History of the 232nd Engineers
This history of the 232nd Engineer Combat Company from its formation in early 1943 to the end of WWII in the European Theater in May 1945. It begins with training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, to become combat-ready engineers, then traveling by sea to combat operations in Italy, from there to the deadly battles in the French – German border region of the Vosges Mountains, to the south of France to guard the border with Nazi-occupied northern Italy, then back to Italy for the final campaign with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team to break thru the Gothic line and destroy the Germany army in Italy.
Combat Team Training - Preparation for Overseas Movement
The 232nd Engineer Combat Company, an integral part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), was activated on 7 February 1943 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and is the only company in the United States Army whose entire officer and enlisted personnel is composed of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Unlike other companies of combat engineer battalions, this unique organization operated in training as a separate unit without being under the direct supervision of a combat engineer battalion or infantry regiment's S-1, S-2, S-3, and S-4.
The company occupied hutments on the crest of a hill overlooking the 442nd infantry battalions to the west and the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion to the east. Under its special table of organization authorized by the War Department, the company was authorized one hundred ninety-four enlisted men and five officers, but operated with an overstrength of the ten enlisted men and two officers. Every individual was issue arms under its table of equipment and was trained to use them. Its mobile equipment consisted of fifteen 2½-ton trucks, four 4-ton trucks, four motorcycles, one command and reconnaissance car, one compressor, one bulldozer, one prime mover, four 1-ton cargo trailers, one 8-ton trailer, and three 3-ton pole-type trailers.
During basic training, which commenced on 10 May 1943, the men were trained to do the work necessary for combat engineers, in addition to training for physical fitness and military discipline. Learning by doing demolition work, building trestle-bend bridges, assembling and disassembling portable steel truss bridges, building pontoon and infantry foot-bridges, crossing streams in assault boats, laying mine-fields and barbed wire barricades, were some of the duties of the combat engineers. Physical fitness tests were passed with honors at the close of basic training.
Soon after passing basic training tests, unit training was begun. At this stage of training, the men spent more of their time out in the field putting to practical use the knowledge acquired during basic training than being trained in garrison. Spending days in the field building bridges, doing actual demolition work, constructing roads, going on nine and twenty-five miles forced marches were part of weekly schedules.
The real test of the efficiently of the 232nd Engineers came during the D-Series maneuvers when the 442nd RCT together with the 69th Infantry Division conducted mock battles in the woods of Mississippi. Preparing demolition for bridges and road craters, making road reconnaissance, building bridges, building and maintaining roads, laying mine-fields, setting up water points and engineer dumps, and even going in line as infantry were some of the work done by the engineers with such efficiency as to win the admiration and praise of umpires and fellow troops.
Orders for the preparation for overseas movement came on 23 March 1944, and like other units of the 442nd RCT, feverish preparation began immediately under the supervision of the 24th Headquarters, Special Troops, and 2nd Army. Show-down inspections after show-down inspections were conducted to see that the men were properly equipped with clothing, arms, and field equipment, and to see that all organizational equipment were fit for combat. Old records were crated and put in storage, and organizational equipment were wrapped, sealed, crated, and properly labeled to be shipped over-seas with the personnel. Everyone was kept busy at all times. In the midst of all these activities the tables of organization and equipment were changed four times to add to the confusion and excitement. Equipment that was formerly authorized had to be de-crated and turned in to quartermaster and engineer dumps, and records had to be revised to meet the requirements of new tables or organization and equipment. Over-strength personnel were transferred to other organizations one day and recalled on the following day. The personnel section was kept busy making class E and F allotments, so that the men could have their money sent home conveniently.
After the final inspection was over, the unit boarded trains enroute to Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia on 23 April 1944. In Camp Patrick Henry, more showdown inspections were conducted to insure that every soldier's equipment was complete and serviceable for combat. For the first time instructions were given on complete censorship of mail and other forms of communications.
E Day and Convoy
Arrival and Training in Italy. At 1230 hours on 1 May1944, the 232nd Engineer Combat Company entrained at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia for Hampton Roads, Port of Embarkation, Newport News, Virginia to begin the final phase of the journey on ships bound for an unknown destination. Upon arrival at this port of embarkation, the unit was immediately ordered to board the liberty ship, Thomas Cresap. Accommodations on board ship were shared with the 206 Army Ground Forces Band and a platoon of signal corps men. Amidst the bustle of learning new terms used by the ship's crew to describe the various parts of the ship, preparations for the journey began-crews for lifeboats and life rafts were assigned, and security instructions were given. Each enlisted man was assigned bunks in hold Number 2, and officers were assigned cabins in hold Number 3.
