgorito. I asked the person running the snack shop, whether he knew the town of Azzano. He did and stated that it was on the other side of the mountain we faced, that we would have to go to the junction we just passed and turn east, driving on the road that went up the valley. We were close. I went outside and studied the mountain tops in detail. Way in the back there loomed a large white mountain, scarred by much mining.

We saw that mountain in 1945. That mountain was to our right when we attacked the so called "Gothic Line" which was a heavily defended defense line which stretched across Italy from the Ligurian Sea on the left to the Adriatic Sea on the right. Upon further detailed examination of the mountain top of the lower mountain directly in front of us, I was able to detect a small cone shaped peak formation on top. It was bare of vegetation. As best as I could recollect, that place we captured the first day of our push was bare, without vegetation, and the slope immediately next to our captured hill top objective was full of loose rocks. I was able to see an object on top of that bare peak which looked like a utility pole. In any event, I was positive that peak was Mount Folgorito. I informed our tour group that I found what I was looking for and pointed out the bare peak in the distance. Karleen Chinen and all of the rest with cameras ordered all veterans in our tour to stand in formation so they could take a picture of the group with the distant mountain in the back. Triumph! I have found and seen, though from afar, one of my objectives in taking this battlefield European tour. It was sufficient to bring back memories, just as I had recalled memories about Hill 140 when passing through Vada.

Later, in talking to Howie Hanamura and his daughter Wendy Hanamura at Bruyeres, I learned that they hired taxis and when the taxis could not negotiate the small roads, they hired special small cars to take them, including Wendy's assistants and camera crew and technicians, up the mountain road to the foot of the small bare peak at the top of Mount Folgorito. Wendy was taking camera shots for the TV story which she would be producing, called "Honor Bound" for TV station KPIX in San Francisco. She had heard from her father, Howie, about Mount Folgorito and had read my account of the battle on Mount Folgorito, and so she was able to recognize that small bare peak as the battle site as soon as she saw it. She even told me about the small tunnel in the rear side of the peak which had housed the German radio which was used for communication between the observation position and the artillery in the rear. In any event Howie thoughtfully picked up a small piece of marble rock from that peak and gave it to me at Bruyeres when we later met.


After being around the Southern France area (Nice, Monaco, Menton, L'Escarene, Pierra Cava [Peira-Cava], etc.) we were ordered to move back to Italy. From Marseilles we went to Leghorn (Livorno) by ship. It was about the end of March 1945. We rejoined the 5th Army in Italy. The front lines were not very far from where the front lines were when we left Italy for France in September 1944. We were assigned to the 92nd Division. We trained with the 92nd Division for a while waiting for orders to go into combat.

We were not pleased with the training program of the 92nd Division, primarily because we had so much real combat experience that it was a chore to go through one of those 92nd Division training exercises. One incident which clings to my mind was the time when we were ordered to go through a training area. One of the officers in charge had a brilliant idea on how to pierce a barbed wire entanglement. He constructed a V-shaped wooden trough which he elevated at one end and placed cannon projectile in the trough too which was tied a long tail consisting of several strands of "primer" wire (explosives). His idea was to put some powder behind the projectile to cause it to fly for a distance over the barbed wire entanglement pulling the primer cord. The primer would then be exploded, thereby clearing the barbed wires. I was ready to run away if ever the officer tried to fire the contraption. According to the principles of physics, the thing would not work and any explosion would cause the primer cord to explode. Our outfit had already experienced a great tragedy when a truck full of explosives blew up accidentally and some Engineer Company boys were blown to pieces. This happened just after we were through with the training session and most of the boys were back in their own bivouac areas.

One of the interesting thing [things] we heard about the 92nd Division, when we first joined them, was the fact that the men of the 92nd Division hated to go out on night patrols. The reason was that they did not have any difficulty going out into and scouting the enemy territory, but they had a difficult time getting back into their own lines. Their men were too trigger happy and they shot first and asked questions later.

We were finally ordered into combat, assigned to the 92nd Division. The 92nd Division is the infantry division composed of all blacks and they held a line near the cost [coast] of Italy above Leghorn. It seems that they have been in the same position for a long time. One night under cover of darkness we moved into a small town on the mountain-side called Azzano, which was exposed to the German army which held the mountain tops across the valley. For the next day we were ordered not to expose ourselves to the enemy. We remained in the houses in which we were billeted.
That night as soon as it got dark, we were ordered to go forward, down the valley to the bottom and then climb up the steep mountain side up to the top of the mountain all in a single file, without making any noise. It was to be a surprise attack. It was dark and we had to follow the person in front, right behind him so that we would not lose contact. There were many times that we lost our footing and slid down, making loud noises, surely that would arouse the Germans who would send up flares and we would be discovered, the whole battalion all bunched up in a single file on the side of the mountain, presenting a good target for their mortar barrage. Luck was on our side, we were not discovered until L Company, the lead company reached the top and turned left in an attack formation. First platoon led by Lt. Koizumi advanced forward for some distance without encountering resistance.

First platoon was able to advance to the foot of the small peak at the top, situated at the end of a finger of the mountain range. I called the small peak Mount Folgorito, though in fact Mount Folgorito was the mountain from the valley below to the top culminating in the small peak. First platoon's advance was stalled by sniper fire from the hill opposite its position. Third platoon led by Sgt. Sagimori was attacking the hill from which the sniper fire was coming, starting from the bottom of the saddle below 1st platoon and following up a rock wall. Ordinarily that would have been safe, but in this situation, 3rd platoon was subject to sniper fire from the hill 1st platoon was trying to take. So instead of being safe, 1st and 3rd platoon were stalled being subject to cross fire from hills next to their respective objectives. We took casualties, Sgt. Sagimori was killed, among others Howie Hanamura was wounded, Tonto Aoki was wounded and Hiro Nishikubo was also wounded. (Howie Hanamura wrote a memoir about his stint in the army during the war. He started off as a draftee and was shunted around by the army which did not know what to do with Niseis. He found his niche when he was sent to join the 442nd). (Hiro Nishikubo, also, after much prodding and threats, wrote his account of his experiences on the first day of the push to break through the Gothic Line. His accounts of his experiences in the army is [are] attached hereto in its entirety with his consent).

The company headquarters was set up in the saddle between and to the rear of 1st and 3rd platoons. The enemy was able to direct their mortar fire into company headquarters area. Paul Matsumoto at Company CP was hit in the head by a mortar shell burst. I believe that Lt. Koizumi who then happened to be at Company C.P. was also wounded by the same shell burst (In reconstructing that specific significant battle I am asking others who were there to write about their roles in that battle so that these may be added to this account of that battle.) I received word from Company headquarters that Lt. Koizumi was wounded and evacuated and therefore being next in command, I had to take over lead of 1st platoon from Lt. Koizumi, until he returned.

While 1st platoon was pinned down, Masami "Casey" Kasadate, then squad leader of 3rd squad, decided to look around from behind a large rock. He did not know exactly where the enemy sniper was firing from the next hill. He put his head up and he was promptly hit by sniper fire from the next hill. He was shot through his forehead and the bullet came out behind his ear. We had a difficult time getting Casey down from the mountain side. Through the brave efforts of our medics, Feb Yokoi, we were finally able to bring wounded Casey down to the bottom of the saddle. When I saw Casey and observed his wound, I thought that he would not be able to make it. We took so long, that by the time I saw him, bleeding had stopped it seemed. It must have been a formidable job to carry a person on a stretcher down the mountain side to the bottom. Further, by then, the Germans had started to lay a mortar barrage on the mountain side and at the bottom of the valley below.

Howie Hanamura, an extra ordinarily [sic] tall person for a Nisei was wounded and so he had to be carried on a make-shift stretcher around the mountain to a safe place. One of the stretcher bearer [bearers] was Ken Nihei and he had a lot to say about the difficulties they encountered in carrying Howie. He says that they had to half drag him. Ken Nihei's account of the first few days into the attack of the Gothic Line as a litter bearer is attached hereto. It clearly depicts the problems and difficulties they encountered having to evacuate wounded and killed soldiers down the mountain side.

The men of the first platoon had been waiting since about 10 a.m. that morning for orders to attack. The cross sniper fire had not stopped and we would have been subject to enemy fire with heavy casualties had we charged the hill on an all out frontal assault. We had to do something that day by nightfall to take advantage of the successful surprise attack of that morning. We could not let the enemy regroup and mount a counterattack the next day. Our supply and reinforcement line was stretched out too thin over the too steep mountain trails we just came up. When 100th battalion which was attacking up the gradual mountain slope in a frontal approach obtains its objective and meet up with the 3rd battalion, our supply and reinforcement route would be much easier for maintenance of our gains and regrouping for further advances. As of that afternoon, 100th was still pushing forward, suffering many casualties and it then seemed that it will not break through until late the next day.

It was about 4:00 p.m. that I decided to reconnoiter the base of the peak around and beyond where our men were positioned. I found that by going a few yards beyond our men, the peak curved around to such an extent that I was not able to see the area of the next hill from which the snipers were firing to make a devastating cross fire. If we took that route of advance, we would be safe from the sniper fire which was delaying our advance on our assault on Mount Folgorito. However, the slope of the peak to the top at that point was very steep. We would have to climb up a slope which was about 8 to 10 degrees for about 40 yards, almost an impossible task considering that the climb would have to be made by 2 squads of about 20 men. Not knowing what was on the top of the peak, we could not chance it with less than 2 squads should a fire fight develop at the top.

I decided that we would attack by climbing up the steep slope, where we were not subject to cross sniper fire. 2 squads were selected to make the steep climb. 3rd squad, then led by Sgt. Kiyoshi Kishimoto, and 2nd squad, then led by Sgt. Roy Uyeno. The 1st squad was to secure the saddle area where our advance halted and to give fire cover to the men climbing the steep slope in the event for some reason they become subject to cross fire. Third squad’s BAR team, led by Tak Hashimura, was ordered to stay at the base of the peak from where the climb started. They were to give fire cover in the event the climbers encountered rifle or machine gun fire from the plateau, area to our left. Thus making sure as best as we could of any eventualities, we proceeded to climb the steep slope in two single columns. I felt as though we were climbing up in an almost vertical standing position. We were unseen by the snipers on our right.

We reached the top successfully without mishap. At the top we waited for a few minutes until about 6 of us reached the top so that we could make our charge at whatever confronted us in a concerted charge of about 6 men. We peered over the top. It was flat and nothing in sight. At my signal about 6 of us stood up and rushed to meet whatever was there to resist us. About 10 yards out from where we started our charge, we noticed there was a trench 4 to 5 feet wide running for about 25 yards, covered with planks and with loose stones covering the planks. When we reached the trench, we were about 4 yards apart. Seeing German soldiers in the trench, each person instinctively pointed his rifle into the cracks and simply fired a whole clip, eight rounds. We were so surprised by the unexpected situation that none of us thought of dropping a grenade into the covered trench. We could see the German soldiers running to the right of us in the trench toward the entrance of the trench. The last men on the right who was at the entrance of the trench saw about 10 to 15 German soldiers running out of the tunnel fleeing our surprise attack. They did not expect us for they had us pinned down about 40 yards below by cross sniper fire. We learned later upon inspection, that with all that fire, we did not kill or wound anyone.

Seeing all soldiers running to the right in their attempt to escape, I ran to the right to the entrance of the trench, and jumped down to the floor of the trench, where I found a machine gun fully loaded pointing in the direction of the fleeing German soldiers who were running at great speed down the mountain slope in leaps and bounds. I hurriedly aimed the machine gun at the fleeing soldiers and fired many rounds, but I did not see any soldier fall down, they all kept running away at great speed. Later on I realized why I did not hit anyone. I did not know how to aim a German machine gun. There was a rear leaf sight which had to be aligned with the elevated front sight at the end of the barrel. I was aiming through the elevated rear sight, but used the top of the muzzle and not through the elevated front sight. This cause [caused] all bullets to go way over the heads of the fleeing soldiers, especially in a situation when the target was fleeing downhill.

