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

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Alright, so today is December 17, 2003. We're here in Seattle at the Densho office with Mr. Roy Matsumoto. And I'm Alice Ito, and Tom Ikeda, also from Densho are interviewing, Dana Hoshide on videography. So thanks very much, Mr. Matsumoto. This is --

RM: Doitashimashite.

AI: Great to have you here. And we just want to start with your family background. And the first question I wanted to ask was your paternal grandfather's name, and where he came from in Japan.

RM: My grandfather's name was Wakamatsu Matsumoto and came from a place called Jigozen, right now it's the city of Hatsukaichi, nearby the city of Hiroshima in Hiroshima-ken.

AI: And what, how did he make a living in Japan? What was his family doing at that time?

RM: Well, his family was half farmer and half fishermen. And right there is the, lot of hilly places and not many arable place, so after crop is done, see, nothing else to do so they have to go to the inland sea, fishing to support themselves.

AI: And, excuse me, and what was your paternal grandmother's name?

RM: Haru Matsumoto, well, her maiden name was Motoyama, Motoyama clan, because the big family there.

AI: Well, you told us in our earlier discussion that your grandfather immigrated to Hawaii very early. And could you tell a little bit about why he went to Hawaii?

RM: Well, it so happened that my grandfather was the youngest son of the family. And I don't know how many the brother and sister that he had, but, only things that he do is help elder brother. Because in the Japanese custom, the elder brother inherit everything, including the debts, farm or house, everything. So the younger brother and sister, you see, they don't have anything. So naturally, in order to support themselves, have to find a job outside of family. And then, so happened at the time, the Japanese government solicit the contract laborer, going to Hawaii and work for pineapple field or sugar cane field to harvest sugar cane. And so my grandfather evidently applied for that.

AI: And I think you told us that he went to Hawaii about 1890?

RM: No, before that --

AI: No?

RM: -- I checked his... my nephew just sent me the book about my mother and other family members and mentioned that, that was 1888, so almost '90, but '87 or '8, I presume.

AI: And then --

RM: When he was about twenty years old. He married young and married my grandmother and went to Hawaii and, most likely Kauai first because my uncle was born there and says Kauai, that means probably sugar cane factory, I mean, the field in Hawaii.

AI: So, your, your grandfather and your grandmother both went to Hawaii?

RM: Hawaii, yes. Together.

AI: And, and your oldest uncle was born there in Kauai?

RM: Oldest uncle, and then also my auntie, too. Then, when my grandfather's contract was over he let his wife and his son and daughter go back to Japan. Then he, himself, came to Seattle, I understand. Then, then went down south to Southern California and start farming. Then, he know how to farm because his family was a farmer.

AI: Well, and so then, at some point he decided to call over your father --

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: -- from Japan?

RM: Yes.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: And I think you mentioned that your father immigrated to the United States about 1910?

RM: Uh... before that. See... well, I figure that he might have stayed in Hawaii maybe five or six year. I don't know how the term of the contract was, but he went to California around 1900, so it must be about --

AI: Your grandfather.

RM: Yes. Father probably went there, maybe, 1907, '08, something like that. And my mother came to United States 1911 or something like that. Because about... let's see... my father and mother's five years different, so...

AI: And excuse me, what's your father's name?

RM: Wakaji Matsumoto, and people call him George, George Wakaji, everybody said, called him George because they hard to remember Japanese names.

AI: And your mother's name?

RM: Mother's name Tei.

AI: And please tell me a little bit about your mother's family, your maternal grandfather and maternal grandmother. What was your maternal grandfather's name?

RM: Shinjiro Kimura. And he happened to be the family of samurai and he was a kendo instructor, fencing instructor for Lord Asano. That was before 1900, so still, let's see... I have a figure in somewhere but I could tell exactly what day it was. But anyway, my mother happened to be the youngest girl in the family so he must have been pretty old. But unfortunately I never had a privilege of meeting him, but, however, I met my maternal grandmother and she told me about that.

AI: And what was your maternal grandmother's name?

RM: Tomi. And she was the nicest person I'd ever met.

AI: Well, that --

RM: Probably I'm coming into, but compared to my paternal grandmother, but...

AI: Well, we will get to that in --

RM: Yeah, get to that.

AI: -- in a little while. But before we get there, I wanted to get back to your, your father and your mother marrying. Do you happen to know how their marriage was arranged?

RM: Grandfather and mother?

AI: No. Your mother and father.

RM: My mother and father? Well, my mother's elder brother, Mr. Koichi Kimura, happened to be a classmate of my father, Wakaji Matsumoto, and also second cousin. So they knew each other. And so my... well, my father is five years older than my mother. So my mother... it's the same village, well, about two or three miles away, but when he go to the town, she said, my mother -- I mean, my mother says my father always studying. And so they knew each other so they didn't... my daughter mentioned that my mother was a picture bride, but just a formality. They knew each other and relative, so, very easy 'cause --

AI: That's right.

RM: -- she came to, yes, the United States.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: Well, and so now, when were you born? What's your birth --

RM: I was born in 1913.

AI: And what was your birthdate?

RM: May 1st.

AI: 1913. And where was it that you were born?

RM: Place called Laguna, that's the outskirts of Los Angeles, city of Los Angeles, but in Los Angeles County.

AI: Well, is... I wanted to ask about that. Is that anywhere near the Laguna Beach area?

RM: No.

AI: That's farther south.

RM: Laguna Beach is by the ocean.

AI: Right.

RM: But this is in, in the town itself. And Laguna is a common name in the Spanish name, means pond or lake or...

AI: So, in those days, the Laguna area was a rural area, then?

RM: Rural area, yes.

AI: And --

RM: And the address was RFD, Rural Free Delivery, Los Angeles. So that was a farming area then, at the time.

AI: Well, now, when you were born, what name was given to you at birth?

RM: Hiroshi Matsumoto.

AI: And then the "Roy" came from your --

RM: Yeah, "Roy" came when I went to school and the teacher, hard so she says, "Go by Roy." But I mean, I didn't know how come, but Hiroshi means Hiroi so I explain to other people, Hiroi, or Roy is better and they could remember a common name. But actually, it, well, they, kid time, they call all different names, but anyway --

AI: But at home you were, at home you were called Hiroshi?

RM: At home I was called Hiroshi. Everybody, even the Japanese call me Hiroshi.

AI: And you were the first child of your parents, is that right?

RM: Yes, I'm the first one, then I have other brothers.

AI: Well, in fact, can you tell me the, your other brothers and sisters that came after you, their names?

RM: After me went Takeshi is the second and Noboru and...

AI: Oh, Tsutomu, who used to be called Tom?

RM: Tom, yes.

AI: Tsutomu?

RM: He's now Tom and everybody call him Tom. And... Noboru, then sister, Haruye, then a brother Isao, and the youngest one, a sister, is Shizuye.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: And you mentioned that your family was farming there.

RM: Yes.

AI: So were you living all together with your paternal grandfather --

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: -- your father, and mother, and then maybe you could describe what your house looked like there.

RM: Well, I have a picture there, about a four-room house. But not too many were in the house because my younger brother weren't born when I was there, when my grandfather was there, but he left for Japan, and, to retire in, at a young age. He retired about fifty because...

AI: Well, excuse me, but when you were very young, do you remember just speaking Japanese at home? Did you speak any English at home before you went to school?

RM: Well, the nouns, you know, the English word. But I think it was the Japanese because I wasn't aware of what I was speaking, but I know family spoke Japanese and oh, of course, a common name was "bread" and "butter," "bacon," these things in English but as far as speech goes, it was the Japanese.

AI: So, when you started grammar school, then, what grammar school did you go to?

RM: Fruitland Grammar School across the Los Angeles River, in Los Angeles County.

AI: Do you remember having any difficulty there because Japanese was your main language?

RM: Well, it started with the small first-grader, so with the neighbor kids, some spoke English, so I understand, just didn't use it, just hearing. So I didn't have much difficulty, I don't think, because now I called it, we had some play... but I don't remember using the English or, I don't think... I know it was not Japanese, though. I think I understood that.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: I wanted to ask you, then you mentioned that you did play with some neighborhood kids. Who were some of those neighbor kids, were they other Japanese kids?

RM: Well, Mexican farm workers, farm hand was helping my family there, and I don't know what the acreage was, but pretty big, 'cause some Japanese came from Japan, learned the farming. Well, most of 'em farmers, so they knew already, but different way of doing it here in the stateside.

AI: Well, would you tell me a little bit about that? Because you mentioned in our earlier discussion that sometimes your grandfather would help other Issei immigrating from the area.

RM: Yes, because he was, about first people left from the village, so therefore he's more or less the elder and people hear that he was doing alright so they decided to come but they didn't know where to go. So naturally, "Is it all right to come to his place?" then he says, "Sure, welcome," because he need a hand and so they worked for him to learn things and they get the room and board and when you got experience, he want to do his own, let him go. You know, he doesn't abuse his helper. So that's why he was pretty well-respected. So I had good treatment from other relatives because he was always mention that he's the grandson of Mr. Matsumoto, Wakamatsu -- not my father, but grandfather. And grandfather is like a godfather to everybody there, and especially from, people from Hiroshima. And, even though other village, neighbor village, knew my grandfather reputation.

AI: So he, it sounds like he helped many people.

RM: Many people, he did.

AI: Some were relatives and some were just --

RM: Yeah, relatives, and well, the village, at the time I went there, about five hundred people there, then half of 'em related somehow by in-laws, so forth. And so everybody knew, yes, each other.

AI: I do want to ask you a little bit more about the village, just in a little while, but before we get there I wanted to ask a little bit more about your early childhood in the Los Angeles area. And when you, you mentioned that you had played with some of the Mexican kids there.

RM: Kids, yes, neighbors.

AI: And I was wondering what language did you speak together?

RM: Well, half Spanish and half English, and I don't realize, but still, well, we were playing, so must have some kind of conversation, but they invited me and then they make pork rind, that's fried. I like those, they make a tortillas and they treated me nice because my father was -- not my father, I mean, my grandfather was nice at the time, when I was small. Later on it didn't have much, but then I had to start school, so different way, but...

AI: Well, in fact, at school, did you have also... were some of the Mexican kids going to school and other Japanese kids?

RM: Yeah, very few went there, very few, most of 'em are -- see, because the Fruitland, around there is a residential district and most of 'em Caucasian and...

AI: So mostly Caucasian kids at your school?

RM: And a few Japanese. So the Japanese was neighborhood, my, my neighborhood.

AI: Other farming families?

RM: Yeah, other farmer and some of 'em were just contractor, negotiate, such as hay ranch owner, then lease it because the Japanese were, weren't able to buy properties at the time.

AI: Right.

RM: Later on, they could buy in the name of Nisei, the second, American citizenship then they could buy. So some people did that if they had the money. But most of the people leased that.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: So, in fact, your grandfather was leasing land, is that right?

RM: Leasing land, yes.

AI: And what were some of his main crops that he was farming?

RM: Main crop, well, oh, let's see, the just truck farm, so lettuce, onion and cabbage and cauliflowers and celery and, well, all different... tomatoes.

AI: And did you, did you do some work around the farm, or...

RM: No, I didn't. Too small. I went down there, then, like a pick watermelon or something like that -- [laughs] -- and smash and eat with the kids, neighbor, do that, and the tomato, ripe one, and corn... well, didn't think of it but we had a good time when come to think of it.

AI: So you had some fun on the farm?

RM: Yes, some fun on the farm and playing with all the boys and the girls and go down the hay ranch and rolled around in the hay, and go to barn and jump on the haystack and things like that. We had a pretty good time there because people be nice to us and, at the time -- and didn't feel any discrimination or things like that.

AI: And I wanted to ask you about that. When you were in first grade, second grade, third grade, did you feel any prejudice because you were a Japanese American?

RM: No, I didn't. Maybe didn't realize. May have been, but we didn't... the schoolteacher was nice and I think it was... I don't think of anything, just the normal, to me, 'cause everybody treat me nice, so --

AI: Well, and, of course, you were --

RM: -- I wasn't sad any way. But anyway... and my, my uncle was nice to me. He came to Grandfather's place and stayed there until my grandfather retired, went to Japan. Then he came, my uncle came to Los Angeles and became a auto mechanic, A-1 garage there. And he was nice to me. And he always been nice until he died at age of ninety-five.

AI: Yeah, a long life.

RM: So I been very fortunate. People treated me nice.

AI: Well, I wanted to ask you, in the second grade, or third grade, of course, you're still a young child then, but did you have any sense of, that you were an American kid like the other kids in school? You said they were mainly Caucasian and they were probably white American kids. Did you think of yourself as American, as an American, even when you were little?

RM: Well, I, I didn't realize, because I didn't feel any discrimination or anything, just ordinary kid, so we played with Caucasian kids, also Mexican kids. And to me, everybody's the same at the time, yes.

AI: Right.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: Well, and now, you had mentioned that your grandfather did quite well in farming and that he was able to retire early.

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: So, and in fact I think you showed us a picture earlier that your grandfather and your parents, of course, that you had a car, and a truck, which at the time was unusual. Not many families could --

RM: Well, maybe unusual because a lot of people just came from Japan. They didn't have money and probably they would like to have, but just financially impossible. But fortunately, my father, later on find out, but he didn't come to my father's -- grandfather's place right away. He went to town and became a schoolboy and learned English, see. And also, I, later on I found out he was self-made because he studied in the correspondence course, then that's why he learned everything, so he was very proficient in speaking in English, Japanese. Then he must've been pretty good because he was chairman of the kenjinkai, the board, like board of governors. And he was the kanji, kanji they called, that is, he was chairman of the board.

AI: Your father?

RM: Hiroshima Kenjinkai. And Hiroshima Kenjinkai big, and picnic. And he always... he didn't play because he was small like me and, but baseball, he was umpire all the time.

AI: Oh, so, so when you were a young child then, did you go to many of these kenjinkai picnics and get-togethers?

RM: No, they don't have... well, summertime they have kenjinkai picnic. And also we got a lotta people appreciative to what my grandfather did, and so my father benefited that, too, invite us in certain occasion, you know, Bon Odori or something like that, it's a festival. And I was pretty well-treated, not only when a child but after came back from Japan they treated nice.

AI: Well --

RM: But unfortunately, at the time, the Depression started, see. So they had a hard time.

AI: Well, I wanted to, I wanted to ask, then, about one of the big changes in your life happened when your grandfather decided to retire and move back to Japan.

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: And you were still a young child then, maybe in first grade or second grade when he moved back to Japan?

RM: Well, I was younger than that, probably I was five years old, I suppose. But I always remember good things. He was always nice to me and so I missed him, he go to Japan to retire. But early he retired because he made -- well, reason is his wife, is, you know, my grandmother in Japan and so he want to go back there. So he went there, then I missed him.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: And then something happened then when, I think it was after you had been in the third grade. And I guess some of your other relatives were planning to go to Japan?

RM: Well, this --

AI: To visit your great-uncle?

RM: My, my grandfather had a younger brother. But his mother remarried after my great-grandfather passed away, I think, and then went to Yamaguchi prefecture, that's south of Hiroshima, and then married Mr. Muranaka is his name. And he worked for my grandfather and helped him learn trade. And he decided to visit his home in Yamaguchi and going to Hiroshima so asked me whether I want to visit with my grandfather. So I thought summertime vacation so I said, "I agree," with my other Takeshi brother. And they went there, then almost the summer, end of vacation over and he say, great-uncle stop by and, "Sayonara." He says he's gonna go back. So, "How about us," you know? [Laughs] "No, you're not gonna go back. You stay here." That was a big disappointment because I won't be able to... that's the way I end up in staying there.

TI: But during this time, as your great-uncle was going to Japan, what was your father doing in terms of a job at that point?

RM: Well, Father was, he didn't go in the field but he took the produce to Seven -- Ninth Street Market in Los Angeles. First, they using a wagon and a team of horses, they took him to the wholesale market. And then he do the bookkeeping, things like that, but he never worked in the farm. In the meantime, his hobby was photography. That's why he took some of those pictures. Then as soon as my grandfather left, he went down to San Diego and went to school and learned photography with the camera. So he became a professional photographer. At the same time, he didn't do any farm work but my mother the one that took care of the farm, and also he had a, some relatives helping. And the thing, what next to plant, he asked a seed man or fertilizer people come down, then they advise, what's grow in that sandy soil there. [Laughs] And anyway, so we had a irrigation ditch, and water, turn a hay ranch into farming truck farm areas.

TI: So when you say your mother took care of the farm, what does that mean? I mean, what kind of things did she have to do?

RM: Well, she did, well, of course, the house watcher and have to cook. He have to cook for the people, Japanese people working for her and also manage and see, so that, you know, need to see, well, need... take weeds out or somethin' like that. He, she, she was the boss to say and she learned from my grandfather. Because she was not the farm lady, 'cause family was, see, working for the Lord Asano, so family is not the farmer, but my father's side was farmers. So she learned that and she was very efficient and she man-, not only managed but she paid workers and she did everything, only she, so she was a hard-working lady, my mother. And...

AI: Well --

RM: She just passed away a few years ago at the age of 102.

AI: That's a very long life.

RM: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: Well, I wanted to ask, you mentioned just a little while ago, that, about you and Takeshi going to Japan, you thought to visit your grandfather... well, what do you remember about the trip? Do you recall anything about being on the ship, what that journey was like?

RM: Well, I never seen the ocean -- well, I mean, I been to beach, but I was surprised. You know how the ocean big. Then saw a flying fish jumping, and whale shows up and things like that, or... right now, ocean, then see porpoise going around there or... so, I enjoyed that because gonna go to vacation, see, I thought.

AI: It must have been an exciting --

RM: So, I didn't think of anything else. I just enjoyed the trip until get there.

AI: And so, when you got to Japan, then how did you travel to the village? Did you take a train, or...

RM: Yes, first, first, I don't know exactly what port it was. I think it was Yokohama. And got on the train because my great-uncle took care of everything, so, just to follow there, then all of a sudden come to, got on the train and get off the station. Then he's the one took me to Grandfather, introduced to me. And I never saw my grandmother before. And that was a nice, nice visit because I met my grandfather there, and...

AI: Well, what did their home look like? Was it, it must've been very different from your home in California?

RM: Oh yes, very much different because this house been pretty well-built because I think rich people built one and my grandfather had money when he went back and bought the house, so it was a nice house. Of course, by now, it's pretty old, close to a hundred years old, but at the time this was... let's say about, well, eighty is before it, so, at the time a pretty good house. So still, well, of course old now, but...

AI: Can you recall what it looked like or what the land around your home looked like, your grandfather's home?

RM: Well, entirely different because I live in the farm here, then went down -- this is the town like a residential district and the streets were very narrow and close together and lot of people. And fortunately, the school was half a block away so we stayed home and when the bell rang, just go to school. That was nice.

AI: Well, before we get to your, talking about your school days there, I wanted to ask, who else was living in your grandfather's house there with you?

RM: Just grandfather and grandmother.

AI: And you and Takeshi?

RM: And me and my brother.

AI: Well, and then you said that you were quite disappointed when you found out that you were not going back home to California at the end of the summer.

RM: Yes, I got homesick then. I think I cried, but... it was very sad. Then, so we played to forget this and then made a friend there. Well, have to, gave up the old because I couldn't do anything.

AI: Right, so your grandparents --

RM: And then I played my brother, then he liked to play... then when he was young I took care of him. But then he get a little older, he talk back to me. And he want to play Japanese chess. So, of course, I'm elder, older, then I knew how to do it so let him win sometimes, but sometime by mistake I win, then he got mad, then started to cry and threw -- [laughs] -- well, anyway...

AI: So sometimes you would fight.

RM: Yeah.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: Well, I wanted to ask also when you started school there in the village, you said the school was only about a half-block away --

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: What are some of your memories?

RM: Less than a half-block.

AI: What are some of your memories from starting school there? Because now you had been, you knew Japanese, how to speak it, but what about reading and writing, did you have trouble catching up?

RM: Well, the first grade, so they teach it, see. I started from first grade. So I'm, one of the older, but so happened that Hiroshima, especially that town, a lotta immigrant came to United States. So we see -- I didn't realize but went there, then lotta people told me, "I was born in United States." So lotta kids, about one-third of 'em, they're either from Hawaii or California or Oregon or Washington, most of 'em Southern California because that village... see, my grandfather called in so their kids, much, most of 'em younger than me, but... so then we talked to each other, and then start from the bottom, so it wasn't too hard. At first, of course, I didn't even know -- of course, lot of kids don't know anything about until start school, see.

