Pfc. Hugo Filizetti was an “expert marksman” in World War II. That was his undoing.
He served in E-Company, 160th Regiment, 40th Infantry Division, a California National Guard unit, in the Second World War. He saw extensive action in the Pacific.
“Because I was an ‘expert marksman’ I was in almost every battle,” the 84-year-old former soldier said. “After mopping up at Guadalcanal, we were sent to a staging area in New Guinea.
“On Christmas Day 1944 we landed in New Britain and took over for the Marines. When the Japanese originally captured the island, the cattle that were there ran wild. I was assigned as part of a detail to go out and shoot cattle for food.
“On Jan. 9, 1945, I was at Lingane Gulf in the Philippines when Gen. (Douglas) MacArthur waded ashore with the president of the Philippines. I had come down to the beach to see him. I was standing 10 feet away from the general when he came ashore.
“He was a distinguished looking man with his corncob pipe. I liked MacArthur. If I had to go back to war, I’d like to go back to war under him. He was wonderful,” Filizetti said.
The 40th Division was one of the Allied units that established a beachhead in the Philippines. They were met at the water’s edge by Filipinos who gave them sodas. The natives were holding American flags.
It was an easy landing for the 40th, but waiting a half-dozen miles inland was the enemy in substantial numbers. For the rest of the war, Filizetti and his buddies fought through jungles, over mountains and through rice paddies, taking the Philippines away from an entrenched Japanese army.
“On Feb. 1, 1945, I was on watch that night with my Tommy gun and my rosary. All of a sudden I could see someone coming down this trail, and he was talking to me in Japanese,” Filizetti recalled. “I was in my foxhole and my six buddies were sleeping in a trench behind me.
“It just so happened there was a Japanese machine gun in the hole next to me. Obviously, the Japanese doing the talking spotted the machine gun and thought they still controlled the hill we were on.
“I picked up the machine gun, pointed it toward him and pulled the trigger, but it didn’t fire. Then I picked up my Tommy gun and accidentally hit the clip lever and it fell out, so I threw it at him,” Filizetti said. “He kept coming so I threw a grenade at him, but I didn’t pull the pin because my buddy was nearby sleeping and he would have been killed. He ducked.
“The Japanese had a pistol tied to his side, but he couldn’t get it out, thank God. Then all of a sudden he was standing over me hitting me with his rice bucket. I was down in the foxhole and he seemed to be getting the best of me with his bucket.
“He was a little guy and I was hanging on to his shirt and beating on him while yelling for help. Kip Kittering heard me yelling, grabbed his M-1 and fired a shot at him. I was still hanging onto him by his shirt when he dropped.”
The next morning Filizetti and several of his buddies went to a nearby creek to take a bath. While there, they heard a couple of other soldiers talking about this American who had gotten into a fistfight with a Japanese soldier.
“‘Did you hear about the American who got in a hell of a fight with a (Japanese soldier)?’ one dogface asked another. “The American got two black eyes, his head is cut and his face is all puffed up.”
Kip, who went down to the creek with Filizetti, could stand it no longer. He turned to the soldier doing all the talking and said, “You want to meet the guy who had the fistfight this morning with the Japanese? He’s the guy over there taking a bath in the creek.”
Filizetti said the soldier glanced over at him. “‘You don’t look that bad,’ he said.
“‘I’m lucky to be alive,’ I told him.”
MacArthur issued an order that three men from each company would be selected to take part in a victory parade in Manila even though Allied forces hadn’t taken control of the Philippine capital yet.
Filizetti was selected as one of those to parade. At the last minute he had to remain on the front line for some reason.
“That was bad luck. I’ll never forget that as long as I live,” he said as he sat at his dining room table. “I knew right then I was going to get it.
“I was walking point in the lead company as we went up this hill when this Japanese popped out of a spider hole and fired two shots at me. He hit me in the back and through my arm. I dropped right there.
“Kip killed the Japanese in the hole. He had saved my life twice that day,” the former soldier said. “My shoes were full of blood from the wounds in my back. They gave me morphine and put me on a stretcher.”
A few days later he was back at a field hospital in Leyte recovering. Unfortunately, gangrene developed in his wounded arm. While lying in the hospital a doctor told him he might lose his arm if his condition didn’t improve.
“There was a kid behind me who had already been told he was going to lose his left leg. That morning they decided to operate on me, too,” he said. “I was sleeping when the nurse came in to get me. So they took the kid behind me first. When she came back to get me for my operation the gangrene in my arm had stopped.
“It was a miracle. If they had taken me first at 5 a.m., I would have lost my arm.”
Filizetti spent the next 13 months in the hospital recovering from his war wounds. He returned to the Michigan iron ore mine where he had worked before the war. However, he found he could no longer do down in the mine because of his injuries.
He got a job working for the local school system in the maintenance department. Eventually he became head of the department and continued working there until 1977 when he retired.
He spends part of the year in Cleveland, just east of Punta Gorda, Fla. The rest of the year he spends on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Pfc. Hugo Filizetti of Cleveland received the following commendations for serving in the 40th Infantry Division during World War II: The Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with two bronze campaign stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one bronze star, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Theater Ribbon and an Expert Rifleman Medal.
Hugo A. Filizetti
November 1, 2011
The Mining Journal
GWINN, Mich. – Hugo A. Filizetti, 89, of 99 N. Mitchell St., Gwinn, died on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011 at the Mill Creek Assisted Living Facility.
Hugo was born in Princeton on Dec. 22, 1921 and was a World War II veteran and the recipient of the Purple Heart. He served with E Company, 160th Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division. He was employed by the Gwinn Schools for 28 years. He and his late wife Jemma, opened and operated Jemma’s Sub shop for several years. He was a member of the Lions Club for fifty-five years. He never missed a single meeting during those years.
He served as Forsyth Township Supervisor, Justice of the Peace, a Volunteer Fireman for over 20 years,and a lifelong member of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. Hugo spent his winters in Punta Gorda, Fla. Many people and family members followed him to Punta Gorda and now the subdivision he lived in is nicknamed “Filizettiville”.
He lived life to the fullest every day, always remembered where he came from, and thanked God everyday for giving him a good life.
He leaves his family, Christine (Ted) Sudinsky, Bernadette (Jeffrey) Jensen, Gary (Darla) Filizetti. Grandchildren, Todd Jensen, Troy Jensen, Stacy Zanetti, and Melissa Allie, brothers Geno and Peter Filizetti, great grandchildren: Jordan, Alissa, Kailey ,Sierra Jensen, Isabella Zanetti, Megan, Madalyn and Michael Allie, and many, many nieces and nephews.
Hugo was preceeded in death by his wife, Jemma; his brothers John, Bruno, Reno, and two sisters; Mary (Ghiringhelli), Angie (Herbert) and son-in-law, Jeffrey Jensen.
Hugo has asked that in lieu of any flowers or gifts, please make donations to the Gwinn Fire Dept. for the purchase of needed equipment.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 AM on Saturday at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Gwinn with Rev. John J. Boyle officiating. Interment will be in the Gwinn Cemetery.
Condolences may be expressed online at http://www.koskeyfuneralhome.com.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Sunday, March 26, 2006 and is republished with permission.
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