We had successfully overrun and captured the German position on top of Mount Folgorito without any casualty. Immediately the squad leaders placed their men at strategic areas along the trench in a defensive position, ready for a counterattack. There was not enough room in the trench for all our men who came up the slope to the top. About four of them had to dig holes outside near the rear opening of the trench. Guards were placed and arranged for the night. However, I was bothered by the fact that we could not go around to see what was around the corner, down the trail leading from the entrance of the trench. That trail was still subject to sniper fire from the next hill which was being attacked by 3rd platoon.

Upon more careful inspection of the position just captured, it revealed that it was probably the main observation point for the German army defending the Gothic Line in that area. From the trench we were able to see that it commanded a view of the entire valley below to the coast line. Probably the area were [where] the Engineers were rebuilding a bridge could be seen from the trench. I understand that the Engineers suffered casualties from artillery fire while fixing the bridge. Probably, the slopes on which the 100th was advancing were in the line of sight of the observation trench. We probably shut down the most advantageous observation post of the German army for the immediate sector. They would counterattack to regain the position.

3rd squad was given the duty to guard the entrance and the 1st half of the trench. 2nd squad was given the duty to guard the second half of the trench which had a square opening at the top near the end of the trench. A guard from the 2nd squad was sitting at the square opening at its sector, guarding that position. The middle of the trench had no outside guard, so I pulled a few rocks from the wall of the trench at the middle. The hole was not big enough to put my whole body through, I could only put my head out as use it as a listening post. This proved to be very useful later.

Soon it became dark. Dark to the extent that the enemy soldiers on the other hill would not be able to see us on Mount Folgorito, but lighted enough so that we would be able to see and check the area. I had to reconnoiter the trail to see where it led so that we would be able to secure our position on top of Mount Folgorito. We had to clear the area of all enemy soldiers to be secure. I asked Joe Wakamatsu, a reliable "kotonk" volunteer from Fife, Washington, to go with me to check the trail and the area just around the corner from the entrance of the trench. We did not follow the trail, but we went over the open terrain from the area near the end of the trench and proceeded downhill about 20 yards. We came upon an entrance to a tunnel. I climbed up on a large rock on top of the entrance and stood guard ready for any eventuality.

I told Joe Wakamatsu to yell in German to find out whether there was anyone in the tunnel and if so how many were in there. Joe yelled something and there was a reply in German from someone in the tunnel. Joe said that the person who answered said that there were 4 persons in the tunnel. Joe told them to come out. Three German soldiers came out with their hands up to surrender. We asked where the 4th person was and the answer was that there was no other person in the tunnel. All of this was going on below me as I guarded the situation from the top. I told Joe Wakamatsu to turn around and fire his rifle into the tunnel just to make sure that there was nobody else in the tunnel. Joe started to turn around, someone in the group started toward Joe as if to stop Joe. There was a rifle shot and Joe fell down. I thought that Joe was shot by someone from inside the tunnel. Joe rolled down the steep mountain slope. I was left alone on top of the rock with three German soldiers below me. They were still in the surrender mode. I managed to motion them to come up with their hands up. "Common ze here" I yelled. They all came up and I took them to our area next to the top square opening in the trench.

I was scolding the German soldiers because someone in the tunnel shot Joe Wakamatsu and he fell down the mountain, either dead or seriously wounded. It was getting dark and I was cussing out the German soldiers, when someone crawled out of the dark and said, “Hey Kashiwa, I am OK.” It was Joe Wakamatsu. I was very happy that Joe Wakamatsu was OK. Joe recounted to me later as to what happened when he fell and rolled down the mountain. As ordered, he was turning around to fire his rifle into the tunnel. He fired prematurely and that caused him to fall.

I was very happy that Joe Wakamatsu was available to take charge of a party of about 3 of our men to take the German prisoners back to Company headquarter situated below us in the saddle at the bottom of the steep hill which we just came up that afternoon. He was one of the very few battle tested men that I could rely on. We had to take the prisoners away from the area we just captured, because in the event of a counter attack the prisoners would be a hazard, not knowing how they would behave. I believe that the 3 who attempted to take the prisoners back were Joe Wakamatsu, John Kanda and another person. As I think back now, it was not fair to ask these boys to take the prisoners back in the dark down a steep mountain which had no trail to speak of. I should have told them to go down the slope where the tunnel was located because that side was not that steep. [Reference Kanda’s story: pg. 98 Company_01.pdf; Sadahiro’s story: pg. 30 Company_03.pdf]

I was concerned that we should prepare for the counterattack that was bound to come that night. I asked Sgt. Kishimoto to place his men at and guard the entrance to the trench. We were all lined up in the trench, except for a few men scattered outside of the trench at the other end of the trench. As was the standard operational procedure, all of us took turn on guard duty throughout the night, each person taking 2 to 3 hour watches with 4 hours off. At midnight or somewhere close to 1:00 a.m. I was on watch. My post was in the trench near the middle of the trench. I had my head out of the trench through the hole that I had made in the wall of the trench. This was a listening post rather than a post from which I could fire my rifle. My body would not go through the small hole.

The wind was blowing up the side of the mountain so it was difficult for me to listen. However, at about 1:00 a.m., I heard loose rocks rolling down the mountain side, not just once but three to four times. When I thought that someone trying to climb up and was pretty close to our trench, I yelled out "Roy, fire to the rear." Roy Ueno was on guard at the square roof entrance at the end of the trench. Roy like a good soldier did exactly as ordered. He turned around and fired to his rear, when in fact he was facing in the right direction in the first place. Just at that moment, someone crawled up the mountain top and was coming toward the trench. Roy fired in the direction of that person, though high overhead. That person quickly yelled out "Don't shoot me." That person turned out to be one of the three persons who were assigned to take the prisoners back to company headquarters earlier that evening. I don't remember whether he was alone or with one of the other of the three persons who were on the mission. (Again at my prodding and insistence, Dr. John Kanda of Seattle, Washington, wrote a short memoir about that specific incident when he and Joe Wakamatsu and another tried to take the prisoners down. His entire account is attached hereto at the end.

Joe Wakamatsu did not come back with that person who crawled back at about 1:00 a.m. Later on I pieced together the stories told by them as to what happened. I believe that they tried to take the prisoners back as best they could, but in going down they missed the very small path (hardly visible during the day) running across the mountain side. They got lost and went way down the mountain even below the area where company headquarters was located. They did not know what to do and they were unable to hold the prisoners together. In any event things got confused and they, including the three prisoners, all lost their footing and rolled down the mountain. Joe by then was greatly shaken up, having rolled down the mountain side twice that night. I found out that after he stopped rolling down, he managed to climb back up again to company headquarters. He was sent back to the aid station. The next day they were not able to find the 3 prisoners. I understand that some Italians found a pair of boots which looked like those worn by the German soldiers.

I understand that sometime that night, while Sgt. Kishimoto was standing guard at the entrance of the trench, a German soldier suddenly appeared before him only a few yards away. Kishimoto fired his Tommy gun. Only one shot was fired from the automatic gun and it jammed. That one shot found its mark and kill the German soldier.

Morning came without further incidents. A runner came from company headquarters with the message that Captain Harrison decided that 2nd platoon would replace 1st platoon at the top of Mount Folgorito. So 1st platoon came down from the top and was immediately ordered to continue the push over the plateau to our left. The word from battalion intelligence was that 100th battalion men were pushing up the mountain slope ahead of us and should be reaching the top of the mountain momentarily. We were told to go and contact the men from the 100th. I formed a skirmish line with one squad to my left and one squad to my right and started moving out in a broad front. One of the squads was left in reserve with a mortar section from the 4th platoon, led by Sgt. Robert Yukitomo, which was attached to 1st platoon. We moved out in this formation. After we moved ahead about a 100 yards we noticed a group of men, about 6 in number, walking in a line crossing our line of advance from right to left about 150 yards out. We could not make out who they were. One of them looked like he was carrying a machine gun. They seem to have noticed us, but they kept on walking.

Having been informed that 100th would be on top of the mountain and we should contact them, I thought surely these men were from the 100th. I halted the skirmish line and yelled out at the group of men -- "Hey, you guys from the 100th? Hey, you guys Buddhaheads?" They turned to look at us, but they did not stop. They went into a ditch and we were not able to see them. Soon after, they started to shoot their machine gun at us. They were German soldiers, not Buddhaheads. We all hit the ground in the thorny grass about a foot high. Luckily because of the terrain, the machine gun bullets were going over our heads, but barely. My platoon runner, (messenger) had his walkie-talky up and was trying to contact the squad in reserve and the mortar squad attached to us to give direction to give us fire support. A bullet grazed his radio, but luckily the radio was still working. He finally contacted the squad in reserve and requested that they tell the mortar section to give fire support and to try to get the German machine gun firing at us. As far as I could tell from the prone position in the prickly bushes, the mortar squad did not fire, because I did not see any explosion of mortar shell.

Later on I was told that they did fire, but were unable to see where the shells landed. In any event, after about 30 minutes of being in the prone position, trying to get the squad to my right to go further right to find a safe path to advance, the machine gun suddenly stopped firing. After a while when we thought we were safe we stood up and advanced toward the machine gun, but we were unable to find them. Nothing happened. The Germans must have escaped. To this day I do not know where the German soldiers escaped to. We went ahead and swept the area. There were no enemy soldiers. The 100th battalion men never showed up. I believe that they pushed ahead to our right and continued to pursue the retreating German army.

I was told that the first night after the 2nd platoon replaced the 1st platoon at the top of Mount Folgorito, they fought off a very big and fierce counter-attack by the German forces. I understand that the entire 2nd platoon of about 30 men were on top of Mount Folgorito. This turned out to be a good thing because one squad of the 2nd platoon had to dig holes outside of the trench. They must have had a miserable time out there because the mountain top was windswept. As I heard it, the Germans counter-attacked that night from the direction where the tunnel was located. When they came to the top, expecting that our men would be in the trench, they ran into a whole squad of men dug in outside of the trench. The counterattack was repelled successfully.

I don't remember the officer who commanded the 2nd platoon, but he was a haole officer who had recently joined the company as a replacement officer. I remember meeting him at one of our reunions, and I did not know what he was talking about when he talked about a big counterattack, until I remembered about the fact that 1st platoon was relieved at the top of Mount Folgorito. I was bitter then, because I did not like the idea of having to come down from the top, after 1st platoon had performed so brilliantly capturing the top of Mount Folgorito, which was the immediate catalyst of the general breakdown of the German defense in that immediate area. But after hearing what happened to 2nd platoon, I was very happy that Captain Harrison did what he did -- replace the 1st platoon with the 2nd platoon.


Continuing on the bus after the stop when we found and pin pointed Mount Folgorito, we next reached Massa and then the famous town of Carrara where Italian marble came from. At one of the stops in Carrara, some of the tour members picked up marble pebbles from the roadside for souvenirs. We passed through the center of town, but the scene was not familiar to me. When we passed through some narrow streets at the outskirts of town, the narrow streets and houses there reminded me of the time when we "liberated" Carrara as first above described. Massa was pointed out in passing the town, we did not stop there.

In passing through Carrara, to my amazement, Ted Yamate pointed to a building and said that was the building in which regimental headquarters was located. He commented that it was then too close to the front line in distance and time. They experienced shelling which was not supposed to happen. Ted commented that the officer who selected the site was reprimanded. Had that officer asked me I would have told him that Carrara was a dangerous town, which was then subject to bombardment from big naval guns from La Spezia.