AI: So you weren't really behind.

RM: No, not behind. And my grandfather taught me, see, him and obaachan. And it was the summertime, so no school. So first time got there we went fishing. Then he's the one taught me this storyteller, he was a story -- and that's why I learned quite a bit, so...

AI: So when you --

RM: I don't, I don't want, see, if I say it's so it would be like bragging, but I knew quite a bit. I mean, I just keep quiet so people don't know but as far as Japanese knowledge goes, he taught me lot of things and...

AI: So --

RM: My, my wife is a college graduate but I knew more than her in Japanese, like geography, I know exactly where the ken is from the Hokkaido to Okinawa. I know every one of 'em, about fifty of 'em, see... anyway...

AI: Well, before we, before we get into that, I wanted to ask more about your childhood in Japan. And so the schoolwork, it sounds like the schoolwork was not that hard for you?

RM: No.

AI: But you mentioned that up to a third of the kids in that village were either born in Hawaii or the U.S. or they lived in the U.S. for a while before coming to Japan. But also, in our earlier conversation, you mentioned that some of the kids also were very mean to you because you came from the United States. What kind of things would the other kids say to you?

RM: Well, I don't know what other people felt, but probably the same because they looked down on because we talk so many way, and because they mixed English words and so looked down on us, or some of the thing like a custom we don't know, 'cause came from the United States. So the thing that upset me was they keep telling me this "dumb immigrants," you know, kids. So...

AI: And in Japanese what would they be saying? In Japanese --

RM: Imin no ko. "Imin" is "immigrant," "no ko" means "kid." Says oh, kind of thing, just bakayaro or whatever they tell, profanity they use and that upset me. Later on, it get to know, then learn as you go then you get to know the custom and things like that, then some of 'em pretty friendly, so associate with them.

AI: But at the time, it sounds like it was, it was very hurtful, that they --

RM: Yeah, well, to me it was hurtful. The reason was that somehow... well, I think my grand-, maternal -- paternal grandmother loved me, I suppose, but they're very strict and always I been scold and only the word I hear is, "Go to Kimura," that is my maternal grandmother's place.

AI: And so, so then sometimes you would then live with your maternal grandmother?

RM: Yes, sometimes it did and then it cool off and then they say okay to come back. But in the meantime, I was sent there, then the bad thing is wintertime, cold place, you gotta walk and sometimes is snow, and --

AI: And your maternal, maternal grandmother's house was farther away from your --

RM: Farther walk, about two miles away, I figure. I didn't know how far it was but to me it's very far at the time, when I was kid. But now, so we have a car to go there and get there in a few minutes, so, five minutes probably.

TI: So, Roy, when you were arguing with your brother Takeshi, and then your paternal grandmother broke it up and sent you --

RM: Yeah.

TI: -- did she ever send Takeshi to your maternal grandmother?

RM: No, no. He was the pet because he was younger than me. And I didn't know why I shouldn't but that's her, I think, trait, trait I think, I don't know, habit of doing that. I don't know whether she did to other people or not. But I know did later on, I know she's partial to some of my sister and brothers, some were favored and some were, always got scold. At the time only my brother and I, but I was the one always get blamed and... but I was too young. I didn't, it didn't, should behave, like should but I just, my type was... then I would get mad, too, because if he want to play, I says, "Okay, play," then if he lose he get mad, then he start to cry and then my grandmother hear that, then she tell me, "Go to Kimuras.'"

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Well, another thing that you mentioned in our earlier conversations, when, there was one time when one of the boys called you a name and you lost your temper.

RM: Yeah.

TI: Can you tell us about what happened?

RM: Oh... see, we had a lot of friend and play basketball or tennis or baseball. And so happened at the time we been playing baseball, and I don't know what I did but probably I made a mistake, then he told me the same thing, "this dumb kid," you know, "this immigrant kid." He happened to be the one, Japan-born kid. And his name was Tanaka Shizuo, or Tanaka. Tanaka is the last name and happened to be my best friend's cousin. And he was born and the cousin is Hiroshi Nagamoto from Oakland, California, but he was in my class, and this boy happened to be his cousin. And I don't know whether intentionally -- well, I realize, but I swung the bat and hit his head and this boy was unconscious for two days and I thought I killed him. And, well, he came to it, but almost killed him. I don't know how hard I hit him, but anyway, I had the bat and so now on I thought -- that was when I was small kid, probably maybe twelve years old, eleven, I don't know, but anyway, I almost killed him. So I decided, even at the young age, decided I gonna hold my temper. So I gonna count ten before... so my type, I always get upset and a short fuse. But that's why people couldn't figure (me) out. But I always quiet then, take it, see, then count ten, then calm down and see, 'cause that always, if I killed him probably I don't know what happen but it almost killed, so that's, I learned a lesson, temper. So a lot of people make me mad but still, at this age, I'm old guy, up to ninety years old, still I hold that. So that's why I just take it.

TI: I'm curious, if your, your grandfather, your paternal grandfather, after that incident, ever had any words with you in terms of advice or wisdom about that incident?

RM: Well, grandfather, well, that told me that, that's why, to count ten and don't do it anymore but fortunately he survived. So, then he became a good friend after that. He said he was wrong, he shouldn't say that, "dumb kid." But I wasn't dumb but I play dumb, but actually I was pretty smart and I had a pretty good memory at that time. Anything I learned... and also I studied to go home. I want to catch up with, see, then I surpassed everybody else, I think. And my kid brother was very smart, too.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: I wanted to ask about school in Japan, because school in Japan is divided up differently than in the United States. After your grammar school, or what do you call that, grammar school in Japan?

RM: Shogakko.

AI: Shogakko?

RM: Shogakko.

AI: And then after shogakko, then you have...

RM: Chugakko.

AI: Chugakko.

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: And so, then when you moved into chugakko, that would be kind of a combination of a middle school and then continuing into some high school.

RM: High school, yes, well, they had a different system than we have here. So actually they call middle school is high school right now. They change the name. Now they call -- I went to, the book says Shudo Middle School. Now, I went to see -- last time I visit Hiroshima -- went to see the school there but the sign says high school, so they change it to middle school to high school. But they, even though they call middle school, but it was actually a combination of junior high school and high school.

AI: That's right. So, so when you were attending chugakko, then what kinds of subjects did you study?

RM: Well, the compulsory, then everything else from language to mathematic, history, and they teach everything, little bit each, so doesn't specify in, I mean, specialize in a certain... United States you could choose your subject other than required subject. And you mentioned about United States history but they call U.S.G, United States Government and History, that's a required subject, then since I went to Japanese school I didn't learn American history. So when I got in there, I didn't go to... so, because I was in junior high school, went to junior instead of -- I mean, not junior, it was a sophomore and skipped this freshman. So I have to learn two, and then I didn't realize there was a require so you have to, in order to graduate you have to study, take U.S.G.

AI: Oh, well, that was later when you --

RM: Later, yes.

AI: -- returned to the United States, but before that, while you're still in Japan, as I understand it, in chugakko all the boys are required to take a military training, also?

RM: Yes, a military training, junior ROTC, the equivalent. So, you have to learn everything. And they have a field manual so study, then if you're behind you could miss it, you could study that and learn that so after graduate you could become, well, like a reserve officer, you could become a Japanese after... high school graduate, you know. Then if you go to college also they have ROTC, too, and every college Japan. See, right here some college don't have ROTC, but in Japan, at the time. Now they don't have it, but at the time they had it there so that's required subject you have to take it. That's why I learned, later on the things came in handy, but...

AI: So, I, so in Japan, every boy who attended chugakko would learn all these military phrases --

RM: Yes.

AI: -- and practices...

RM: Yes, then military terms, learn this...

AI: And all the boys knew that?

RM: All the boys do it.

AI: Well, so as you were getting this military training with all the other boys, did, did the other boys still consider you different and call you "immigrant" and...

RM: No, not after high school they understand so they, they didn't say it. But what I'm talkin' about is elementary school things, see.

AI: So in chugakko, in chugakko they treated you just like any other --

RM: Yeah, it's all -- since the one able to get in there is, well, don't see any difference because ordinary Japanese they figure because capable and understanding everything, 'cause learn at the grammar school, elementary school there so there's a few foreign-born, American or Canada. Only time this shows up is English class.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: So you had English class in chugakko?

RM: Yes, English class, too, but the couple times a week or something like -- they don't cram down that thing. You have to take, each one, everybody so not, jack of all trades, master of none. [Laughs] That's what I say because that's no way of doin' it, you know. Just a little bit of everything else, of course, no general knowledge you know, but not in deep, so...

AI: So when you had some English class in chugakko, then you remembered your English.

RM: Yeah, then that comes in handy because, especially in pronunciation, and the teacher with the Japanese so the Japanese English. And, well, they wouldn't say anything, just listen, but everything, writing and things is the same but when reading, the Japanese pronunciation.

AI: And you could hear the difference between --

RM: Yeah, I could hear the difference, yes.

AI: Well, so then in chugakko, who were some of your friends? Were your friends other U.S.-born kids or did --

RM: Well, very few. Well, I don't know the percentage, but some of 'em already returned to the United States before finishing school, high school. So, but there're a few and they're very proficient in English part but they didn't know about the history or something like that, geography because... but to me, my grandfather taught me, see. And not only like prefecture, like Kumamoto, then they have a country name like Higo is old name for country; you know, Higo, Kumamoto, and Aki is Hiroshima and Bingo and Bitchu, Bizen is Okayama. I already know all of that but the people came from the United States, they don't know the old ones because they don't teach that.

AI: Right, so you --

RM: Of course, in course of that that they also call this, but then, but to me, every time I was with my grandfather taught me, says, well, Bizen, Bitchu, Bingo, Aki, Suo, Nagato, Bizen, Bizen, Bitchu, those are things, Hizen, Higo, you know, those, I know exactly where that is, and...

AI: So you were confident of that.

RM: Yeah, confident, Satsuma, you know, Kagoshima, and...

AI: Yes, so, let me ask you: then in the third and fourth years of chu-, I should mention that you explained to us earlier that not everyone goes to chugakko. And of the kids who do go to chugakko, not --

RM: Well, they have koto shogakko, they thought. Uh-huh.

AI: And not everyone finishes --

RM: Not, this not high school, but, well, only two years, so just extension of the grammar, elementary school.

AI: Right, and then --

RM: It's like a junior, middle school here.

AI: Yes, but not everyone completes the upper years --

RM: No.

AI: -- in Japan. It's not, upper high school equivalent years are not, were not compulsory at that time.

RM: Yeah, right, because the elementary school, then extension of that is tuition-free so they would go, but high school you have to pay and it's pretty expensive.

AI: Yes.

RM: That's why, one of the reasons.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

AI: So in the third and fourth year of chugakko, you would have been about fifteen or sixteen years old?

RM: Uh-huh. Yeah.

AI: And I was wondering, at that time, you're getting a lot of training and you're... that's the time of life when a lot of kids are thinking about what are they going to do next in life, continue in school, go into the military, get a job --

RM: No, it's too young to go in the military yet when you graduate.

AI: But they're --

RM: Of course, the wartime they did it, they conscript the one even before graduation, but at that time... see, they don't conscript until you're twenty-one.

AI: Right.

RM: Then they, just like a draft, they draft you.

AI: But you were saying that as you were getting your military training in chugakko, you would have been qualified to continue on with that if --

RM: Yeah, if I stayed there, yeah.

AI: If you stayed. Well, so did you think in your mind that you might be staying in Japan and you might be continuing on in school there in Japan, or when you were about age fourteen or so, were you --

RM: Well, I never thought beyond that, 'cause I was too busy supporting myself. What happened was, see, we had lot of brother and sisters and I have to support, so I delivered newspapers when I was going to high school.

AI: Oh, excuse me, was this in Japan?

RM: In Japan, yeah.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: So in Japan you had a job delivering newspapers?

RM: Yeah, well, it was just supplement, see, because it cost quite a bit. Well, fortunately, my school wasn't too bad, but other people, most of people -- I don't want to degrade other people -- but a lot of people couldn't get in this prestigious school. So later on I found, well, I don't know exactly what happened, but normally I wouldn't be able to get in this school, it's hard. But I found out that I just wrote in this, my story, but, but what happened was my maternal grandfather was a fencing (instructor) for Asano clan. And this happened to be the Lord Asano's clan school before this new education system. So just like people go in the temple and learn and the tutor, but this happened to be the school and Shudo, middle school is Shudo, this juku, that's a institute there, by clan. So somebody mentioned that I was grandson of that, maybe that's why I got in there, later on I thought, at the time I didn't know how come I was accepted? But somebody pulled a string there, I think. I don't know for sure, but then I think, then what they made, thing was, made me the, the president of the class, about fifty guys there and I was the president, you know. And that was a surprise. So I knew somebody mentioned that I was, so, but they, nobody told me that.

TI: So, I want to make sure I understand, Roy. So you think that because your grandfather on your maternal side was Lord Asano's fencing instructor, that because of the prestige of that, of that title, that helped you get into the school and become president of the class --

RM: Possibly, because I don't know, nobody mentioned to me or, I just figured, how come I could get in there, but I was too young to think of those things. But when it come here, that's a prestige everybody asked it. So I have Colonel Fukuhara is MIS, you know, he's in charge of NJAHS, chairman of the National Japanese His --

AI: Historical Society.

RM: -- American Historical Society, he's the chairman, and he's a colonel. He went to Koryo. People called bonkura school, see, because the one, kuzu, trash there's go there, pay tuition. I mean, there's some kids are smart kids is okay, but that the generally accept the people from, say they're from the America or the foreign country. And in my class I had a Taiwanese one and probably a good family in Taiwan, I suppose. At the time Taiwan was a part of Japan, at the time, and the Taiwanese there. Then I felt the same way, he had a difficulty learning... of course, in Taiwan they taught Japanese so speak, but didn't know anything about history or things like that, so I helped him because I had a hard time and I appreciate people helping me so I helped this kid.

TI: So this is interesting. I didn't understand this. So you went to a prestigious school.

RM: School.

TI: And so the thinking that for you to be accepted, people were probably thinking that you were gonna be one of the leaders of Japan, that these were the sort of the --

RM: Could have.

TI: -- the cream of the crop in this area, and that you were accepted the president of the class. So in many people's minds, they, they viewed you as a potential leader in Japan.

RM: Well, could have, but seeing it's, lot of other smart kids, too. But so happened that I was surprised and I was president of the... and the thing that it, see, on the collar they have a grade and it's roman numerals, one, I, and two and three and four is V and I and they'd see, and they go, they have up to fifth grade. So the V is five. But when the other side have a cherry flower on the side, so you know he's the president and vice president have the gold one, I have the silver one.

TI: So when you're put in that position, where you're given the honor of being the president of the class, at that point, did you start thinking that you would end up living in Japan and perhaps even eventually joining the Japanese military?

RM: Well, I didn't think that far about the military. But everybody takes this so don't think of that, you know, I didn't volunteer to take ROTC, that's a compulsory so I never thought of that I'd be a Japanese soldier or not. But if I stayed, I'd be drafted, I know for sure. But nothing going on there, they didn't need so many soldiers, so, but in case of war, sure be drafted. But then they say if you were a graduate, would be officer's material. But at that time I didn't think about those things, just concentration, learning things.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: So, we're continuing our interview with Mr. Roy Matsumoto, and Roy, before our last break, you were just talking about living in Japan. And you were attending chugakko and as a young teenager you were telling about some of the training that you had in school and subjects in school. And also, I wanted to ask you, what kinds of things did you do for fun as a young teenager, thirteen or fourteen in those days?

RM: Well, I have the brother so the play was a brother or I have a lot of cousins and both my mother's side and father's side is lotta, you know, big family, so I have a lot of cousins. So they come to our place and play card or Japanese cards, karuta they called it. And chess.

AI: And sometimes did you also go fishing?

RM: Yes, that was the summertime mostly, or springtime or weekend wherever time because at the time, even though my grandfather retire, but still young, when I was young, so he retire early like I told you before. So he liked to go fishing. What he'd do is, more or less, he'd doin', supplement his income and what he does is, he doesn't take a fish to market right away, and he hold in a big bamboo basket and when he catch it just put 'em in there. And the wintertime or rainy day, take to market so they get good price. And so that's more or less his hobby and since I was a small kid, my fingers very sensitive so when the fish nibble I know it's a bite, then I catch it. So my grandfather is the kind not too sensitive so until he's hooked he doesn't know. So I was a better fisherman than him. Then, that's made me go and fishing. It's become one of my hobbies there.

TI: Well, while you were fishing with your grandfather you mentioned earlier how he would tell stories, he was a good storyteller.

RM: Uh-huh. Oh, meantime what he's doin' is he always tell me a story or something I should know, the thing he learned. At the time they didn't have -- when grandfather was a young kid, didn't have school. So what they did is they called terakoya that is in the temple, there's a priest teaches. So he went to that. That's why he learned.

AI: So that's --

RM: See, he's very knowledgeable people.

AI: Well, I don't know very much about the kinds of teaching in the temple, but was a lot of that teaching through stories, telling the stories and those were learning stories?

RM: Yes, learning, too, and also writing and reading.

AI: Is there any story that stands out in your mind that your grandfather used to tell you?

RM: Well, a lotta things. I couldn't... too many, but, well, all the folk songs and stories and sing like that, too. And, of course, some of 'em you learn in school, but some of things --

AI: And was this Buddhist temple?

RM: Buddhist temple. By the way, for your question I wrote it down but my father and mother became a Christian. What happened was, while I was in Japan, I had a younger brother born. But he suffocated in a washtub and drowned, so lost. Then he became religious and he went to church and, well, Bible study and things like that. So...

AI: So after --

RM: So meantime, they took me to a Japanese church. But when I came back, the classmates was a Christian and so went to Presbyterian Church and denomination but when my... well, that's way ahead of story, but anyway, my wife was, became Methodist, Free Methodist, see. But I didn't have any denomination, I don't, any church, but at the time, Japan, I went to Buddhist church and Sunday school.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

AI: And so, at that time, when you were in Japan and we were talking earlier again, before the break, we were talking about how you were at this very prestigious school.

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: And that, and you were just continuing your life there in the village and maybe thinking that you would live your life there in Japan? Were you starting to -- in yourself, did you think of yourself as Japanese or did you still think, "I'm foreign-born, I'm American citizen?"

RM: Well, at the time I didn't think whether gonna stay there or come back to... but later on something happened and made me to come back. But at the time, well, more or less concentrating on study so didn't think of it, I make a living in Japan or I don't know what I do or... at the time, I didn't... in this country, you take a major, the courses you like to be interested in, maybe go in that field. But in Japan, see, compulsory, you have to take everything so you don't know what gonna do. And your choice you're gonna do but couldn't concentrating on that, but too many things. So, right now, to me, their system is wrong, but, to me.

AI: But at the time, at the time you didn't really --

RM: So I didn't think of it. I didn't realize. I mean, I never thought of what I'm gonna be. And I like photography because my (father) was a photographer. So as a hobby I had camera, and some, took a poor picture, snapshot, but anyway, I was interested. Later on came in handy but now I got a collection, lot of pictures. But at the time I didn't know what I'm gonna be.

AI: Well, and speaking of photography and your father, I think you mentioned about the time you were around thirteen or fourteen, your father and mother and other brothers and sisters came to Japan.

RM: Yeah, well, but see, I was living in the village, see, with my grandfather. But they, you see, you cannot open up a photo studio in a little village, so he went to city, Hiroshima, in center of that. And so happened that that's the place dropped bomb and the epicenter was two blocks away.

AI: Well, we'll get back to that later.

RM: And that's the other day, I took Karen and the family to Japan and show 'em the exhibit, where that was, very close because -- but that's why when I was in China -- we'll come to it later.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Yeah, but, yeah, Roy, I'm curious, when your parents came back to Japan and lived in the city, why didn't you and Takeshi go live with your parents?

RM: Well, later on after finish the elementary school there, then when I went there was, when I get into high school there, high school in Hiroshima. So then I moved to, but still have a, my mother, I mean, grandfather was living there. But that's comin' to later on but I like to visit village because I had a girlfriend there.

