The breaking of the Gothic Line had become a reality. Even though it started as a diversion during the Po valley Campaign, it soon turned to a full-blown offensive.
The final push
The battalions of the 442nd ground out a slow and costly advance until 23 April, when the 2nd Battalion executed a brilliant flanking manoeuvre, seizing San Terenzo.
The Germans had been desperately holding this line up until the 20th. But it now became clear that they now were pulling out. Their former allies were left holding the bag, as many of the prisoners taken by the Nisei turned out to be Italian.
Confirmation of the German retreat came that same day when the 3d Battalion took the strong point at Mount Nebbione. They found only a holding detachment left there. The Fukuda Task Force seized the high ground south of Aulla – a major communication center and junction for all roads running between the port town of La Spezia and the Po Valley – before linking up again with the 2nd Battalion, the drive to Genoa gathered momentum.
Loaded onto all available trucks, the 100th/442nd moved up, being ordered to flank Genoa from the north, seize the town of Busalla and block the Isola del Cantone pass (both along the Polcevera river valley) to cut off the German’s escape route to Turin. The Po Valley Campaign was fast gathering pace.
The 100th arrived at Busalla the morning of 28 April, after marching all night, since there was no time to repair the bridges to let the trucks pass.
The 3rd Battalion entered Genoa proper that same afternoon, setting up defences along the north and west sides, remaining in position until the end of the hostilities.
The 2nd Battalion passed through the 100th positions in the Polcevera valley, when the latter moved into reserve to move on to Alessandria. As with the other battalions, they too accepted the surrender of countless enemy troops. A day later, a recon platoon along with H Company’s machine gun section entered Turin, at that point held – but not entirely secured yet – by Italian Partisans.
On 2 May 1945 the war in Italy was finally over, but the Nisei weren’t coming home yet.
The Po Valley Campaign had brought the war in Italy finally to an end. The 100th/442nd were once again moved, this time further east. Their new assignment: processing the thousands of German prisoners at an airfield-turned-prison-camp at Ghedi, south of Brescia.
The situation at Ghedi was – relatively speaking – fairly relaxed. The boys would sell their cigarettes and other goodies picked up in town to the Germans. However, 2 trailers with 200 SS troops each transported their loads to a different area, likely due to security reasons. All in all, the area housed about 65,000 prisoners.
Duties were not too strenuous at Ghedi, but the climate in the Po valley in summer is hot and humid. Living in tents was subsequently not very comfortable. The 442nd RCT was relieved on 14 June by the 351st Infantry Regiment.
R & R in Lecco
At Lecco, about 65 miles north-west of Brescia in the beautiful lakes area, a program of training and discipline awaited the Nisei. It didn’t exactly go down well with the men still filled with plenty of go-for-broke fighting spirit… Instead, plenty of passes to Bergamo, Brescia, Milan and Lake Garda were handed out.
One accidental death occurred during their stay in Lecco when one of L Company’s men was killed by a stray bullet, fired by Italian police during a fight between them and some of the boys.
After about a month in Lecco, the regiment moved to Florence to enjoy the city scenery there for a while. Next, they ended up in Tombolo, between Livorno and Pisa to guard the POW stockades there. Livorno was bombed out. Consequently, not much entertainment was available there. Some of the men therefore volunteered for guard duty on the food train from Naples. M Company was stationed in Aversa, 5 miles outside Naples. The wait for the train lasted 17 days, giving them the opportunity to explore the Amalfi coast.
Being that close to Salerno brought their presence in Italy almost full circle…