Ted Yamate related to me an interesting incident which happened to him regarding the last push and the 92nd Division. One of his duties was to send in a requisition to Division headquarters for rations (probably K rations) needed for the RCT on the front lines when in combat. Ted sent his count in which was nearly full strength for the RCT, being that 442nd was brought to nearly full strength by replacements since the end of the "lost battalion battles" inFrance. The officer in charge of logistics summoned Ted Yamate to report to him. Upon reporting to that officer, Ted Yamate was accused of overstating the number of men who would be in battle so that 442nd could get extra rations. Ted Yamate insisted that his count was accurate, but he failed to convince the officer from 92nd Division until his officer from 442nd Regimental Headquarters appeared and confirmed that Ted Yamate's count was correct. It seems that the 92nd Division always experienced losses in Division strength by a significant number of men who answered sick call before any battle and who simply "dropped out" and did not join the company to battle. The 92nd Division officer simply could not believe that 442nd started any battle with "full strength" without any "drop outs.” In a way you don't blame the men of the 92nd Division after the discriminatory treatment they received in the States, which we witnessed in Hattiesberg [Hattiesburg], Mississippi.

After Carrara, our bus headed for La Spezia. On the highway, we were reminded that we were passing battlegrounds, where the enemy set up defenses after Carrara. The names which were familiar to me were Castelpoggio, Fosdinovo, Mt. Nebbione and Aulla. However these places were mauka of the highway and up in the hills, not visible to us from the highway. Just hearing the names brought back memories of those last days in combat.

After reaching La Spezia, we started to look for likely place to have lunch. We went beyond La Spezia on the coastal road and stopped at a small town next to a small harbor. The small restaurants there could not handle all 35 of us at one time. We split up into 2 groups and went into different small restaurants. We had hamburgers in a restaurant which curiously displayed a huge confederate flag. The other group went into a restaurant about 3 stores away. There they found and talked to a [an] elderly woman who remembered the American army going through the area during the war.

We finally reached Genoa and checked in at our hotel there called Hotel Savoia Majestic. It was not a very good hotel. It was a good thing that were [we] would be there for one night only, leaving the next morning for Milano.


After, the battle on Mount Folgorito, 3rd battalion advanced toward its next objective, Massa, also known for production of marble. We somehow cut across the 2nd battalion from its right to its left. I remember that it was G Company through, which we passed because I recognized Harold Fukunaga, my boyhood classmate in Waialua. It seems that 2nd battalion was having some tough clashes with the enemy.

One incident which clearly remained in my memory was the time we were pursuing the enemy on the hilltop above Massa. Not having met resistance, we advanced the whole day and stopped for the night in a small village. When we stopped, it was already dark and we were not able to reconnoiter the area. We had just halted - and took off our packs in which we had our K rations and raincoat and we took off our ammo belt. Before, we could set up our defense and guard outpost for the night, we heard a tank being started up nearby. We were not able to see the tank; it was around the corner on a road which ran next to the house we were at. It must have been an enemy tank because we were the most forward element in our advance. I thought that surely the tank would be going in the direction away from us because we were pursuing a withdrawing enemy.

Contrary to my belief, the noise of the tank was getting closer and closer to us. It seems that the tank was going uphill, when it should be going downhill in its withdrawal. The tank kept on coming directly toward us and it was almost upon us. Our men all hit the ground and was [were] ready to fire. Rifle fire would be ineffective. The only weapon carried by infantry men that may be effective, was the anti-tank Bazooka, which fired a small rocket propelled missile, which may or may not be effective even in the event of a direct hit.

Whitey Kurasaki, a Kauai boy, of 2nd platoon, who carried the Bazooka was right next to me when the tank came for us. He wanted to fire his Bazooka at the tank which I would say was by then about 5 to 8 yards away from our men who were lying in a prone position. I stopped Whitey from firing because many of our men were right next to the tank, besides it was dark, and it would cause much confusion. There were infantry enemy soldiers walking in front of and behind the tank, talking in loud voices at each other. The tank suddenly veered left and continued uphill on the road, away from us. A firefight at close, close range was averted without casualties.

I do not believe that the German soldiers realized that they were that close to their enemy. They continued to talk in a loud voice as they and the tank went away from us. I always wondered how Whitey Kurasaki felt toward me for preventing him from firing his Bazooka at the tank at a range which was impossible for him to miss. Did I do right in letting the tank and enemy soldiers go pass us without firing a shot? Was it cowardly to shy away from a fire fight with the enemy? Wasn't our mission to seek and destroy the enemy? Weren't the lives of our men more important than destroying the enemy? This haunts me all the time. Having survived the war, seeing my buddies who also survived the war, I feel that I did the right thing.

I believe that it was after Massa was taken by other units of the 3rd battalion, that we entered the town of Massa. We sought shelter in a building 3 or 4 stories high, which I understand was the municipal government headquarters. I believe that the building was located in the center of the town, with many buildings around it. I decided to bed down on the third floor. It would be safe, after all we were in a concrete building in the center of town. I found an Italian typewriter there and so I decided to type a letter to my family when it was peaceful and quiet. I was wrong, we were shelled. I was informed that we were being shelled by big naval guns from La Spezia. I believed so because the explosions were extraordinarily big and loud. However, an infantry man feels quite safe in a building as compared to being outside in the open or in a forest. I finished my letter and also finished typing my second 1st platoon roster. (I kept the roster after the war and still have the original roster today, 50 years later). The next day I went outside to look at the damage caused by the artillery shelling; I was wrong inthinking it was safe in the building. Had the shell struck the municipal building, I would surely have been wounded or killed. We pushed ahead the next day toward our next objective, Carrara. What happened in Carrara is set forth in the first paragraph of this memoir.

We pursued the withdrawing enemy. What we encountered was mostly delaying actions by the enemy forces. However, that is not to say that the battles, when we engaged the enemy, were not fierce. 2nd battalion met with strong resistance and had many fierce fire fights. In one of the battles, Dan Inouye was wounded and led his men with valor, killing many enemy soldiers and knocking out machine gun emplacements. He lost his arm in that battle. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for his bravery.

Communication during battle is accomplished in many ways by word of mouth. Information is passed along no matter how busy we are in battle. The incident I remember was when we were advancing in a single file along a mountainside in the vicinity of Massa-Carrara. Information was passed forward through our line, each person repeating the information he received to the next person in front of him. The information then was that President Roosevelt died. It struck home to me. I had a lonely feeling that we lost our leader in whom we placed much faith. (Upon reflection on this incident, I realize that we were 100 percent Americans. There was no wavering in my feelings. It just welled up naturally. How could anyone question our loyalty?)

The other incident which amazes me to no end as to how news reach us is the incident where I heard through the grape vine that 4 or 5 of our men who recently joined our forces were captured by the enemy in the hills, and while they were being led back to the rear area of the German forces, they somehow attempted an escape, they were successful and reached our lines safely. When I heard of this incident, it was not more than 3 days after it happened and we were up front as the forward element of 3rd battalion. My first thought on hearing this was - why should they attempt such a hazardous thing, we had heard of other POW escape attempts, especially where the prisoners where our prisoners and their attempt to escape was without much success. Years, later I found out that leader of this daring escape was Morio Omori. We became good friends after the war.

The realities of war struck home hard for me for the following incident. We were on the reverse side of a hill in a forest, stopped to prepare for the night. We received some replacements to fill our depleted ranks. I don't remember how many. One of them was a Hawaii boy. We dug in for the night. So did the replacements. That night we came under a barrage of artillery fire. There were tree bursts. Someone got hit and that person was groaning in pain. I believe that someone called for "Medics" and Feb Yokoi the medics went to help the person. According to Feb Yokoi, he was not able to help the wounded person. He died. So this person was on the front line with the platoon he was assigned to for a few hours only and he was killed. I did not get his name as yet and he was wounded and he died form [from] his wounds. I must try to investigate further to at least learn the identity of that person.

It was close to Mount Nebbione when we were in an area with small hills and gullies. We were in pursuit of the enemy. We had to cross a gully which was zeroed in by enemy mortar fire. We rushed through the gully to the other side, one by one. The enemy must have been close by for us to come under mortar fire, probably of the 60mm size. It was misty and we couldn't see very far. Like the others I ran through the gully to a small knoll with brushes and I lined up with our men there. I happened to look to our left and there I saw a soldier about 30 yards away on the next small knoll. I thought he was one of our men. I looked at him and he looked back at me and continued to do what he was doing when I first saw him, which was looking ahead as if on guard. He was in line with our line, but I had my doubts that he was one of our men because he was looking in the direction opposite to our line of advance. At that moment the fog rolled inand I was unable to see him. When the fog lifted a short time later, that person was not there. I am sure he was an enemy, but I believe that he thought that I was one of his men for he did not attempt to shoot me. Such is war, full of such unexplainable incidents.

We heard through our reliable communication system that some men from the 100th made a dash for Aulla a city ahead and to the left of our position. That mission was successful and the enemy defense completely collapsed. We also heard that some 442nd outfit was able to capture a German naval officer in the mountains.

The German army was in full retreat and we were pursuing them. We approached the city of Genoa from one of the valleys running from the city toward the mountains. While advancing forward in this valley, in the suburbs of the city, we ran across an operating street car. We all jumped inthe street car and rode our "assault vehicle" into the city. I don't know whether my memory is correct, but I thought I heard that Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petaci [Petacci] were caught by the partisans and they were hung at a gasoline service station. Later on when I tried to confirm this, I was told that they were hung is [in] Milano by their heels and not in Genoa. The war was rapidly coming to an end.


Our tour group reached Milano early. We picked up a city tour guide at the Piazza del Duomo, the plaza in front of the famous Milano Cathedral called Il Duomo, and went on a tour of the city in the morning which included passing La Scala, the famous opera theater. I remember seeing the Gothic cathedral, 50 years ago, but had forgotten the details as to what I did and saw at that time. Again, Stud Oshiro and Tom Nakahara remembered exactly what they did and saw in Milan 50 years ago. Stud Oshiro had a photograph of himself taken in front of the Duomo 50 years ago.

We continued on to Lake Como and Lecco, northeast of Milano. We decided to visit Lecco and not Como city because the 442 RCT was in 1945 for a while bivouacked in the farming area outside of Lecco. As we passed the vicinity of Lecco, I failed to recognize any likely spot which we might have bivouacked. The area has developed considerably during the 50 years. We reached Lecco late in the afternoon, about 6:00 p.m., leaving us no time to wander around the lake front area. However, I did recognize the lake front area where the bus stopped. We had to find an eating place, have dinner in a hurry and start our return trip to Milano to our hotel for the night. We looked around, but none of the restaurants were open at that hour. We finally found a small pizza restaurant nearby and talked the proprietor to taking all 35 of us in for a pizza dinner. After a hurried dinner, we went back to Milano.


Upon completing processing the surrendering German armies, the 442 RCT was sent to Lecco in the Lake Como area to be garrisoned there in pup tents in the farm lands. There the headquarters started a program of discipline and training, but this effort did not go well with the boys whose combat go-for-broke spirit was still in them, though this time directed at seeking and finding enjoyment. Passes for short trips to Lecco, Bergamo, Brescia and a rest resort area on Lake Garda were generously given. Rigors of war and combat which pervaded my body and mind, still lingered and I could not get myself to relax and enjoy the beauty of Lake Como, the peace and quiet of the resort R & R on Lake Garda. While I was at the R & R resort hotel on Lake Garda, there was an incident at Lecco which was tragic.

When I got back to the company bivouac area, I heard that Thomas "Sleepy" Inada who had gone through all of the combats without being wounded was killed in Lecco when somehow he was hit by a bullet fired by one of the Lecco Italian police in a fight between the boys and the police. I was really saddened by this, because though he acted nonchalantly, and at times, non-caring for his safety, he diligently did his duty as a soldier at the front lines. Though he never once showed it, he was a very bright scholar. I noticed this even when we were in basic training. I happened to come across one of his laundry slips he wrote in sending out his laundry at Shelby. He wrote "I do not have any clean clothes to wear so please render these an ablution." I had to make a special trip to the library to find out whether there was such a word and what it meant. The irony of this is that the laundry tag would be read by employees of the camp laundry who were primarily black persons without much education. Though, on second thought, they may understand because this word I understand had religious meaning, which the religious black persons may understand. The reason I kept this was because this was evidence of why; though the boys of Hawaii spoke Pidgin English, their written English was very correct and proper and the average 10 was higher than other outfits.

