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Their first two weeks in combat, the men of Easy Company took hill after hill without much of a fight, as the German soldiers they faced kept retreating across the Italian countryside. Things changed, however, when they reached Hill 140 on July 4 th , 1944. “The first battle most of us saw blood,” remembered Masuo Tsuda, one of the original 442 nd soldiers and a member of E Company's Third Platoon. “We were green. All through training they brainwashed us. We thought we could lick our weight in wildcats, but we found out the Germans were good soldiers. We got overconfident and got our ass kicked.”

Enemy artillery took its toll at Hill 140 those first days of July 1944. The company commander was killed the first day of the battle; the tough little squad leader, Lefty Sugihara, was wounded and replaced by Tsuneo Takemoto (who later earned the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor). “Easy Company had a lot of heroes,” Mas recalled. The GIs learned to fear the German 88mm cannon more that any other weapon. When they were able to locate the 88s, U.S. artillery knocked them out - or at least made them move and interrupt their bombardment.

During one fierce artillery barrage, Mas peeked from his foxhole to see tall Col. James M. Hanley, the Second Battalion commander, standing nearby, coolly looking for the 88s. Under fire, “The Colonel would roll a cigarette and not drop a stitch,” Mas said.

He was in high school in 1942, when his entire family was uprooted from their Watsonville , California home and sent to the sprawling relocation camp in Poston , Arizona . Some camp internees worked under the relentless sun, clearing land and planting a few crops. Looking to cool off on hot days, teenagers sometimes stole watermelons from the fields. If the adults chased them, they threw the melons into an irrigation canal, allowing the current to carry the cool melons under the barbed wire and right into camp, where the boys were waiting for them.

Amid fighting in France , Mas landed in the hospital with severe frostbite. On admittance, he had no sooner removed his boots than the doctor returned with an order to send the walking wounded back to their units. Mas's frozen feet were too swollen to put his boots back on, and they would not make him march barefoot in the snow. He spent the next two months in the hospital. “It saved my life – I missed the Lost Battalion,” he said, referring to E Company's bloodiest battle.

After the war, Mas studied at night school on the GI Bill, became a landscape contractor and started his own landscaping company. His wife worked in the office while he worked outside. His buddies from the Third Platoon were equally busy and it was not until 1958 that they arranged their first reunion, held at Mas and Ann's home near San Francisco . The friends made up for lost time.

“Ten minutes after they got to our house we were out of beer,” Mas chuckled. “We went to the store and a half hour later we were out again.”

 

Masuo Tsuda

U.S. Army WWII

“Easy Company had a lot of heroes.”

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