AI: Oh, tell us about, tell us about her.

RM: Yeah, that's why end up in... but I mention, I didn't go into detail, but what happened was... this is beside the point, but my grandmother didn't like the close marriage. And so happened that she was my second cousin, see. And same thing happened, my grand -- uncle. Well, there came in -- this, this not my story but, well, part of my story because my grandmother's involved. But my uncle came from... he was born in Hawaii but grown up in Japan, then came to United States, grandfather's place. And then had a cousin in Lodi, in California, near Stockton, and has a cousin, his mother's side, that is grandmother's side, see, that's his uncle's mother's side, and he fell in love and tried to marry, then my grandmother never came to United States but objected to it, see. So he didn't marry. So he was a bachelor until '65, until retire and get social security, then married and so forth. But that's somebody else's story, but anyway, same thing there. My grandmother objected. Somebody mentioned that I have a girlfriend there. But I didn't tell other people because I don't want somebody butts in there. Unfortunately, my mother, my grandmother found out, then harder, you know, highly objected to it.

AI: So you were, you, at that time you really liked this girl a lot, and, and were you --

RM: She likes me, but more than I liked her, see, but turned out that she was so nice. And, but she was goin' in girl's high school there and that's why she didn't like that. Then, she was, according to her, that my girl was a tomboy. And what it did was when she goes visit, always bring back some souvenir and she also... well, she was born in United States, too, but went to Japan when was small, so she grew up from almost a baby, so she was a Japanese by the custom and everything else, but she's American citizen. So I should have married there with no objection, but then, then I would be happy. But the thing is, I... later on that handicapped marrying a foreigner, me.

AI: Excuse me. So you were just saying that if your grandmother had not objected, you probably --

RM: I would have eventually, yes, I think so.

AI: And then do you think you would have stayed in Japan?

RM: Well, don't know, at that way the time come, but still too young to get married anyway.

AI: So, then, now tell us what happened after your grandmother objected and you saw there was no hope, that you would not be able to marry --

RM: That's one of the reason I decided to...

AI: You decided to...

RM: Decided to go back there because I hate to visit with my mother, my grandmother and I don't want to see her anymore. But I cannot kick her out. She's the one -- but I'm, I'm in the city goin' school and I looking forward to summer vacation and go fishing or visit with her and she will be, you know, summer vacation, too, but didn't go in too deep. But this a puppy love, I think is... you know, when I was small, go by my house and she stuck in some books or something like that, or reference books to study, you know. And I think she's, I don't know, her family might be wealthier than my family, I don't know. But my grandmother didn't buy me anything. And sometimes I have to buy... in the United States, when I went to school, they supply the material, you know, and the books and things like that. But in Japan you have to buy this textbooks.

AI: So, so you were --

RM: So go there and there is a reference to the textbook. The teacher uses that. So she got a hold of that and buy extra, pay, and give it to me. That's why I could study what they gonna teach and, and also Japanese meaning there. There's a kanji, that's a Chinese character, and what does it mean, other things, the explanation and very, reference book was very handy, the one the schoolteacher uses, see. That's why study, I don't have to study. I mean, of course, I read it but I was pretty sharp at the time, I remember, so, how to write. Now I could read the newspaper but I couldn't write, even the Japanese, forget how to write. Of course, I have to concentrate and figure out but that's too much so I, what I do, instead of Japanese I write in English, everything, that's why note and everything. Sometimes I write in Chin-, Japanese, but I gotta think of how to write that. But when reading, I subscribe three Japanese paper on account of my wife, she reads Japanese paper, so I read the English and Japanese but, see, like Seattle paper there, we have, I have a Nichibei Times, the Hokubei and Hokubei is here...

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

AI: Well, in fact, we're going to ask you more about the news later, but right now I wanted to just get back to this point where you said that you started thinking about returning to the United States. And so when you started thinking about going back to the United States, how did you plan to do this? How would you get the money for the transportation and where... what was your plan?

RM: Well, my mother is really understandable. That is, not my grandmother -- mother. And she understand that, "You are American and born there." So then says, "Loyal, too," she didn't tell other, from other people because they don't want, telling the Japanese to be loyal to American. Later on, war broke out, you cannot say that, but anyway, she know the way my, she hear about it, what my grandmother treated me. So my mother knows that... but being mother-in-law, she cannot say anything, but she told me that, "You're an American. If you want to go back, do it, but you gotta be loyal, too." That's my, my thing. So even though I got Japanese education and you say that, "Oh, Japanese be loyal to Emperor," and things like that. But to me, still, I was young, but I'm an American. See, that came in, well, bear the fruits, to speak what I've done.

AI: So, so your mother is the one who really encouraged you.

RM: Encouraged me to go back there.

AI: And she --

RM: Then she knows that my grandmother objected to... and she liked this girl because she was smart and I didn't say pretty, but she looked like Yashiro Aki, this singer there, that she had a deep eye and a pretty girl. But I was a disappointed because at the time, you know, the heartbreak.

AI: And your mother --

RM: Of course, and later on I met lotta girls, but I didn't pay much attention until I made this thing here and it's the last page mention, you asked me how met my wife, but I didn't go into detail, but anyway, that's one of the reasons I --

AI: We'll ask you about that later.

RM: Yeah. That's one of the reasons there, I think. Then other things, there's no future, like me. And later on prove that if you wanna keep, hear about it, go tell you later. But right know we'll talk about my youth.

AI: Yes, about your youth and, and the reasons that you decided to return to the United States.

RM: Uh-huh. So to me, it was kinda hard. But at the time, it was bad because the Depression time. But anyway --

AI: Well, let me ask you, who --

RM: -- I made it okay.

AI: Let me ask you, who paid for your transportation?

RM: My mother did.

AI: And tell me about the trip. You left from Hiroshima and where did you --

RM: We went to Kobe and I left from Kobe, alone.

AI: So you took the ship from Kobe. And did that go directly to California, or...?

RM: Yes, direct to California. San Pedro, Los Angeles Harbor, Los Angeles Harbor.

AI: So when you --

RM: Then my grand-uncle picked me up.

AI: In Los Angeles Harbor.

RM: Yeah, well, I was gonna punch him. [Laughs] He the one that left me, but it wasn't his fault, you know.

AI: So you hadn't seen him for some years, then.

RM: Yeah, well, a few years anyway. I think I saw one time him visit, another trip or something like that, but I didn't think of doing a thing. Of course, disappointed, other than that, but I had a good time, too, playing with the people and people was, some people nice to me. Some were mean to me, and I think it's... I don't know other people had the same experience or not.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

AI: I think you mentioned that, in an earlier conversation, that you returned to California in about 1929?

RM: Yeah.

AI: So you would have been about sixteen years old, then.

RM: More.

AI: Over sixteen?

RM: Yeah, yeah, eighteen, or something like that.

AI: So, so when, what way your first impressions when you got into Los Angeles and you met your great-uncle again? Did anything look familiar there?

RM: Well, I'm glad to see my uncle, because uncle's nice to me. And that is not the great-uncle, but uncle was nice. And he was still bachelor and then, well, at least, I vaguely now remember that why he didn't marry because I heard from other relative this. My, I don't say my grandmother was mean, but the thing that turned out that way I don't think anybody criticize, in front of me, my grandmother. But they understand what kind of grandmother I had. But she was nice to my brother so therefore she's not mean to everybody. To me, I don't know why, but me and my uncle, maybe, my uncle's a different way, but...


AI: Okay, so before that break, you were just telling us about your first arriving back into the Los Angeles area. And when you first got back, did you stay with your uncle for a while, a short while?

RM: Well, my great-uncle picked me up so stayed there. But then I visited my uncle right away and was debating whether I gonna stay there or not. But he happened to be, live in the boarding house in Ocean Park and so I thought this not the place to stay. So I decided to stay with my great-uncle, then this happened to be Long Beach, not Los Angeles. He moved to Long Beach area. So the nearest school was at Long Beach so I decided to go there. But first, went to high school, didn't accept me so put 'em in George Washington Junior High School, then get accustomed to, then transferred to. So what I did was I stayed there, oh, less than a year, then all of a sudden a school term come and so they had an agreement, I think, when the first interview, they call me then put me in at sophomore instead of a freshman.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

AI: So when you first got back, the school administrators sent you to the junior high school for part of a year. And what was your experience there? Was that difficult for you to get adjusted to the junior high school?

RM: Yes, kids were mostly younger. Of course, they have a different grade, too, but I think it was a higher grade of junior high, I think. But since I learned the mathematics and algebra and things like that I knew, so I didn't have to study these. Mostly concentrated the required subjects such as U.S. History and, of course, English is required and the history, too, and so...

AI: Was it difficult --

RM: But the high school required, too, then start all over again in history and things like that. But what happened was, see, should've started from a freshman but I have to finish whole history, so I started with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, see, in between -- [laughs] -- so you have to graduate two classes, see? So I have to attend the two classes. But then I, of course, you have to be qualified mathematics but they give me always "A" because mathematics I knew, already knew before get to school, so...

AI: What about your English classes and your history class, when you first got back?

RM: Well, the hard part was book reports, you gotta read and make what the story was. So that's why reading, some words, hard words never learn in Japanese school. So I have to look up in the dictionary and see what it means, don't even pronounce it. [Laughs] Course, lotta Kibeis, I think, had a hard time with the English part, especially pronunciation because even though I learn English but the Japanese teacher, so pronunciation and...

AI: Right.

RM: It was the Japanese way. So now, they hire most of 'em Americans, you know, as English teachers.

AI: Well, now, so going back to that part of the year in junior high school, who were the other kids in your class that, at that time?

RM: Well, same way. They came from Japan, came back from Japan.

AI: Oh, other kids returning.

RM: Other kids, too, so, at the time, the few. When I went, start school, not many Japanese. But the meantime, lot of Japanese, kids grown up and so quite a few Japanese kids.

AI: That's interesting, so --

RM: Interesting, yeah. When I, of course, like my family, I was the eldest, but then not too many. But then as the year go by, lot of young kids were from different family and new family, too. So that's why some schools, especially in Los Angeles, quite a few Japanese in the classes. But, whereas in Long Beach, residential, Caucasian area, and so only had a few Afro-American, you know, colored. So very rare, you know, surprised. But right now, majority is, I understand, I just passed by there and people told me that my high school is half of 'em Afro-American, see. But...

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: I'm curious, you said so during that course of the year, quite a few Japanese came back to attend school.

RM: Yes.

TI: Were there reasons why so many Japanese were coming back to the United States during this period?

RM: Well, the family are here, so that's why, they joined the family. And they, they don't have any job or somethin', just went to school. So the purpose was to give 'em a Japanese education. I don't know why, why needed Japanese education in the United States. But they thought, well, they make money to go back, but a lot of people couldn't, the Depression, and war and everything else and they get stuck here and more or less. But my, like my grandfather was fortunate because what he did was he played smart and everybody planted, he just delayed. Then before next crop come out, he's, the supply and demand, so if scarce, price goes up and made money there. So luck.

TI: So this very similar to --

RM: But that means smart, see.

TI: Well, this is very similar to what he did with the fishing. So he, he would time his sort of supply at a time when the demand was high. So, so in the crops he would delay planting so that when his crops were done, then no one else had their crops ready.

RM: Right.

TI: And the same thing you told the story about fishing, where he would catch fish --

RM: Right, right.

TI: -- and hold it until it was either a rainy day or in the winter.

RM: Right, so people, fishermen don't go out, see.

TI: And he would get better prices for his products.

RM: Yeah.

TI: He was smart.

RM: Smart. And also, the same things my uncle and my mother's side, you know, maternal side. And I didn't mention that, didn't write down, but story is when 1918, that epidemic, you know, the Spanish Flu there, and lotta people died from that. So lotta orphan created, see. And my grandfather and grandmother, maternal side, took care of them. And some of 'em, I look at the, see, then the start from Saburo and down but there must be on top of that maybe Jiro, chonan, Taro or whatever, but "Saburo" means "third son," see. But not listed there in my, I just show Tom that... this family tree and said that, but some of 'em adopted, and some just a foster and took care of kids. And so, the appreciative village give 'em -- what happened was when the railroad was there, then they made a highway there. So what happened was the bay, it's a cove there, was cut over then straightened that and made a dike there so the beach was, created a pond. So when the high tide water come in there through the gate, so keep water there and it made a fish pond. And donated, I mean, and left, give it to him to live on, and according to that book that my nephew just completed in the story, tell, he, one of, didn't want to live in a crowded place, so isolated place. So that's right there. Then create the land, the fill, and so this land, they give it to him for appreciation of what he had done to...

AI: At that time.

RM: At that time taking care of the people.

TI: And this was your maternal grandfather?

RM: Maternal grandfather.

TI: Okay.

RM: And then he died, so I never met because 1918 I wasn't there, I was here. That was 1918 after they make the -- that's what other people told me. So everybody respect, respect him and so what he did was, my uncle, that is, you know, my maternal grandfather's son, way down there, they had a dozen, probably nine or ten kids, I suppose, and on the family tree it shows that Koichi, just one above my mother, and he was a fisherman and then catch fish in summertime he put 'em in the pond there and they let it grow. In the wintertime what he'd do was he laid the earth pipe, like a sewer pipe, lay in ground, shallow part. Then when he want to catch it he pound with a bamboo stick to make, pound the surface water and the fish got scared and they hide in there, see. Then when he lift 'em up, and the fish is inside, you stick your hand in and get it and take it to market, and a good price. Summertime not, scarce in the wintertime and then in bad weather, that's what he did before, I understand. Then my maternal grandmother tells me how to do it, so if they need fish I just pound it on top of surface with bamboo stick, then the fish gonna hide, so I just lift 'em up. They're shallow because part. And a lot of deeper part, too, but pound the deeper part and fish come to shallow part, see, scared, and I had a good fun, not only nice lady there, but anyway, I had a good time there, so... same thing is I think that grandfather, don't have to sell it right now because he's retired already. He retired in about fifty. And when I was there he celebrate kanreki, the sixtieth anniversary. I remember that he invited other people, too, but he had a good time. But he had a hard time probably working hard. But he did a lot of good things, too, you know, neighbors and villagers and relatives and he was very respected. So that benefited me. Every time I visit friends they welcome me because, kind of pay back what my grandfather taught them.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

AI: Well, and so now, I have another question about, getting back to the time when you were just going to start high school in Long Beach. And what was the high school that you attended? That was Long Beach --

RM: Polytechnic High School.

AI: Polytechnical. And so, when you were in high school there, you also had work to do. You had a job, and did you also, at that time, live with another family? Or, let's see, you lived, you worked for two brothers for a while who had, went to the wholesale market? Is that right? Can you tell me a little bit about what your work was, what your job was?

RM: Oh, what happened was my great-uncle told me that they, he had about five kids and hard to make a living because Depression time and if you have one crates of cabbage, only fifteen cents. Then crates itself cost ten cents, so only five cent, but no profit because you have to pay the pickers, so losing money. But if you don't sell it then no money comes in so still have to do that. So told me kind of sorry, told me, "You gotta support yourself," see. So I told one of the girls in my class, same class, I think was English class or whatever, it's one of the girls. And I told 'em I need a job, somebody says, then I tell 'em that she said, "Go home and either I talk to my brother or my father," she said. Then the next day, "Good news," you know. She said, "He says, 'Okay.'" So I got the job there then. So I stayed in the garage because they didn't have it, put the cot in, so they let me stay in the garage because the two girls there and one brother and then other brother and grandfather and grandmother. And meantime, what I did was, when great-uncle, they had a truck there in the Model A truck, so I learned how to drive. So I got the license. So I, when I was in high school. Then when this girl, I forgot her first name, but anyway, they accept me.

So what I did was Saturday and Sunday they have this farmer's market and go down and park there in Long Beach and open up this stand there to sell. So I drive the Reo truck, the old truck and carry the crates and things like that, so that my job. Then going school. And nighttime, well, they have the stall there, wholesale market and I get up at three o'clock in the morning and go out there and open the door and straighten things up, crates and vegetable, fruits.

And I don't wanna mention name but what happened was, one day his brother was told to go buy some apple. So he went to Watsonville, in California, and bought the green apple and brought it back, but this is un-salable, it taste bad and maybe just for make apple juice or pie or whatever, but anyway, not sellable. So the elder brother scold him and maybe cussed him or something like that but he was depressed. And the story I heard later, but when I get up at three o'clock in the morning and wake him up, went down there, then he had a pipe in his mouth, there was a gas pipe for gas stove there. So then I smelled gas so I pulled the thing out, then opened the door right away, then I called his mother, and then, so he survived. He tried to commit suicide, depressed. So then they told me, "I think you don't want to stay here." So I lost, well, I could have, but I mean, I, kinda embarrassing. So then people heard that supposed to be nobody supposed to know, but somehow this leak out and so Mr. Tom Izumi is the neighbor there, he had the stall there, so, "Come and work for me. I could take care of you." And he had a young wife with two little girls there. So he told me, do the same thing. So I did the same thing, work at three o'clock in the... and fortunately it's only a couple blocks from, maybe three blocks from high school there so I watch the time and just before class start I went there. Then at that time they had, at the high school, had a demerit system, see.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: So Roy, so you would wake up three o'clock in the morning to start work, you would work all morning --

RM: All morning.

TI: -- and then school would start about what, nine o'clock and you would rush to --

RM: Oh, yeah, about eight-something.

TI: Eight-something.

RM: Yeah.

TI: And then doing this, I mean --

RM: Then afternoon is off, see, so go home and then study and then go to bed, see, early. So I didn't go to movie or anything like that because too busy, too tired.

TI: Boy, it seems like it was a pretty hard life then, to work so hard, go to school all day.

RM: Well, not that manually -- I mean, physically not too hard. Only thing is the buyer buy and then I gotta put 'em in the hand truck and load 'em up for him, something like that. This is at that stall. Then Mr. Izumi show me the fruits, "This is a good quality," and some samples, says cut off, say -- I strictly remember this -- grapefruit, see, and thick rind is no good because the one, the thin one is juicy and he told me the difference between good ones and bad ones, so I knew. See, I thought I knew quite a bit anyway, and that's helped me in the end when the war broke out and sent to relocation, assembly center and so forth.

TI: I'm curious --

RM: But I'm way ahead, but anyway --

TI: Right, so I'm curious, was it common for other Japanese Americans to work similarly, like you did? So they'd work really hard.

RM: Well, no, not goin' school. But after graduate school, then they do it, some people, just to help out for the family was, or maybe friends. But my case was total stranger and picked me up and I was fortunate because a classmate the one, first started with, then I change it boss, different. But unfortunately, Mr. Izumi, when we were coming back, he had a pick-up truck and go to Los Angeles in the wholesale market, then buy things, then sell at the wholesale market in Long Beach so that the retail store. And so I get to know the customers sometime. I, maybe spare time I could work in the market and that give me the idea of working fruit stand and things like that. Then I got the job, fruit stand, later after graduate school. So something, one after another, just good things turn good and bad things to bad. [Laughs]

But anyway, what I... so then he passed away, then I have no place now. And people know because he died and also, in addition I lost a job. And then I didn't know what to do. But Mr. Yamaguchi heard about that, and, "He's a good boy. We take care of him." So I was saved by the family. Then I didn't have to work now, because just go to school, come back, watchin' kids, you know, learn. And at that time there were three girls, Laura and Grace and Dorothy, three of 'em, three girls, and the eldest one just died last week about ten days ago. I saw the obituary come, newspaper. It was sad. I should have saw, go back, but I never thought of visiting. I didn't know where they were living, but different name. But then it mentioned about Long Beach, then the sister's name, but only one sister so the one I liked, the middle one, Grace, but not name listed, so she must have died some time before. But still, Dorothy is the youngest one, different name, so go to Los Angeles, might visit with her. But this is a family I appreciate. I show you a picture they went, in gown. She took that picture of me in the cap and gown there. And I appreciated that.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So, I'm curious, the families that helped you, that sort of took you in and gave you work and let you stay there, was there any family connection or connection to your village, or were they just --

RM: No, they're total strangers. See, the one, first one was a Fukuoka and the next one was probably Kumamoto, then the next one is Kagoshima, but I'm from Hiroshima, nothing to do, just generosity, the goodwill of the people and helped me. That's why I know, even though I'm not rich but I help the people, lotta people, so I make lotta donations even though, not money, but it's a -- I don't know whether you're interested in this story or not, but my uncle and I appreciate him, so some time I make a donation in memory of my, Frank Y. Matsumoto, Yoshio Matsumoto, 'cause very appreciate. Like, you know, as you know, I helped -- all my relatives, has a big family. So my mother has a lotta sister and brothers. My father has a brother and sister, so cousin, about two dozen cousins.