(1994) VENICE

Saturday, October 8th, the tour got on its bus early in the morning for a long ride from Milano to Venice. On the map Venice seemed to be so far away from Milano that I thought it would be impossible to visit Venice in one day, starting from Milano and coming back to Milano the same day. For me the only battle related area in that day's trip would be Ghedi. Though Ghedi was close by the highway, we could not take a detour to stop there.

Venice turned out to be a must see tourist city as was billed by the tour guide and leader. We took a short tour of the Grand Canal central area, visiting the Doge's Palace and San Marco cathedral and doing a must for tourists, riding a gondola along the Grand Canal. Doge's Palace was very interesting in that it showed how the government of Venice worked. There was a reception room for dignitaries, the "throne" room, the social hall, the court room and small doorways where the prisoners were led to their jail cells through narrow passageways, the jail cell where the prisoners were fed their last meal, stayed overnight and the next day led out through narrow passageways over the bridge called the "bridge of sighs" to the square where they were beheaded.

We were not victims of pick-pocket artists, but our group did notice a young gypsy girl bumping an elderly tourist, covering her bag with a neckerchief to hide her swift hands and picking the contents of her bag in one swift swooping movement. Some persons in our tour seeing this sent out yelling alarms and this sent the young gypsy pick-pocket artist scurrying away. Before going out of sight of our bus, this young lady stuck her tongue out at us letting us know that she was displeased. But soon after that we caught a glimpse of her again plying her trade among other tourists as though nothing happened.


After the usual early start, we drove southwest from Milano, crossing the boundary between Italy and France, to Nice. Though some of the veterans were in some of the cities nearby, I did not even recognize the names of the town and cities we passed. However, it was beautiful country. Being that there were many mountains, we had to go through many tunnels. We were on a highway which was high above the coastline cities and so we did not go to Monte Carlo or Menton, though we saw them below us -near the sea. Our hotel in Nice was Hotel Mercure Massena.

The next day was scheduled for a full day tour of Sospel and vicinity. I had high hopes of seeing Sospel after 50 years. But that was not to be. Our bus was too long to negotiate the hairpin turns in the road over mountains to Sospel. Instead, we headed toward Menton, but that too did not pan out. There was a traffic jam due to road construction and we therefor [therefore] could not do anything except to visit a perfume factory. It was very disappointing to me.

However, before attempting to go up the mountain to Sospel, we went to visit a small town called Luceram. That name did not ring a bell for me but it did for the Anti-Tank boys in our tour. Stud Oshiro became very excited when we reached Luceram. He said that he remembered the bridge that crossed the valley from one side to the other and he remembered going to a farm house to have dinner with the family. He did not have time to explain the rest. The bus came to a stop beside the town square and Stud and others went to the upper town, came back and started to go up a road to the mountain side. That group led by Stud roamed all over the mountain side. Not knowing what was happening, we waited for them by the bus. Upon their return, we found out that we missed something great. Those who followed Stud told us what happened. Stud went from one farm house to the next calling out some girl’s names. Finally they got hold of a lady who knew the girl. She pointed out the home of that girl. Her brother in law led them up the road to the girl’s home. The girl came out and immediately recognized Stud. There was a grand reunion and some happy moments. According to those who tagged along, it was like a fairy tale. They said witnessing the entire thing made the whole trip worthwhile.


I asked some of the Anti-Tank boys, how it was that they ended up in such a remote place, when the rest of the 442nd RCT were lined up on the mountain top from Menton to Pierra Cava [Peira-Cava]. I don't know how accurate it is, but I thought I heard the explanation as follows: Anti-Tank Company was detached from 442nd and assigned the 1st Air Borne, 7th Army, right after Hill 140. After training in Italy, they became part of the invasion force which invaded southern France. They had some scary moments landing in France on their gliders. Some, including Stud were injured. From the spot where they landed, Anti-Tank Co. and the unit to which they were attached, chased the German army toward the French-Italian border, to Sospel. They witnessed the shelling of Sospel from the mountain top. Thereafter, they were stationed in Luceram for some time. All this happened in August of 1944; about 4 months before 442nd arrived in the Maritime Alps area in November of 1944.

After the rescue of the "Lost Battalion" of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Division, the Regiment was sent to southern France at the border of France and Italy. We arrived in Sospel on or about Thanksgiving Day, 1944. We had our Thanksgiving dinner (turkey sandwiches) about one day late, while we were sitting on top of the mountain overlooking Italy: As I remember the situation, 100th was given the sector which stretched from ocean at Menton to the mountain. There was a "Special Service Force" next to the 100th. 3rd battalion guarded the mountain top from Sospel northward from where defensive positions of the Special Service Force ended. 2nd battalion guarded the area north of the 3rd battalion; I believe that was the Pierra Cava [Peira-Cava] area. We were in defensive position on top of the mountains and few patrols were sent out from time to time.

First platoon was assigned the position on the right end of Sospel, next to the Special Service Forces. Platoon headquarters was set up in a farmhouse at the bottom of the mountain. Two squads guarded the mountain top at all times. One squad was in reserve in or around the farm house. Lt. Koizumi, the platoon leader stayed in the farm house. I was in charge of the mountain top position and so I was on the mountain top all of the time with two of the rotating squads. We did not send out any patrol because the mountain in front of our position was very steep and we could not send out any patrols. However, we were given the job of contacting the Special Service Force, a very independent group of men.

And so we sat up on the mountain top for quite a while, doing nothing. Our main concern was our meals. We generally were given "10-in-one" rations, which unlike the K rations, contained many goodies, for example, bacon, good biscuits and crackers. Tonto Aoki, was a very good cook, and he did much cooking for the boys on the mountain top whenever he was around. He managed to get some very tough winter leaf vegetable from the farm below and he used to make sukiyaki, using the bouillon powder in the 10-in-one ration box. In any event we enjoyed a very leisurely life there. Later on, when I heard what the other platoons in L Company had to do, I felt a little guilty. The other platoons had to go on patrols and they suffered casualties. Lt. William Oshiro was seriously wounded and lost his leg when someone in his patrol stopped on a mine.

The food was brought up to us at the top of the mountain from the bottom by mule trains. I do not know much about this because I was never a part of a mule train. Those who skinned mules had much amusing stories to tell.

After a while, we were relieved and where [were] assigned to the mountain top behind Sospel called Col de Bra where the road started downhill toward Sospel. We had to maintain our guard posts and 24 hour guards. It was December 1944 and it snowed and was cold. It must have been a rear area, because I remember that our company kitchen was set up and functioning just across the road from us. The ever enterprising boys who wanted to earn some extra cash to finance their frequent trips to Nice were very happy to have the kitchen so near. They frequently went to the kitchen area to ask the cooks to save the used coffee grinds. They carefully dried the used coffee grinds and repacked them for sale to unsuspecting Frenchman. I have the feeling that the French did not have any coffee and so they purchased the coffee grinds from the boys knowing that they were used, otherwise, how could the boys have sold so much used coffee grinds.

I clearly remember that one day on mail call; I received a letter from a neighbor of mine back home sending her sympathy for the passing away of my mother. It was a shock to me because my family in their letters before that did not state that mother was sick or that she passed away. They probably intentionally did not let me know about it because they thought that I would be distraught, causing me to be off-guard and suffer injuries thereby. I had lost many close friends in combat; but the feeling of losing one's own mother was different.

We were thereafter pulled back to the rest area in L'Escarene, and billeted in a train station. I was with some boys from the platoon in a private home. The boys with me were: Takao "Killer" Haraguchi, Itsuo Nitahara, Shigeo Tonto Aoki and Chuck Ishimaru. These boys like the others in the platoon kept on celebrating the fact that they were not in combat. Their trips to Nice were frequent. At times they remained back in the Company area, probably for lack of funds, and drank everything they could get hold of, and I mean they drank some pretty weird stuff. Whenever they did this, I was their nursemaid. This was when I first learned of "snake eyes,” the eyes with a glassy look. I learned a lot being in the army.

When I saw Tonto Aoki in Honolulu at the 50th anniversary reunion of the 442nd, (this was the first time I met Tonto since the war ended), he reminded me, of the time he was in the railroad station at L'Escarene, and I believe that he had too much to drink, and for no reason, he drew his pistol and fired at the light bulbs in the railway warehouse. He reminded me that he fired accurately and exploded the light bulbs. I had forgotten about this incident, but it reminded me that such incidents were common at that time.

The boys used to go to Nice without pass all the time. They used to come back and tell me of their experiences in the many off-limits bars in Nice. They knew how to go-for-broke. They did not know at that time, but they should have reserved some of their go-for-broke spirit for their next episode in combat. I realized later, that I did not have to worry about they [them] exhausting their supply of go-for-broke energy, it seems that they had inexhaustible supply.


On Tuesday, October 11th, after the usual continental breakfast and the usual early start, we travelled by bus from Nice to Marseille. In Marseille, we were given a short tour of the city. We saw the old port, the new port, more historic buildings and churches. It was pointed out to us that Marseille has been a sea port town from centuries ago, and inhabited by people of many different races. We could not recognize any place in particular, though we were there 50-years ago. At one of the churches on the hillside, we were told that there is an annual parade from the city below to the church. This was to commemorate the liberation of Marseille by the partisans of the Free French Forces. The date of the liberation was in late September 1944. According to the list of dates prepared by Ted Tsukiyama in his effort to gather information about the 442nd, the RCT arrived in Marseille on September 29th. I believe that we arrived in Marseille about three days after the "liberation.”

We thereafter continued on to Grenoble, France, for a [an] overnight stay before going on to Switzerland. Our hotel is Grenoble was Hotel Mercure Alpotel. We arrived very late at the Hotel, and had to order special meals prepared. Having had a late lunch on the road, we were not too hungry, we wanted to have a light snack and go to bed early so that we can get up early the next morning for an early departure for Switzerland. We made the mistake of ordering soup and rice. I still don't know how it happened, but we ordered soup and rice and soup and rice we did get. Very small portion of miserable potato soup and flakey rice for an exorbitant price. I believe we all went back to our rooms and scrounged around our bags for left over snacks from lunch. It is a good thing we stayed there for one night only.


We arrived in Marseille, France by navy ships from Naples. I do not remember much of Marseille, except that we pitched our tent in a very wide open area probably close to the port. We were not allowed to go into the city of Marseille for we were to soon depart for parts north. I remember Casey Kasadate, with super abundance of energy, making everyone laugh all the time. He used to sing a song over and over about "someone having to hang his underwear.” We remember such crazy things, while forgetting many of the important things.

In going north from Marseille to Epinal, the 3rd battalion went by train, on box cars made for "8 horses or 40 men.” There were no toilets in the box cars and that was an inconvenience to say the least. We arrived in the area of Epinal and thereafter was [were] trucked to the area of Bruyeres.


Early in the morning of Wednesday, October 12th, we left our hotel in Grenoble and headed for Switzerland. We passed through Geneva, Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen where we boarded a train for an overnight stay at Wengen in Hotel Regina. Not having fought in Switzerland or even passed through it, this trip to Switzerland was as a pure tourist, without any memories of war.
We found Switzerland a beautiful country with many farmland and cattle grazing the fields in small numbers. When we arrived in Wengen, we all fell in love with Wengen. It is a beautiful picturesque village with farms and farmhouses all around. On top of that the Hotel Regina we stayed in was excellent, comfortable hotel with very pleasant courteous owners and employees; furthermore, they served us a very wonderful full course continental dinner in a dinning [sic] room that had a view window of the beautiful scenery outside for each table. We had a wonderful view from Wengen of the high mountains with snow, in the distant background, which we would be visiting the next day. As a tourist, this was the highlight of our tour of Europe.

