A blanket covered the window in the second story of the old farm house. "Crazy," Lieutenant Colonel Singles thought to himself again, as he moved the blanket slowly aside to peer through his binoculars across the wheat field and barbed wire that marked the no-man's land between Bravo company and the Germans. The men of Bravo company usually slept during the daytime, but not on this day...May 17, 1944. In the distance, Lieutenant Young Oak Kim and Pfc Irving Akahoshi were slowly crawling towards the enemy. Two men, alone...in broad daylight. "Definitely crazy."
Sometimes it was the crazy ideas that were most successful. So Lieutenant Kim had argued in his bid to get permission to nab a German prisoner. The Korean-born officer of the Purple Heart Battalion explained his plan. The reason, he had told headquarters, that previous patrols had been unsuccessful in snatching a P.O.W. were three-fold:
Previous patrols had gone out only at night, when the enemy was most alert. He had watched them through the same second story farm house window for days, noted that they came in from night patrols to eat breakfast, then slept to prepare for the next night's patrols.
Previous patrols had been too large, one even company size. So large a patrol was easy to spot and avoid.
Most patrols did what the enemy expected, taking the routes that afforded the most cover under the blanket of darkness.
The enemy would never expect a patrol of two men to crawl through an open wheat field under the bright sunshine. So that was what he and Akahoshi would do.
The previous evening several of Bravo Company's best automatic riflemen had left the safety of the rear staging area at 10 P.M. to crawl through the wheat field to the mid-point of no-man's land. Kim had positioned them carefully in foxholes about 2 A.M., then cut a hole in the barbed wire so that he and Akahoshi could slip through into enemy territory. Carrying only a submachine gun, a pistol and a few grenades, the two soon slipped upon an enemy patrol returning to their own staging area. Slowly and quietly the two Americans had crawled more than a quarter of a mile as they followed the enemy. Dawn had broken to reveal the Germans preparing for breakfast. Kim and Akahoshi crawled to a ditch Kim had seen earlier in aerial photographs of the area, and the two men pressed their bodies to the ground and prayed for luck. By 9 A.M. they heard the sounds of snoring as the enemy soldiers bedded down.
Though the soldiers slept during the day, the observers in the nearby enemy outposts would be awake and alert. Kim knew they had to move, skirt the patrol until they could find the right place and moment. Back in the American camp the soldiers anxiously watched the progress. Kim pressed on, praying that he was correct in believing the German observers wouldn't bother to watch their own area. They'd be busy training their field glasses on the Americans on the other side of the barbed wire. "Crazy...like a fox."
After a nervous 2 hour crawl around the enemy, Kim and Akahoshi found their prey...two Germans soundly sleeping in a dugout. When the enemy awoke it was to the taste of gun metal. Kim and Akahoshi had carefully placed their submachine guns in the sleeping soldiers' mouths, then awakened them. Removing all weapons, they quietly forced the two to crawl back to the ditch where the Americans had hidden earlier. As dusk began to fall, the four crawled the rest of the way to the barbed wire where the B.A.R. men of Bravo Company waited. Then, with the full darkness of night, the entire patrol returned to the company area.
The two prisoners turned out to be an enemy Sergeant and Pfc from a German division's headquarters. The information obtained provided the strategy for the 100th's break out from Anzio a week later. A month later a special ceremony was held to honor Lieutenant Kim and other heroes of the Purple Heart Battalion. On that day General Mark Clark personally pinned the Distinguished Service Cross on Kim's uniform shirt. Then the general stepped back and looked at the Lieutenant again, recognition dawning. Just a few months earlier Clark had presented this same brave lieutenant with a Silver Star. The 5th Army commander called one of his aides, a captain, to his side. He removed one of the aide's parallel silver bars, and pinned them on Kim. Most people, including General Clark, always thought of Kim as being Japanese because of his role with the 100th Infantry Battalion. Captain Kim was the ONLY Korean-American to receive the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II.
The break out from Anzio began as scheduled on May 23rd. Thanks to intelligence reports generated by the interrogation of the prisoners captured six days earlier by Kim and Akahoshi, the Fifth Army chose to make the main thrust through the same area the two soldiers had crawled in their daring feat. Knowing where the enemy was, what his strength was and how best to deploy the Allied troops didn't negate the danger, however, or the fact that every mile to Rome would be a battleground. Once the Fifth Army broke out of the beach head and crossed no-man's land, they would be faced with digging a well entrenched German force out of the rugged mountains and valleys.
On May 28th the 7th Infantry was slugging its way through the enemy strongholds near Artena. When a rifle company became bogged down, a mainland soldier of Filipino-Spanish descent from Vista, California came to the rescue. Staff Sergeant Rudolph Davila moved his machine gunners along an exposed hillside when the enemy opened fire. Davila urged his gunners forward but they were reluctant in the face of the fierce enemy fire. Sergeant Davila crawled 50 yards to the nearest machine gun, set it up alone, and began returning the enemy's fire. Kneeling in an exposed position in order to maintain accuracy, the brave sergeant stayed in an exposed position firing his gun while enemy bullets bounced off the metal tripod of his own gun. Ordering one of his men to replace him at the trigger, Davila crawled forward to direct the fire of his team until both of the threatening enemy positions were destroyed. He brought his three remaining guns forward and commanded and directed their fire until the enemy pulled back.