The journey across the Atlantic began at 0200 hours on 3 May 1944. As the convoy moved out to sea, and the last signs of the shoreline began to disappear from sight, many were the hearts that were pensive and sad to leave behind the land they loved. The ship's rail and deck were crowded with men until the land dropped beyond the rim of the horizon. When the convoy hit the deep turbulent waters of the rough Atlantic, the men turned to card playing, reading, checkers, chess, and the ever present dice games to pass the time away. There were quite a few men who were unfortunate enough to be forced to stay in their bunks to fight off seasickness. The hardy ones were put to work scrubbing the deck, going on K-P, guard, and general clean-up details. On the third day out at sea, the ship's PX opened for business, and the men were supplied with ample candy, toilet articles, and miscellaneous articles. At least once a week the 206 Army Band entertained the men by playing a few pieces on deck, if the weather was favorable, and in the hold during inclement weather.
One of the chief sources of conversation was the speculation as to the probable destination of the convoy, but when the convoy filed through the strait of Gibraltar and entered the calm waters of the Mediterranean Sea, all doubts were cleared away as to the ship's final destination.
On the ship one of the most popular songs sung among the men was "A Trip on a Liberty Ship" which was written and composed on board ship by Corporal Daniel D. Betsui of Hanapepe, Kauai, Hawaii. The song was introduced as part of the entertainment for the men in hold number 2.
The ship dropped anchor in Augusta Bay, Sicily at 0200 hours on 26 May 1944, and in that interlude, boxing contests were held among the Army personnel and men of the ship's crew. Judo exhibitions were subsequently given by some of the men of the 232nd Engineers.
After being on board ship for 23 consecutive days the convoy finally entered Naples harbor, and there the unit saw wide-scale destruction of harbor facilities, buildings, and ships. These reminders of the grim tasks lying ahead of the men sobered some of the exhilarations of setting foot on land again. The dock to which the Thomas Cresap heaved to was a partially demolished luxury liner, that had been converted into a pier to accommodate ships temporarily. The unit debarked at 1800 hours and marched through the shambles of bombed and partially demolished Naples to Stazione Garibaldi, and entrained for staging area number 4 in the vicinity of Bagnoli. In the orchard of the staging area the unit got over their sea legs amidst the dust and discomforts of a crowded bivouac area, and began receiving organizational equipment for combat. A small percentage of the men were allowed to go on passes to visit the city of Naples and Bagnoli. The men were paid for the first time in Europe in this area.
When the unit was finally fully equipped, it embarked from Bagnoli for Anzio on a LST on 6 June 1944. More signs of war's havoc were seen, as the men marched through the deserted streets of Anzio to their bivouac area 8 miles out of the town. From their new bivouac area, the men were transported to the Fifth Army Bathing and Clothing Exchange where they experienced their first 5 minutes showers and full exchange of clothing.
On the motor convoy from Anzio to Civitavecchia from 9 June to 10 June 1944, the company was temporarily lost in the historic city of Rome at 0130 hours on June 10. The convoy finally resumed its course after roaming aimlessly in the city until Route number 1 was found, and arrived at Civitavecchia at 0830 hours. At Civitavecchia the unit was attached to 109th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 34th infantry Division, veteran of the African and Italian campaigns.
From Civitavecchia the company moved up the vicinity of Tarquinia on 11 June 1944, joining the line companies of the 109th Engineers. The day after the company arrived, the 109th Engineers gave instructions on German and Italian mines, and demonstrations were given on the removal of mines in an active German minefield. On the 15 June 1944, Staff Sergeant Ernest Kagawa and 16 enlisted men conducted a mine school for the 442nd RCT. A small percentage of men were given one-day passes to Rome in this area.
On 21 June 1944, the company left Tarquinia by motor convoy to Grosetto. There the water purification unit with Sergeant Tokio Okamura in charge was established for the first time in Italy. More classes on mines and minefields were conducted. Mutual respect and lasting friendships were developed here amongst the two organizations as the men got acquainted by working together and participating in baseball and volleyball games. The next stepping off place to the front for the 232nd Engineers was Caldana, and from there on to C. Vetricella. On the convoy to C. Vetricella, the company suffered its first casualties when a squad truck went off the road and overturned.
