It’s Hotter’n Hell at Andimeshk
By Sgt. Burtt Evans
YANK Staff Correspondent
Desert District, Iran—A GI died at Andimeshk post here and went to hell. "Where were you last stationed?"
asked the Devil.
"Andimeshk," replied the GI.
“Oh," said the Devil sympathetically. “In that case you'd better rush over to the supply sergeant and draw your woolen underwear and winter overcoat."
They don't publish the temperature at Andimeshk, but estimates of the summer heat range from 130 to 180 degrees, with most of the soldier vote favoring the higher figure. Worst thing is that it's almost that hot at night, making it hard to sleep. An old-time GI resident of this desert hot box will pour a canteen of water onto his mattress, then lie down in it and try to get to sleep before the water evaporates.
KPs fhave four meals a day to deal with at Andimeshk — the usual three, plus cold fruit juices and snacks at 0930. This breaks up the work day, which runs from 0530 to 1300 for most of the men; it's murder to work in the afternoon.
Metal subjected to this red-hot sun has caused many a flesh burn. Your dog tags will sear your chest in the short walk from barracks to mess hall. Yet the men here do heavy work, packing supplies for Russia. Most of them, like T/Sgt. Joseph E. Dionne, S/Sgt. Milton Kaplan, T-4 Peter Farkas, T-4 Edward A. Marusa, Cpl. Edward G. Rice and Pfc. Carl C. Miller, are spending their second summer here.
The occasional breeze hits you like a blast from a steel furnace, and the heat plays strange tricks. Some types of soap just melt away, vaseline turns to liquid and shaving-cream crumbles.
Andimeshk is practically in the suburbs of Dizful, "the City of the Blind," hottest inhabited spot on earth. Dizful is one Believe-It-or-Not place that lives up to its billing.
To avoid the heat, the people of this ancient city long ago went underground. All the mysterious functions of a Persian city are performed in a labyrinth of caves many feet below the earth's surface. The wealthier the people are, the deeper they can afford to dig, and there is a saying in Dizful that "the robes of the rich rest on Noah's waters." Many of the inhabitants never come up into the daylight. More than half are at least partially blind—some because of disease, some because of their long stay below the earth.
Other Army posts in the Persian desert are almost as hot as Andimeshk. As one GI put it: “To my mind, when it gets over l50 degrees it doesn't make much difference.”
And nature kicks up other annoyances form these camps. Ahwaz has almost daily duststorms and the American soldiers who unload supply ships at the important port of Khorramshahr often labor through sandstorms that blot out the sun. At Bandur Shapur it's the humidity and stench that get you.
The summer heat is even too much for the flies. When the troops first hit this waste area "the natives greeted them with these heartening words: “InJuly the flies die; in August Johnny dies." But thanks to sun helmets, salt tablets and numerous heat-stroke centers, the medics have kept heat casualties at a minimum.
Andimeshk must be unique in one respect. It is probably the only place in the world where the American soldier is denied his one inalienable privilege—the right to sweat it out.
At Andimeshk perspiration dries as it leaves the pores—you can't sweat,
YANK 25 Aug 1944
YANK 25 Aug 1944
The Battle of Belvedere
In this Tuscany town, a battalion of Storm Troopers found it was no match for the Fifth Army's crack Japanese-American soldiers.
By Sgt. JAMES P. O'NEILL
YANK Staff Correspondent
With the Fifth Army in Italy—There are three outfits that will remember the little Tuscany town of Belvedere for a long while to come. Two of them are the American 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442d Combat Team, now spearheading the drive to the north. The other is a German SS battalion, the remnants of which are now spearheading a drive toward Naples and the nearest PW camp.
Both the 100th Battalion and the 442d Combat Team are composed of Japanese-Americans, many of them from Hawaii. The 442d is a recent arrival in Italy, but the 100th has been here a long, long time. The men of the 100th went in at Salerno and have since fought through almost every major action from the Volturno to Rome. In a battalion of 1,300 men they have more than 1,000 Purple Hearts.