On the move again, a bullet slammed into Davila's leg. Enemy fire peppered the hillside as the wounded sergeant ignored his pain to run towards a burning tank. Bullets ricocheted off the hot metal of the destroyed tank as Davila pulled himself to the turret to turn its big gun on the enemy. That done, his attention was drawn to a house 150 yards away from which enemy fire poured down on his men. He forced himself to run to within 20 yards, crawled the rest of the way, and charged into the building hurtling grenades and firing at the enemy. When the 5 enemy who had held the house were dead, Sergeant Davila climbed to the attic. The walls were falling apart as fire raked the building. Davila found a large shell hole in the attic and again rained death on the enemy, destroying two more enemy guns and forcing the enemy to abandon their positions. Sergeant Davila was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism that day.
Fifty-six years later when President Clinton presented Medals of Honor to 22 Asian-American heroes of World War II, Rudolph Davila was present. One of the 22 awards went to a Chinese-American for heroism in the Pacific. The other 21 awards went to heroic warriors for their heroism in the European theater. Of the many Asian-Americans who fought in Italy and France in units other than the 100th/442nd, Davila was the only one to receive the Medal of Honor.
On June 2nd the 442nd Regimental Combat Team landed at Naples to move north and link up with its Nisei brothers. Relief for the 1300-man Purple Heart Battalion that had suffered more than 900 casualties during nine months of combat, was on the way. Before the reunion however, there would be more casualties.
Even as the 442nd was landing at Naples, the 100th was going into battle again. Joined by two artillery battalions, two antitank companies and a chemical mortar company, the 100th was part of "Task Force Singles" led by their battalion commander Colonel Gordon Singles. Their job was to spearhead the drive through Lanuvio and La Torreto, taking the cities and opening Highway 7 all the way into Rome. If they were successful the Fifth Army could move swiftly, liberating the city and entering it ahead of the British.
Even as Yeiki Kobashigawa's Nisei brothers of the 442nd were arriving on Italian soil, the 26-year old from Wailua, Hawaii was in the fight of his life. Yeiki was an original member of the 100th. Drafted to military service a month before Pearl Harbor, he had been assigned to the 298th Regiment of Hawaii's National Guard. After the immediate hysteria and summary discharge of Japanese-American soldiers that followed the attack, when the 100th Infantry Battalion was organized, Yeiki Kobashigawa had been there. From the battalion's first landing nearly a year before, he had fought his way through the rugged Apennines. Now, as Bravo Company moved against the Germans near Lanuvio, a series of heavily fortified machinegun nests raked the Nisei of his company with devastating fire.
The young sergeant finally spotted one of the enemy positions 50 yards away. With one of his men he crawled forward. With split-second timing he threw a grenade at the enemy position while the other soldier opened fire. Amid the hail of both friendly and enemy fire he charged forward through the smoke and debris of the grenade to kill one enemy and capture two more. When a second enemy position opened up on him, Sergeant Kobashigawa moved forward again, throwing grenades and giving cover fire to the soldier with him who rushed forward to capture the 4-man enemy gun crew. Continuing to lead and direct his men, Sergeant Kobashigawa managed to destroy two more enemy gun emplacements. Fifty-six years later the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day was upgraded, and President Clinton hung the blue ribbon of the Medal of Honor around the neck of the 82 year old war hero.
A short distance away at La Torreto, Private Shinyei Nakamine crawled 175 yards towards an enemy machine gun nest that had caught his platoon in a cross-fire. Suddenly he charged, hurtling grenades and firing his submachine gun. Three enemy soldiers fell dead and two others surrendered. The young Army private's first charge of the day had been a success.
A second enemy position fell to the intrepid private later in the day. As other soldiers from his squad provided covering fire, he again rushed forward with grenades to wound one enemy, capture four more, and destroy his second enemy position. A third position would not fall so easily. This time as the brave warrior from Hawaii rushed forward, the men of his squad watched in horror as his valiant charge was abruptly halted by a hail of enemy bullets. When his DSC was upgraded 56 years later, relatives would accept the award on behalf of the private who gave his life destroying the enemy positions that threatened his fellow soldiers.
The battle for Highway 7 lasted two days. In the end Lanuvio and La Torreto fell. From there Task Force Singles moved swiftly through Arricia, Albano, and Fattochie. Fifteen brave soldiers of the Purple Heart Battalion gave their lives in the march to Rome, 63 were wounded. By the afternoon of June 5th the Task Force had moved within 7 miles of the Italian Capitol and the long awaited triumphant entry was in sight. Excitement spread among the men, exuberance at victory, the thrill of being first to enter and liberate the first European capitol from the Axis.
Then the march was halted, not by the Germans, but by General Harmon of the American First Armored Division. The men of the Purple Heart Battalion were ordered to halt their advance. They sat along the road watching other units march triumphantly down the Highway and into the heroes welcome lavished upon them by the liberated citizens of Rome. It was one of the saddest indignities the men who had fought so hard and given so much could have suffered. Finally, as night fell, a convoy of trucks arrived to transport the weary soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion to the outskirts of the city. Years later even the award of the Presidential Unit Citation to the 100th Infantry for its Rome-Arno Campaign (January 22 - September 9, 1945) could not soften the disappointment many of the men felt at the tragedy that befell them on the road to Rome, not by the enemy, but by their fellow Americans.