The Italian Campaign
June 26th will be long remembered by the men of the 232nd Engineer Combat Company as the first day in line as combat engineers. Not knowing what to expect, the men were naturally apprehensive and tense as the motor convoy with its heavy engineer equipment rolled into its first bivouac area only 300 yards behind the front lines in the vicinity of Suvereto, Italy. The unit received its baptism of enemy fire on this convoy when an 88 mm shell landed near a squad truck and wounded four men. Before the motors of the squad trucks had time to cool off in the bivouac area, the company received its first orders to sweep the roads leading to Suvereto for mines in direct support of the 442nd RCT.
Upon receipt of orders from the 109th Engineer Combat Battalion, the 232nd Engineers relinquished their support of the 442nd RCT after three days of action, and subsequently gave direct support to the 168th and 133rd Infantry Regiments.
Although the German retreat up the Italian peninsula was rapid, the rugged Italian terrain with its numerous hills and vales provided excellent opportunities for demolitions by the Germans to retard the Allies. Bridge after bridge was blown up, and numerous minefields were laid at road junctions, and on grounds that could possibly be used for bypasses, and on vital supply routes. The unit was kept busy day and night, working by platoons on 12 hours shifts. The company bivouac area seldom stayed in one area for over a week and was always within range of enemy artillery. In their conscientious and meticulous work in minesweeping and reconnaissance the men often went far into the front lines, and frequently became involved in skirmishes with enemy patrols. On 6 July 1944, a reconnaissance patrol from the first platoon consisting of three men encountered small arms fire from a nest of enemy snipers. Because of the overwhelming strength of the enemy, the rest of the platoon was immediately summoned to the scene and deployed in an enveloping movement. In the ensuing firefight eight Germans were killed and four captured as prisoners. In this action the company lost its only fatal combat casualty in the entire Italian campaign.
The D-7 and R-4 bulldozers were used constantly to carve out bypasses, fill road and shell craters, and to remove wrecked enemy tanks, vehicles, and carcasses of dead animals off the roads.
During the rapid advance up the Italian boot, the company averaged at least one by-pass a day in order to keep the supply line open to front line troops. On 13 July 1944, in the vicinity of Pomaja, Italy, the first platoon of 232nd Engineers had to build three by-passes in order to keep up with the advancing infantry. Sites for the bypasses were selected, cleared of mines, and then marked off with tracing tapes so that the bulldozer could work. While the dozer worked, some of the men were put on guard as security against snipers, and the remainder of the men worked on the by-passes by clearing shrubs, laying culverts, and other work.
After over a month of duty in line the company was relieved on 28 July 1944 in the vicinity of Tripalle, Italy, and pulled back to the vicinity of Collemezzano, Italy, for its first rest period.
On 16 August 1944, the company was relieved from attachment to the 109th Engineer Combat Battalion and attached to the 442nd RCT, and further attached to the 310th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 85th Infantry Division. The company was relieved from attachment to the 310th Engineer Combat Battalion on 18 August 1944 and attached to the 313th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 88th Infantry Division in the vicinity of Castelfiorentino, Italy.
For the defense of the Arno River sector in the vicinity of Florence, Italy, the unit was put on infantry reserve for the 442nd RCT when the company entered its bivouac area in Scandicci, Italy on 21 August 1944. For the first time the men were used to accompany infantry patrols as engineers to neutralize booby-traps across the Arno River into enemy territory. On 2 September 1944, the second platoon of 232nd Engineers was attached to the 760th Tank Battalion to serve as infantry support in the 88th Infantry Division attack across the Arno River.
Throughout the Rome-Arno campaign which took them from Suvereto to Pisa from 26 June to 28 July 1944, and to the Arno River near Florence from 21 August to 7 September 1944, the Engineers supported the attack by building, repairing, and maintaining supply and evacuation routes, neutralizing mine-fields and booby-traps, and selecting and building fording sites across the Arno River. On 5 September, in the vicinity of Signano, Italy, at two fording sites across the Arno, the company removed 97 Tellermines and 12 "S" mines from two large minefields that extended into water 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep. This necessitated probing with bayonets and using mine-detectors in waist-deep water. Some of the Tellermines were booby-trapped with 3 kilograms of explosives to make removal more difficult and dangerous. After the crossing was made, scores of schu-mines and booby-traps were removed on the north slope of the Arno River.