We left Hotel Regina, the next day in a leisurely manner, catching the train back to Lauterbrunner [Lauterbrunnen] where we boarded our bus for Grindelwald and Jungfraujoch. Our trip to the top of the mountain was by cog train. We had lunch of soup, bread, cheese, fruit and wine and came down the other side of the mountain by cable cars where we boarded our bus for Lucerne. Our hotel in Lucerne was Hotel Europa Lucerne. We had a dinner that night at a restaurant which was a big hall full of tourists with entertainment by a local band. The next day we took a tour of the city of Lucerne and had time to shop and have lunch at the heart of Lucerne. After lunch we headed for Basel and toured the Bally Shoe Museum. We then headed for Colmar where we stayed at Hotel Novotel, which would be our hotel for the next three nights while we travelled back and forth to Biffontaine and Bruyeres. Though Colmar was about an hour's ride to Biffontaine and Bruyeres, Hotel Novotel was a pleasant small hotel which we enjoyed very much.


Since arriving at Hotel Europa Lucerne, I started to feel anticipation of things to come. This was our last hotel before arriving at Colmar, France, our final destination wherefrom we were to commute daily to Biffontaine and Bruyeres to participate in the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Liberation of Bruyeres and Biffontaine. This was the ultimate goal of this tour, which thus far lasted 16 days of air and bus travels, traveling a circuitous route through Italy, Switzerland and France. How would I feel when I see the battlegrounds around Bruyeres and Biffontaine after 50 years? Karleen Chinen has been asking me this a number of times on this trip. Would I break down? Would tears flow?

Bruyeres actually is a small town in the Vosges mountains, not a known destination for European tours. Our tour guide was prepared to explain the history and products of the area between Colmar and Bruyeres called Alsace, but she did not know the details of Bruyeres, much less Biffontaine. The bus driver not only did not know the location of Bruyeres and Biffontaine, he did not have a road map. I had to lend him my road map. They were not sure whether the trip from Colmar to Bruyeres would take one hour or two hours and therefore, were awakened earlier than usual for our breakfast, coffee, breads and juice.

We left real early that morning from Colmar. The location of Colmar with relation to Bruyeres and Biffontaine was such that our bus approached the area from a different direction than the usual approach. When we reached the vicinity of Biffontaine, we entered a small farming village called La Houssiere, which lie east of Biffontaine. Taking the secondary roads from Colmar to Biffontaine, we were travelling in the western direction. Our route of advance during the Vosges campaign starting from Bruyeres was in the easterly direction, First Bruyeres, then Biffontaine, and then La Houssiere. The "Lost Battalion" was between Biffontaine and La Houssiere. Therefore, coming from the east, going westward, we hit La Houssiere first before Biffontaine. This was an unexpected find for me. I had much memories of La Houssiere.

I requested a special camera stop at La Houssiere, which was a very small farm village with a strong odor of cattle. I got off the bus and started walking in the vicinity, trying to decide which ranges of mountains, right or left, we were on 50 years ago. I believe it was the left one because in our advance 50 years ago, the town of La Houssiere was on our right. Of course we couldn't go to the low mountain top nearby because we did not have time to do that, our destination that day was Biffontaine. I know that if I were able to go up there, I would be able to recognize the place where we fought our last battle before we were relieved by the 36th division. I felt certain that I would be able to locate my unique foxhole I dug there and locate the huge flat rock which concealed the German machine gun which harassed us and caused many casualties to 1st platoon. The next best thing to do was to have pictures taken of me in La Houssiere with the mountain range in the background.

At the fork of the road which led to Biffontaine, we noticed that the road was closed and so we had to take a detour around the mountain to Biffontaine. We later learned that the detour sign was for cars other than the busses. With so many busses congregating in the small town of Biffontaine, they had to forbid traffic from going into that town. I believe that there must have been about 15 busses parked on the narrow roads of Biffontaine. When all of the busses arrived, we proceeded to the monument commemorating the 442nd in the mountain nearby. The entire mountain areas near Biffontaine and Bruyeres were national forest reserves and ordinarily traffic was not allowed. However, for this occasion they even widened the dirt roads so that the busses could get there and turn around to get back.

Wendy Hanamura, daughter of Howie Hanamura of first platoon, L Company, had her camera crew from KPIX of San Francisco there to take shots of Biffontaine, the monument, the ceremonies and locality. She had her staff do some research and found out that the monument was in the area where I and K companies mounted the initial attack against the German forces in our effort to break through their defenses to reach the lost battalion. It was in the area where I and K companies did their go-for-broke "Banzai" charges which breached the fiercely defended defense line that the Germans established. I tried to find the area, where L Company, then in reserve, established its line and its line of advance into hell's gate once it was committed to advance in combat, but I was not successful. Though, I had the feeling that it was to the left of the monument. If so the German soldiers came right through the site of the monument in their attempt to break through our line that first night.

The ceremony of commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Biffontaine was very impressive, with 2 bands, one from the U.S. armed forces stationed in Germany and the other from the French armed forces. The color guard was from the U.S. troops stationed in Germany. There was a black colored woman in the color guards. She stood at attention in the direct sunlight for a long time while the speeches were being made until she finally began to collapse from heat exhaustion. The U.S. consul general of the area, a black woman was also in attendance throughout the ceremonies and festivities of that day. It was so refreshing to see so many colored persons attending as representatives of the U.S. government, a far cry from the discrimination of the blacks we experienced in Hattiesburg 50 years ago. I believe that participation in the war efforts during World War II helped the blacks to an extent, as it did for the AJA's.

The ceremony was a solemn one with the playing of the national anthems of United States and France, the presentation of flower wreaths from various organizations, the invocation by different religions, including the Buddhist delivered by Ronald Oba of the 442nd RCT and speeches by many dignitaries, the French speeches had to be translated into English, all expressed their gratitude for the sacrifices made by the men of the 442nd RCT. It was spine tingling, chicken skin time, with most of those in attendance including the spouses and relatives of the veterans un-ashamedly experiencing free flowing tears. There was this one woman from California standing behind me who was sobbing right through the ceremony. She was moved, her emotions together with the direct sun on her, caused her to become faint and she had to be helped to the shade. I tried my very best not to become overly emotional and teary, but I could not help myself, spine tingling, chicken skin and tears, all overcame me.

After the ceremony, Wendy Hanamura requested that I remain in the area for shots on her TV camera. I gladly stayed back because she had done her research and could point out the locations of the "Banzai" charge which happened there 50 years ago. She pointed out a road which came into the area just right of place where the monument stood and said that probably that was the area that the 442nd came up on the first day of the rescue of the Lost Battalion. I was not sure, but later to go back we took a dirt road located about 75 yards to the left of the monument which ran toward Biffontaine. I later realized that that was the road we came up that day after a night march in pitch black darkness from Belmont area. The third battalion aid station was close by to the battleground on that road. The correctness of my guess was verified, when we passed a small road to our left as we travelled on the road to Biffontaine. That small road was pointed out as one of the roads leading down the mountain toward Biffontaine; That was the road which was pointed out to me in our march to the battlegrounds that day 50 years ago, as being the road where a group of walking wounded, aid men, and wounded on litters from the 100th coming back to reach their aid station from the fierce battle which just took place in Biffontaine, was attacked in an ambush by a strong patrol of the German forces. Had I had more time, I would have walked around the area to verify the exact spot of the location of first platoon fox holes for the first night that we reached the combat area. But if I did that, I would have no transportation from the mountain top to Biffontaine and I was not about to walk that distance. My hiking days stopped as soon as I was discharged from the army 50 years ago.

In the TV shooting session with Wendy Hanamura and her crew from KPIX, the camera shot Howie and myself walking in the woods and talking stories as to the events which took place in these woods 50 years ago. I was very pleased at the result of that session, because I was able to talk about certain incidents like the capture of the French Indo Chinese in the hills after the O'Conner Task Force. It was so long ago and because nobody talked about the incident, I thought that I had dreamt about it and made up the story. To my surprise, Howie confirmed the story and added more details to that story and the incidents after that. I was not dreaming, I had not made up the story, but it actually happened.

Howie and I found a foxhole, though it was somewhat filled up with dirt and debris with moss growing in it. It was definitely a foxhole that someone had dug. Upon further reflection, I now believe that hole was very close to where the American Sherman tank was in the middle of the battle that was raging a few yards away between I and K Companies and the defending German forces. Co. L line of platoons passed there along the roadway on their way to the fighting area when it was committed to combat from the reserve position. It would also be very close to the place where first platoon caught a tree burst which killed some men and wounded quite a few.

There was a big tent set up by the people of Biffontaine in their town populated by 400 persons. I would venture a guess that there were more than 800 guests in Biffontaine that day to take part in the 50th anniversary ceremonies. The number of guests was more than twice the population of Biffontaine. It must have taken some doing by the people to Biffontaine to plan and hold such an event. Everyone must have enjoyed a great lunch prepared for them. Bottles of specially bottled wine with a special 59th Commemoration design and wording flowed freely. The French hosts and their guests sat and freely mingled among the 442nd veterans and their spouses and guests. The French people who enjoyed the situation the most, I believe, were the younger people, who were having a ball testing out their knowledge of English. I came back after my session with Wendy and Howie Hanamura in the mountains just in time to have my lunch and my glass of wine.
The gathering was also time for reunion and meeting old friends for the veterans and their spouses. Upon meeting old friends like I did, many friends from Waialua the sugar plantation where I was born and raised, the standard questions were: “What outfit were you with in 442nd?” “Were you wounded and if so where? How many grandchildren do you have?” and the like.

After lunch, the entire group got on their respective busses and went to Epinal to visit the American cemetery there. It was a big well kept cemetery. The persons in charge there had placed small flags on each of the graves of men of the 442nd buried there. There was another short ceremony there and a few speeches. A photographer from Bruyeres took a group photo of the veterans and their spouses and guests lined up on the stairs leading from the gates to the burial graves. After the ceremonies, we were allowed time to visit the graves marked by small flags. Dorothy Matsuo, who had brought orange colored leis all the way from Hawaii, draped a lei on each one of the graves of the men of the 442nd buried there. It was another moving moment, spine chilling and chicken skin time again.

The next day, Sunday October 16th, we again had an early morning call and started early from Colmar. Our destination this time was Bruyeres to attend the Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Bruyeres. Again, I was full of anticipation. Would I be able to find the streets whereby Co. L, as the first element of 442nd RCT, came into Bruyeres? Would I be able to find basements in the first row of houses where we slept the first night? Would I be able to find the town square where the first elements of Co. L spotted the German tanks just leaving town. Would I be able to find other buildings where we slept the second night? Would I be able to find the railroad tracks, where the RCT was stalled for a while? How would I react when I am able to find them?

Ours was one of the first busses to reach the gathering spot in Bruyeres for the beginning of the ceremonies. The gathering place was the railroad station for Bruyeres. I did not recognize the railroad station. We marched from there to a small square in town where open air religious ceremonies were held. Thereafter, we marched to the big town square for further ceremonies and speeches. While the speeches were going on, I went for a walk, walking down many streets close to the looming tall hill next to the town. This was one of the four hills next to Bruyeres which were objectives of the 100th and the 2nd battalions. The streets which I walked did not look familiar. I decided to go back to the square where the speeches were still in progress.

Upon arriving at the square, someone informed me that the photographer who took our group photo at the Epinal cemetery was selling prints at his photo shop about a block away from the square. Muriel and I hurried down to that shop to purchase a print. While there we saw a print of the old photo taken when first platoon was first entering Bruyeres. This was the one that has been reprinted in many publications containing accounts of the 442nd. Sgt. Lawrence Fujii is readily identifiable in that photo. He and members of his first squad were photographed when they were walking into town on both sides of a street, with a French girl greeting and talking to one of the men. I purchased one of the prints and promptly walked out of the photo shop and confronted a group of 2 elderly French women and one elderly man talking on the side walk.

Not being able to speak French, I asked in English, with my finger pointing at the photo and at the street and buildings, whether they knew where the street and buildings shown in the photo. I was successful, they understood and one of the elderly ladies pointed to the building in the picture and stated that she used to live in the building when 442nd first, entered Bruyeres 50 years ago. She motioned me to follow her we were able to find the building and the street depicted in the photo, which was only about a half block away from the photo shop in front of a parking lot. I was overjoyed and excited that I was able to find the exact spot where Lawrence Fujii was photographed.