The story of Belvedere really began after Rome fell, when the 100th was pulled out of the line and sent to bivouac in the pleasant countryside just north of the city. There it joined the 442d. It was a happy day for both outfits; most of the lOOth's younger brothers, cousins and friends were in the 442d and they hadn't seen each other since shortly after Pearl Harbor, when the 100th left- Hawaii for combat training in the U. S.
For three, days the brass hats left the two outfits alone. The kids of the 442d plied their older brothers with questions of war. The older brothers, like all combat men, dodged these questions and asked questions of their own about Hawaii and their families and girls. Together the outfits visited Rome, buying souvenirs and baffling the Romans, who decided they must be Japanese prisoners. It was impossible for them to believe that these were tough, loyal Americans.
After the three days the two outfits went to work. Now the men of the 100th began to answer those questions; for 14 days they drilled the 442d, sweating with the kids from morning to night, cursing and pushing and ridiculing and encouraging them, giving the final polish that makes a man as much of a combat soldier as he can be before combat. And in the evenings they would sit around together and drink “vino” and sing their soft Hawaiian songs.
Then on the seventeenth day after the fall of Rome the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442d Combat Team were pulled into the line, and two days later they headed for the beautiful little hilltop town of Belvedere.
The 100th was the first to go into the line. Its objective was a small town about seven miles below Belvedere. The German strategy since Rome had been to fight in pockets on each sector of the front, and the mission of the 100th was to clean up one of these rear-guard pockets. The men of the 100th did it in two days, chasing the Germans up the inland road toward Florence and meeting little resistance until they neared the valley directly before Belvedere. There they were stopped by a brace of 150-mm cannon and several self-propelled guns. The German artillery was also holding up a battalion to the right of the 100th. This battalion was trying to use a crossroad, but the Germans had it zeroed in. Division sent orders for the 100th to stop while division artillery tried to clear out the Germans. When the barrage was over, the 100th was pulled out and the 442d was sent in lb assault the German positions.
It didn't work. The 442d made an initial break-through, but that was all. The Germans counter-attacked against the 442d's left flank, throwing in a mess of mortars. They pushed the 442d out of the valley and pinned the outfit down in an exposed and highly uncomfortable position in a wheatfield. Meanwhile the German artillery had moved back and was still stopping the battalion on the right of the 442d.
Back in their bivouac areas the men of the 100th heard what was happening to the 442d and began to get itchy. The enlisted men unconsciously began to clean and oil their guns; the officers brought out their maps and began to think. Finally they held a semiofficial meeting and delegated Capt. Sakae Takahashi of B Company to go to the brass hats and tell them the outfit wanted to do something. When the captain got to the colonel and started to speak, he was cut short. "Save your breath,” the colonel said. "We're hitting the road."
The 100th had orders and a mission.
The mission was simple. All the battalion had to do was to infiltrate the German positions in the valley, the hill that Belvedere was on and the town itself; to encircle and capture the town, and cut off the main road out of Belvedere that runs north to Sasseta and Florence. That was all. Division intelligence said the position was being held by an SS battalion, which had an OP in the town directing artillery and mortar fire on the 442d and the battalion on its right.
A and B Companies of the 100th were assigned to assault positions, with the rest of the battalion in reserve. The jump-off was at 1200 hours. By 1300 both companies had infiltrated completely around Belvedere and were behind the town at a farm called Po Pino. The rest of the battalion dug in among the olive groves at the edge of the valley. B Company was to initiate the attack, while A Company was to rendezvous at Po Pino.
Commanding B Company was the same Capt. Takahashi who had taken the battalion's plea to the colonel. He planned the attack this way: the 1st Platoon under S/Sgt. Yeki Kobashagawa was to take the town; the 2d Platoon under Lt. James Boodry, a former Regular Army dogface from Boston, was to move on the main road leading out of town and cut it off; the 3d Platoon under Lt. Walter Johnston of New York was to cover the northern position of the company. The heavy-weapons platoon was to move with the 2d Platoon and cover the road north to Sasseta.
Sgt. Kobashagawa broke his 1st Platoon into three squads, two of which encircled Belvedere on each side, while the sergeant led his squad into town. On the outskirts Kobashagawa's squad located the Jerry OP wires, which were cut by one of the point men, Pfc. Seikichi Nakayama. Then the squad moved cautiously into town. It was quiet, the men were almost up to the modern three-story Fascist headquarters when two German machine pistols opened up on them. They ducked behind some houses and settled down to work.
Kobashagawa and two men, loaded with grenades, moved toward the big building under cover of the others. The machine pistols were located in a doctor's office on the first floor. One of the men was hit, but the sergeant and the other man got to the house next door. They tossed four grenades in the window, and the machine pistols were through. Four Germans came out of the building, and the covering fire killed three and wounded one.
That left about 20 Germans in the building. They started to retreat the back way and out of town toward the valley. They fought from house to house, and; then ducked over a ravine and down into the valley. The two squads encircling the town caught some of these Germans coming out of the ravine.
When Kobashagawa's platoon assembled again at the edge of town, it ran into machine-gun fire from a German half-track located in front of one of the valley farmhouses. The platoon could also hear the noise of a battle opening up to the right.
Kobashagawa decided to dig in and call for mortar support before jumping the farmhouse.
The mortar support didn't come. The heavy weapons platoon had discovered a nice reverse slope and set up there to cover the road to Sasseta. The platoon was about to open up on some Germans trying to make a get-away when the point squad of the 2d Platoon, preceding the weapons platoon, arrived at the edge of the hill and practically ran into the four German 155s that had been firing on the 442d and its flank battalion. The Germans had just moved into this new position and were preparing to fire.
They never did. Lt. Boodry, commanding the platoon, had Cpl. Hidenobu Hiyane, communications man, get the weapons platoon on the radio. Cpl. Hiyane contacted T/Sgt. M. Nakahara and gave him the essential data; Their conversation must have sounded terrifying if any Germans were listening—it was conducted in a personal code, combining Hawaiian dialect with Japanese and American slang.
The plan worked all right. While Lt. Boodry and his platoon moved in on the German battery with carbines and M1s, the weapons platoon cut loose with its mortars. In five minutes 18 Germans had been killed and all four of the 155s were out of action.
The Germans knew they were encircled now and tried to make a break up the main road toward Sasseta. Capt. Takahashi ordered the 3d Platoon to move up and cover the flank of the 2d Platoon. He told both rifle platoons and the weapons platoon to hold their fire until the Germans made a break, which sooner or later they had to do. And they did.
Seventeen of their amphibious jeeps loaded with Jerries swung out of an olive grove and headed hell-bent for Sasseta. The three platoons let them get onto the road and then let them have it. All 17 jeeps were knocked out. Two light machine guns manned by Sgt. K. Yoshimoto and Sgt. Nakahara accounted for most of the damage, and the riflemen picked off the Germans as they ran from the jeeps.
Right after that, four German trucks filled with men broke from the olive grove and tried to swing around the knocked-out jeeps. The first two made it, but the other two were stopped. Lt. Boodry picked out one driver with his carbine, and one of his riflemen got the other. The trucks piled up in the middle of the road, blocking it effectively and preventing any further German escape. “The next half-hour," says Pvt. Henry (Slim) Nakamora, a bazookaman of the 2d Platoon, "that valley was like a big box of chocolates and us not knowing which piece to take first."
The test of the Germans retreated to the grove and dug in. Sgt. Kobashagawa's platoon on top of the hill picked off a few of them. The sergeant was good and sore about not getting his mortar support and kept calling for it, but the mortars were needed somewhere else. Capt. Takahashi had decided to make a frontal attack on the farmhouse with the 3d Platoon. The 1st Platoon was assigned to keep the Germans busy in the grove, while the 2d Platoon was to knock off any snipers who might have come up the road on the platoon's flank. The captain also sent a request back to battalion for more ammo. The supply was running low.
When the Germans in the farmhouse saw the 3d Platoon moving toward them, they opened fire. The 3d returned the fire, aided by elements of the 1st and 2d Platoons, and moved in and around the farmhouse. There was a German half-track there, with two Germans working its machine gun. Cpl. Toshio Mizuzawa, who had plopped a rifle grenade into the back seat of a jeep earlier in the day, scored another basket when he dropped one into the half-track and rendered it highly ineffective.