AI: A lot of family.

RM: Then when uncle died, he didn't have any kids, so no heir. And who get it? He willed to me. So that's why I was able to live in San Juan Island, my uncle.

TI: But going back to this time period in the Japanese American community, was it pretty common for the community then to sort of watch out and take care of its own?

RM: Yes.

TI: This is like in the early '30s. So here you are, your parents and most of your family are still in Japan and you're sort of looking for a job, going to high school. It seemed like the community was sort of looking out for you. If needed, they would give you a job --

RM: Well, the thing is all the farmer, then the Depression time, everybody have a hard time. And they're, also their own kids, too. Especially my great-uncle, he likes to drink, so I didn't think he had too much money. I know, different from my, my grandfather, he wouldn't do it. Of course, the father different, so maybe different gene, but, of course, the picture, you know, my grandfather is a heavier type, then my (great uncle) is the skinny, tall, you know. So same mother, I mean, same mother but different father, see, just a half brother.

AI: Well, I wanted to get back to asking about the Yamaguchi family. And what was their family business?

RM: Dry cleaning.

AI: And so, Mr. Yamaguchi was pretty well-established.

RM: Yes, and he had a lotta hired personnel from Kagoshima and, for instance, Arimas and some other people and he was, I think he was chairman of the board of governors of Kagoshima Kenjinkai, I think, also school board, probably was one of the...

AI: So he was --

RM: Higher up, so that the FBI pick him up.

AI: He was a prominent member of the Japanese American community then. Well, and did you --

RM: Prominent member, then he was sent to camp; FBI pick him up. So then poor wife with the three kids, they don't know. But other people just close the shop, but --

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

AI: We'll come back to that a little bit later when we get to the war years. But before that, I just wanted to make sure I understood right. So, so you were still going to high school?

RM: Yes.

AI: And then you would sometimes tutor the three daughters, the Yamaguchi daughters?

RM: Well, I stayed there and didn't do, but also I do my own studying, and nothing else, maybe clean the house or clean the yard, but... or Sunday, well, later on, but I could give a trip. Then one of the pictures, show that group picture, Lake Tahoe there, you know, and I took the whole family with me and they appreciate it, but it too bad, I think these all died now, so...

AI: Well, tell me about these years in high school where you were very busy, you were working and you were helping out in these homes that you stayed with and you had all your schoolwork, your own schoolwork. And I'm wondering, it sounds like you didn't have much time to socialize --

RM: No, no.

AI: -- or for recreation. I was wondering, though, did you have friends? Who were some of your classmates that you got along with in high school?

RM: I got along very, very well and everybody treat me nice and I don't exactly remember what I did, but sometimes go down the pike, with a friend and had a roller coaster and things like that they had. Later on I went there because that was my second home there, for a while anyway, because I'm from Los Angeles, but that's the countryside and nothing there but Long Beach is the city.

AI: Well, you had an advantage because you spoke both Japanese and English.

RM: Yeah, right, bilingual, yes.

AI: Fluently, very fluently. So --

RM: And they understand my standard Japanese. Of course, I don't understand the Kagoshima-ben but I picked up the Fukuoka-ben. And I don't speak but I understand what they say, because I remember all of. And that came in handy when the war broke out, but anyway.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

AI: And before we get there, I wanted to ask you a question about, we had, in an early discussion, talked about how sometimes some of the Nisei who had never been to Japan would sometimes look down on Nisei who had lived in Japan. Did you experience that?

RM: Yes.

AI: While you were high school? Tell me what --

RM: Well, before high school, just came back and some told me, I was lookin' at the, this comic, you know, funny, the newspaper, and say, just looking at, then was tellin', "You don't understand that," you know, but...

AI: So --

RM: So, I understood but some of the comics were kinda hard to me, but I'm just studying, see, and try to remember the spelling and things like what does it mean, try to figure out, then look down on me. But on the other hand, I know I got mad, but I didn't show that I was talk back. Then I would say then, "Can you read the Japanese newspaper?" or something like that. But I didn't say, 'cause on account of that, almost killed the guy and I decided not to go back at it. See, of course, I have chance to do it, but I just took it. Not only from the Japanese part, but then the Caucasian, the hakujin, and especially... that was the first, but later on, we went to camp and that was the discrimination when we were put 'em in camp and those things I wanna... that my motivation was that I'm gonna show that I'm maybe -- not better than other guy -- but just as good as next guy, and show 'em what I do, then I just bear the fruits. Fortunately, I was able to contribute the show 'em... that's why I get lot of... even though he is a Japanese American but --

AI: So, even --

RM: The I way I gonna -- this is beside the point, but a sad experience this August. I don't know whether mention here or not, but anyway, still, there is discrimination.

AI: Well, so speaking of discrimination, before the war, you were saying that even in high school you felt some prejudice from some of the Caucasians? Is that right?

RM: No, not to me, I don't know others, but they were more or less curious because I know... ask me what it say in Japanese, something like that, ask a question, see, so very friendly. But the one not friendly probably stay away from me. But I didn't get any direct insult. I didn't experience, so I never thought of that. But some, well, I think other Kibeis experienced, too. They more or less looked down on it, see. It may have a more education but not in English, in Japanese so this, as far as knowledge goes, maybe smarter, but then yet, still, Kibei is discriminated, I know.

TI: Well, I'm curious, as we talk about this, it almost sounds like it was that the Niseis, the ones who didn't go to Japan, that they were perhaps harder on the Kibeis that the actual Caucasians were?

RM: Uh-huh.

TI: And that, is that, would you say that is true?

RM: Yeah, that, uh-huh, yeah, well to me, seems to be. But, well, like I said, even though I had a opinion, but sometimes just don't say anything and I don't wanna hurt other people's feelings, too. But there is --

AI: A negative feeling.

RM: Between, they think they better than the Kibeis. But then we had the same way, fourteen of us and half of 'em were foreign, never been to Japan, went to school and graduate and same, you know --

AI: Oh, you're talking about later when you're in the service.

RM: Yeah.

AI: Okay, well, we'll --

RM: There is, we know, that was the start of it.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

AI: Okay, well, we have a few minutes left on this tape and before we end this session I wanted to ask a little bit more about your high school years. You had mentioned earlier about the, in high school learning more U.S. history and government and now these subjects are subjects that you, of course, did not have in your Japanese schooling. So when you were learning about U.S. government and history, what opinion did you have? Did this, the ideas that in America, people are equal and so forth, and the democratic principles, what was your opinion of that?

RM: Well, I learned that there was a discrimination in, about slavery and things like that and lynching, and I don't know how bad it was, but, well, one time this Irish, sure enough, was discriminated even though they Caucasian, but then Mexican were "wetback" and everything else, and like "Dogs and Irish Keep Out," alone or something like that, but sometimes the Jewish people were discriminated occasionally and, of course, in wartime, the Japanese were discriminated very badly, so was some Italians, too.

AI: So you did learn --

RM: Then at the school, I learned, from history part then slavery, then Jefferson and then kept the slavery and even the good guy, George Washington, had a slave. But that later on, that's Lincoln time. But to me kinda confusing because I have to learn between the British Revolutionary War and then Civil War, it's just half and half, Lincoln, sixteenth president or whatever and then in between gap I don't know what happened so that kinda confusing, to me, but I mean, you have to make a report so you gotta know. You have two classes and learn different ages, so that's kinda confusing to me, but I had to do it in order to get the diploma. But right now, just give you a piece of paper but at that time, sheepskin, I still got sheepskin. Your school have sheepskin? No, they've got a --

TI: Piece of paper. [Laughs]

RM: But I have a sheepskin. I thought I gonna bring but no, no use showing that. But at least people look down on me but at least I have a high school diploma. That's why I end up in my job, the grocery store, then learning dialect, chance to give me and save my life later on, so...

AI: Well, before we get there I just wanted to wrap up and mention that --

RM: Okay.

AI: -- you graduated high school in 1933.

RM: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

AI: Okay, so we're continuing our interview with Mr. Roy Matsumoto. And before our last break, you were just telling us about graduating from high school, and the year was 1933, and from Long Beach Polytechnic High School. And I was wondering, at that time, of course, the United States was still in the middle of the Great Depression, and what were your plans? What did you think you would be able to do for, for work after graduating?

RM: Well, I didn't know what to do, but I didn't have the school, I thought I maybe end up in mechanic-, well, I took mechanical engineering, drawing so I could make a blueprint and things like that so I thought to search but nothing open there. And the next thing I knew it would be I work in produce market, so I knew the produce. Then, well, I never worked in the store so I didn't know how it work out, but looking for job and a place called keian in the Japanese, that means employment agency. Japanese go there and they looking for houseboy, or day work, or you have a special and then extra people job they wanted, you know, employment agency is Japanese, not only Los Angeles, but all over in the big cities local called keian because Isseis, they cannot find their own job so they have to go there on account of language difficulties. So I went there and there's a market opening and need a extra hand, just a helper go out there, there wasn't a steady job, I mean, a steady job. So I did some other odd things such as Japanese newspaper needed, I was looking in Japanese paper and those people for the typing section, pick up these Japanese character type, set up the press. And since I was able to do, but, see, I had nearsighted, and hard time looking at that so I decided not, it's not my line, so I quit. Then meantime I asked the employment agency if I have a steady job, I'd like to take it even though, "I don't care about the pay," I said, "just a job so I will learn."

Then they opening there and this nice location, I like this area so I may get the job. So I told manager, "I'm just learning so I don't expect too much pay," and so he says, "We're gonna teach you how." And that nice guy there, and showed me how to stack the potatoes because this odd shape, if you don't stack nicely they'll all slip down, slide down and they'll ruin the thing. So then they told me, "If you're able to stack the potato they hire you and pay regular pay." So I concentrated, that after, late at night, no customers, so I take down and restarted again and practiced that, see, so end up proficient. And I didn't have much experience at the time, but the next job they could hire because they tell you, "Stack this potato," and see, so I know there's a trick. [Laughs] So I got the job and they liked me. But what happened is, I hate to name the names, well, Yamamoto is a common name, so, the guy name was Yamamoto and he said, this man -- I don't wanna mention the owner's name -- but market owner. And he had a niece, and a pretty high school girl, and he didn't go to high school so English very poor. And he had a eye on her. Then where I come in, see, find out I'm a high school graduate, see, so she asked, well, probably other people and some guys weak in mathematics, but they says, she's study algebra, then how to do it. So I said I knew. I forgot it now, but anyway, A + B + = so and so, and I would teaching that. And then he got jealous and told old man to try to make her. So I was fired right away. So I lost the job, end up being just that nice about it, and I didn't expect anything just because she's...

TI: So, I'm sorry, I'm a little confused. So who was the one who accused, I mean, who was jealous of you?

RM: The guy named Yamamoto.

TI: Yamamoto?

RM: Yeah.

TI: Okay, so he was the one that --

RM: He's the one that -- then the reason they told me was, other people told me, I didn't know why I was fired, see.

TI: I see.

RM: Because I just, I'm new, just new. And he was there before, so then the latecomer, tried to --

TI: But what's interesting to me is how, how hard you worked, so --

RM: Yeah, I mean, that's why I worked. But he thought I have an eye on her, maybe seduce or something. I don't know. But then the reason not given, but other people told me, see, being fired, see. So I lost the job. Then I went other part, no, I don't think I deal with this Kibeis. I was a Kibei, too, but since I went to high school I usually don't mention that I'm Kibei, see. So lotta people don't, didn't know it, or... I mean, a stranger. They're other people know because I went to Japan and personal friend know, but stranger --

AI: But a stranger wouldn't -- a stranger wouldn't know that you had been in Japan?

RM: That's right. Because...

AI: Because you --

RM: With the Japanese, you know, it depend on if he speak Japanese, I speak Japanese. If he comes in English then I talk in English. But I don't want to say because I was a Kibei, then looked down on us, see. But if you don't say anything, they didn't know, so that's why I always keep my mouth shut and, see, I just listen. Then that was my habit, and even in wartime, too, after the war. I just listen and so...

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

AI: So what happened then, after you lost that job?

RM: So I lost job. Meantime I was working other place and see, my auntie, there was a second cousin's mother was, that's my, my father's cousin, that's, so their kids would be my second cousin. But the auntie I called, she was a barber. And all kinds customers, see, there was a Santa Fe station there and lotta Mexicans working there and then they get hair cut --

AI: At the railroad station?

RM: And also Caucasian, too, then also Japanese go, too.

AI: Excuse me, was that the railroad station?

RM: Yeah, Santa Fe railroad station. Oh, I see, you gotta tape that, so... Santa Fe railroad station there nearby Nineteenth and Washington in Los Angeles. And here's the Japanese customer, well, I don't know is a family friend or not but being acquaintance because he come in and cut hair and I happened to be there. And he say, "Hey, I'm looking for replace, my replacement," see. So I asked him what happened. Said, oh, I said, "I'm working for so and so and I work long hours and only get hourly wages, so I don't make much money. So I know now, learned how to do it, so I gonna open my own store, grocery store."

AI: That's what he said.

RM: That's what he said to me. But I don't have experience as salesman, see. But I thought it must be better than working for fruit stand and standing around and low wages, see. So I may learn something. And at least I speak -- I mean, I read Japanese so I could read canned goods or whatever instruction is. So I thought good for me. But I never had the experience of selling things. I don't even know the can of bamboo shoots, how much it is. So I cannot be a salesman until I remember that. So, of course, or you have to have a list there of the price. But if you look at list that wouldn't be a salesman. So I gotta talk well. But as far as the Japanese go and the clientele, almost ninety percent were Japanese, so, and he was the salesman. And go to house to house and they, this happened to be uptown and the owner's name is Mr. Itabashi and he had a store in uptown Kenmore and Olympic Boulevard. And around that neighbor there's all these gardeners, Japanese landscape gardeners living there and some have their flower shop or other business such as laundry. And those are the customers.

So go house to house, then, solicit for the orders. And I never have experience but when introduced to me and the first thing he asked me is, "Do you speak English?" Of course, Japanese they know, that's already understood they speak Japanese, but ask me English. So I said I went to high school, not only went but I graduated from Long Beach Poly, Polytechnic. Well, he says, "Good. Do you drive?" he asked me. So, "Yes, I have a chauffeur's license," because when I working, going to school, I had to help this Mr. Mizota so I learned, got the license. So I said I had chauffeur's license. He said, "Good. So you don't know anything about the price of goods or anything, so... but anyway, I hire you as a driver and delivery boy. Is that okay?" I said, "Yes, sir." So I got the job there, so not the salesman but just the delivery boy. So there's two pick-up truck, one is deliver around the neighborhood, one go to countryside. Then I had one, I choose the, because I don't know all the houses and names of all the customers are strangers. So then after farm area, that's very few, see, so easy to remember even though you go far. But he let me have a pick-up truck. And, "What do you do? You live in downtown. So in the morning, you stop at market, I give you orders so give me call, telephone call," I made part... and see, buy large box of the cucumber or dozen of lettuce or whatever you needed. So he ordered me. So I stop at the wholesale market and pick up produce and say that stop at the Chinese place and pick up and bring char siu pork and, or he says, "Stop at this slaughterhouse there and buy a box of linked sausage," things like that. Then, since I speak English, that's very handy. Before Japanese and try to do, either he do himself or other guy, pretty hard to find a guy, even a lot of Kibeis but they kinda hard go out there and order it. So tell me to wholesale place and get so many carton of cigarettes and something like that, brand, and so forth. So I am just a handyman there, also delivery, also pick-up. So it's good for him and good for me, too, learning. And this is the time I went to countryside and farmer and they're speaking some different dialect than Hiroshima --

AI: Oh, excuse me, I have a question about when you say "countryside," it's so different now than in those days, so can you tell me what neighborhoods or what towns you're talking about when you say you're going to the countryside.

RM: Oh, yeah, I listed all the places there in the questionnaire, but the thing is a neighboring, well, not the city itself, but the country such as, for instance, west would be like Culver City, Venice, Ocean Park, and Santa Monica, that's one direction there. And the other way is Compton and to Signal Hill or West Long Beach or the general area, Gardena and the other side is Bell and then Blue Hill, that's around Whittier, and to go to, this way is Azusa and Cucamonga and, you know, there's Puente and Riverside and that way. So then around Venice way is twice a week and other part is once a week. So I ask 'em next time they bring a sack of rice or keg of soy sauce or whatever they order. But I didn't tell 'em, "This is a special," and sell, I didn't do that, just they order whatever deliver. They deliver more and more or less and it's, I don't have to collect any money or not the selling. I just deliver and they send the check to company, so, or sometime give it to me and give it to boss. But, and I don't wanna degrade or anybody, but the downtown, if people go down the wholesale place such as North American Mercantile or Pacific Supply or whatever, go out there, then, "You're new aren't you?" And I say, "Yeah." And I tell... "Well, if you last one month you got it, made it," see. They just say he's pretty strict and pretty tight and... because salesmen know, because he always, I hate to use the term, but like "Jew down," something like that and anyway, they didn't want to use that word. They said ku-ichi, you know, nine and one. So, and --

AI: For people who don't understand --

RM: That's what they advise me, see?

AI: Yes.

RM: But nothing wrong with that, though, because he's just a tight...

AI: Oh yes.

RM: But, of course, he passed away a long time ago.

AI: So, my question is, for people who don't understand the ku-ichi, nine, ku, nine, ichi means "one," and can you explain for people --

RM: Yeah, put together, nine and one, ichi and ku is the "juu," see? Ten. Ten, so they call, in other words, instead of calling ten, they call it nine-one, nine and one.

AI: So it's a play on words because in Japanese, "juu" means the number ten.

RM: Uh-huh. "Juu" means number ten.

AI: Yes and they were referring to someone who was --

RM: Someone, yeah, pretty tight --

AI: -- tight with money.

RM: Yes, uh-huh. So then, advice, watch out. And so I be nice to him, maybe nice, very nice and they thought I don't last because... but I, I sometime I was, well, disgusted or something like that but I just kept myself... you know, that incident that when I was a child, but almost killed a guy, my friend, so always think twice and I take it, see, and lasted until war started, so almost seven years, until '41.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: I have a question, Roy. When you went to these outlying communities, did you sometimes even bring things like Japanese newspapers to people to get their news?

RM: Ah, yes. They subscribe by mail, but sometime you find a news magazine or something like that, I just give it to 'em. People appreciate because I have no use for it and I always did that later on in war, too, those prisoners, you know, nothing to do and cooped up in the cage. So I bring in books and magazine and things like that. I always did that when I was young.

TI: Right. So going back to these outlying communities, when you brought the Japanese, like, magazines and things, did you ever talk with the farmers about what was going on in Japan and the news from Japan?

RM: Well, that's later on. First nothing going on, of course, it's going on in China and Manchuria, but they didn't talk about that. But I have so much to cover and a long distance. Not many, but always end up in the (night). But I don't have to go back to store. 'Cause as long as get back, I go to market in the morning, produce, so they didn't bother me and I kept my car. So sometime I, they invite me for dinner, you know, late, and the people are very nice and some gal give me this graduation picture and things like that. And since I talk to Japanese in Japanese and this guy's high school, then they speak girls in English, see, so they thought he's pretty smart speaking perfect Japanese, even though, of course, I spoke standard Japanese. And then some farmer's girls, nice ones, but I didn't have enough money because what I did was start to work, I sent my money, extra money, too. I got a little bit in the bank then send it to my mother. She was nice, so that's what I did and contribute, even though little, but at least I tried to. And that's why I didn't have money to get married. But since, if I go to store, market, lady there, Mrs. Itabashi is cook, you know, something, so nothing fresh, everything before spoil and feed other salesmen and everybody like this accept, they feed 'em but we stay different place. I stayed downtown. But it was convenient because the owner was from Hiroshima, too, and my grandfather was nice to me so that's why they didn't charge much because they, they think they owe to, so my grandfather is esteemed so every time, everybody know him, that is my grandfather -- not the father, but the grandfather -- and all the people, all of 'em treat me nice because I was grandson of Mr. Matsumoto.

