Shiroku "Whitey" Yamamoto
442nd Antitank Company

Gothic Line and Po Valley Campaign

On March 20, 1945, the 100th/442nd leave for Italy and join the 5th Army.

They are assigned to the 92nd Division, an all African American Infantry Division.

Their assignment: break open the Gothic Line by sneaking behind the enemy line.

Mules used as pack animals by 442nd RCT
Mules used as pack animals by 442nd RCT

Well, once the regiment was built up to its full strength in southern France, all the replacements came from the mainland. Because when we left Camp Shelby after the basic training and the full training, we left the 1st Battalion back in Camp Shelby to be used as replacements. And just like when we were having training and the 100th was in battle in Italy, at the beginning part of the war, their battle, they have a few casualties, and naturally, you need to have manpower, so they would call back for the boys whoever want to go over to Italy as a replacement… the 1st Battalion was a replacement group, and I think they were assigned with the number, what? Battalion 171, I think.

442nd RCT soldier with mule used as transport in Southern France
442nd RCT soldier with mule used as transport in Southern France

So, after we were back to strength, General Mark Clark requested us to come back to Italy. I guess he must have called Eisenhower to have the 442nd back to Italy again, to join up with the 5th Army. So, we pulled everything up from the south of France, went to Marseilles, got on the troop ships with all our equipment, vehicles, and everything. Then we went back to Italy and landed in Leghorn, and then we went up north to assign the 92nd Division. Come to think of it, 92nd Division was at Leghorn, too. And that was a colored division, so they assigned us to that division.

And then assigned to break open the Gothic Line. That has been established for about half a year, and the 5th Army never did advance after that, since they established. But they asked the 442nd to sneak behind the enemy line on the west coast of the Gothic Line. And they climbed up that long, steep, vertical mountain at night, and by morning, they were up there. And then they were asked to start off the campaign. So that broke the back of the Gothic Line. Within an hour, and then everything started to fall apart on the German side. So within two days, they break loose, the Germans gave up and they started to retreat.

So, as far as I can remember, we advanced, our company were advancing toward the Po Valley. So as we were going into the Po Valley, northwest of Italy, that’s all farming country, lowlands, flatlands. Then the war was, on that part of the country, northern Italy, Austria. The Germans surrounded. For us, that was the end of the war over there.

German army to be processed at Ghedi Airfield
German army to be processed at Ghedi Airfield

And we kind of settled down a little bit until they assigned us to Ghedi Airport, northern part of Italy. The 5th Army assigned us to take in all the German prisoners or equipments because they were told to surrender and come down to Ghedi Airport, part of Austria, they were in that area, and part of northern Italy. So we processed the Germans. So we collected all their weapons and equipments, the horses and mules, and their trucks, tanks, medical supplies, communication equipments, and all that at Ghedi Airport, and they were stockpiled out in the field in the hangars like that. So we were in the pup tents next to the Ghedi Airfield, and the boys were assigned to do all that. Because, after all, that’s a big German army coming in to Ghedi Airfield to give up all those equipments.

Americans processing German military personnel in surrender
Americans processing German military personnel in surrender

So after that was done, then we were transferred up to the northern part of Italy in Lake Como area. Lecco and Lake Como area.

Italian civilians wait for food scraps
Italian civilians wait for food scraps

Whitey Yamamoto's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Whitey Yamamoto.

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