With such luck thus far, I decided to investigate further as to the exact route which Co. L took in coming into Bruyeres. I followed the street further down, and found that the next street coming into that street was called Rue de 36th Division; and the street after that was named Rue de 442nd. I believe that it was on Rue de 442nd that L Company came into the town of Bruyeres. I did not have enough time, so I had to turn back to go to the town square again.

The lady who showed me the building where she lived, said something about her "marito" and insisted that I follow her to another photo shop. There was a photo taken in 1944 that showed Sgt. Sagimori and about 4 other French persons. She pointed to the man in the photo and said that person was her "marito"; and she was proud of that photo. I thanked her profusely because she made my day.

That afternoon after coming back to Bruyeres from the monument in the hills above Bruyeres, we were scheduled to visit a museum displaying photos and memorabilia of the war fought around Bruyeres. We went to the building which was next to the parking lot. That parking lot was the parking lot which was situated right in front of the building which the French lady pointed out to me earlier as where she lived in 1944 and where the Lawrence Fujii photo was taken. What a coincidence. Later while on the bus going back to Colmar, Ted Yamate told me that upon entering the museum he recognized it as a building in which he stayed. It was selected as the regimental command post after the Germans left the town and the vicinity, only it must have been about 5 days after Co. L first entered Bruyeres. Again Ted said that they experienced artillery shelling while in that building. And he said in jest, that the infantry did not do a great job in clearing the area of enemy soldiers, because on no occasion should the regimental command post come under enemy fire of any sort. Ted said that the building used to be a movie house when they first moved in 1944.

After the program at the square in Bruyeres, the entire group got on their respective busses and went up the mountain to the monument erected by Bruyeres in honor of the 442nd RCT.

Wendy Hanamura caught me before I boarded the bus and took me up the mountain to where the busses were parked lined up. She wanted me to do a solo interview, because when I am with Howie, we tended to talk of the more funny incidents, forgetting to mention the serious side of the war and the frightful experiences we had or the emotional aspects of combat. Not being able to go any closer to the monument, we set up shop right in the middle of the forest, in the middle of trees and brushes. There the camera was set up at close range and Wendy asked me certain questions which led me to seriously think the incidents which happened during combat in Bruyeres, Biffontaine and vicinity. It was painful in that I recalled many things which I had subconsciously blocked off from memory. I thought that I was tough emotionally, that I would not breakdown. At Biffontaine, I felt chills up my spine, chicken skin and tears welled up and I could not control it. I thought that was the height of my show of emotions and there was nothing beyond that to show my emotion.

I was wrong, while on that solo interview not only did I experience those feelings of emotion, but I went beyond that and I could not talk though I tried. I had to stop for a length of time, gulping a few times and the pitch of my voice changed. I had seen movies of such emotional situations where the same things happened to the person struck by strong emotions, but I thought that I was not capable of experiencing such a state of emotional high, not the "cold" person that I was.

I tried to analyze why it is that when on the solo interview, I experienced that state of emotion where I was not able to talk and the pitch of my voice changed to a high range. As far as I could figure, it was not just grief for having lost my friends in combat, killed and wounded, that was present in abundance inside me; it was not just the height of patriotism that wells up inside a person in a serious situation when the Stars Spangled Banner is played; it was not just pity for oneself, for having to experience great discomfort and displeasure in having been thrown into combat in such a foreign, extremely cold, wet place in such hostile surroundings, far away from home. It was a combination of these three and maybe others which I am not able to pinpoint. Nevertheless, it happened to me for the first time in my life. I am capable of experiencing an emotional high which causes me to temporarily lose my ability to speak.

We had lunch at a gymnasium in Bruyeres. We were seated by Companies. For L Company, the veterans present at our designated table, those who attended the affairs at Bruyeres, were Mr. and Mrs. Ben Kitagawa, Samiru Ikari and his wife, Fumio Ohashi and his wife and son, Mr., Mrs. Koja from Wailuku, Maui, Howie Hanamura and his wife, and Genro Kashiwa and Muriel.

We had a program again, including speeches and presentation of resolutions. The informal 442nd choral group, formed on 2 minutes notice, including yours truly, performed the 442nd song: "All hail, all hail our Combat Team..." A smashing success if I may say so.

All in all, the European trip taken to attend the Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Bruyeres and Biffontaine was a success. After the program, we boarded our bus for the one hour return trip to Colmar for our last night there.


The 3rd Battalion of the 442nd RCT was transported from Marseille to an area near Epinal, France in "40 and 8" rail cars. The cars accommodated 8 houses or 40 humans. The train ride took about 2 days. There were no toilet facilities or plumbing in those box cars made for hauling goods. It was getting cold and some of the boys went even so far as to build small fires in the cars to keep warm. Those who wanted to use the rest rooms at inappropriate times had to make do in whatever ways they can devise.

We reached in the area close to Epinal by train and was trucked the rest of the way to an area close to Bruyeres. It was cold, wet and plain miserable. We did not have clothes suitable for the cold weather. Our combat jackets were too thin for the cold and our heavy wool OD overcoats were too heavy, especially when they became wet, and we were wet all the time. It was miserable to have to dig our fox holes in the drizzling rain and to have to sleep in them when water accumulated at the bottom. We usually had to sleep sitting on our steel helmets so that we won't get wet.

The 442nd RCT was attached to the 36th Division of the VIth Army, commanded by Maj. General Dahlquist. For the first offensive, 3rd battalion was in reserve and the 100th and the 2nd battalions were the attacking battalions. There were fierce fire fights in the battles for the taking of Hills A, B, C and D by the 100th and 2nd battalions. On or about the 17th of October, 3rd battalion, the reserve battalion was committed to take the town of Bruyeres.

In our first try to get into Bruyeres by frontal assault over 200 yards of flat farmlands in a skirmish line formed by the 1st and, 2nd platoons of L. Company, the line came under intense enemy machine gun fire and were pinned down. We were finally able to make a strategic withdrawal to the wooded area were [where] we started, intending to take a new route and new formation of attack. Just then General Dahlquist was watching our assault on Bruyeres from the clump of trees our jump-off point. I understand that the General Dahlquist upon watching our boys withdraw stated that he thought that the 442nd never took a backward step.

We regrouped and decided to go to our left, following a dirt road with a ditch running alongside, leading into Bruyeres. First platoon was the lead platoon in a column of twos spread apart in combat stance. I don't know what happened, but we did not come under enemy machine gun fire. Instead, a small tank from our right, at the right edge of the town started to fire its cannon at us. About 7 to 10 cannon shells were fired at us. We all jumped into the ditch next to the road. There was a mud wall on the left side of the ditch which rose about 2 feet above the road level. Whatever the tank fired slammed into the dirt above us without exploding. Judging from the sound of things, I believe that the tank was firing armor piercing rounds at us which went right into the mud wall. Nobody was injured. For whatever the reason, the tank stopped firing at us and went away. I am inclined to believe that the tanks were the small reconnaissance light tanks firing small caliber cannons which reconnaissance tanks carry. Probably they were 37mm cannons.

Upon reflection, I believe that the tank belonged to some reconnaissance patrol of the 36th Division which happened to reach the Bruyeres area just when we were in the process of committing our assault on Bruyeres. They must have thought that we were withdrawing German troops. They stopped firing at us when they realized that we were American troops. In any event we were very happy that the firing stopped. We again continued our attack on Bruyeres. Fortunately, we did not encounter any more enemy soldiers and fire until we entered the town. As soon as we hit town, we turned right and headed down the street. The civilian population somehow found out that the Germans began to withdraw from Bruyeres and they came out from their basements a few at a time to greet us. They must have been puzzled to find the liberators to have oriental faces, but wearing American uniforms. We were met, not in wild jubilation, but in subdued tones of greetings.

In entering the town at the last farm house before we turned right into the street, our advancing column stopped, and so we stopped by the farmhouse. Upon looking around, I found cucumbers growing in the garden so I helped myself to some refreshing cucumbers. (At the 50th reunion, I was telling some French people through an interpreter that I found and had good tasting cucumber in 1944, when Howie Hanamura chimed in to say that he helped himself to some carrots at the same garden.) After all I was not the only one goofing off at such serious moments.

The front elements of first platoon reached the intersection where the road we were on turned left into another road, from which they could see the town square. The report came back from the scouts that there was a German tank in the square which was in the process of withdrawing. I have forgotten the sequence of events thereafter, but some of us, I believe that it was the 3rd squad under Sgt. Thomas Kakesako that entered the basement underneath the stores up above. The curious thing which I remember about that situation was that there were several basements connected to each other. (In 1994 when talking to the elderly lady who showed us her the house which was her home in 1944, I tried to find out whether the basements were still there, but alas, no comprehend.)

(I met Jun Yamamoto at the reunion in front of the museum, which happened to be right by the parking lot and the house where Lawrence Fujii photo was taken.) I informed him of my find. His reply was that the headquarters platoon of L Company slept in a building which was situated beyond the most forward position of the most forward platoon. I said that it was impossible, but he insisted, so I left it at that. Snafu, Snafu.)

The next day our Company took the town square of Bruyeres. The German army had pulled out during the night. We advanced beyond the square and followed the street downhill to the street right next to Hill D which was the objective of 2nd Battalion. When we went there were no Germans there. However, I heard that prior to that 2nd platoon of L Company was committed to clear our [out] the Hill D of snipers. It went around the hill at the base and was in a line there, when they saw many German soldiers running down the hill toward their position. Another company of 2nd battalion, probably G Company, fought the Germans who infiltrated into Hill D during the night and pursued them over the top of the hill; therefore, 2nd platoon got these German soldiers running into their position. The 2nd battalion company and 2nd platoon of L Company had a field day, killing many German soldiers.

That night, we stayed in a house across the street from the foot of Hill D. There was an old feisty French lady there. She carried a silver plated six shooter and was waiving [waving] it around. She was happy to see us liberators. She forced us to sing Marseilles [“La Marseillaise”], the French national anthem. I did not know the words in full and so I hummed along with the rest of that family. (I was trying to find that house in 1994, but was not successful.)

The next day we were ordered to advance to the railroad tracks that passed by Bruyeres just at its outskirts. It seems that the whole regiment was lined up along the railroad tracks. There were heavy German tanks positioned along a road some distance away which was harassing, the men on the railroad tracks. In front of us lay level farmlands, slightly rising upwards. Regiment planned an end-around strategy which would have jeopardized the position of the enemy and the tanks. It was called O'Conner Task Force. F and L companies were selected for the maneuver. Both companies pulled back from the railroad tracks and marched in a column towards the right side of town, in the area where previously the light tank fired at from that position when we were assaulting to enter Bruyeres. When we reached the road at the end of town, we turned left and proceeded straight ahead toward the enemy position. For part of the way the 36th Division men were on the road also in their attempt to move forward. We passed them and turned left into the woods. We moved forward for a ways, until L Company came upon some farmhouses. There were a few German soldiers there who were captured. Looking left from the line of our advance, we were able to see a flat area slowly descending to the railroad tracks.

First platoon continued to advance a little further and then cut left toward some farmhouses. We cleared one of the farmhouses, which had a German anti-tank gun sitting in the yard, about the size of a 57mm gun. However, we did not know how to fire it. I believe that 3rd squad under Sgt. Kakesako and together with Lt. Koizumi cleared the farmhouse and were able to take some prisoners. While they were in the farmhouse, the German tank by the railroad tracks started to fire their tank guns at the farmhouse. It must have been an 88mm artillery piece, firing anti-tank armor piercing projectiles. The shells just went through the entire farmhouse without exploding. I would say that about 4 to 6 shells were fired at the house and all of them when right through the house. The men in the house ran into the basement of the house for cover. Thanks to the armor piercing shells, no one got wounded.

