Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Roy H. Matsumoto Interview
Narrator: Roy H. Matsumoto
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 17 & 18, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-mroy-01-0052

<Begin Segment 52>

TI: Well, I'm curious, men were being recruited to the MIS for their Japanese language skills, I'm curious, how many of the men actually lived and had education from Japan as part of the MIS group? I mean, approximately how many were...

RM: Well, probably one-third or maybe one-fourth, maybe one-third. That's rough guess but I actually didn't check to see so I don't know how many... but as far as, well, probably you could come to it, but, selective were, half were Kibeis and half were never been to Japan.

TI: Right, later on for the Merrill's Marauders we'll get to that. But I'm curious, so about a third to a fourth were educated in Japan --

RM: Right.

TI: -- and the others weren't. How was it between the two groups? I mean, how, what were the differences between --

RM: There were quite a bit. Only thing is the people who never been Japan were, well, probably they learn from the family folks, probably father or mother talkin' then, so, only thing they knew is just basic, just conversation and couldn't read or write so had to train from --

AI: I had a question about the, what some of the fellows learned who learned from their parents only. I heard that some of these young men, because they learned their Japanese from their mothers, that they were actually speaking using the female form of the language. Is that true?

RM: Well, some, well, of course they been corrected. They have to learn the standard Japanese first, then after that, later on, they teach military terms, but some, well, student may not, shouldn't be there, that... but they struggle, try to get out of camp so they did their best to be qualified, but so they're two categories, one was the wanna join the... and get out of camp, try to do, even though may not know enough, but try their best to get in there. Then the Kibeis, they already knew, so actually don't need the language training, even though language school. They should learn military terms or military procedure, connected with the language. The high school graduate already, they had ROTC so they know some military terms and what, like what to give a cross order drill, they could do that, see, or any form of orders or practice, and they been issued a field manual so they would know.

TI: Well, so for the men then that were, that had training from Japan in education, the MIS school was to essentially teach men how to do this already. So, for men like you, what was the training like? I mean, was it difficult, was it easy...

RM: I took it easy, but then you still have to write and take a test so... but to me, don't have to study because already knew. Whereas other people learned, didn't learn so have to try to remember and not only that, they have to remember how to write, not only how to pronounce certain character so they have to struggle and they didn't have enough time to study, so after lights-out, ten o'clock, they go to latrine in the cold, actually wintertime, of course, the summertime, too, but have to study, then come back to barrack and get in the bed under the blanket and use a flashlight. And some people do try to, they don't want to flunk out. If they do, they be shipped out to other combat unit instead of language school, so... but a few flunked out but most of 'em, they try to learn to pass the test. So they had to struggle. Whereas, like me, Kibeis, now, before in the camp or elsewhere, Kibei been looked down, but then now, Kibei, see, they're, what shall I say? Now look. [Laughs]

TI: Well, now because of your Japanese language skills --

RM: Japanese, then they're the one have to struggle so, but, I don't know other people, but to me the people in my team, they know, they're capable of doin' it, their duty because they already know military terms and school --

TI: Well, I'm curious, from your perspective, because you had advanced Japanese language skills already, how good was the instruction, from your perspective, in teaching Japanese language at the MIS school?

RM: Well, some were very, very good. Probably they had experience teaching. For instance, like a teacher named Mr. Munakata, and he was very good teacher. He know how to teach, and, but some of 'em may, they never had experience teaching and some Kibeis are much better than the instructor. But still, you have to take the courses, so do it, but they, I think, you know, hastily organized this so some, at the time, probably they're one of the best. But there's a lot of people, qualified people were in the camp and joined it. So some of volunteer, inductee, should be instructors. But, of course, that's, among we Kibeis talk that the way the teaching is, well, some people criticize, critical about it. But, well, you have to follow the orders.

<End Segment 52> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.