AI: Well --

RM: The people around here, only in Seattle don't know, but around Southern California, at the time, he was very famous, because, I mean, personally, he took care of the other people. So to me he's a pioneer. And same thing, my maternal grandfather same way, so...

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

TI: But I was thinking, but when you went to those outlying communities, they weren't from Hiroshima, they were from different --

RM: No, no. From all over in Japan.

TI: And so they didn't, did they still know your grandfather as much?

RM: No, no. That was when I was in Los Angeles.

TI: Well, why don't we talk about that a little bit because I'm curious, it comes up later, but you learned something really important by, by working with or delivering to these different people from different parts of Japan.

RM: Yes, what I do is when I deliver there and they discussing something in a strange language, I, of course, some of it standard Japanese mixed in, so, some part I pick it up, but exactly I don't know what they... so what I do is something I didn't hear, like Kumamoto, there's a, batten, it's not only Kumamoto but Kyushu, the northern part of Kyushu speaks same as Saga and Fukuoka and says, such as, "Sogan koto naka batten," I didn't know that. Now I know. But see, so in case some word come out like that, "What does it mean in standard Japanese?" So they're obliged to explain to me and so I wrote it down and then I remember that's what it means.

AI: And excuse me, but what does that mean in English?

RM: What did I say?

AI: Batten?

RM: Oh, sogan koto naka batten? Oh, "no such a thing," something like that. No such a, such a thing. In standard Japanese it's sonna koto arimasen. Then they say it sogan koto naka batten.

AI: It's quite different.

RM: "Yoka batten" means "that's good." Then they call Kumamoto batten and Kumamoto people always put the batten there and Hiroshima says gansu. And there it is.

AI: So the different, the different dialects are quite --

RM: Different dialects for different places. And I am familiar with Hiroshima because everybody talked like that and I grew up with that so I learned, I thought it was part of a standard Japanese until go to school, went to school and then there was local dialects and the book, my nephew just made it; it's all this Japanese slang and especially local slang. I don't think anybody other than Hiroshima people understand that and not the standard Japanese, with mixed Japanese and that's somewhat familiar to me. Some of 'em I just learned, new things and that's what older people talk about. So, go different places there different people talk but I didn't pay much attention to. But most of 'em here it was like a Kyushu dialect such as Fukushi-, I mean as Fukuoka, Saga and some Nagasaki and some Kumamoto and I have experience with Kuma-, I mean, Kagoshima, Mr. Yamaguchi was a Kagoshima and they talk I don't completely understand so I don't even care to write it down because they strictly different even though same island, Kyushu. But when they spoke in standard Japanese, very nice and I appreciated, that's why later on, course been changed, but...

AI: Well, so, before we get there, I wanted to ask a couple of things about this, these years while you were doing the delivery work. I think you mentioned that it was about 1937 when your brother Tsutomu, or Tom, returned to California.

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: And what was it that brought him back, or why did he come back to California?

RM: Well, everybody want to come because in Japan, no future in it. And since American-born and he knows he went to school to United States, too, but, well, of course friend, everybody scatter. But his idea was I'm here, too, so you know, he know where to come. So he came to me, but I won't be able to support him. But so I asked him to go some schoolboy, first to register. So he went to Los Angeles High School then also after that, graduated he went to City College. And that's why he became officer because he was drafted but he went to OCS and became an officer and became, end up a colonel. But anyway, he came and other brother told me they want to come but then lost the opportunity, then the war broke out, then now they get stuck and put 'em in Japanese army and...

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

AI: Well, before the war broke out, something else happened with a relative of yours, also. You had a relative who was attending UCLA. And can you tell about him?

RM: Oh, yeah. This my second cousin, not the cousin, but, well, I always call cousin because get too many of 'em there... but anyway, this Harry, his English name is Harry, Harry Yoro Omoto, and when he came down there he was a junior already, well, sophomore, but he stayed with me and went to UCLA. And what he did was he was born in Compton and little far from Compton, too, unless he get in dormitory. But anyway, he was commuting and my place was a handy place because I had a extra bed there. And so he stayed with me and used my car, I had a private car and I didn't need transportation because the company let me have the truck, my own to go around. So he used my car during the weekday and go to school, commute and go through on Olympic Boulevard and only thirty, less than thirty minutes get to Westwood and UCLA. And that was alright and routine that when all of a sudden Consular General office in Los Angeles, Japanese consul, came down and offered him deal and this too good to be true and so with the...

AI: What kind of deal?

RM: But anyway --

AI: What kind of deal?

RM: Proposition was that, go to Japan or exchange student. And the Japanese government would pay the fare and the tuition. What a good deal, you know, don't have to pay any money and government, I thought it was a good deal. So he agreed but it kinda, that made, make him mad because Japanese got a sneaky idea. They tricked to him to send him Japan. And so happened that he was, went to Compton and Saturday school because the city people go to Sunday school.

AI: Oh, for Ja --

RM: Because church, things like... but the countryside or the field they, Saturday is Sabbath day, because Sunday you have to work in field and Monday produce goes in. So Monday is a regular working day. So Monday is -- Sunday is their Monday, see. So Saturday, this off day so they, he goes to Japanese school or church, everybody goes Saturday. So he went to Japanese school only once a week but he learned the Japanese. And he's fluent Japanese without going to Japan.

AI: So he had never been to Japan before?

RM: No, never been to Japan. He grew up and he went to Compton High School, to UCLA and he's smart, so, the engineering, so that's why the Japanese government had eye on him. And what he did, was instead of Japan, sent to South Manchuria and Dairen, Koka Daigaku, in Japanese says industrial college because it naturally same thing, transfer there. Then as soon as did it, the Kwangtung Army, that is Kwangtung means Japanese army in Manchuria called Kwangtung Army and draft him because of age and put him in the Japanese army.

AI: So --

RM: So in other words, he was just being kidnapped in another way, in a nice way.

AI: So really, what you meant when you said the government, the Japanese government tricked him by offering him --

RM: Yeah.

AI: -- what sounded like a good deal for education, but as soon as he was there, they drafted him into their army.

RM: Yes. Well, right now it's different way. When my daughter,Fumi, was at UC -- I mean, University of California, she went to scholarship, attend the ICU, International Christian University, junior year, my daughter came back and graduate. But see, the exchange student, he thought it... well, that was prewar but just before war broke out he went there.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

AI: Well, and in fact, speaking of that, I think that it was 1938, wasn't it, the Manchurian Incident?

RM: Yeah.

AI: In 1938. And that's where, for people who --

RM: I don't know exactly what date, but anyway, around that time.

AI: Yes.

RM: Before the war.

AI: And that's when the Manchurian Railroad was bombed and the Japanese military then, then occupied.

RM: Yeah, that is the Kwangtung Army, they called. And he told me, well, I didn't know, even he... I know he went to Japan, but that's the end of it. I didn't hear from him or anything.

AI: So at that time --

RM: Until I met him after the war.

AI: Right. So at that time, you didn't know what happened to him.

RM: No, I didn't know.

AI: Well, what about other news? Were you hearing about this Manchurian Incident in the Japanese newspapers, or Japanese radio?

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: What did you hear about it in those, from those things?

RM: Well what's happen, what place, of course in Japanese, but the Chinese name place and the incident and they, some of 'em made up I think, story or made up incident, you know. At least they attacked, but the probably the Japanese did.

AI: What made you think it was made up?

RM: Well, I don't know, well, later on I know it was propaganda because the Japanese themselves told a lot of bullshit, because they call daihonei. You know, that's general headquarters announce this and that. And winning the war in the South Sea, actually they losing the war but they, as if though, you know, and they exaggerated, sunk so many battleship and things like that. And I been hearing on the radio. But then a newspaper pick it up and do that but I don't know, I guess a half truth, I don't know exact, the number but to me it kind of fishy, you see. But then the Issei want to know what I hear, because they didn't even have a shortwave radio. And I was listening, see, I had a set called Midwest, had that all-wave radio so I tune in to... but if I had a antenna, the higher up, you would've pick up clearer. So I did and that somebody neighbor reported, FBI came down there, I was setting up a receiver and said good thing it was not a transmitter, good thing I was not an amateur radio man, then a spy, but I was just listening. Everybody could listen. That's a all-wave radio.

AI: Right, so --

RM: And then FBI came and look at it then they said just a regular set. And American citizen says, yeah.

TI: So a neighbor of yours saw the antenna. So you put an antenna up to get better reception.

RM: Yeah.

TI: You put it up there. A neighbor saw you and reported you to the FBI for spying? This was before the war broke out.

RM: No, no.

TI: This was after the war?

RM: Around that time, I don't know. Yeah, well --

TI: This was before or after Pearl Harbor?

RM: I don't recall the...

TI: Okay, I'm just curious.

AI: Right around that time?

RM: Right around that time. Oh, and anyway things, well, tension was very high, at the time.

TI: But a neighbor saw that and called --

RM: Because the embargo and things like that, and you know. Well, they're mad, too, because we stopped sending metal scrap, wooden, I mean, iron things like that.

AI: The Japanese government?

RM: Yeah, Japanese government. And I didn't keep a record so I didn't know exactly, but that, some of part I hear about it and remember is they embargo they, yeah...

AI: Yes, the United States had embargoed Japan.

RM: But I didn't know gonna be a war, but, anyway, the tight... at the time, could be either way.

AI: So from the news that you heard, you could tell that tension was high for the Japanese and the U.S.?

RM: Yeah, but I didn't know, expect that Pearl Harbor, bombing. There was nobody except, of course, higher up had something, but somebody negligence, they didn't prepare to guard the place and so... eventually they knew they have to... well, that's an afterthought. You know, the story come out.

AI: But, excuse me, so at that time, I wanted to ask you to get back about when you were reported to the FBI and you said that the FBI did come to your apartment--

RM: Oh, yeah.

AI: And they asked you if you were an American citizen?

RM: Yes. And I said, then he said, "Well, nothing wrong." But since the reported after me and this okay to have it so they didn't confiscate it.

AI: So they didn't confiscate the radio.

RM: No.

AI: And they --

RM: No, it's no more than any... I'm just so, at that part, I mean, they didn't even take my name, either, just, just came and check it and see this. But the other guy is a pretty sensitive, you know because I was a spy or...

AI: Thought you were --

RM: Japanese, and spoke Japanese, maybe. Maybe thought there was a wire so maybe transmitter. Could have amateur radio if I did it, then you were sending message, but receiving, anybody could hear that, long as they have that set

AI: That wasn't against the law.

RM: No, not, it wasn't against the law. That's what the advice. "Oh, no, you're citizen, that's okay," see.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

AI: Well, now, what about that, the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed, December 7, 1941? What were you doing and how did you hear about the news?

RM: Oh, yeah, it was a Sunday so didn't work. And about, I think about nine o'clock, I think, I was gonna go get my hair cut. So I get into my own car and turn the radio on and it says that Pearl Harbor bombed. Well, that was a surprise. Then when I went there they didn't know that either, the neighbor, so there's gonna be a war. And then Roosevelt declare a war and I say, but...

AI: So when you first heard that on the radio, what was your first thought in your mind?

RM: Well, I thought it was a joke or something, you know, because I didn't expect it.

AI: Could you believe that Japan would actually attack the U.S.?

RM: No, I couldn't. I didn't, because I was in Japan and how things is, and how in United States everything advanced. And no comparison, see, because they, of course, they had a battleships and things like that I've seen because they come to Hiroshima Bay and I seen the battleships and things like that, but I didn't think they gonna fight. The first thing is, well, we have natural resources and they didn't have. They're already suffering and they have to import everything and, but the sugar and things like that come from Formosa and some like soy beans come from Manchuria, and, of course, Japan, too, but everything gotta import. Then all of a sudden blockaded and embargo and they're in no position, then they run out of fuel right away and so... but we had a, see, I notice, I go to Signal Hill and lotta oil, there's a well there and a dairy there. And see, we have natural resources and produce. And I know, but the Japanese people, they've been hearing just, I think, brainwash propaganda, so believe it. And I talked to other people and then they believe in what they said.

AI: They believed in the propaganda from the Japanese government?

RM: Propaganda Japanese imparted. And well, we did the same thing, see, Office of War Information, try to give a story but, you know, they don't, some of 'em believe but those don't believe it, see.

AI: Well, so, tell me, when you, then when you were -- that day, December 7th when you were talking to other people about this, what were people saying? Were you worried that something was going to happen to you because you're American citizen but you're --

RM: Well, never thought of that at that time, they never thought about evacuation or send us to assembly center. Nobody thought anything. No proclamation out, so, no exact order, but...

AI: But then --

RM: Kinda confusing because I hear on the radio and I saw the paper, then I saw the American paper and contradicting each other and, but I didn't believe the Japanese. I know there was propaganda because then the people fooled that... this NHK broadcast and shortwave, and, of course, the newspaper pick up some of... they print in big headlines and things like that.

AI: So then the next day, Monday, December 8th, President Roosevelt declared war on Japan.

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: And what did you think then, about that? Because you still had --

RM: Well, I understand it was the American point. If you're attacked, you have to do something to defend. So it's not just me. So I kinda mixed because I got a Japanese way of thinking, and also American way of thinking. So kinda mixed emotion or whatever. But I thought of American, but then people thinks I'm the Japanese, kinda, so I refrained from making any statements, either side get mad, so best not to say anything. That's one of the ideas, just to keep mouth shut and see, and some will disagree, some will agree, but I just... if they asked my opinion, sometime I, as long as it wouldn't hurt I just tell 'em. So that's my idea, so...

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

AI: Well, also, you had mentioned earlier that your brother Tom had already been drafted into the U.S. army.

RM: Yes. Uh-huh.

AI: So he was already in the U.S. army before Pearl Harbor was bombed.

RM: So I understand, I listened to other soldiers say what happened was they, most of 'em, Kibei were discharged. And, but my brother --

AI: But Tom was not?

RM: -- was a Kibei but he was a City College graduate and he was doing the typing and he was the company clerk. So what they did was send him to Boulder City, Nevada, there, and was the medical department that made dental lab there. So he cast the ring, unauthorized, but he was material to make a ring, cast, like make a false tooth, he made that and he showed it to me. But in the meantime, send him to Fort Leavenworth, not the stockade but the administrative, that's adjutant general school there. So he went there, then he became company clerk.

AI: That's so interesting.

RM: And then what happened was he was sent to Camp Savage, but not as a student because he was a high school graduate in Japan and a high school graduate here, college graduate and junior college in the City College here, so made him company clerk, and he understand Japanese part, too, help 'em out. But his job was keep track of all these student.

AI: At Camp Savage?

RM: Camp Savage. So when I went there he was company clerk there, so I saw him, my brother, there.

AI: Well, we'll --

RM: Of course, I knew him few, little before because he was with me first came to... well, that's nice meeting him, but I have to be studying. Of course, I pretend to study but I didn't have to because I knew, I knew everything in standard Japanese.

AI: Well, we'll come to back to that --

RM: So what I did was I concentrated on other things and read reference manual, field manual and things like that came.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

TI: Yeah, we'll get back to that, Roy, but I'm curious, right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the FBI quickly started going through the community and started picking up the leaders in the community.

RM: Yes.

TI: One of which was Mr. Yamaguchi.

RM: Yes.

TI: Were you concerned when you hard about that? What was your reaction when you heard about that?

RM: Well, I don't know what happened to the family, because the husband was taken away and she didn't know... she got three kids to support. Of course, and they may had a savings, too, but they don't know what to do. And meantime, the dry cleaners operated because that's a client were all Caucasian and maybe few Japanese but who gonna... of course, other employees were handling that because they weren't picked that up, but just him, Mr. Yamaguchi was picked up. So I decided to help, not my own welfare. I don't care what happened to me but I wanna help this lady. So first thing is contact, then I says, okay -- this time they didn't talk about camp, evacuation, so, if it's your own, you could move to interior.

AI: It was so-called "voluntary."

RM: Yeah, so I thought, people talking about maybe go to Utah, Salt Lake City, or Denver, Colorado. That's why some people end up there, still there. But I thought, since I have a car, and then I could get the trailer, put things on and go there. But the people talkin' about, see, if you run out, flat tire, then rationed and especially even though ration you cannot get the tire. Of course, nobody gonna sell you, for the "Jap" you're gonna sell it, not even the gasoline, you know, might run out of gas, you get stuck there, so best not to move, let the government take care, then they gonna feed us, don't have to worry about. So I told 'em decided not to go. I went down and told them, so okay, then, go to. So I said, "I gonna look after you," because they... I appreciated what they did to me.

AI: So --

RM: And later on, after things compromised and I was sent back to States right away, twenty-four hour notice. I didn't mention that, did you? About compromise? I was undercover.

AI: Oh, I think, I think we'll talk about that tomorrow.

RM: Yeah, okay. Anyway, I met the lady after the war, after came back and she asked me to marry one of the daughters. But already I was married and I decide, so in Japan, so, but this young girl, was young, passed away about ten days ago. Sorry, but I...

AI: Well, so, getting back to that, back to this time where things are, are confusing and I understand there were many rumors about what was going to happen. And also, I think you had a curfew?

RM: Yes.

AI: And a travel restriction?

RM: Yes.

AI: So what happened to your job, because you couldn't travel all the way around to the delivery areas?

RM: Well, just during the daytime, you could move.

AI: You could still travel during the day?

RM: Yes, during daytime. So I did, made the deliveries. But nighttime, eight o'clock or whatever, you cannot go out. I watch the, listen to the radio or something like that.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

AI: Well, also, during this time, you had, before Pearl Harbor was bombed, you had some letters from your family in Japan.

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: And you had heard from them. But did you know that your brothers there had been drafted into the Japanese military? Had you, did you know that?

RM: No, no. I didn't hear about that, no.

AI: No, so you didn't know that at that time.

RM: No, I didn't pay much attention, see, the things a young man and too busy with other things, I think, so... but I know they're doing okay and one of my brothers here and I understand the other brother wanna come back, too. But didn't then, now war started, then couldn't go anywhere. But one of my brothers went to industrial school and so, mechanical department so he end up in making the torpedo model at the Kure, you know, naval shipyard. So he wasn't drafted, but he was on the civilian, working the technician, so same as the Japanese government, same as drafted. So he stayed there until war ended, then, so, three... well, matter of fact, all of Japanese, my sister and brother the one was hired at the clothing department, Ujina place in Hiroshima, like in the uniform and things like that for the army. They called Hifukusho, taking care of the clothing, depot. But one, one was working for a railroad -- at the time they call National Railroad, now is the private corporation, but, railroad, Japan.

AI: So many of... you found out later that your brothers and sisters were either working for the military or some kind of defense industry in Japan.

RM: Yeah defense industry, all of 'em except, well, railroad, well, the war or not, but he's... everybody have to do something so they're drafted. And what happened was my father was a photographer but couldn't get the film or the enlarging paper, printing paper because the navy and army had the priority on that. So very little ration and couldn't make, even make money on portrait pictures, see, just the developing and printing, you don't make money on that, but it's the service, you know, but the portrait and things like that. And so he quit that, then went back to my grandfather's place and they were old, so taking care of them for year or so, not a year, but then they passed away and the war ended.

AI: Oh, but you didn't know that at the time.

RM: No, I didn't know it, after heard.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

TI: Okay, well, I wanted to go back to, it's interesting to me that after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, you're still able to make these deliveries to these outlying communities.

RM: Yes.

TI: I'm curious, as you were making deliveries, did you ever come across sort of anti-Japanese sort of feelings or sentiments from other people because they would see you out there in the countryside. Were you ever stopped or harassed because --

RM: Well not stopped, but go by there and they, "Hey, Jap," you know, something like that they yell at some people, but I didn't know, I didn't pay much attention, you see. Then, well, good thing my boss wasn't picked up by FBI. He was a little bit of connected, but as far as some organization he wasn't involved in much, so they didn't pick him up.

AI: So he --

RM: Didn't have to disband because all the customers, even there, they won't be able to pay. So I think he lost lotta money on credit, but some people might have paid back later, but he lost lot of money. But before that, he made a lot of money so he was rich, so, but I feel so sorry, so, last month's pay I refused to take a check, he wrote, but, "Just forget it."

AI: What was the last month that you worked for him? Was that January or February of '42?