Somehow, the tank stopped firing and started to withdraw. At first we thought that we were in the line of withdrawal of the tanks, but luckily we were not. At a point a few yards from the railroad tracks, the German tanks turned left and headed east over a dirt road which led over the mountain. Again as a platoon guide, I was the last man in line of first platoon. I did not see much action. When the action started in the farmhouses, I was always out in the field nearby waiting for the platoon to move forward. That was the extent of my recollection of the battle involving O'Conner's Task Force, which incidentally won a presidential unit citation for that action. I do not know what actions met the other platoons of L Company or F Company, but I know they must have met interesting combat situations on the O’Conner’s Task Force.

(According to Tay Nobori of headquarters platoon of L Company, who had opportunity to observe L Company as a whole in relation to the neighboring companies, {as was told at the recent mini reunion of L Company at Las Vegas about the middle of September 1994}, the O'Conner Task Force was a complete success which broke the back of the German defense in that sector. This allowed the 141 regiment of the 36th Division to pursue the enemy with great speed. It advanced into enemy position so fast that it outran the forces to its right and its left. The German forces closed the breach caused by the regiment and they were trapped by the German forces behind the enemy lines. The other 36th division outfits tried to reach them, but were not successful. That is how they became the so called "Lost Battalion" of the 36th Division. Tay Nobori says that the 442nd had a hand in bringing about the Lost Battalion situation).

We pursued the German Forces up into the mountains, but L Company did not make contact with them. We were relieved by some outfit of the 36th Division and we were pulled back to the town of Belmont situated on the northwest side of Biffontaine. We were supposed to be in a rest area, no combat. Our men did their laundry and took sponge baths. It was sunny and so some of them were taking sun baths. All of a sudden we were bombarded by German artillery. Two of our first platoon boys were killed, Richard Kawahara of Maui and Teruo Fujioka of Kahuku. This should not have been. There was poor intelligence. (This is one situation which fitted exactly into what Ted Yamate said to me about their regimental headquarters situations on our 1994 tour of Europe). Somebody goofed. There should not be any artillery bombardment falling on troops in a rest area. The men let their guard down relying of the usual fact that the rest area is safe from enemy fire. The infantry, (in this case the infantry of the 36th Division) did not do a good job of clearing the area of the enemies.

Before being relieved in the mountains, we experienced a very interesting situation. So interesting that for a time, since none of our veterans talked about it, I eventually thought that I had dreamed up the incident and it was just a figment of my imagination. However, when we were stopped on top of a low mountain, that had a river flowing at the bottom, we saw movement at the base of the mountain. There were several men running for cover from tree to tree. These men eventually came up close to our position. Someone was sent down to pick up these men.

They were brought to the platoon headquarters at the top. These men looked oriental, but spoke fluent French. As soon as they reached our men, they offered our men some "pomme de terre.” Upon further interrogation, we learned that these men were French Indo Chinese (present Vietnamese) who were prisoners of war of the German Army. They were probably fighting for the French army. They decided to make a break from the prison compound and started to hide boiled potatoes in several directions from the prison compound, so that they could pick up some potatoes for food no matter which direction they fled. They did escape and where [were] making good their escape attempt when they were picked up by our men. The French Indo Chinese were confused when they saw us who had oriental faces but wearing American uniform. They asked us whether we were friends or enemy. They were later taken back to company, headquarters.

That day we were relieved by the 36th Division. Company headquarters thoughtfully sent us hot food, stew and rice, in thermos mermite cans, before we were trucked back to our rest area in Belmont. Everyone ate the dinner, and all of us had the runs, except, I found out later, Howie Hanamura, who said that he had two helpings. It was a miserable truck ride back to the rest area. The boys had to devise ways to relieve themselves of their running stomach while riding the truck.

(The Rescue of the Lost Battalion)

We were in the rest area of Belmont for two days, when we got orders late one night to get ready to move out in the early morning hours of the next day. Our rest was cut short. We had to walk for miles on a dark dirt road in the forest. It was so dark that we were unable to see our hands in front of our face. We walked in a single file, stumbling along in the dark, hanging on to the pack of the person in front of us. It was a miracle that we were able to maintain contact with the person in front without getting lost. More than that, it was a miracle that the person leading the entire 3rd battalion was, able to "see" where he was going. It got daylight, but we did not reach our destination. While walking along the roadway after daybreak, someone mentioned that the road we passed that joined the road we were travelling on was the road which led to Biffontaine, where the 100th was in fierce combat with the Germans.

At one time we understand that the 100th was cut off for a while. Some men of the 2nd battalion had to carry rations to the besieged 100th in Biffontaine. While evacuating some walking wounded and some wounded on stretchers carried by some medics and litter bearers, the wounded included Col. Kim and others, they were ambushed by a superior German patrol. Some of the wounded leaped down from the stretcher and together with others made a break for it. Col. Kim and another person escaped while about 10 or more men were captured by the Germans. I understand that Kanichi Isobe, a medic from Haleiwa was one of them that tried to flee. He was reported missing in action and he was never found.

We reached a certain point soon after passing an aid station. I believe that was the 3rd battalion aid station. It was a cave dug into the side of the road with logs over the cave and some canvas over the log. We turned right over a small hill and dug in for the night as soon as we reached the top of the small hill. L Company was in reserve position, I and K companies were the lead attacking companies. L Company's position was on the left flank of the battalion and somewhat in the rear of the attacking companies. Sgt. Jacob Jichaku had dug his fox hole or he had found one already dug. His location was just to the rear of his men who dug holes about 10 to 15 feet apart from the next person. They for the most part dug holes for two persons and the two shared the hole for the night. Everything was quiet for the early part of the evening. However, late at night, some men came crawling and running through the defensive positions of the first platoon. I don't know how these men were able to do this in the pitch dark night but they did. These men were stragglers from the 36th Division outfit which was supposed to be ahead of us.

They were fleeing from the German soldiers who were pursuing them in the night. When the German soldiers came stumbling on to our lines, the boys kept their cool and fired at the Germans, killing a few of them. There was a tree burst that night over Sgt. Jichaku's fox hole, which crushed his cover made of branches. Early next morning in the first light, I went to the aid of Jacob Jichaku and found that he was caught underneath the tree branches and couldn't get out. He was wounded. I did not know where or how serious. I did my best to help and pulled him by his arm to get him out. It turned out that he was wounded in that arm and he claims to this day that I made it worse by pulling on it. He was sent back to the aid station.

That day, L Company, the reserve company, was committed and was ordered to move forward and help in the fire fight which was raging ahead between I and K companies and the Germans in the dense forest. As we approached the area where the fierce fire fight was going on, first platoon was rained on by shrapnel from a tree burst. Noboru Fujinaka was killed, Sgt. Tommy Kakesako was seriously wounded in the stomach and there were numerous other casualties, I am unable to recall at this time, the many others who became casualties. Just by that one tree burst we lost about a third of our strength. I was again the last man in our platoon and was bringing up the rear. I was struck on my right shoulder and for a while I was not able to carry my rifle.

My right shoulder hurt, but I did not look carefully. I was afraid. I did not see any blood. According to Howie Hanamura, I asked him to take me to the battalion aid station. He did and left me there, but he had a problem rejoining the company. Night fell and I was at the aid station among very seriously wounded men. The policy of the medics is to treat the seriously wounded persons first, and when time permits they would treat the less seriously wounded. When I finally entered the cave which was the aid station, it was about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. I was the last person to be treated. Dr. Kawaoka looked at me and asked where I was wounded. I pointed it out to him and he proceeded to take off my pack and clothing at the shoulder. When he looked at the area where I said I was hit, he looked at it and then turned to me and said, “Kashiwa, scary yeh." I said, “Yes" in a positive manner, for that afternoon it was a frightening experience to see so many of our first platoon boys killed and wounded. That was the extent of our conversation. He told me to rejoin the company when it became lighted. -What Dr. Kawaoka saw of my wound, was one drop of dried blood. The shrapnel evidently went through the webbing of my pack and my clothing, but did not wound me except for the one drop of blood. I was awarded the Purple Heart medal for that and I am considered a disabled vet so that I am able to join the Disabled American Veterans' organization.

When I rejoined the company the next day, they were just beginning to advance forward again. Because of the tree burst which caused so many casualties, the company was not able to make much headway that day. In moving forward, we were in a single file formation, each man moving forward as the person in front of him moves forward. The point man of the company had not yet reached the area of the fierce fighting. We had to pass an American Sherman tank which was parked on the side of the dirt road. On the lee side of the tank stood Colonel Pursell, urging all the men around him to go forward and join in the fierce firefight happening ahead. The tank was not too far from the area where the bullets were flying. I don't know when, but about that time the famous "banzai" charge happened when Barney Hajiro for whatever reason decided to charge ahead with complete disregard for his personal safety. Somehow, the men of I and K companies, with great number of casualties was able to broke the defense of the German forces at that position. L Company thereafter was one of the leading line attacking companies. It continued to engage the enemy, but the battles were not as fierce as the one just completed by I and K companies.

I was reminded by Howie Hanamura, that while pushing ahead in pursuit of the enemy, L Company received orders to send out a combat patrol whose mission was both combat and to contact F Company which was pursuing the enemy down in the valley to our left. Only one platoon was to go on the patrol. Our platoon was reduced in strength and so we requested reinforcement to go on the patrol. The answer came back that I company would reinforce us and join in the patrol. When I company showed up for the patrol, only three men showed up. They said that was I company. It seems that when Captain Byrnes the commanding officer of I Company got killed a few days before the morale of the I Company just went to pieces and the already few men remaining in I Company simply dwindled down to three.

Such was the stories of the remaining strength of the companies in the 3rd battalion. L Company had the most men remaining and available for combat. The companies kept on pursuing the retreating enemy on the ridge and on the side of the mountain running parallel and to the left of Biffontaine and La Houssiere. I believe that it was on the mountain ridge in between Biffontaine and La Houssiere that 442nd first made contact with the remaining men of the Lost Battalion. It is reported that I company was the first to make contact with the lost battalion. L Company was not far behind and we made contact with the Lost Battalion soon after I company.

My recollection of that moment was that we made contact and our men moved about 15 yards beyond the holes of the men of the Lost Battalion to form a protective line. The men of the Lost Battalion were of course happy that we contacted them after having lost contact with their Division for many days. As I lay on the ground 15 yards in front of the holes of the Lost Battalion, one of the men of the Lost Battalion got out of the hole and walked toward me. I thought he was coming to me to shake my hand in a show of appreciation, but he walked past me and went about 15 yards further to a dead German soldier lying on the ground. He quickly removed a pistol from the dead soldier and brought it back with him to his hole. I guess your senses are numbed when you had too much combat.

L Company advanced further along the ridge until it hit enemy resistance at the end of the last knoll of the mountain range. Beyond that the mountain sloped down to the valley below and to many farms in the valley. The small rural town of La Housseire [La Houssiere] was on our right not far from the base of the mountain. I guess that the enemy was going to make their last stand there because after that they had to retreat into the valley. They were entrenched on the edge of the mountain top where it started to go down. They laid some mines in front of them. Their riflemen were line up in a skirmish line along the entire edge. There was a machine gun emplacement on its left flank, our right flank. The machine gun was hard to find, but its line of fire and the mine field kept our platoon from moving forward. (Later on upon inspection, I found that the machine gun emplacement was under a huge piece of flat rock on our right, well camouflaged. Nobody would have imagined that it would be under the huge rock). Our advance was stalled. We only needed one more small push forward to cause the enemy to abandon their last mountain defense line, but the machine gun to our right prevented us from pushing further. We had to knock out the machine gun. We waited in that static position until company headquarters would come up with a plan to do something. We dug in there. First squad was dug in on the left of the company front. Second Squad was to its right. I believe that 3rd squad was in. reserve. Due to the peculiar terrain and the many trees, the enemy defense was not more than 30 yards away on the average.

