100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)
Battle of Cassino
In January 1944, B Company attempts to cross a flat at the foot of Monte Cassino. Under enemy fire in a heavily mined area, their advance is stymied. They retreat the next night.
As first sergeant, Takashi counts the number of men in the company still standing, which plunges from 187 to 28.
Dodging shells, Takashi falls and breaks his collarbone. He is sent to the hospital, then to a replacement center for recuperation before returning to combat.
Let’s get to Cassino. [Cassino] was one of our big battles.
That was in the morning [January 26, 1944], at dawn. We were supposed to attack the enemy. There was a flat at that foot of [Monte Cassino] and that was heavily mined.
The curious thing, here we were going down a small hill. And there was the ditch running across it. The only way we could get down to the ditch was by making a makeshift ladder. The craziest damn thing is, each man in the company had to go down that step, the makeshift step, and the enemy is shooting at us. When you go down the ladder, you go down backwards. You don’t go over it. That’s not all.
After you get down, there’s the ditch there and you go to the bank of the ditch, we couldn’t move because the whole area was mined.
In fact there was — I don’t know if you’ve heard of [100th Battalion executive officer John] “Jack” Johnson? That’s where he died. He was killed there.
All right, so we couldn’t move. All day we stayed there. That’s twelve hours. Luckily — and we had casualties, of course, but we never got too many. And so when it became dark the next night, we retreated.
The very next morning, one of my jobs as the first sergeant was to check the number of men we had. Well, let me tell you, we went into that [Rapido River] Valley with 187 men. That’s a full complement of a company. In twenty-four hours, when I checked our company, there were only twenty-eight men left and I was one of the twenty-eight.
That’s how much hell we caught.
That’s the first time I got injured, right after that, because there was constant shelling all the time. In an attempt to get away from that, I fell down. Luckily, when I fell down, the helmet hit my collarbone and I couldn’t breathe. I was down. The mud was about ten, fifteen inches thick, high.
When I got back my breath, I crawled to the aid station. I didn’t know why I had a broken collarbone. But anyway, they sent me back [to the hospital] and I was very happy about that, let me tell you.
I went to the hospital, I was operated on and I stayed there in the hospital for about a month. I was lucky. The war was still going on. The boys were still fighting up there. I was in a cast for, oh, maybe two weeks or so. That was my first experience getting injured in the war.
Then I was sent to what they call the replacement center. They have a big replacement center where all the soldiers would go to recuperate. I stayed there for several weeks. Then I went back to my company.
Takashi Kitaoka's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takashi Kitaoka.