RM: I don't remember, somewhere around there. I don't exactly remember. I didn't keep diary or anything, so, I should have but what happened was in the wartime I met the prisoner and things like that, get the names and address and things like that, but all lost and stolen and end up in probably Red Army's hand. But anyway, that's why I couldn't recall the names or since that passed a long time, especially at the time, around the war, all kind of excitement and different kind of opinion, people, Issei ask me, and some people say what to say in the paper, it's in the paper, but what the radio say and things like that I was still keeping, but I just left the thing there. So I lost... only thing I kept was my high school buckle, belt buckle and dictionaries. And this is in the Caerulea, the yearbook, high school. And very few --

TI: What about the shortwave radio, what happened to that?

RM: I think my, I left it with my friend and what happened was, see, I had other clothing and things like that and some tools, hand tools, things like that. When I... not supposed to come to West Coast. So went out graduate school, had free time, I made a trip to West Coast. Not supposed to come down, but nobody, just uniform, so I get on the train and came down. Also, I went to Denver, Colorado, I never been before but I had a, one of the customer in Venice... oh, no, Santa Monica, I think it was, yeah, Santa Monica, had a cute girl. So I thought it might be future wife so I didn't know how doin' it I wanna stop by. So I went to Denver, and later on, I found out she married to somebody, but I inquire about the people find out that in Berkeley had a store there so I asked a lady in Denver, "Did you know certain, certain name," said, "yes." And...

AI: Oh, but that was later, that was --

RM: That was later.

AI: Right.

RM: But that was still, that's in, before I went to war, she did in the school.

AI: Well, let me --

RM: So this is the wartime, only, only about a year or around there, because first went to assembly center.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

AI: Oh, well, before going to the assembly center, I wanted to ask you, you just mentioned that sometimes the Issei people would ask you what's in the news. And you were saying that the news was different.

RM: Different, yeah.

AI: So what would you tell them?

RM: Well, I just tell 'em what the Japanese paper said this. Then English write in the paper you could look at it but I don't know whether they could read it. I'm dealing with, not the Nisei but I'm dealing with Isseis. 'Cause I'm Nisei but, well, technically I'm a Sansei but, 'cause my grandfather came, but I go by Nisei anyway. And I didn't talk to Nisei, I talkin' to... well, I talk to Kibei, too, in Nihongo. But they have their opinion, too, and that's why "no-no" boys comes in later, see, there's some Kibeis. But I'm different, and at the time, I don't mind right now the Kibei because they made credit because without the Kibei, MIS never successful. See, at the time, they looked down on Kibei but Kibei the one did the work. I mean, as far as MI goes. But as a soldier, you know, everybody equal, to me.

AI: Well, and again, before that, I had one other question about this period before the assembly center. I think you mentioned in an earlier discussion that your, your funds, your bank account was closed, or seized. What happened? Can you tell what happened?

RM: Well, they stopped, so you cannot withdraw. In other words, well, they didn't confiscate but they made stop payment and then it so happened that bank was not the Bank of America but then Yokohama Specie Bank, later on called Tokyo Bank. But unfortunately, well, my boss had an account there so I opened account, and my deposit there, then sending money so I didn't have much left there, but still, I had a couple hundred dollars there. That's big money, a couple hundred dollars at the time, to me, I mean, as a single guy. But not enough to enjoy, but nevertheless, it's my money. And so later on --

AI: Oh, excuse me, so my question was, why was your account stopped? Were you given an explanation?

RM: No, wasn't any because all of the... see, first I was a 1-A, but president didn't pick my name out of the fishbowl so I didn't go to army. In other words, exempt for, they didn't need so much before the war. See, after the war they start to draft, but the, all the Nisei were classified 4-C, that means "enemy alien." So not even a enemy, and not a alien either, but that was the classification, so considered that time a enemy alien. So enemy alien property, see, so they stopped the payment and --

TI: So after the bombing of Pearl Harbor they classified the Niseis as 4-C --

RM: 4-C instead of --

TI: Enemy Alien --

RM: -- 1-A.

TI: And with that they were able to freeze assets.

RM: Freeze assets, yes.

TI: And that's what happened.

RM: Not only me, but the people in the businessman, too, everyone, so you cannot draw money out there, even though you had it because they attacked the Yokohama Specie Bank, that's a Japanese Bank, so if you had a deposit there for convenience, but even though I'm an American citizen. Their excuse is that classified enemy alien and enemy alien property, see. So after that, before this reparation, they understand about I was in the army so later on I found out, you know. So they paid for the damages and they could sue and then some of the people got money, not the whole, whole money but proportion to, I don't know what the percentage was. So I submit to see, then flatly refused, see, and excuse was, "You went to Japan." But I went to Japan by order of the United States government. I didn't go, voluntarily go. Voluntary left for Japan, they have a hard time getting money, but the same way, mine. But as far as amount goes, right now is very little. But if you left it in the bank and accumulate interest, it would be quite a bit now, but, I mean, just forget it you cannot start it right now, they, and think the attorney's fees quite a bit, so lose money on that. You don't get anything. If I had million dollars I would sue. [Laughs] But, anyway...

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

AI: So, before we, we took this short break you were just telling us about the last few months before going to the Santa Anita Assembly Center. And can you tell me, what were some of the things you had to do to prepare to leave when you heard that everyone was going to be forced to move out and the so-called "evacuation"? What did you do to prepare?

RM: Well, first thing came up is Mrs. Yamaguchi and then the smaller kids. And I know, I made up my mind that I gotta pay back because the people been nice to me and I realize before that, Mr. Izumi take care of me, Mr... well, other people, too, and the relative, too. Only thing is, when I first came back there it was just the start of Depression and everybody had a hard time and I don't wanna impose on, and that's my idea, and I have a lot of relatives, but they willing but unable because, on account of... so I don't know whether they eat the cat meat or the dog meat or not, but they hard up on, meat and then all kinda story, but some of 'em actually see that the big family and the market is low and I sympathize but I cannot help all, body. And some of 'em, I made money before so doin' alright and live in good house and good, nice brand new car, but most of 'em were struggling at the time, see.

AI: Well, so what kinds of things did you do to get ready for leaving?

RM: So I thought, I was gonna take this family to interior, either Salt Lake City, Utah or Denver as far as that maybe. But then, now I couldn't do it because if get stuck, then all gonna be (dead) in the desert, so Mojave Desert. So I decided let the government take care, go assembly center, so happened that I registered with, even though I'm from Los Angeles. But people from Los Angeles, assembly center was the same and came there and so, Santa Anita racetrack.

AI: Were, were you saying that you registered with the Yamaguchis?

RM: Yamaguchis, yes. I decided to go with the Long Beach group. So that's decided at the assembly center.

AI: So how did you get from Long Beach to the assembly center?

RM: Bus, I think it was, ride, bus ride.

AI: So you brought all your things --

RM: No, only suitcase.

AI: Just suitcase.

RM: That all you can carry. That's the sad part of it.

AI: And you went with the Yamaguchis, Mrs. Yamaguchi and the three daughters?

RM: Yes, Mrs. Yamaguchi and the three. Well, assembly center, but I was busy. What I did was, I don't want to idle, so then no place, you cannot go movie or anything, just assembly center. And some Kibeis, they tried to gamble and things like that but I don't have any money and so I said I got to get some kind of job, keep myself, mind occupied, so I job says in there, "What do you have?" they says, "What can you do?" They asked me, see. So my line is produce and vegetable, but they don't grow that say, but the thing is, well, they have a vegetable department, says, and, "You a high school graduate?" I said, "Yeah." Then no difficulty. See, Issei guy try to do it, then they couldn't communicate and wouldn't get the job even though he could it manually, but then he cannot handle what the instruction was. So then they read the menu and things like that but what I did was I worked in the grocery store and also vegetable stand, "Okay, then you know all the vegetables?" I said, "Yeah, yes sir." "Okay, then you be head of the vegetable department." See, I'm the only young guy but the Isseis, everybody he says if I want to work, report to this grandstand there, and we had a potato machine set up and just like army style, and they cut the buds off and the turnip, cut the top off and carrots are peeled in a peeler, and those are the kind of things I'm in charge, see, until left there. Gotta feed a thousand people, so many thousand, I didn't know how many they change, they move out to camp, then new ones come in from other locations, and finally my turn come to go, get on the train...

AI: Well, so I'm curious about this. Here you are, you're still a young guy, and a Nisei, but you're supervising some older Issei people.

RM: Yeah, that's amazing what, at the time high school graduate is just like a college graduate right now, because --

AI: Not too many people --

RM: -- lotta people didn't go to school. Of course, lot of Issei there, but they didn't have certain things. They could do maybe typing or things like that but you don't need so many. But somebody... it so happened that there was a job opening and other people could do it but then the hard time communicating the boss. And give 'em this, so much, and if you can understand so much, well, say so many sack of potato then you could do that but it says so many pound of things, gotta figure out so many people and so gotta have a high school graduate, then I happened to have, I told, I didn't have to show anything but the way speaking, "What school you go to?" I says, "Long Beach High," Long Beach Polytechnic High School. "That's good enough." So I get the professional nineteen dollars -- [laughs] -- instead of --

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

AI: So was this at Santa Anita then? And this was at, you had --

RM: Santa Anita.

AI: And for people who don't know, Santa Anita was a racetrack.

RM: Yeah, a racetrack, Santa Anita racetrack.

AI: So, tell me about the living conditions there, when you first got there?

RM: Well, the conditions were bad because they put 'em in horse stalls because, on account of I'm a bachelor. So everybody, bachelor, stuck in where the horse slept. And then horse manure on the ground and piss all over on the walls and they whitewashed but still smells and had to pick up these hays for making mattress and picking up these straws and miserable and it made me more mad. But instead of, I figured that way lotta people worse than me, 'cause lost tractors and trucks and farm equipment and everything. But I didn't have much. The only thing I lost was the bank savings and not much and other things you could buy, you know, see, I lost...well, I thought I didn't but there was a Mexican boy working at the market and I happened to know and then the Mexicans don't have to evacuate so I asked him whether he could keep it for me. So, "yes." And his nickname was Zarko. "Zarko" means the Mexican with the blue eyes, there's a mixture. And so there was, I called him Zarko, Zarko, that's a regular term applied to the Mexicans with blue eye. So that's a Caucasian mixed up in it. But he was nice about it. So I left it with him. Then I made a trip when I graduated school, an unauthorized trip, I think. I think I overslept, you know, and missed the, get off the train. I came to West Coast and visit some Chinese friend. I used to pick up char siu meat or something like that so I visit with him. And Chinese walk all over, he was not restricted. And then I stopped by this Mexican boy's place. Then he's sorry, he says. "What happened?" "I sold your things because I ran out of money, I'm sick." So I said, "Forget it." But without me -- well, no way to contact me, because I'm in the army, camp, they didn't know where I went. But he didn't write to me.

AI: Right. So this trip that you made back, that was later.

RM: Yeah, that was later, after, after went to, after camp, Jerome, Arkansas.

AI: Right. But, so back in Santa Anita, I wanted to ask about, you were just saying how angry you were that, and here you were in this horse stall, in the racetrack and you're an American citizen. So tell me about what you thought of the --

RM: Well, I was so mad. But on the other hand, there's a lotta people worse than me because I don't have to worry about kids or wife or nobody. I'm alone, so I could stand that, but the poor people worrying about lost and don't know what to do in the future. To me, I think this is gonna end up sometime and I will do alright, I thought. I'm a guy that sees this is half full, see, not half empty. So my wife is the opposite way. So I, I always think that better way, having optimistic way, that not the pessimistic way, see, so I thought this was bad, but maybe could get any worse but I don't see anything worse than this, I thought. So okay, I gonna help people and help nicely and I never chew the people do the poor job or always praise and thank them, come out and help, volunteer and peeling potatoes and carrots and...

AI: Did you, I'm curious, did you have any trouble with any of the guards, any of the fellows that were guarding you and the other Japanese Americans?

RM: No, I don't go near, 'cause some people said that go to fence and trigger-happy guy shoot some... I don't know how true it is, but I think it's reported so must be true, some other camp. But didn't happen my camp. But I just stay away from the guardhouse or whatever, and just...

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 43>

AI: You know, I wanted to ask another thing about Santa Anita. I read that at Santa Anita there was a big project to make camouflage nets.

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: Do you happen to remember that?

RM: Yeah, I remember that. In the grandstand all the girls come out there and make a net and insert the clothes strip to make different color, you know, that's gray or brown, black and they make camouflage net.

AI: Well --

RM: But I had my job. I didn't do it myself, but supervisory. But go down there then have hand truck deliver potato and then machine do it and let someone, I just supervise. In other words, I'm just a supervisor in the vegetable, in other words, just head title but it's not a big deal because to me it's routine. I know what the turnips look like. [Laughs]

AI: Well, the reason I'm curious about the camouflage net project is I read that some of the Nisei who were working on the camouflage netting were very angry because they had to work long hours in the sun and they complained that the food was very bad and so one day they had a strike. Do you remember anything about that? I'm just curious about it.

RM: I don't know whether after I left or not. But I know they're working, but I didn't go there so I don't know complaint, but the food, that was the mess people, not the food, kitchen helper.

AI: Oh, yeah, that wasn't your responsibility.

RM: Yeah, that's the cook was poor or I didn't know what the ingredients were good or not, but to me, it was just a regular ration there. But there was one instance that the hakujin people working in the butcher shop carrying the steak out and caught 'em and almost riot there, almost big riot there.

AI: Oh, I think that you mentioned --

RM: Somebody else mentioned that?

AI: Was that, I think maybe in Jerome? But in fact, let me --

RM: No, Jerome I didn't hear. Maybe after I left.

AI: Oh, so this was in Santa Anita?

RM: Santa Anita.

AI: Ah, I see.

RM: Almost riot. Then almost, everybody angry because stealing, this guy got almost killed, so, of course, he be fired, but... carrying out the big steak, chunk of meat.

<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 44>

AI: I also wanted to ask you another question about, you had mentioned earlier that when you left Japan, your mother was saying, "Well, now you're an American citizen, you're going back to the United States and you must be loyal to the United States."

RM: To United States.

AI: But here, now you're in Santa Anita there, you're being guarded by guards with guns, you can't leave and terrible conditions, so what did you feel about this?

RM: At the time I was so mad I didn't know what I'm doin' it, but the thing is, well, I didn't know what the condition in Japan, but right there is very bad, especially, we've been put 'em in at, see, no discrimination whether alien or the citizens, you know, and also classified and so, but at least we in the camp and protected, so other mobs wouldn't attack us, but --

AI: But you, I was wondering --

RM: To me, at the time, I'm keeping myself busy so that don't have to think about that. Of course, after then, and then it make you mad and tired and it stinks and so I wanna get out of there. But I cannot get away there because guards there and then I wanna get out somehow, except escaping. I always mention that, especially in the camp there. But that's why I get the job, keep myself busy. That's why I get the storekeeper and the mess hall and I, instead of doing the manual work, you know, go outside and...

AI: Well, I wanted to ask you, when you were at Santa Anita, did you ever think maybe you made a mistake coming back to California?

RM: No, I didn't think about that. That was too late. I was back. But if this gonna happen probably I wouldn't have come back, but these thing, nobody expected, they gonna be put away in a horse stall. And I didn't commit any crime. And put 'em in a regular jail, at least you have nice cotton bed and you have a toilet and everything else, but right there, sitting on the cow shit, you know -- not cow, but I mean, dog, I mean, horse manure, and, but one consolation is a good thing I didn't have a family, see. And I thought my family is together. But I didn't know my brother was in the service and those things, and later on find out that fortunately, everybody survived.

<End Segment 44> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 45>

AI: Well, so then from Santa Anita, then you were there in the spring of 1942 and then after that, you went to Jerome, which is in Arkansas. So tell me about, do you recall anything about the trip from Santa Anita to Jerome? You went by train?

RM: By train, yeah. But the thing is, I don't see the scenery because the blinds is down and I don't know whether other people wanna see us or we don't want us to... well, no harm in just looking at, ride the train, but, so, but anyway...

AI: Did you have any problems on the train?

RM: Well, not among self, but I just doesn't recall how long it take, but anyway, thinking about other things and so mad. Now concentration -- they didn't say "relocation," they said "concentration camp," you know, everybody. And other people, see, I understand Japanese so the Issei talkin' about, very sad and loss of things and what it is that they didn't able to harvest some things, and some owner or the neighbor or the worker that took over and they sold the things but didn't send the money and things like -- all kinda sad stories. And I didn't complain, and I don't talk to them, I just listen. I understand, sad, and I don't want to, them to feel more bad or sad, so I just kept quiet. And the few things doesn't do harm and talk to some Issei and Nisei and some people at the time are all, we are all internees, but some went to different field then they were successful businessmen or something like that, and some were higher up in the JACL and things like that and I see the article there. And those are the people probably remember me because I was in the mess hall and...

AI: Well, so let me ask you then, when you rode the train into Arkansas, and you got off at the railroad station right near the camp, what did you see? What, Arkansas is so different --

RM: Nothing, just, just a swamp area, and some scrub trees, things like that and just being built or building instead. And first thing I understand they gonna put you... well, some people don't do anything, just play chess or shogi or just talk about it. But I want to keep myself busy so forget, the best thing is the easiest things I know, storekeeper because nothing deal with any, you only deal with the chef, the cook and also people deliver milk. I just had this wire cage and then had a lock and so I just open up and let 'em stack sacks full of sugar, and everybody had a eye on that but I don't wanna be partial, they give me this and that. So if they want to steal it let 'em steal from the table, see, and the dish there, sugar, and if you dump it, I didn't see it. That's the way, see, because my duty is to control that, but if they use up, so that's why they don't fill the thing, just fill a little bit so that more they use the coffee. But what they do is they get coffee somehow, maybe some cook or somebody smuggle out the thing. Then they built in the barracks and making the coffee and things like that, so they need the sugar, so they have a eye on it. But I don't want to violate because people watching me, whether take it out or not. Of course, I could put 'em in a pocket and walk out. But one thing I did was, there's a coffee can, five gallon, the can there. So I got, made a midnight requisition and put 'em in the attic. Then these cans, number ten size can fruit juice, the apricot, the peaches, or pears and the juice left over, put 'em in there and they grab sugar and... see, my, my grand-uncle was in the same camp, too. And he liked to drink, so even though poor drink, make fermented alcohol, I wouldn't drink it, taste bad, but they want it, so... [laughs]

AI: So this was one of the things that you did with leftover juices.

RM: Leftover juice they gonna throw in that -- [laughs] -- no, I mean, they gonna dump in the drain.

AI: So instead --

RM: So I make, recycled it. [Laughs] No, I mean, that's a poor excuse, but I don't know whether they gonna punish me for doin' that but, I just make use of that waste. Potato peel, yeah.

AI: Right, instead of letting it go to waste. Well, so your job, when say storekeeper, what you were doing was you were in charge of all the supplies, the food supplies for that mess hall?

RM: Yeah, that's right. Each block has a mess, own mess hall. And so give 'em a job for chef, cook, and kitchen helper and waitress, set up the table, then put the utensil there, and then put the ketchup or whatever you need for the, the pepper or sugar or salt. But those things don't disappear, only thing disappear is sugar.

AI: Well, I was wondering, did anyone try to bribe you to get a little extra here or there?

RM: More or less, but that's maybe trick, then I don't go for that, strict because like me, my... later on in the army, same thing. They come and tell me something but just test me, I think, figure that way, so I don't fall for it. Lot of things come out. Then I was told certain things not to do, then somebody else come and try to coax me, they either try to test me, so I'm aware of that. So maybe just asking because I'm available, I could just, I didn't see it disappear but I don't want to do that. But, I mean, see, they gonna put 'em in the drain anyway, so I put 'em in the can. I just borrow the can there.

AI: Yeah, well that's something, that would have been garbage.

RM: Yeah, it would be garbage, yeah.

AI: If you didn't use it.

RM: No, that was my excuse, but no, I don't think the people appreciate that. People appreciate the one who, got, make, took advantage of that.

AI: Well, I wanted to ask you about, in Jerome, there were, I read that there were maybe seven or eight hundred people from Hawaii in Jerome. And I wondered, did you come in contact with any of these --

RM: No, I think they came after I left, 'cause I left in November, so I only stayed there about six months over there, so...

AI: Right.