Night and darkness came early in the mountains. Guards for the night was arranged by the squad leaders. It was about 11:00 p.m. that night that we heard the engine of a jeep that was coming right to our platoon's position. Paul Matsumoto was driving the jeep. He brought us hot coffee and meal. It was about 5 hours past dinner time. Furthermore, who would have thought that the company kitchen would send us hot coffee and meal right in the middle of a combat situation where the enemy was entrenched only about 30 yards away. Many of the men were already asleep in preparation of their turn to do guard duty that night. Somehow word got around that the kitchen sent hot coffee and meal. Quietly the men came to the jeep, few at a time to get their coffee and hot meal. It certainly was a treat. The kitchen and Paul Matsumoto are to be commended. That night, I did not have the heart to tell Paul that the enemy was only 30 yards away. It might scare him. I was amazed that Paul drove his jeep at night observing black-out conditions, in the forest on the mountain top where it is darker than normal and where you can barely see the road even in daylight. All guts, I would say.

Because we did not have enough men to maintain a 2 on 4 off watch schedule, I had to take a 2 hour watch also. I was scheduled to go on guard after Hapa Fujimoto did his 2 hours watch. I had dug a rare fox hole entirely under a huge piece of flat rock with only a small hole for an entrance. I told Hapa were I was and told him to wake me up when the time came. It was very dark and Hapa had a difficult time finding me in my hole. It took him about an hour to find me. He was not too pleased.

Shelling continued during the night and the next morning. The shelling would turn into tree bursts at times. However, because we were so close to the enemy, we did not get much of their artillery. 3rd battalion headquarters situated about 100 yards to our rear got much of the artillery bombardment. Furthermore, the artillery that came in into our area made a peculiar sound. It was not the usual whistling sound. It sounded like a huge object coming toward us head over heel. I learned later that was just it. The shell was being fired by big railroad mounted guns from the direction of St. Die. The distance from the guns to the target was so far apart that the spiral spin caused by the rifling in the gun was spent before it reached the target, thus causing it to tumble head over heel.

The 81mm mortars of M Company established a firing site in the forest near our position. They had a difficult time finding a suitable position among the many tall pine trees. They had to have a clear path of fire for otherwise they would have a tree burst. I was told that they had to time their firing to make sure that the branches would not sway with the wind and stray into their path of fire. Everybody had a difficult time in the forest.

The next morning, we were still in a static position, lying down in our fox holes with rifles pointed in the direction of the enemy we were unable to see not far away. Enemy rifle and machine gun fire continued to harass us. We suffered casualties, especially second squad. Hideo Higa was wounded by enemy fire. The boys brought him back to the mountain slope from the front. He was lying there when I saw him. He was awake. His wound in the leg did not look serious. I thought that he had a million dollar wound. I was wrong, it was serious and eventually he lost his leg. William Higa also was wounded in the back by enemy fire. His also did not look serious. I was wrong, it was serious and eventually he became paralyzed from the waist down. William Hagio was wounded in the shoulder, I believe, also from enemy fire. Bill Hagio being a stout broad shouldered tough guy, walked back to the aid station by himself. All were 2nd squad men. Miyaoka, also of second squad, was hit by an exploding mine and he died there where he was hit. We had to do something; we were losing too many men just sitting there.

In the meantime, Lt. Koizumi, the first platoon leader was wounded and he had to go back.
Soon after that a Caucasian lieutenant came to our area to tell us that he was the replacement for Lt. Koizumi. I don't remember his name. He was new to combat. He asked me what he should do. I told him that he should go back to company headquarters to get his order from Captain Harrison. He went back, but he did not return. So I went back to company headquarters to look for him. He was there, but he said that he is now commander of the company. Captain Harrison got sick or was wounded and he went back to the aid station too. We probably would not get any order from a brand new lieutenant with no combat experience, who became the company commander in a matter of few hours. I do not understand what happened that our lieutenant had to become the company commander.

It was mid afternoon and it would become dark soon. I reconnoitered the entire platoon front and went beyond the last man on the right. There I climbed up and peered over some rocks and spotted the likely spot under the huge flat rock that was the position of the enemy machine gun. The machine gun was not there. Besides, we had not heard the firing of the machine gun for some time. I went back to the area of the second squad and went forward to reconnoiter the area in front of the squad. I saw the trip wires for the mines in front of the squad. I did not know whether, the enemy riflemen were still there in front to fire at us. We had to do something and not just sit there. I decided to crawl through the mine field to a fox hole just beyond the mine field. There was the danger that I would draw enemy fire and I would not be able to move fast should that happen because I was negotiating a mine field. I asked the men of the second squad to cover me and I crawled out into the mine field. I crossed the mine field without tripping any mine. I reached the fox hole without drawing any enemy rifle fire. I motioned the second squad to come forward, crawling along the path I made through the mine field. They all came through without tripping any mine. When we were ready, we moved forward in crouched position to the edge of the mountain top. There were no enemy soldiers there. Evidently they had just withdrawn.

We secured the enemy position and was standing around, when all of a sudden an enemy soldier came walking up the mountain side toward us. He must have gone to relieve himself and in the meantime his platoon which was defending the mountain top must have withdrawn in a hurry, leaving him back. He was startled when he saw us and he ran down the mountain side. Later on I learned that he ran head on into one of the 3rd battalion companies advancing on the mountain side about 25 yards below our position. I understand that the men got him with their rifles.

The next day we learned that an outfit of the 36th Division would be relieving us. After that outfit passed through our position in their pursuit of the retreating enemy, we asked whether we could go down the mountain side to the farms below so that we may warm up and sleep in the farmhouse out of the cold. We were allowed to do that, and a whole bunch of us went down to the farm and into the farmhouse. It was snowing outside and it was warm inside. Many of the men made the mistake of taking off their shoes. Many found out that they had trench feet. Those who did not have trench feet found out that they their feet became swollen and they could not get the shoes back on again.

It was a good thing that we were relieved from combat duty. We were transported back to our rear rest area. I took the opportunity to go back to the aid station to have my infected finger taken care of. I had infected finger before, and all I did was to prick it with a pin, ooze out the pus by pressure and put a band aid around it. Well, we did this the army way. I was sent to the aid station, and from there to the field hospital nearby. At the field hospital, the doctors decided to operate on me. They put me to sleep and they lanced the infected finger and put a bandage on it. They assigned me to a cot in a large room full of wounded soldiers. They were all seriously wounded. I felt sheepish being there because of a mere infected finger. I noticed that Tommy Kakesako was sleeping in a bed nearby. He had a very serious stomach wound and they had to constantly drain the fluid that accumulated in his wound. I really had no business being in the hospital.

While I was in the hospital, I understand that they had the much written about regimental parade presided by General Dahlquist who was not pleased that the men did not show up for the parade and there were so few men though it was a regimental parade. I would have been there, but an army snafu put me in a hospital instead.

One day when I was staying in the hospital, Lt. William Oshiro came to the hospital to tell us that the regiment was moving out. I could no longer "gold-brick.” I asked Bill Oshiro to sign me out and get me released from the hospital so that I can join the regiment in its move to wherever it was going. Lt. Oshiro did so and therefore I was able to join the regiment in its move to southern France and the Champaign [Champagne] Campaign. It was almost Thanksgiving. From here, chronologically, we go back to Sospel and Col de Bra, the 1944 flashback of which was written above together with our tour visit of Nice.


After the usual early wake up call and the standard Continental breakfast on Monday, October 17th, we boarded the bus and headed for Paris. I had a feeling of satisfaction of accomplishment after the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Bruyeres and Biffontaine, a relaxed feeling. Furthermore, this was to be our last long bus ride before we start our long trip home to Hawaii. Our hotel in Paris was the Hotel Mercure Tolbiac.

On the way to Paris, we stopped over at Reims, France to see the cathedral of Reims. I [It] was a magnificent cathedral which was built centuries ago and took centuries to complete. This was a specially built cathedral where coronations of Emperor of France took place.

While in Paris, we took a city sightseeing tour visiting the Notre Dame cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Elysees Avenue, and had a boat ride on the Seine River. That night we had a farewell dinner at a restaurant. Everyone in our tour group had become very familiar and friendly with each other by then and we enjoyed the one last dinner together before we departed on our planes the next day for San Francisco or Chicago. The spouses enjoyed an afternoon of shopping at the famous Printemps.

The next morning we went to the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and boarded our United Air Lines Flight 961 for a long 13 hours non-stop flight to San Francisco. I became so restless, that during the last hour of flight I just had to get up and walk around or simply stand up. At San Francisco we barely made the connecting flight from San Francisco to Honolulu, another 4 hour flight. We arrived in Honolulu at about 6:30 in the afternoon.

We finally completed our 20 days of tour, tired but happy in our accomplishments.


In about December 1945, having accumulated enough points, over 85 points, I was able to start my journey back to Hawaii from Tombolo, Italy to Honolulu, Hawaii for discharge from the army and back to civilian life.

From Italy, we landed in New Jersey and was billeted at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. We had our passes to New York for a taste of New York. We were then transported to a Camp in the San Francisco area; I believe it was near Marysville, California. In that Camp, while waiting for transportation to Honolulu, the Hawaii contingent was housed in one barracks near the area occupied by the WACS. This time our group consisted not just men from the 442nd RCT but a racially mixed group of men from Hawaii, the highest ranking person was a Hawaiian first sergeant. The same thing happened, the Hawaii boys got into fights with the Caucasians, this time it was about the WACS. The first sergeant not only did not try to stop the fights, but I believe that he was 'in the middle' of the fights. An officer had to come around our area to plead with the Hawaiian first sergeant to control his men and to stop the fighting. The fighting nature of the boys from Hawaii was not just reserved for the AJAs from Hawaii; it was ingrained in the other nationalities from Hawaii. It must have been the Hawaiian culture.

We reached Honolulu and were taken directly to a processing center where we were processed for discharge from the U.S. Army. We received an honorable discharge certificate together with a detailed form showing our accomplishments in the army. One of the items stated what we were trained to do in the army which would be useful in our civilian life in trying to get employment. I remember that what they said I was able to do was very weird, which had no meaning in qualifying for a civilian job. I was a leader of men.

After discharge, I looked around for persons from Waialua who may give me a ride home to Waialua. I was told that I no longer lived there and that I lived in Honolulu. To be told that I no longer lived in Waialua where I was born and raised gave me a sinking feeling. What had happened? Evidently my father, who was incarcerated in detention camps in New Mexico and other places had been released and came home to Hawaii before me. He was appointed by the succeeding Bishop of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii by the prior Bishop, also in the detention camp in New Mexico, being that the prior Bishop decided to go back to Japan and not come back to Hawaii. So he moved to the Bishop's residence on Fort Street in Honolulu. That was my new residence while I made my adjustment to coming back to civilian life. I had to restart my education process which I abruptly terminated on December 7, 1941. I had to jump in and continue the second semester of the courses I started to take four years ago in my sophomore year at the University of Hawaii. For example, my chemistry course had changed considerably due to the advance in chemistry during the four years of discontinuance of study.

University of Hawaii had started a new requirement in spoken oral English. We had to learn to speak proper English in the proper way. My stint in the 442nd RCT was no help. I had to speak Pidgin English, the proper Pidgin English, to get along with the boys.

I picked up where I left off four years ago, and was able to get back into the daily grind of civilian life.


This completes my accounts of my participation in World War II as a part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. I had wanted to do this for a long time. I was finally able to get this written after much prodding by Allen Nakamura. It brought back memories in sharp focus. Writing this caused me to do some reflections on the whys and some analysis of my individual feelings which have been with me for many years. In any event, I hope that my comrades in arms upon reading my accounts would be inspired to write about their own experiences and feelings. My accounts of events are not all accurate and not all inclusive; and I hope they would write their stories to correct or supplement my stories. I would like to have a wide angle picture of the events as they happened; a picture which would include what others were doing at about the same time things were happening to me. This would be very interesting, a project not undertaken by anyone up to now. If anyone so desires, I would be privileged if he would allow me to attach his accounts to this account of my experiences. Or if he prefers, he may simply call me to tell me of his criticisms of these accounts or his experiences which I may include as a supplement to these accounts. In any event the involvement of my comrade in arms would be greatly appreciated and I thank them in advance, Mahalo.

"442nd Battleground Revisited" was reprinted from the L Company Memoirs, Volume 1 with the permission of Genro Kashiwa. Copyright is retained by Genro Kashiwa.

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