This was enough for the occupants off the farmhouse. They came out with their hands up. One of the prisoners spoke English and asked Lt. Johnston about his platoon: These men are Mongolians, yes?”
"Mongolians hell," the lieutenant said, “Hasn't Hitler told you? These are Japanese. Japan has surrendered and is fighting on our side now." The German was a little skeptical until three of the dogfaces gathered around and solemnly intoned: Tojo no good. Hitler no good. Roosevelt good. Banzai!" That convinced him.
Sgt. Kobashagawa had seen the Germans reforming in the olive grove and had spotted a PzKW IV tank there. He relayed this information to Capt.Takahashi, who didn't exactly relish the idea of running into a tank with so little ammo. The captain sent an urgent call for A Company and ordered the 3d Platoon back to the reverse slope to join the weapons platoon, leaving a patrol to scout the area. The patrol consisted of Sgt. A. Governagaji and Pfc. Tanreyshi Nakana, working as a BAR team, and Pvt. Nakamora with his bazooka. Snipers tried to get them but were silenced by Lt. Boodry and a squad from his platoon. Boodry shot one sniper out of a tree from 150 yards with his carbine. “He fell out of a tree and just looked at me as if he was surprised,” Boodry says. "I was surprised, too. I didn't think a carbine was accurate at that distance. I moved in a little closer and hit him four more times."
Then the German counterattack started. The tank rolled out of the olive grove and started up the slope. It was followed by a half-track, and behind that were some soldiers with two light machine guns and what was left of a rifle company. Sgt. Governagaji of the patrol crawled over to Pvt. Nakamora and asked him if he wanted to take a crack at the tank with his
"Yeah,” said Pvt. Nakamora, who is a man of few words.
Sgt. Governagaji nodded and started to crawl back to his position. On the way he was hit by a slug from the tank. Then the tank bounced into view about 15 yards from Nakamora. He aimed, fired and hit the tank right in the belly. He reloaded and hit it in the same place. The tank moved about 10 yards and blew up. The concussion knocked out Nakamora and killed Sgt.Governagaji who was lying about 10 feet away. Two Germans started out of the tank but Pfc. Nakana, working the BAR alone, got both of them before they were halfway out of the turret.
The weapons platoon on the slope took care of the half-track knocking off its tread. The 2d Platoon had run out of ammunition and withdrawn; the weapons platoon had one box of machine-gun ammo left. Now the German rifle company with the two machine guns started up the hill. The dogfaces didn't know what they were going to do, but they hadn't counted on Nakana with his BAR. Nakana waited until the Germans were within 50 yards, then knocked out the four Jerries carrying the two machine guns. The rest of the rifle company hightailed it back to the olive grove. The counterattack was over.
After that the 100th mopped up. B Company called it a day; A Company moved through and chased the retreating Germans among the olive groves and up and down the ravines. When B Company took stock they found they had one box of ammo left in the company. It was now 1600 hours.
In the valley of Belvedere lay 84 dead Germans; headed for the rear were 32 prisoners and 29 wounded Jerries. By 1900 hours A Company had accounted for 26 more German dead, 18 prisoners and 9 wounded. The box score on Jerry equipment was 13 motorcycles, 19 jeeps, 7 trucks, 2 half-tracks, 1 PzKW IV tank, 1 SP gun, 2 antitank guns, 4 155-mms, 1 radio CP and 1 battalion CP with 20 telephones.
The 100th lost one man and had eight wounded. The next morning the outfit was relieved. It bivouacked that day with the 442d. There was a lot of razzing between the two outfits.
After a couple of days both of them went back into the line.
Taking off with the TANKS
By Sgt. Walter Peters
YANK Staff Correspondent
With the Second Armored Division in France—It was the morning of the beginning of the biggest drive since the Allies had invaded the shores of Normandy. The immediate objective of Combat Command "A," the outfit I was travelling with, was to advance through St. Gilles, thence through Canisy, and finally to capture and hold the heights just before Le Mesnil Herman. Nobody dreamed that our tanks would be sweeping across Brittany and right to the threshold of Brest ten days later.