In the process of supporting infantry units, the 232nd Engineer Combat Company built 26 bypasses, six culverts, ten fills, four bridges including a foot bridge and a Brockway steel tread way bridge; removed approximately 24 booby-traps and over 300 anti-tank mines from mine-fields, road shoulders, road junctions and river fords; captured 20 prisoners; and removed over a ton of prepared demolition charges from five bridges the Germans failed to blow up.
The unit was relieved from attachment to the 88th Infantry Division and moved to the vicinity of Castiglioncello on 7 September 1944. On 10 September 1944, the company boarded the Liberty Ship, John Holms, at Piombino, Italy, together with the 442nd’s 100th Battalion and Cannon Company for Naples. Organizational and part of individual equipment were loaded on company trucks that were driven down to Naples in a motor convoy via Rome.
The unit debarked in Naples at 1030 hours 12 September 1944, and entrucked for the Nevada Area outside of Naples. Here preparations for the trip to France were begun --- lost individual and organizational equipment were replaced, and the men were kept physically fit by following a training schedule. On 21 September 1944, the unit left the Nevada Area for Staging Area N-4 in the vicinity of Bagnoli, Italy, and at 0700 hours 26 September 1944, the unit left the staging area for Naples and embarked on the USS Samuel Chase at 0800 for southern France.
The French Campaign
On 29 September 1944, the 232nd Engineer Combat Company debarked at Marseilles, France, and was transported to the C.B.S. staging area near the city of Septemes, France. During the nine days the company was staged in this area, strong wind, rain, and nearly freezing weather made life uncomfortable for the men as preparations were made for the trip to Charmois, France. Also during this period, a training schedule of four hours daily was put into effect.
The journey to Charmois, France, a distance of about 450 miles, was begun by motor convoy at 0700 hours 9 October 1944. As the convoy moved northward, the weather became steadily colder, and the men huddled closer together on topless squad trucks to keep warm. Over-night stopovers were made in the vicinities of Vienne and Vesoul. At 1030 hours 11 October 1944, the unit arrived in the vicinity of La Buffo, France, where the company was attached to the 111th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 36th Infantry Division.
At dusk on 14 October 1944, the company left the vicinity of La Buffo, France by motor convoy for its assembly area in the vicinity of Fontenay, France. A tank dozer with five enlisted men from 6617th Engineer Mine Clearing Company was attached to the company at 1800 on the same day.
The second platoon of the 232nd Engineers pulled out of the company bivouac area in direct support of the 442nd RCT at 0800 hours 15 October 1944. At 1000 hours a mine-sweeping crew of the second platoon encountered a heavily booby-trapped abatis road block over a quarter of a mile long on the only supply and evacuation route for the 442nd Infantry battalions about one mile west of Bruyeres, France. Attempts to clear the abatis were delayed when a heavy crossfire from four enemy machine guns opened up on the working crews. Work was resumed by the first platoon at 0800 hours 16 October after the infantry moved up and cleared out snipers and wiped out the four machine gun nests covering the abatis. Periodic intense mortar and artillery barrages from enemy guns that were zeroed in on the abatis hampered work, but in spite of the barrages, the platoon kept doggedly at the job because the route had to be opened in order to evacuate the wounded and to take supplies to the advancing infantry. When the work was begun, gasoline engine driven chain saws were used, but they were abandoned in favor of two-man hand saws when the noise of the gasoline engines attracted enemy artillery and mortar barrages. The debris and logs were pushed off the road by the tank-dozer operated by five men from the 6617th Engineer Mine Clearing Company. The road was opened for traffic at 1630 after eight and a half hours of painstaking work. In the process of clearing the abatis numerous booby-traps and anti-tank mines were removed and heavy casualties were inflicted on the company.
During the intense fighting in rugged terrain and under adverse weather conditions in eastern France from 14 October to 18 November 1944, the 232nd Engineer's duties assumed greater proportions because of the numerous booby-trapped abatis road blocks and poor roads rendered muddy and slippery by constant rain which hampered the 442nd RCT's operations in the dark woods of the Vosges mountains. The Engineers underwent intense mortar and artillery barrages, engaged enemy snipers, machine gun nests, and hostile patrols while supporting the 442nd. They cleared the booby-trapped abatis and anti-tank and anti-personnel mines in spite of the "zeroed in" barrages of the enemy. When muddy, impassable roads between Belmont and Biffontaine, that were vital for supply, evacuation, and armor traffic, presented a problem, the Engineers solved it by laying over a mile of plank-board and corduroy roadways and by dumping truckloads of gravel on the road after mud, water, and debris were removed with the aid of a bull-dozer and hand tools. This road was constantly repaired and maintained by the Engineers to prevent enemy shelling and rainy weather from making the road impassable.