RM: So, but that's a short while but I enjoyed because, now, we're settled, that, not gonna move anyway. Of course, lotta people after this "no-no" and things like that came out. After us, now, whether gonna go to Europe and things like that, but my card is for MIS purpose. They looking for Japanese-speaking.

AI: Right.

RM: Or trained.

<End Segment 45> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 46>

AI: Well, in fact, before, before you were asked, I wanted to find out about -- that was another question. Because many other times you mentioned how Kibei were looked down on. And sometimes the Nisei, who had never been to Japan, would be negative toward people who had been in Japan.

RM: Right.

AI: So even in Jerome, was that still happening?

RM: Yes.

AI: That, so...

RM: But to me, strictly speaking, I'm Kibei, more, I had more of a concentrated Japanese training and learning and everything else. So I speak perfect Japanese as far as, to certain people. But to certain people it's, Japanese is poor, but majority of people thinks I speak better Japanese than Japanese themselves. Well, then I know the reason because my grandfather taught me the things, old-time things, and lotta people don't know about idiom or things like that or old things, but I understand each one of 'em, but they don't teach at the schools and I know all the kanji they don't use any more but I could still read that. And newspaper kanji is limited to fifteen hundred, so, but I knew many times of that.

AI: So --

RM: One time, well, one time, well, I get in trouble because people asking me, "How much Japanese words you know?" The hakujin guy asking me. Then roughly I said twenty thousand. Unbelievable, usually... but, I mean, when you put the compound together, words, there is, I look at dictionary so I wanna guess and see how much I know, but officially abbreviate number would be fifteen hundred approximately, maybe now they cut down little more shorter, but about fifteen hundred. That's all you have to learn to read newspaper. But to me, I learn all the things my, before, see, because I'm older than other people so I knew more things before the one that recently done. And then I got my ass chewed because I was bragging, and you shouldn't say that. But, I mean, I just saw the facts. But now I said, every time I open mouth I get in trouble so I said, I not gonna say anything. That's why I kept quiet, and people say, "This guy didn't know anything." But then, on the other hand, see, we had about... I don't know how many people there at Savage, but only took fourteen and I'm one of 'em, so if I'm not capable I don't think they choose me. Of course, a friend of mine, I know who did it was Hank Gosho, and sat next to me and I know I could do the job and he know I went to high school and he went to college, too. And he's the one who suggested, "Take Matsumoto, too."

AI: Well, we'll talk about that tomorrow.

<End Segment 46> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 47>

AI: But, so anyway, in Jerome, I was, I already asked you about the condition in Santa Anita and you explained how bad it was there. What about the conditions in Jerome? What was that like?

RM: Well, since this is a brand-new barrack, so better than a horse stall. Course that's all only did, I never sleep in the barracks there. So you know anything but here, well, I mean the smell is horse manure and horse urinating and that made me mad. Any other place I may not... but not only me, other people, too. Then went to Jerome, then brand-new quarters; and of course bachelors, so no women there, but then they know we could make noise or do, talk about it and I have some Isseis in there, bachelors, and Kibeis and Niseis and all mixed and I understand both in English and Japanese so sometime they say, "What did he say?" Then I explained to him in Japanese, and I'm more or less go-between, interpreter.

AI: So you could explain to both?

RM: Explain what, yeah. Then some Nihongo say, "What did this guy say?" Then I could explain in English. So if I say that look like I'm bragging, but I mean --

AI: No, but --

RM: That's what I was. And...

AI: And there, there weren't that many people who were so fluent in both languages. So then, I think it was that... I was asking you earlier about, that some people in camp in, not just Jerome, but in the camps at this time might have thought or suspected that the Nisei who had lived in Japan might be loyal to Japan's government. Did you sense that in Jerome? Did you think that some of the Kibei were being suspected?

RM: Not, well, little bit in Jerome. But the one I hear is other camps like Manzanar, worst one was at Tule Lake because that's why those are people being sent, then more this antagonist --

AI: But not so much in Jerome?

RM: Not in Jerome as far as I know. I didn't stay long enough.

AI: Right.

RM: Because after that the things getting bad so getting the Japanese side so probably --

AI: I had a question: because your Japanese was so fluent, do you think anyone suspected you of being loyal to Japan because your Japanese was so good and you --

RM: Well, some people might think so...

AI: But they didn't --

RM: But to me, from the beginning, that's why my motivation is... first I didn't think about serving the army or anything, but any way get out. So even join the army, might get killed but still gonna get out of the camp.

<End Segment 47> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 48>

AI: Well, tell me, how did you hear about this? You were in Jerome and how did you hear about this opportunity to get out?

RM: No, no, I mean, my get out so that I could --

AI: Yes.

RM: -- movies or, you know...

AI: Right, right, no, how did you hear about this opportunity to join up --

RM: No, I didn't. So I'm thinking --

AI: You didn't hear about it?

RM: -- all of a sudden the recruiting officer come around and, well, at the time, obviously, they now it's Veteran's Day but then in November 11th and come out. So after that was a holiday so next day I was inducted, twelfth of November I definitely remember. And so what happened is, boy, they give me chance to join because I know I will pass because I understand the Japanese. Other people just whether come or not then they trainable or not, know enough or not. But they a brief test to see. But since they already knew that my record show that I was attending Japanese school, so they had an eye on me. I don't know who mentioned, but I was picked already. But just a formality, I volunteered.

AI: So what happened? Did someone come to Jerome and come and, come to you directly and talk to you?

RM: Not directly, but I mean is they announced that army is looking for soldiers. They didn't say exactly where but then some people said, "Don't go there, that's a spy school," and things like that, Issei, and also Kibeis say, so they refused to do. But some Kibei came, too. But that's pathetic some Kibei didn't speak good English. So the hard time, especially, reading part could do it but when it come to translation, especially then the people from Hawaii, they were 100th Battalion and all sergeant already but they needed more people so they asked 'em whether they want to volunteer go. But the things, lotta people, I didn't know exactly what the motivation, but I don't know what they told about, but they join because they don't have to go Europe to fight. So at least there may be a desk job or something, so the easy way out. They're volunteer to go National Guard and then 100th Battalion sent to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, and start training. There opportunity. Some people mention that oh, glad came here, then, of course, they didn't know we're gonna go, but they didn't take all of 'em, only took fourteen of us, seven from Hawaii and seven from the mainland. And the mainland guys mostly from the camp, about five guys from camp and I was one of 'em.

<End Segment 48> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 49>

AI: Well, excuse me, before we get too far ahead, I wanted to just come back to this time in Jerome when the recruiter came and you heard that they were recruiting, and, but you were just saying earlier that some of the Issei and some of the Kibei said, "No, don't do that."

RM: "Don't go," yeah.

AI: "Don't go," and they, they, it sounds like they were pretty negative that if someone went there and, that they were going to put you in a spy school and you would end up spying against Japan?

RM: Informing against, yeah.

AI: So what did you think when you heard that?

RM: So that's why that I think that they're feeling the Issei and Kibeis --

AI: Some of them.

RM: And Kibei was trained that way, but since a lot of Kibei in the school so they volunteer with most likely willingly or more or less because some people, well, wanna join but they're not qualified at this time. Later on a draft came and I ask 'em whether you're gonna go or not, be loyal to States. And this is where the "no-no" boy comes in there. But other than that, our time, just your own choice whether you wanna go or not.

AI: So when you, when you went to find out about this, what did you hear from the recruiter? Or what did they say?

RM: Well, some people tell 'em, "Don't go because that's a spy school," and then, that come out and say "spy." 'Course, some of the people end up in that way, but some of 'em just the translator, or some schoolteachers teaching Japanese, but they didn't know exactly what that is but the army wanted. Now they don't wanna take, before, now they wanna take it so it mixed emotions to me, too. When I wanna join they reject me and then, in the camp. But now my main objective was to get out of camp, at least freedom, even though army, you get weekend and go out to movie or go restaurant. But fortunately, me, and knowing the Japanese, I didn't have to study.

AI: Well, now, before we get there, because I do want to find out about that, but when you then decided that you were going to go ahead and volunteer, what happened, what was the procedure? You volunteered and then you were saying that it was the Veteran's Day holiday?

RM: Yeah, so actually what happened was they took us name and gave us a serial number and my serial number is 18184261, that's the Eighth Army area so that's why eight comes in and one stands for the volunteer, not the draftee, so one number is all the voluntary enlistment so there's a proud of because willing to serve, other three number is all drafted people, see, so if you look at it, they know who volunteered. So if you complained, you volunteered, because they, you already branded, you're volunteer starts with number one. So you could look at it and see whether he's a volunteer or not then where he come from right away. So there's the Eighth Army district is around the middle east, middle west, so... Hawaii is three, nine or somethin' like that that and then seven and you could say three, seven; three, five; or one, eight or one, seven; or you started with a one then my number happened to be so they know right away, oh, you came from Arkansas. Arkie. [Laughs]

AI: Well, so you said that then you were inducted, right --

RM: Uh-huh.

AI: -- right after Veteran's Day. And you were inducted right there at camp? Is that, or what happened?

RM: Well just give, but then wind up that we have to sneak out early in the morning.

AI: Really? How come?

RM: Yeah, because of some guys against us, might harm us. We don't know.

AI: Oh.

RM: But it didn't happen to our camp, but we're the first group that sneak out of camp. Same thing happened I think at McGee, too.

AI: So when you say "sneak out of camp," what happened? What did you do?

RM: I mean, line up and get on the bus and went to railroad station in McGee and then hit; went towards Fort Snelling and that's where issued army uniform. Then get on the bus and went to Savage.

<End Segment 49> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 50>

TI: So we're in the second day of the interview with Roy Matsumoto. At this point Tom Ikeda, I'm the primary interviewer and Alice Ito is still joining me, and Dana Hoshide is still on camera. And just a brief review, so yesterday, Roy, we asked you about your early life in the United States growing up. We asked you questions about growing up in Japan. Then we asked you questions after you came back from Japan and went to high school in the United States, the time period working after high school. Then there was the breakout of the war at which point you were then removed to Santa Anita and then to Jerome. And yesterday where we ended up was you, at that point, had volunteered to join the army. And you were recruited for your Japanese skills. I just wanted to ask you a little bit about -- and this might be a slight overlap from yesterday -- but, how did you feel at that point as you were leaving Jerome, Arkansas, about joining the army? Just talk about that a little bit.

RM: Well, when the recruiting officer come around, the announcement, that announced that, announcement was, I think put 'em on the bulletin board. And so at that time, well, here is a chance to get out of camp, so I thought. Then, well, they call into office and interview me just briefly but probably they already knew me. I had a education Japan, that there my primary objective is to recruit soldier who'd be used as an interpreter or translator or the interrogator so they looking for primary there, people who understand Japanese and especially the people that had a education that had a education in Japan so they don't have to train so much, the people don't know anything about it so, since they knew I was a graduate of a Japanese school so they didn't ask much question, just have to take a physical and that's it. But a lotta other people, they're struggling to get in, so they have to take a test and question and everything else. To me, it was easy street. So, more or less I say I'm glad because my intention was get out of camp any way I could, except escaping. My, well, I was so glad so I didn't know where I'm goin' but anyway at least I would be able to get out that dump, so to speak.

TI: So, one thing that you mentioned yesterday was how there was some controversy about some of the men volunteering into the service and they needed to, in some ways, I think you said sneak out of camp. Why do you think that was? I mean, what were some of the incidents that you could remember, was it name calling, or what was it like?

RM: Well, some rumor, then if it's notice that, then they're talkin', not directly to me but generally more or less showing their desire that, hope that don't volunteer to join. There's some Kibeis and some Isseis. But I made up my mind that I first wanna get out but, at that time, I just get out of this joint. But, of course, later on I changed my mind, but anyway, but there were several other people also join, decided to enlist.

TI: I'm sorry, you said you changed your mind, what do you mean?

RM: Well, the purpose was at first didn't think about loyalty to the United States or die for the country but primary and I thought it was get out that place and I was so mad being incarcerated so I joined, but as soon as I joined, now I'm in the service and served my country so I decided to do my best to do my duty.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 50> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 51>

TI: So, so where were you inducted?

RM: Jerome, Arkansas, they come around and took name and brief physical so that we'll fit it or not. Then actually, then we were put 'em on a train and, early in the morning so that other people still sleeping because some people might do something to prevent that, people leaving there. So, we were sent to Fort Snelling first.

TI: And Roy, how many people were on that train with you?

RM: From, well, I, I didn't count but around, excuse me, I have this somewhere, all the names who... well, what happened was, not supposed to have the copy of the orders, restricted, but for my information they put the, this order in my personal file, then I delete it from there then I got the information. So all the names, I didn't exactly count so many, but the one we went were people from Rohwer, Arkansas camp, too. So...

TI: But roughly...

RM: Roughly, fifty-fifty and about twenty something.

TI: Okay.

RM: If you want an exact figure, check --

TI: No, that's okay. So when you arrived at Fort Snelling...

RM: Fort Snelling and they had a physical and then the size of it, they issued clothes, shoes, and jacket and coat, overcoat and so forth. Then it would be sent to Camp Savage by bus.

TI: And what was it, what was your first impression of Camp Savage when you got there?

RM: Well, that's a dilapidated old, old soldier's home or something and, but they had to clean the thing and they had pot belly stove for the heat. And this being November 12th, so it's pretty cool, cold in Minnesota. And so I never experienced this because I was born in California and grew up, so pretty warm, but anyway, they issue heavy clothing, winter clothing.

TI: And you were one of the first MIS classes to be at Camp Savage, weren't you?

RM: Yes, the camp, but, well, part of student were from California and just prior to war break out they recruited soldiers from the unit to be trained as language -- this happened to be Building 640 at Crissy Field in the Presidio San Francisco. And school started and some of 'em didn't graduate but they were sent to front line and rest of 'em were sent to Savage, Camp Savage, so they, they didn't finish class, I suppose, so they're being disbursed and sent to overseas or other places. Some became instructors, stay there. So we're the one the first class started from Savage.

TI: Okay, so technically you were probably the --

RM: First.

TI: -- the second MIS class. The first one started at the Presidio.

RM: First start at the Presidio San Francisco.

TI: And then some of them moved to Savage.

RM: And then moved to, yeah, Savage.

TI: And then you were the first class at Savage.

RM: Yeah.

TI: And then after you there were about twenty other classes --

RM: That's right.

TI: -- following you.

RM: Yes.

TI: So you were one of the pioneers of the MIS.

RM: That's right.

AI: I just wanted to clarify that at the end of 1942, when you were first there, you were then twenty-nine years old already.

RM: Yes.

TI: So, also one of the older ones there.

RM: Yeah. Well, one of the, see, some, a few other people older than me. Of course, those people all Kibeis, the one older one. Even though they're older but know quite a bit of Japanese that's why they being inducted. But young people, well, if they're old if you didn't know, never been to Japan, never would be accepted. But I think they made exception age just, they just waive the age limit, so some people elder, older than me.

<End Segment 51> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 53>

TI: So, I'm curious now, how did the, sort of like a changing dynamics, all of a sudden Japanese language is more important. I'm curious how the Kibeis got along with the Niseis at the MIS school. Did the dynamics change? Did people mix together or did the Kibeis stay together separately from the Niseis, or how did that work?

RM: Well, depend on individual. Some the people that never been Japan, they need help. But some Kibeis very kind and, kind enough to teach so they get along pretty well, 'cause they need help in order to stay, 'cause you have to pass the test and every Saturday have a test then after they're free so people know the answer could finish right away and you could take off. But other people couldn't go, they have to struggle to finish just the test and... before that they have to study every night to memorize it, remember, see, that's the hard part of it, and that's a cram classes, so short period of time if you know just little bit and wanna do the high school things, in six months that's too much.

AI: I had a question. It sounds like, for one of the first times in your life as someone who lived in Japan for a while and had some education in Japan, that you actually received some respect for that experience. What was... how... was that the case that here in the language school, now you said that things had changed and instead of being looked down upon, that Kibei and those of you who had been in Japan, you actually received some respect from the others?

RM: Well, I don't know. Well, some people come to me and be friendly to, see, they knew Kibeis because, some Kibeis you could tell because on account of the English has a Japanese accent. And some speak pretty well, like Hank Gosho and cannot tell the difference between the people never been to... but to me, see, I made a policy to help the people out, be nice to 'em, see, so that even though they, first they look down, these Kibeis, but that's beside the point. I, since I get in the service I do my best to help, not only the people but the county -- I mean, the country to, well... anyway, I made up my policy so I helped the people who doesn't know and come to me, and more than willing to help the people. So that's why I got along pretty well with the people.

<End Segment 53> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 54>

TI: Well, in addition to helping or tutoring some of the Niseis, you also mentioned in a previous conversation how you also helped some junior officers.

RM: Well, later on, after school was over. What happened that matter was, after graduate, everybody graduate and the one came from the camp never had a basic training. So the people transfer from 100th Battalion or so forth, well, they already veterans and they had a basic training and so they didn't need to go through training again. So they waiting for shipment, but the people came from camp... see, in the army, usually they put 'em in the boot camp, train, basic training then send to school. But ours, they're so urgent, they needed train the people so whether, you know, you're handicapped or not they needed people who are proficient in Japanese so they trained that. Then, if people didn't make it, they'd be washed out or, and shipped out other... but the one graduated didn't have education, they're all sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. And it so happened that the 442nd was just organized and they're training that segregate 442nd.

TI: Yeah, so let me recap, so what you're saying is so you were rushed to the MIS school for your Japanese training --

RM: Yes.

TI: -- didn't go through basic training and so they shipped you down to (Camp) Shelby, Mississippi, to do your basic training with the 442, which was a segregated Japanese American --

RM: Yes, at Camp Shelby, yes.

TI: -- which was an infantry unit that was being trained to go to Europe.

RM: Right. But what happened is, after the recruiter come around and they picked up the, all the eligible volunteer, then after that the draft started. So there was people being drafted or volunteer who don't have any Japanese knowledge, were sent to Camp Shelby and that's why 442nd was formed.

TI: I'm curious, when you were at Camp Shelby -- this is kind of a follow-up to when you were at Camp Savage -- the Kibeis, because of their Japanese language skills were viewed upon in real positive light because they had really excellent Japanese skills. When you went to Camp Shelby for basic training, sort of infantry skills and things like that, the Japanese language skills weren't, wouldn't be viewed as positive. So were there instances, were there cases where the Niseis at Camp Shelby then looked down upon the Kibeis who were going through basic training? Was it, did it change, in essence, at Camp Shelby?

RM: Yeah, well, some of the Kibeis went to school but couldn't improve much in English because not teaching English, teaching Japanese. So still, some Kibeis never went to school before joining the army, still had a hard time and they probably looked down on them. But as far as a skill like target practice, regular range, things like that, pretty proficient, but... see, the cadre where the people came from Hawaii and they already been soldier in 100th Battalion, so the recruits were from the camp. And so we don't know, we're just not the soldiers, see, just linguist. So the training was hard but then they get stick together because they been schooled together and buddy-buddy system and help out each other so went through there and hike and things like that and help out so that no drop out. And we did our best to finish that and then after completion of basic training, was sent back to Camp Savage and waited for the assignment.

TI: Right, it was during this time when you were waiting for assignment that you were asked to help tutor these junior officers.

RM: Yes. Since I didn't have to study in the free time, so the first, when they did send me to Fort Snelling, then me, well, don't have to learn Japanese because I already knew and in the school I learned about military terms, some of which I knew already but some other new things, then American way of doing it, not the Japanese way. Then about military intelligence and such as the technique of how to interrogate the prisoners, things like that, I learned. So not all of 'em do that because other people still have to brush up their language part, but whereas I... then came back, extra time, then I don't have to brush up anything so they know I now available and then they knew, school knew that I'm Kibei and speak fluent Japanese, so, "How about helping out the language officers?" These language officers were originally college student and learned Japanese but they joined the army, then they're gonna make language officer out of 'em.

TI: So these --

RM: But they needed --

<End Segment 54> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 55>

TI: So these were college graduates, these were Caucasians --

RM: Yes.

TI: -- who were brought on to be Japanese language officers.

RM: Officers.

TI: And, and they were given officer status because of their ability to speak Japanese?