Four of us were sitting in the half-track that served as command post for the battalion commanded by Lt. Col. Amzi R. Quillian. Along with others in the battalion, the men had made an all-night trek from a bivouac area far to the rear up to a position just before the jump-off line on the St. Lo-Periers Road. The men's faces were brown with dust. Their eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep. Dirt clung heavily from their eyebrows and eyelashes.
One of the men looked at his watch. “Ten-forty,” he drawled. The drive had begun at 0900 hours. Our medium and light tanks, led by Col. Quillian, were far to the front and the men in the Combat Command half-track waited for word.
Then the word came over the radio. The colonel's voice was calm and serious. “We've made contact with the enemy and have taken a few prisoners,” he reported.
"You’ve waited a long time,” another voice replied. "Get in there. Get punching. Get hitting…”
“That's the general, all right," said Pfc. Jack Giels, of Cleveland. "He's a bug on slogans."
"We're moving ahead," another voice said over the air. Our long column of trains, that included jeeps, supply vehicles, and ambulances, in addition to half-tracks, began to wobble through a break in the hedges and over the orchard paths that had been cut by the tanks up ahead.
We were cutting right through enemy lines. On either side of us were reserve tanks with infantrymen of the Fourth Division riding atop them. There were also other infantrymen riding in trucks driven by Negro soldiers of a quartermaster truck battalion. To the front, the tanks charged through the hedges, spraying them with machinegun fire as they did so. When the tanks came to enemy pockets that held them up, the infantrymen would jump off and mop up.
The command-post radio was busy with conversation.
“I am held up at a sunken road, 50 yards south of phase-line orange," Col Quillian reported. The whole column stopped.
The colonel continued talking. "Doing everything I can to get across. Using bulldozers."
"Fine, fine," another voice, obviously belonging to the general, replied. "You can have anything I've got. Let's get slugging into them."
While the column was stopped, a mortar platoon sergeant came to the half-track and asked if anybody had an extra helmet. A sniper's bullet had gone right through the top of his and made it unserviceable.
"Maybe the medics have one," Giels said. The sergeant walked back to a medic half-track to see.
The tanks got over the sunken road and we moved on again. For over a mile the terrain resembled farmland that had just been plowed. Everywhere the earth was shaken and blasted by the heavy artillery that had been hurling shells on to it early that morning. There were huge craters in the earth, too, from the bombs that our planes had dropped the day before. There also were burning German tanks that had been destroyed by the tanks ahead of us.
"It would cost Hollywood a cool ten million dollars to shoot a scene like this,” one of the soldiers said. The whole area was trembling from the fire of our artillery. Overhead, the sky was full of "grasshoppers," directing shell fire from the sky. Lying all over the orchards and the roads between them were dead cows and horses—-so many that you no longer paid much attention to them. At one point there were about 25 young pigs running back and forth in fright, and as they ran they squealed. A soldier jumped out of a jeep and took one of them in his arms.
“You'll be okay, little piggy," the soldier said stroking the pig's back. “You'll be all right. It's just those goddam Heinie swine we're after."
One of the men picked up a German song book.
"This is a song of the Panzers," he said. "It says here that when this war is over and the Germans all get back to their Fatherland they're going to raise their children to be Panzers like their daddies."
At about 1500 hours we got on the north road leading to St. Gilles. Then our column was halted again. The enemy was lobbing mortars and 75 and 88 shells into the road. Twenty-five yards behind us a half-track belonging to a heavy-weapons platoon was hit and three men in it were killed. A couple of others were wounded.
In a field to our right were a number of M-10s. Mortar shells were falling all around and as they did so, the men with the M-10s buried their faces in the earth. One of the shells landed directly on a trailer attached to an M-10. Huge flames began to spout from the vehicle. Then the crew of the M-10 ran toward the trailer and began to unload it.
"There's ammunition in that trailer,” a man in a jeep behind us yelled. The crew continued to unload. The fire was beyond control and the rear of the M-10 started to burn. Just then, one of the men took a fire extinguisher and doused another man who ran through the blaze and disconnected the trailer from the M-10 and then a third man drove the M-10 away to safety. Suddenly there was a terrific explosion and the ammunition began to explode.