In addition to the normal activities of the engineer unit, the 232nd Engineer Combat Company was called upon to give close support to some of the more spectacular operations of the 442nd RCT. On 27 October to 30 October 1944, the Engineers, attached to the 442nd infantry battalions, participated in the daring rescue of the isolated 1st Battalion, 141st infantry Regiment, "the lost battalion of World War II," from German encirclement in a heavily wooded ridge in Forêt Domaniale Du Champ, about 3 kilometers due east of Biffontaine, eastern France. Two platoons of the 232nd Engineers played an unheralded but vital part in this action. Accompanying the front-line infantrymen as service troops, the Engineers were subjected to the hazards of small arms and automatic fire, artillery and mortar barrages, booby-traps, skillfully manned road blocks, as well as the cold and wet weather and rugged mountain and heavily forested terrain. During the four-day period, the Engineers enhanced the success of the operations by sweeping roads and abatis for mines under heavy enemy fire, removing over 30 "S" and "R" mines in the path of the advancing infantry. To facilitate the supply and evacuation, the unit maintained the muddy roads, laying stretches of plank roads and removing mud and hauling gravel, clearing numerous abatis blocking the way of the advancing troops and supply trains, and building culverts across badly shelled roads, despite heavy enemy barrages made more dangerous by tree bursts and the danger of infiltrating and counter-attacking enemy troops. In the vicinity of Biffontaine, when another Engineer unit refused to clear a minefield blocking the advance of the 442nd infantry battalions because of the heavy enemy fire, the 232nd Engineers went ahead and cleared the field for their comrades, winning the admiration and gratitude of the riflemen. Four large shelters were also constructed for the 442nd regimental command post (CP) to protect it from tree bursts and from the extreme cold and rain.
On 5 November 1944, when the infantry was in dire need of reinforcements, the company was relieved from attachment to the 111th Engineer Combat Battalion and attached to the 442nd RCT by vocal order of the Commanding General, 36th infantry Division, and ordered to be in line as infantry by 0600 hours 6 November 1944. At 0430 hours 6 November, the first platoon relieved A Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd RCT in a defensive sector in the vicinity of Biffontaine, France. The platoon kept active contact patrols with C Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd RCT on its left flank, and the 143rd Infantry Regiment on its right flank, until it was relieved at 0800 hours 8 November 1944, by F Company, 2nd Battalion, 442nd RCT.
During the Vosges campaign, the company neutralized over a hundred "R" mines, scores of "S" mines and booby-traps, cleared hundreds of yards of abatis roadblocks, and built two bypasses.
At 1400 hours 17 November 1944, the company left Bruyeres, France, for Chenimenil, France, where they prepared for motor movement to Nice, France. The long trip to Nice began at 0713 hours 19 November 1944. Over-night stopovers were made in the vicinities of Dijon and Valence. The company arrived at St. Jeanne, France, at 1930 hours 21 November 1944.
From St. Jeanne five percent of the personnel were allowed to go on pass to Nice daily, and the "Champagne Campaign" of southern France was launched. At 0700 hours 23 November, the second platoon was attached to the 3rd Battalion, 442nd RCT at Sospel, France. At 1530 hours 24 November 1944, the company departed from the vicinity of St. Jeanne for its billet area at Rue Ballet, Nice. On 27 November 1944, the third platoon was attached to the 100th Battalion, 442nd RCT at Menton, France.
During the Engineer's tour of duty in the southern sector of the French Maritime Alps sector from 23 November 1944 to 17 March 1945, reconnaissance patrols surveyed all roads from Menton to Sospel and effected a defensive plan that skillfully utilized anti-personnel minefields and barbed-wire entanglements.
