100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)
After Anzio, where they are shelled constantly, the 100th continues along the Italian coast.
Takashi assigns 442nd replacements to platoons. Relations between the 100th men and kotonk [Mainland-born Japanese] replacements are initially rocky.
On furlough Takashi meets Yuki in Chicago.
After the Champagne Campaign in France, the men return to northern Italy for the last push.
War ends in May 1945. Based on length of service, Takashi is sent home.
Then after that, after that was Anzio. I don’t know how long we stayed there. Maybe you can get that in a brief from somebody else.
The 100th Infantry Battalion, bolstered by 200 replacement troops from the 442nd, arrived in Anzio, Italy in March 1944. They left Anzio in May 1944. After Anzio, the 100th moved north along the Italian coast.
We would be shelled every day — every day, morning, noon and night. And then after that — I don’t know how long we stayed there. Oh, maybe a month or more. And then we were ordered to go ahead. This is now, we are now going to Lanuvio, I think that’s what they call that place, on the road to Rome.
[By this time we had many replacements from the 442nd.] Well, one, this is a sad situation because I know several times, when the replacement would come, then I would assign them to a platoon. The platoon would go out on a scouting skirmish later on. The next thing I hear is that the guy is dead. Hell, the guy never even got to get to know the men in his squad.
That was a sad experience for me. I put myself in this guy’s position, being assigned to a squad and within one night, go into a skirmish and then be killed.
Most of these replacements were already from the 442nd, you know. Most of them were kotonks [Americans of Japanese ancestry from the Mainland U.S.], so to speak. I felt badly about that. At least give them a breathing spell so they could get to know the people in the company. They don’t even get to know because this is night, for example. You only go out there. That’s one of the sad parts of the war.
By that time we were hardened and yet we were softened. This kid here, he went to high school with me, Mid-Pacific [Institute]. Not only that, when I was at Baylor, he came up there. He’s a Maui boy, too. So we were very close. When I heard that he was killed, that knocked me out. I was in a shock or whatever you want to call it. I couldn’t take it.
I broke down because this boy was this — you know how you get attached to a guy? He was like a brother to me. To find out that he died, well, I just couldn’t take it. But, you know, in war you just have to keep on going. Those are the experiences you share as you go along in war.
I hope [I was like a father figure to the 442nd replacements]. I hope so. In fact, I must tell you that the relationship at the beginning between these replacements, these kotonks and our boys was not good. They spoke a different kind of language, not the pidgin that we’re used to, to begin with. Their way of life is different. Their outlook on life was different. So our boys didn’t — I don’t mind telling you, I don’t think that they treated them too well.
There was one guy that I befriended because I felt sorry for the guy. He was one of these, well, he was a lawyer, too. Somehow the Hawaii boys, you know, they’re in a company, didn’t treat him well. I could feel it. So I took him aside and then kind of nurtured him, took care of him, encouraged him. We got to be very good friends. After the war, I visited him in — I think it was in Minnesota.
The relationship at the beginning, as I said, between our boys and the other guys, were not too good. But as they worked together, they shared their wartime experience, they got to know each other, then, things began to change.
[We went north along the Italian coast, up to the Arno River and Florence.] [My unit] went ahead [to Marseilles, France.] They went ahead because I was on furlough. A guy by the name of [Yutaka] Suzuki [took my place as first sergeant].
I was in Chicago, where my wife was. I don’t know if it’s worth saying but first they told us that when you take the furlough, you could go home to Hawaii. So I was very happy and I wrote to my wife [who was living in Chicago] and told her to go home [to Hawaii]. Then a few days later I get a notice. No. You cannot go back to Hawaii. You got to spend your furlough in the Mainland. Okay, so I wrote to her to stay, don’t go home.
We were about twenty-two or twenty-three of us there on furlough. We went back to the Mainland. I went to Chicago to meet my wife. The rest went to, I think it was Camp Beale in California. Somehow, I don’t know what exactly happened, but they managed to come home to Hawaii. They were lucky enough to be reassigned here so that they didn’t have to go back to the war.
[Mitsuyoshi] “Mits” Fukuda was a captain, he was on the furlough, too, with me. So he and I and another guy, another enlisted man, we had to go back to the battlefield. That was a sad day, too, having experienced all this. Well, in any case, when we went back, there was nothing we could do about it. So we went back and later Mits became a battalion commander.
I don’t know at what stage but in any case, I went back to Marseilles, that’s our port of entry. Then we were stationed at Menton, which is a small city on the Italian border and we stayed there for maybe about a month or so.
Then we were ordered to go back to Italy for the last push, I guess. That was northern Italy. Florence, Pisa, Genoa, those cities. Then we fought the battle going up the northern part of Italy. Was that Carraera? I don’t remember the names or the cities, the towns. It’s been so long ago, and there’s so many of them, too.
Champagne Campaign was all right, but then after all, we had our posts. It’s a matter of taking a leave during the weekends, for example, to go to Nice, the city where the so-called Champagne Campaign took place. I don’t know how long we stayed there. By then, we went back to Italy.
In Naples, I took ten days’ leave, pass, and I had the pleasure of attending an opera. (Laughs) I had this guy with me, Ken Kaneko. He was in my company. He passed away, by the way. I told him, “Hey, we come all the way to Italy, at least we have a chance to see opera. We should go.” He didn’t care for it but I dragged him there. I still remember the two operas. I didn’t go to one. I went to two. One was La Traviata, and the other one was La Boheme. That I remember. That’s all in Italian. But the music was good. We enjoyed it. (Laughs)
Can you imagine two courageous Hawaii boys going to the opera, not knowing what’s going on but just for the hell of it? I told him, “Hell, we come all the way here and we’re living. We might as well try to enjoy some of the ways of their lives.” That, I remember.
Of course, the food was good. They even had mullets over there. Well, we were sort of conquerors over there and so the people respected us. We got along very well. We were treated very nicely. I didn’t have too many contacts with the civilian population. I would meet them on the street, for example, and then casually, we would talk, try to talk anyway.
End of War
[The German army surrenders on May 7, 1945.] I was very, very happy [when the war ended], of course. Now we had a chance to go home. So, I was among the first to go home because of my length of service. It was reached on that basis. So I took advantage of it and came home.
Takashi Kitaoka's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takashi Kitaoka.