“We’ll Do It!”: Chicchetti, Reese, and Rodríguez (February 9, 1945)

The motto of the United States Army‘s 148th Infantry Regiment is “We’ll do it”. Seventy years ago today on February 9, 1945 as part of the 37th Infantry Division during the Battle of Manila in the Philippines, three soldiers of the regiment’s 1st Battalion did their duty above and beyond the normal call and received the Medal of Honor for their heroic deeds.

They were Privates First Class Joseph J. Cicchetti and John N. Reese, Jr., and Private Cleto Rodríguez. All three men were 21 years old.

Joseph J. Cicchetti was born on June 8, 1923 in Waynesburg, Ohio. He was drafted on March 22, 1943 and volunteered to evacuate and aid wounded men when the medics became overwhelmed. Even after receiving a head wound that would prove fatal, Private First Class Cicchetti picked up one last fallen comrade and carried him to safety.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (A-F):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*CICCHETTI, JOSEPH J.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company A, 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division. Place and date: South Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 9 February 1945. Entered service at: Waynesburg, Ohio. G.O. No.: 115, 8 December 1945

Citation: He was with troops assaulting the first important line of enemy defenses. The Japanese had converted the partially destroyed Manila Gas Works and adjacent buildings into a formidable system of mutually supporting strong points from which they were concentrating machine gun, mortar, and heavy artillery fire on the American forces. Casualties rapidly mounted, and the medical aid men, finding it increasingly difficult to evacuate the wounded, called for volunteer litter bearers. Pfc. Cicchetti immediately responded, organized a litter team and skillfully led it for more than 4 hours in rescuing 14 wounded men, constantly passing back and forth over a 400-yard route which was the impact area for a tremendous volume of the most intense enemy fire. On 1 return trip the path was blocked by machinegun fire, but Pfc. Cicchetti deliberately exposed himself to draw the automatic fire which he neutralized with his own rifle while ordering the rest of the team to rush past to safety with the wounded. While gallantly continuing his work, he noticed a group of wounded and helpless soldiers some distance away and ran to their rescue although the enemy fire had increased to new fury. As he approached the casualties, he was struck in the head by a shell fragment, but with complete disregard for his gaping wound he continued to his comrades, lifted 1 and carried him on his shoulders 50 yards to safety. He then collapsed and died. By his skilled leadership, indomitable will, and dauntless courage, Pfc. Cicchetti saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers at the cost of his own.

Cicchetti’s remains were returned to his hometown of Waynesburg and laid to rest in the Sandy Valley Cemetery.

Private First Class John Noah Reese, Jr. (born June 13, 1923 in Muskogee, Oklahoma; drafted December 18, 1942) and Private Cleto Rodríguez (born April 26, 1923 in San Marcos, Texas; enlisted 1944) teamed up and attacked on their own initiative trying to clear their platoon’s path ahead to the Paco Railway Station that was intensely defended by the Japanese enemy. They kept up their two-man assault until their ammunition was exhausted and they were forced to withdraw, during which Reese was killed.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*REESE, JOHN N., JR.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company B, 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division. Place and date: Paco Railroad Station, Manila, Philippine Islands. 9 February 1945. Entered service at: Pryor, Okla. G.O. No.: 89, 19 October 1945

Citation: He was engaged in the attack on the Paco Railroad Station, which was strongly defended by 300 determined enemy soldiers with machine guns and rifles, supported by several pillboxes, 3 20mm. guns, 1 37-mm. gun and heavy mortars. While making a frontal assault across an open field, his platoon was halted 100 yards from the station by intense enemy fire. On his own initiative he left the platoon. accompanied by a comrade, and continued forward to a house 60 yards from the objective. Although under constant enemy observation. the 2 men remained in this position for an hour, firing at targets of opportunity, killing more than 35 Japanese and wounding many more. Moving closer to the station and discovering a group of Japanese replacements attempting to reach pillboxes, they opened heavy fire, killed more than 40 and stopped all subsequent attempts to man the emplacements. Enemy fire became more intense as they advanced to within 20 yards of the station. From that point Pfc. Reese provided effective covering fire and courageously drew enemy fire to himself while his companion killed 7 Japanese and destroyed a 20-mm. gun and heavy machine gun with handgrenades. With their ammunition running low, the 2 men started to return to the American lines, alternately providing covering fire for each other as they withdrew. During this movement, Pfc. Reese was killed by enemy fire as he reloaded his rifle. The intrepid team, in 21/2 hours of fierce fighting, killed more than 82 Japanese, completely disorganized their defense and paved the way for subsequent complete defeat of the enemy at this strong point. By his gallant determination in the face of tremendous odds, aggressive fighting spirit, and extreme heroism at the cost of his life, Pfc. Reese materially aided the advance of our troops in Manila and providing a lasting inspiration to all those with whom he served.

Resse’s remains were returned to the United States and today rest in peace at the Fort Gibson National Cemetery in Oklahoma.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

RODRIGUEZ, CLETO

Rank and organization: Technical Sergeant (then Private), U.S. Army, Company B, 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division. Place and date: Paco Railroad Station, Manila, Philippine Islands, 9 February 1945. Entered service at: San Antonio, Tex. G.O. No.: 97, 1 November 1945

Citation: He was an automatic rifleman when his unit attacked the strongly defended Paco Railroad Station during the battle for Manila, Philippine Islands. While making a frontal assault across an open field, his platoon was halted 100 yards from the station by intense enemy fire. On his own initiative, he left the platoon, accompanied by a comrade, and continued forward to a house 60 yards from the objective. Although under constant enemy observation, the 2 men remained in this position for an hour, firing at targets of opportunity, killing more than 35 hostile soldiers and wounding many more. Moving closer to the station and discovering a group of Japanese replacements attempting to reach pillboxes, they opened heavy fire, killed more than 40 and stopped all subsequent attempts to man the emplacements. Enemy fire became more intense as they advanced to within 20 yards of the station. Then, covered by his companion, Pvt. Rodriguez boldly moved up to the building and threw 5 grenades through a doorway killing 7 Japanese, destroying a 20-mm. gun and wrecking a heavy machinegun. With their ammunition running low, the 2 men started to return to the American lines, alternately providing covering fire for each other’s withdrawal. During this movement, Pvt. Rodriguez’ companion was killed. In 2 l/2 hours of fierce fighting the intrepid team killed more than 82 Japanese, completely disorganized their defense, and paved the way for the subsequent overwhelming defeat of the enemy at this strongpoint. Two days later, Pvt. Rodriguez again enabled his comrades to advance when he single-handedly killed 6 Japanese and destroyed a well-placed 20-mm. gun by his outstanding skill with his weapons, gallant determination to destroy the enemy, and heroic courage in the face of tremendous odds, Pvt. Rodriguez, on 2 occasions, materially aided the advance of our troops in Manila.

Rodríguez survived the war and left the Army later in 1945. He returned to his nation’s service in the United States Air Force from 1952 to 1954, and then returned to the Army in 1955. He retired as a Master Sergeant in 1970. Rodríguez passed away at age 67 on December 7, 1990 and was laid to rest in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas.

1st Battalion, 148th Infantry is presently part of the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Army National Guard. The battalion is comprised of guardsmen predominately from northwest Ohio.

Share

One thought on ““We’ll Do It!”: Chicchetti, Reese, and Rodríguez (February 9, 1945)”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *