PRESS RELEASE: September 5, 2013 – Vol. VIII, No. 17
FFNV Completes 70th Anniversary Tour of Italy
Nisei veteran and son discuss Mount Folgorito climb
By Dr. Brian Yamamoto, tour leader
Rome, Italy. Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans (FFNV) sponsored a 43-person tour from May 20 to June 2, 2013 to the battle fields in Italy where the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, both segregated Japanese American units, fought during World War II. The 100th Battalion, comprised of 1,432 pre WW II draftees from Hawaii, landed in Salerno, south of Naples and worked northwards liberating one Italian town after another. The casualty rate was high and the press dubbed them the “Purple Heart” Battalion. Replacements were drawn from the 1st Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, then in training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. The 442nd arrived in Civitavecchia, located north of Rome, minus the 1st Battalion. The two units merged, the 100th becoming, in effect, the 1st Battalion of the 442nd. The 100th was allowed to keep its unit designation in recognition of its outstanding combat record. Following the merger, the combined unit serving as 442nd RCT proceeded to fight on in Italy, France, and back to the Italian front during 1944-1945.
One member of the tour group was a 442nd veteran, Roy Fujiwara, 95, Company L. A native of Seattle, Washington, who now lives in Hawaii, Fujiwara joined the 442nd at Sospel, France and participated in the Rhineland, Apennine, and Po Valley campaigns. After the all night climb of Mount Folgorito, located in Italy’s Tuscany region, on April 4, 1945, Fujiwara was severely wounded in the battle to breach the German Gothic line which resisted allied invasions for the previous five months. Returning to the scene of battle 68 year later, Fujiwara said “I have sad memories. I lost a lot of buddies here.” After being shot in the face, he was among the first to be carried down the cliff, for fear of him dying from wounds. His awards include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star Medal. He is most proud of the Regiment’s seven Presidential Unit Citations. He said he could not make the climb to the top of Mount Folgorito so he asked his son, Tod, to make the climb on his behalf. While making the trek up Mount Folgorito, Tod said he felt the spirits of the 442nd/100th who had fought there. “It felt like someone was looking out for us; protecting us. I had butterflies in my stomach as I anticipated the climb. After making the climb and steep decent in rain and hail, I felt very proud of my dad and his 442nd comrades,” Tod said. Local historian Davide Del Giudice was the principal escort. Del Giudice said he enjoys briefing Americans and escorting them on Italian battlefield tours “because of the role Americans played to protect our democratic way of life and the brotherhood displayed by them.”
The tour group also visited Nettuno, Anzio, Lanuvio, Civitavecchia, Suvereto, Belvedere, Leghorn, Tendola, Pisa, Lucca, Massa, Carrara, Pietrasanta, and Florence. The highlights of the tour included visits to:
- Sicily-Rome Cemetery located at Nettuno, south of Rome, and the Florence American Cemetery, where a formal memorial program was held. Major General David Elmo, USA , Deputy Chief of Staff for mobilization and reserve affairs, U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR), discussed the combat performance record of the 442nd.
- Anzio WWII monument which has a plaque dedicated to the 34th “Red Bull” Infantry Division to which the 100th Battalion was attached, and to the Museum of the Allied Landing.
- Lanuvio, where city officials held a reception and mementos were exchanged.
- Suvereto, where a luncheon was held attended by city officials, Italian and US military officers, and Belvedere, where a plaque, dedicated to the 100th and 442nd was on display.
- Tendola, where there are two monuments, one for the 21 Nisei Medal of Honor recipients and the other for Tadao “Beanie” Hayashi, who was killed there. The towns of Tendola, Fosdinovo, Posterla and Pulica hosted a 10 course meal.
- US Army Garrison Camp Darby, where a wreath was placed at the Masato “Curly” Nakae monument. Nakae was a Medal of Honor recipient. Also visited Pisa, Lucca, Massa and Carrara.
- Pietrasanta to pay respects to the Sadao Munemori Monument, the first 442nd Medal of Honor recipient. They also visited the Bozzetti Museum, attended mass at the cathedral, viewed a Bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal on a marble pedestal, and participated in a ceremony at the City Hall where gifts were exchanged.
- Florence, which included the cemetery. Some visited Monte Cassino and others visited the Rapido River Crossing Monuments, the latter of which commemorates the huge casualties sustained by the 34th and 36th Divisions.
- Rome for sightseeing and for the final dinner that included opera singers.
The tour was led by Dr. Brian Yamamoto, who is already planning the 442nd/100th 70th Anniversary Tour to France July 7-20, 2014. Any questions concerning the Italian tour or the forthcoming France tour should be directed to Yamamoto (firstname.lastname@example.org; 907-590-9442) or Debra Stern at Peak Travel 800 999-2608. Any questions pertaining to Fujiwara and Mount Folgorito should be directed to Peggy Mizumoto (email@example.com).
- Terry Shima 301-987-6746 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Brian Yamamoto 907-590-9442 email@example.com
- Peggy Mizumoto firstname.lastname@example.org
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