A medic jeep drove by and the man behind the wheel jumped out and ran toward the trailer. There was another explosion and I didn't see the medic again. About two minutes later I learned that he had been blown up by the explosion—both legs blown off and his body hurled on to the M-10. The man who had run through the blaze to disconnect the trailer, I heard, was Sgt. Thomas Green, of Tennessee. There was too much excitement to get more details.
The column got rolling along the road to St. Gilles. About 300 yards along it, we were forced to stop again. Enemy mortars were still firing at us from somewhere ahead. Everyone took cover alongside the roads as best as he could. Then the fire subsided and we got back into our vehicles and went forward again. We came upon three men walking toward us. One of them was wounded and another was crying. He had lost his buddy only a few minutes before. His body was shaking and he was being helped along by the wounded man and the other soldier, who appeared to be quite all right.
When our column stopped again, a sergeant walked over to a lieutenant and said, “I think we lost ______ ______.
The lieutenant called over First/Sgt. William Trinen, of Letcher, S.D.
I I'd like you to go over and make sure if that body belongs to _____ _____."
“Yes, sir," the first sergeant said.
A few minutes later our half-track pulled into an orchard and the men stretched out in the grass to get some rest. After a time Sgt. Trinen came back. His face was serious. He didn't say a word for a few seconds. Then he looked at Giels and T/Sgt. Russel E. Sands, of Warren, Minn.
“His scalp was ripped wide open,” he said slowly. "He didn't have a chance."
There was a long pause. None of the men said anything.
Sgt. Trinen continued: “He wasn’t even 20 and didn’t give a damn about anything. He was such a clean-cut kid, too.”
Again there was silence for a moment.
"There ain't any of them boys bad when they're dead," Sgt. Sands said.
Giels looked up. "No, nobody's got a bad heart when they're dead."
Word came to us that the most advanced tanks were already passing through St. Gilles. I hitch-hiked a ride in an ambulance half-track that was going there to pick up some wounded. The road was jammed with our tanks that were rolling into the town. The dust was so thick that it was impossible to see more than 20 feet ahead. The infantrymen on the tanks held their hands
over their eyes to keep out the dust. The hot sun beat down on their backs and their clothing was damp from sweat. The gullies beside the road were filled with burning, smoking German tanks and vehicles.
The town itself was like the inside of a furnace. Everything that wasn't stone was on fire and the smoke choked our throats while the heat made it almost unbearable to go ahead. When we reached the other end of the town the ambulance I was riding in stopped. Lying beside the road were three Americans who appeared to be dead. A fourth soldier, though wounded himself, was giving water from his canteen to a fifth man, whose right heel had been squarely cut off by shell fragments and whose chest and face were also bleeding.
Cpl. 1 Carl Lindberry, of Chicago, a surgical technician on the ambulance half-track, felt the pulse of one of the unconscious men.
"There's still a slight beat in him," Lindberry said. "Let's take him in first."
Pfc. Willis Wacker, of Denmoss, N.D., and Pvt. Robert Jee, of Danville, Va., both first-aid men, unfolded a blanket over a stretcher and then placed the man on it. After the wounded man had been placed in the ambulance, Lindberry walked over to another of the unconscious soldiers. He felt one man's pulse and shook his head.
He walked over to the third unconscious soldier, who was lying on his back with his mouth wide open. The man's teeth protruded and the color of his skin was that of death. A little dog was lying beside this soldier, a little dog with a deep cut across his head and his bowels splattered all over himself and on the dirt around him. Lindberry felt the man's pulse. Still a chance," he said.
Next, the man with the cut heel was lifted into the ambulance, and then the soldier who had given him water walked unaided into the cabin off the ambulance.
I got back to the Command Post just as word came over the radio from the forward tankers that there was only enough gas left for a three-hour operation.
“Keep on slugging," the general's voice said.
They did, and at about 2200 hours, Col. Quillian's battalion reached its objective.
YANK 20 Aug 1944 British Edition
YANK 20 Aug 1944 British Edition