The 232nd Engineers operated with personnel attached to various elements of the 442nd RCT. On I January 1945, elements of E and H Companies, 2nd Battalion, 442nd RCT, holding a fort on Mt. Grosse were faced by enemy troops located in another fort about 1000 yards away in the valley. Because of a steep incline, the American troops were unable to cover the forward slopes, and the enemy was able to infiltrate to the fort under the protection of the defile. The Engineers were called upon to mine this "blind spot" to prevent infiltration. Disregarding mortar fire and booby traps laid by the enemy, the Engineers worked under cover of darkness in de-activating booby-trapped grenades rigged up by the Germans and laid 33 anti-personnel mines on the frozen forward slopes 150 yards down and extended a single-strand protective barbed wire along the friendly side of the minefield. Two men were wounded when a booby-trap was set off in the dark, but the Engineers succeeded in their mission.
From 1 December 1944 to 16 March 1945, the company strung over 10,000 yards of barbed-wire entanglements, laid over 50 trip-flares and over 4,200 anti-personnel mines in 99 minefields, and filled thousands of sand bags for infantry barricades. The company built a H-15 trestle-bent bridge at Sospel and another at Menton, one grease rack for the 3rd Battalion, 442nd RCT, and a 14 mule capacity mule shed in the vicinity of Menton. Familiarization mine and demolition schools were conducted for the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion and the 442nd infantry battalions. On 19 December 1944, men from the first platoon captured a one-man German submarine from the sea in the vicinity of Menton.
The versatility of the 232nd Engineers as a service unit was demonstrated in an ingenious shower unit they voluntarily built for the comfort and morale of the 442nd RCT. The shower unit was assembled with makeshift parts, which were skillfully reconverted or adapted, into an efficient unit. Originally the shower unit was powered with a French truck motor, but after extensive repairs were made, the French truck engine was replaced with an American jeep engine that supplied power to run a German electric dynamo capable of producing 380 volts of electricity. The trailer was originally part of a mobile German electric power plant and its wheels came from salvaged American GMC 2½-ton trucks. The hot water tank formerly served as a condenser of a beer factory, the electric blower came from the ventilating system of a French fort in the Maritime Alps, the fuel pump motor was adapted from an Italian diesel self-propelled gun, and the fuel control valve was evolved from a French acetylene welding torch. Swiss thermometers controlled water temperature, while showerheads and water hoses were acquired from a demolished resort hotel and a water purification unit. From this conglomeration of makeshift materials acquired at odd times, the Engineers built a shower unit that was capable of producing approximately 50 gallons of hot water per minute. Through the initiative, ingenuity, and ability of the Engineers, the 442nd RCT was blessed with its own electronically run shower unit beginning with the French Maritime Alps campaign. This extra service rendered by the Engineers made it possible for the 442nd RCT front line men to have a shower unit set up in close proximity of their area in every campaign or in every theater and helped materially in the morale of the regiment.
On 16 March 1945, the company was relieved by French troops and pulled back to the 442nd RCT assembly area at Antibes, France. The company departed from Antibes, France by motor convoy to the D.B.S. staging area 10 miles northeast of Marseilles, France, on 18 March 1945. Here at the staging area all excess equipment and all mobile equipment and clothing were turned in and final showdown inspections and preparations for embarkation movement were made. On 23 March 1945, the company left Marseilles, on the LST 907 in a convoy to Livorno, Italy.
Appenines and Po Valley Campaigns
After an uneventful trip from Marseilles, France, the Company debarked at Livorno, Italy, at 1200 hours 23 March 1945, and departed from the port area for the P.B.S. staging area in the vicinity of Pisa, Italy. At this area the company was relieved from assignment to D.B.S. and assigned to the Fifth Army and re-equipped with new vehicles and engineer equipment. For combat operations, the company was attached to the 92nd Infantry Division.
On 29 March the 232nd Engineers arrived at its new bivouac area five miles northwest of Lucca, Italy, where a command inspection by Brigadier General Woods and Aide of the 92nd Division was made of clothing, equipment, personnel, and arms on 3 April 1945. At 2100 on the same day the unit left the bivouac area and moved into the assembly area of the 442nd RCT in a valley one and a half miles southeast of Pietrasante, Italy.
When the 442nd infantry battalions launched their attack on 5 April 1945, the third platoon of the Engineers was called upon to support the infantry by sweeping roads for mines and maintaining them in the area north of Mount Altissimo.
During the rapid advance of the 442nd infantry the dozer was used constantly to fill road craters, remove carcasses of dead animals from supply lines, and build bypasses. On 10 April 1945, the 100th and 2nd Battalions advancing north and east of Massa in a drive toward Carrara, Italy, were in need of a suitable supply and evacuation route. The road from Massa to Canevara had been made impassable by a 30-yard long crater dug by the retreating Germans on the outskirts of Massa. It was also mined with anti-tank, anti-personnel, and artillery shells converted into mines with pressure devices that were buried too deep for detection by electrical mine detectors or probing.
The 232nd Engineers began the work of opening this vital route at 1300 hours 10 April 1945, in spite of heavy enemy artillery barrages that intermittently hit the area and mines that were highly sensitized by the long period underground. The company, realizing the critical need for the road for evacuation and supply, worked continuously, alternating among the three platoons of 40 men each on every shift, under intermittent barrages that caused some damage to equipment and wounded two riflemen standing in the work area. By methodical hand probing and by the use of detectors when feasible, 20 12" artillery shells rigged as mines were removed with truck winches. In addition, 30 schu-mines, 3 Tellermines, and 5 Italian box-mines were removed.
The highly sensitized nature of the mines and the difficulty of detection made the work of the dozer operators a hazardous proposition. Four dozer operators who braved this danger in order to help open the route without delay were wounded when undetected mines blew up their dozers. Despite the fact that 1 officer, 4 dozer operators, and 2 other enlisted men were injured in four mine explosions and shelling that continued unabated, the work was continued without let-up.
Beehive charges were utilized in blowing up the side of the cut to get material for an embankment. When one of the wrecked D-7 dozers could not be removed, an ingenious solution was evolved whereby the immovable dozer was used as a trestle and a 30-feet bridge of 10-ton capacity was built over it. After working from 1300 10 April, the Engineers had the supply and evacuation route open by 2200 hours the next day. The opening of this vital link from Massa to Canevara with a minimum of delay helped open the only supply route and alleviated the serious supply difficulty caused by terrain that precluded the use of hand-carry parties.
Frequently details of men from the company were detached and attached to 442nd infantry units to clear gaps through mine-fields and do other engineer work during infantry assaults. During the attack on Mount Belvedere by the 2nd Battalion, one squad of the first platoon was attached to F Company to do engineer work from 7 April to 10 April. On 12 April three enlisted men were attached to I Company, and four enlisted men were attached to L Company. One squad of the first platoon was attached to the 2nd Battalion from 13 April to 15 April, and from 20 April to 23 April one squad of third platoon was attached to the 100th Battalion to do engineer work.
On 15 April the 232nd Engineer Combat Company was ordered to cease all engineer work and to be in line as infantry in the vicinity of Gragnana, Italy. The first platoon relieved I Company, 442nd RCT on hill 574, and the second and third platoons relieved K Company on hills 580 and 539 respectively. The platoons were under constant artillery and small arms fire, but they kept contact with each and with the forward CP with the aid of telephones and by means of contact patrols. On 17 April the company was relieved as infantry and resumed regular engineer work.
Between 5 April and 23 April the Engineers removed over 20 Tellermines, 4 stock mines, 23 "R" mines, 57 schu-mines, 47 M2A1 anti-personnel American mines, 5 Italian box mines, 20 12" artillery shells improvised as anti-tank mines, 1 plastic mine, over 100 pounds of cratering charges; demolished 15 mortar duds and 1 rocket bomb; filled over 25 road craters; built 12 by-passes with culverts, one expedient assault boat infantry support bridge over 100 feet long, 2 trestle-bent bridges, and 2 ford crossings; removed 100 stalled vehicles in the vicinity of Ferrada, Italy; and built miles of mule trails on hills and mountains impassable to vehicles.
After the collapse of the German Armies in Italy, the company was kept busy doing extensive road and bridge reconnaissance from Tendola, Italy to Monaco along the Ligurian coast, and from Geneva to Alessandria, and repaired damaged bridges and roads.
On 16 May the 232nd engineers moved into the 442nd RCT's bivouac area in the vicinity of Ghedi, Italy and began working in the Fifth Army Enemy Concentration Area. The company took over all engineer work in the area when the 169th Engineer Combat Battalion was relieved on 24 May 1945. Among the work the company had to take over were a carpenter shop, a paint shop, two shower units, and one water point in addition to clearing debris, stringing barbed wire barricades around the prisoner of war enclosures and supervising the work of the prisoners.
Written by: T/5 George Goto
232nd Combat Engineer Company
Furnished by: Kenji J. Yaguchi