RM: Yes, Japanese, yes. So needed language officer commission, they give a commission then, so become language officers. But they need brush up and so they, the school asked me to tutor and, see, then practice a conversation in Japanese. So they didn't give me any text, see, so leave it up to me and just train how to do the conversation. So to me, nobody said anything to me, "Just help 'em out," so I did my own way. So I would say, I gonna ask a question, and well, make a statement first, then I asked a question, then you would answer in English or either in Japanese. And then I would say some question, then point out... see, well, this group was small group about five or six officers and I don't wanna embarrass them so you give 'em a wrong answer or, well, incomplete answer, I would say, if it's correct, see, it's okay, that's right, see. But if not correct, it's wrong, then I would say, I don't say it was wrong, see. I would say, "This is the preferred," tell 'em so that wouldn't embarrass.

TI: I see. So, was part of it -- was part of it because they were, they were officers? That you felt --

RM: Yeah, they were officers, but, I mean, among themselves because, well, they, see, they learn at the college but they didn't teach conversation, reading and writing and grammar and things like that, but as far as, well... this just, they have to, see, what I did, if I ask a question in Japanese and they have to answer in Japanese, see, supposedly. But if I understand what I said in Japanese, then don't know how to say it in Nihongo Japanese, they would say in English, so sometime, make a mistake and it was wrong, why, I say, "This is preferred," see.

TI: Well, in general, how would you compare the language, the Japanese language abilities of these junior officers with the other MIS students, the Niseis and the Kibeis?

RM: Well, Kibeis already, no question they're, they're okay. But some of 'em are still not sufficient, insufficient, well, not up to par, but compared to that, since they went to college and learn it, some of grammar and things like that they know. But compared to other Nisei, about the middle, I think.

TI: Right, and I'm curious, when, when the students, both Kibeis and Niseis graduated from MIS, what rank were they given?

RM: T-5. That's a corporal grade, T-5.

TI: Okay, so, but these men who were non-Japanese, and who were recruited for their Japanese language skills, and whose skills were sort of perhaps in the middle of what the Niseis, the ones who weren't trained in Japan, they were given officer status. They were made lieutenants and higher.

RM: Yeah.

TI: I mean, did the people ever talk about how that might not be fair?

RM: Well, that, not fair, but that's government policy, I suppose. And it's unfair and should be probably warrant officer, because the specialist in language so such as, like, special agent is, most of 'em make a warrant officer's grade. But officers, language officer don't, well, know just little bit of language but nobody's fluent enough to do the job. So have to depend on the Nisei or Kibei assistance. So same with interrogation, too, officers themselves couldn't, of course, speak Japanese but then Japanese soldier had a hard time understanding what he was talkin' about. And that's my observation later on. But it turned out that way so if they gonna give a Caucasian officers and then the Niseis should have been given officers, too.

<End Segment 55> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 56>

TI: The next thing, at lunch yesterday you mentioned this and I didn't understand or realize this but you actually got a nice little bonus when you went to Camp Savage in that you were reunited with your brother. You found out that your brother was the company clerk at Camp Savage. And he had earlier been drafted before the war, had been in the army and then was assigned to Camp Savage and then you later on met him there. What was it like when you saw him?

RM: Well, I was surprised. But then the other way, the... surprise and not surprise because he attended, he was graduated from Los Angeles City College.

TI: And I should mention this is your brother Tom.

RM: Brother Tom, yes. And so, and so he didn't have to become a student. Well, could be an instructor but since he went to administrative school at Camp, I mean, at Fort Leavenworth, so he became company clerk, typing. They teach typing and so forth and procedures, and so assigned as a company clerk at the Camp Savage. So he was in the factory or just overhead there. But the meantime he applied for OCS and they sent him to Fort Benning and became an officer.

TI: Did you and your brother ever talk about the family in Japan and possibly what was happening to them when you saw, saw Tom?

RM: Well, let's see, since the war broke out there's no more correspondence so we just worry about it but we didn't think about atomic bomb or things like that because at the time they were in Hiroshima and thought pretty safe. Then start to worry is when, well, that's later on in, while I'm in China.

<End Segment 56> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 57>

TI: Right, yeah, we'll get to that later but, but at some point at the MIS, they came in there and they talked about a sort of a secret dangerous mission. And they were looking for volunteers for this mission. And in fact, they said that casualties could be up to eighty five percent and, again, they asked for volunteers. What did you do?

RM: Well, the reason they volunteer is the deal was good. See, they said, "This is a dangerous mission. However, if you survive, you'll be sent back to stateside and serve in the stateside duration of the war." So that was a good deal.

TI: So they said if you survive this secret mission --

RM: So that's why --

TI: -- that was supposed to be what, three, four months --

RM: That was, that was, in the three months' mission, but didn't turn out that way so we double-crossed, more or less.

TI: But they said, so if you, if you survive this dangerous secret mission --

RM: Yes.

TI: -- three months, that you would return stateside. So at that point, did very many men volunteer?

RM: Pardon?

TI: Did very many of the men volunteer?

RM: Oh yeah, all of 'em volunteer, almost all of 'em. May have a few exceptions but as far as I know they talk about everybody go. But most were not qualified, see, because they wanted only fourteen men and so they, the way they choose is man and strong in English, then a man strong in Japanese, so then team up and so that make a good report and also able to conduct the assignment.

TI: So, roughly about two hundred men volunteered.

RM: Yes.

TI: They chose fourteen.

RM: Fourteen.

TI: One of which, you were one of the fourteen. So were these fourteen, would you say, are sort of the cream of the crop of the MIS in terms of who they selected?

RM: Well, some were picked up and made instructor out of 'em. But as far, yes, the one that chosen probably is the cream of the crop, I suppose.

TI: Okay, so the fourteen of you were selected.

<End Segment 57> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 58>

TI: And why don't we jump to Fort Mason where the fourteen of you go onto the SS Lurline, it's an ocean liner ship, to join two other battalions to be shipped to Asia. What were you thinking when you sort of went on the ship?

RM: Well, not that two other battalion but one unit battalion from the mainland and some came back from Trinidad or Panama to stateside, then got on. But we're not shipped out right away. We waited until people arrived so we arrived at Camp Stoneman, then instead of going Fort Mason we were sent to Angel Island and then Fort McDowell and stayed, waited there. 'Course, we're restricted, we cannot go to city of San Francisco. Of course, you see right across the bay, but we been held there. Then when the troop from Camp Stoneman came in and get up to Fort Mason then we put on the ferry, then went to Fort Mason, then took about forty days to arrive at the destination. But meantime, we don't know where we're goin'.

TI: I'm curious, when, so you're on the ship, fourteen Japanese Americans, what was it like when you first met the Caucasian U.S. soldiers?

RM: Well, some of the people from the back east never saw Japanese so I understand that there was a rumor saying that they thought we were Japanese prisoner, put 'em in American uniform and use as an interpreter. So they thought it was a enemy, they didn't think of it as a Nisei because they already, they know what the concentration camps. So, we been segregated, fourteen of us, fortunately, instead of down below in the bunk we were given a stateroom, a big stateroom, fourteen. So then we have a view out there and we could see through window and only thing is that we can never go out there until later.

AI: So even though you were segregated, at least you were segregated in a nice quarters?

RM: Nice quarters, yes, stateroom.

AI: And when was this that you were shipping out? Was that about September?

RM: September.

TI: September 20, 1943 is when they were shipped out. But even though, so you were given a stateroom, the fourteen of you were pretty close quarters?

RM: Yes.

TI: How did the fourteen of you get along with each other?

RM: Well, during the basic training and the school they looked down on us but now they have to worry whether... the Kibeis, has a confidence because they know, already know what, then also learn at the school, too. So, but the one never been to Japan, they don't know what they gonna, they gonna face with it. So kinda worried, so try to... so at the school, see, we been looked down, but now, approach us because they need your help, so they treated us nice. Then start to, to kill the time, well, play card or something like that and get together and know each other. And meantime, we been sent out to the deck and everybody assemble we been introduced and told of these, not Japanese, not prisoner. They're American and trained, and do what -- so introduced and then they get to know. But meantime, they see, some of 'em think, some guy, they hate the Japanese so they should have thrown overboard or something like that. They talk about it. Later on when it get intimate, friendly, they confess, they tell how they felt. But then they, well, when get into combat they find out how important we were. And...

<End Segment 58> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 59>

TI: But on that trip, forty days over, so you were brought up to the deck, introduced as U.S. soldiers --

RM: Yeah.

TI: Who were gonna help with the Japanese language.

RM: Yeah.

TI: But your sense was there were still people who were still real hostile to you, that didn't like you because you're Japanese.

RM: Yeah, sure.

TI: Did anyone say anything in particular to you that you recall that you knew was a hostile comment or stare or anything? Could you tell that it was hostile?

RM: No, the way look, you feel like, because it wasn't, wasn't friendly, the way talk. But later on everything is changed. But then they were told that divide 'em up, each team, so assign two. Then they tell purpose. You have to guard, safe so that they don't get killed or wounded. So they didn't exactly put a guard on it, but more or less, help 'em out.

TI: Well, I'm also curious; on those forty days, here you had just gone through extensive training on sort of, not only Japanese language but Japanese military tactics and techniques and weapons, were you able to share any of that information with the other U.S. Caucasian soldiers to help to prepare them?

RM: No, no contact on the ship. Of course, we go mess hall and things like that, see, or some of 'em curious and wanna friendly and people talk, but we're totally strangers until arrive at destination, then start the training, then we been assigned to unit so then you get to know the people, but before that, total strangers. And the way they hear about, the, antagonistic about the Japanese as enemies, see, some uncle got killed or somethin' like that and they hate. But we're an American, but they didn't figure that way, to look at Japanese and so...

TI: During the forty days, amongst the fourteen men, were there ever conversations about relatives who were still in Japan? Similar to you, you had brothers and parents and grandparents in Japan, were other men, did other men have similar situations like that?

RM: Well, similar, yes. Well, some had people, even though never been Japan, but the relatives or cousin or somebody or uncle, some in Japan. Of course, most of 'em, originally came from Japan so they have some relatives, and some of us has brothers. He never been Japan but then his brother might be in Japan. The different cases with individual that, to me, has some people never been Japan and came to me, and talk to me and, of course, the Japanese weak so even though went to school, speak in English. And such as Akiji Yoshimura, he write, he could give a talk so he give some lectures about some of the things, what we do, but he was one of man commissioned and I was team up with him and...

TI: Okay.

RM: Well, we don't come to that yet but later on we get there.

<End Segment 59> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 60>

TI: So why don't we -- so after the forty days you land, finally, after several stops, you finally land in India. Why don't you talk about what it was like getting off the ship and what you saw?

RM: Well, we landed Bombay, India, well, before, meantime we stop at Australia, Brisbane -- well, before, first after left San Francisco, we didn't know where we were goin' so then toward Hawaii, then went by Hawaii and then we didn't stop there.

TI: So you were disappointed. [Laughs]

RM: Well, I tell the story that, well, we saw the Diamond Head and instead of getting bigger and bigger, see, getting smaller and smaller, and disappear, and so we didn't go to Hawaii. But then first place stop was Caledonia, New Caledonia, Noumea, New Caledonia, then pick up the people at, soldiers, the veterans from Guadalcanal and somewhere around there and form, in addition to people left from stateside. Then the next stop was Brisbane and pick up the people from New Guinea or so forth that, from they got transferred to Australia so they picked the soldiers up. Then that's, most of 'em are 3rd Battalion from there. Then we went around the Tasmanian Sea and end up in Fremantle, Perth, right there the western part of Australia, stop. Then rumor that we goin' to Ceylon, that's tip of India, this island is Ceylon. But then they said a Japanese submarine lurkin' around there so they change the course and went through Indian Ocean and the place end up was Bombay. I don't know, maybe originally from Bombay, I suppose, I don't know, that's just a rumor that we were going to Colombo, Ceylon, Sri Lanka right now, but anyway, end up India, Bombay. Then they put us on a train, then about, about three days we get to Camp Deolali and so happened to be British camp up in central India, and then stay there a while, then we were to be trained by British army --

TI: So explain, what kind of training? So you had already gone through basic training, you were picking up veterans, what kind of training were you doing?

RM: Well, this would be a long range penetration, jungle, warfare tactics and so forth, see, jungle training. Then we know gonna go jungle, but still we didn't know what jungle. But end up in Burmese jungle. But then we sent, set our own camp, called Deogarh by the River Betwa and that's why we started our own practice of the team, then platoon size. Then learned penetration go through and form four enemy unit and practice and then sneak up, things like that and how to go through the jungle, not in a single column or somethin'. Well, anyway, the tactics, British taught us.

TI: And so during this time, even though you were trained to be a linguist, you were essentially just a regular GI going through the exact same training everyone else was going through?

RM: Yes, so just forget about the linguist part. They trained, the fighting, therefore we're speciality, our job would've been linguist, but, no, they concentrate on soldiers. That's why we been classified as infantryman, not military intelligence.

TI: So you were expected and trained to be a fighter.

RM: Fighting soldier, yes. And so you have to learn all of that and so you be interpreter if we capture prisoner, or if we find a document, then you be the translator.

TI: And how did you feel about that? Because you were being trained as a linguist and you were recruited as a linguist, but, but you, during this training realized you were gonna really be a fighter also.

RM: Yes.

TI: How did you feel about --

RM: So we didn't encounter any, see, this is the training stage, but so we never expect to translate or interrogate, but main thing is survival. See, so they have to concentrate on these tactics. So even though we're linguists, but right now, of course, we have to brush up, but whereas half of us Kibei, so they don't have to do anything. Other part carried the dictionary, too, and study besides being a soldier, so I pity them. But some Kibeis carried dictionary, too, but, so extra burden because extra weight carrying a dictionary. And, well anyway, still we didn't come to a combat yet, so...

<End Segment 60> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 61>

TI: So while you were doing your jungle training, at about this time, General Merrill, this was the first time he actually met the unit. And I think at this point your unit was designated 5307, sort of, Composite --

RM: Unit.

TI: Unit, Provisional.

RM: Provisional.

TI: And, do you recall meeting or seeing General Merrill at this point?

RM: No. See, we're training, he didn't come to the camp. Later on he came to, in Burma.

TI: But at this point, was it clear as you were getting your jungle training, what the mission was going to be for your unit?

RM: Well, went down there, then we thought, since they're gonna get the jungle training, then the British one, the unit were there, were veterans from Burma and they were more or less, they been chased out, General Wingate and, British general. And they were gonna use their tactics. But then General Stillwell, he said they gonna do it his way. So we're supposed to be under British command, but then Stillwell just took away from... he hate British, he didn't like the British anyway, so...

TI: And so when you said he wanted to do it his way, how would his tactics --

RM: Under his command.

TI: Okay, but his tactics would probably be similar to what the British were using?

RM: So, similar, but not the same, see, they're gonna do American way because we had Colonel Hunter, came from South Pacific and had training, and they had the jungle fighting. So they do it our own way.

TI: Yeah, my understanding of what one of the missions of the unit was, was one of the allies during World War II fighting the Japanese were the Chinese. And it was difficult to supply the Chinese troops with supplies. One way was to do, sort of, flights over the Himalayas, over the hump to supply them but that was a very difficult trip for airplanes. And so they were trying to establish a land route through Burma from India to China to help supply the routes, but that the Japanese --

RM: Well, Chinese are fighting with, see, General Stillwell had two divisions with Chinese fighting in Burma. But our mission was to open the route to help the Nationalist Army in China fighting Japanese there. So in order to do that we have to make a route to join the Burma Road and that has been occupied by Japanese when the British were chased out of there. So we lost a route to ship equipment and material and rations, so forth. They used to use a truck and hauling but now it was completely taken over by Japanese so now American have to fly by air over the Himalaya, so they call, "over the hump." So it's a cost too much, it couldn't carry too much and so they have to open the roads. In order to do that, we have to chase the Japanese out of there. It's our mission to --

TI: Well, and the other thing, when you, to chase the Japanese, your unit wasn't a really large unit.

RM: No.

TI: It wasn't like you were going to do sort of a face-to-face battle. Your unit was much smaller than what you would expect to meet in Burma. So, so your strategies had to probably be different also in terms of what you would, how you would do this.

RM: Well, the, as far as the fighting goes, the Chinese, two divisions were pushing the Japanese. So what we do is we go through the jungle and behind the enemy line, between, we hit the back of the Japanese fighting Chinese, and hit and then run and then go behind the Japanese frontal attack was the Chinese are doing. And so we are disrupt the communications and...

TI: Exactly. So one of the missions was to really, as part of this large integrated sort of effort, your unit's mission was to really go and make cases behind enemy lines, disrupt communications, supplies...

RM: Yes.

TI: make it really hard for the Japanese so that the Chinese, the two Chinese divisions could make the more frontal attack --

RM: Right.

TI: -- with the weakened Japanese force. And so your mission was to really be in the jungle for months doing this behind-the-scenes, or behind-the-lines activity.

AI: I had a question. When you first found out exactly what your mission was going to be, what was your reaction? What went through your mind?

RM: Well, we have no idea whatsoever. But then went to -- and actually this place, the training place wasn't the jungle, just high plateau and British were, British training camp. Then since we're gonna say they're gonna be a jungle penetration training, we know we gonna go nearby and the enemy were in Burma so we presumed that... exactly they didn't say where we're goin' but we presumed that since close to the place next to India is Burma and that's where enemy is and General Stillwell's intention is that need help, the Chinese group. In order to do that, go behind the Japanese and disrupt the communications so we know we're going to Burma in the jungle.

<End Segment 61> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 62>

TI: Your unit was named the 5307th Composite Unit Provisional.

RM: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: Later on it became, it was known as Merrill's Marauders.

RM: Before that, the code name was Galahad.

TI: Galahad, right, that was your code name, Galahad.

RM: Yeah.

TI: And then later on people started calling you Merrill's Marauders.

RM: Yeah.

TI: How did that name Merrill's Marauders come about?

RM: Well, some, I just don't recall, but reporter for the stateside's paper, reporter, he just call that and so pick up since being Merrill is a general, then his, they say, Merrill's Raider or somethin' like that but they come out that words Marauder so then people start to call Marauder. It's easier than instead of 5307, you have to remember that, but General Merrill's men, so Merrill's Marauders they call Marauders so that became usage, then became official title.

TI: Okay, good.

RM: So now the 75th Ranger Corps carried our names, Marauders, so...

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 62> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 63>

TI: So, let's talk about going into Burma. Why don't you describe how you got into Burma and what that was like?

RM: Well, after I finished that, since we're goin' to Burma, in order to do that, well, that's across the continent there, so we use a train. But unfortunately they have different gauge of places, see, some narrow gauge, some wide, standard gauge. So each time it come to a terminal, you have to unload and change over. So it took time.

TI: So, we're talking about the railroad tracks.

RM: Railroad tracks is how different size, it's narrow gauge and standard gauge. So then come to Calcutta then finally got on a ferry and go up Brahmaputra River, go up that big wide river to near Margherita and detrain and also narrow gauge again and place called Ledo, it's, made a base there. From there General Pick, combat engineer is opening, making a road, then they just open about a hundred miles, maybe a hundred twenty miles to Shingbwiyang and we thought we were gonna ride the truck because they opened the road. But instead of riding, we walked hundred twenty-five miles in ten days, took ten days. But they called it a training exercise. And we should have got in a truck and get there in a day, but instead of doin' it, took us ten days and got there.

TI: And what did you have to carry?

RM: Yeah, carry, well, everything else, then they issue two pair of boots and two sheet of blanket and two pair of jacket and so lotta people just lost -- [laughs] -- half of the things on the way and you know, threw away, in other words, too heavy and they don't need it. Of course, sometimes you feel like you should have kept it because the cold nighttime and it's hot during the, because of the high altitude. And finally get there and this happened to be about the 20th of February, and reach Shingbwiyang.

AI: So that was --

RM: Shingbwiyang.

AI: So that was February 1944?

RM: '44.

AI: And at that time, I was just wondering, you were just talking about how heavy the equipment was.

RM: About sixty pounds, probably.

AI: And about how much did you weigh at that time?

RM: I weighed 125 pounds.

AI: And with about sixty, carrying about sixty pounds.

RM: Then on top of it, rifle, see, that's heavy, fifteen pounds or something.

TI: So was that a pretty hard march for you?

RM: That was a hard march. Well, of course, take a break, too, but we're not used to hiking with the packs on and canteen, too, and I encountered, well, discrimination. We passed by the combat engineer construction group there, then there was lister bag. You know what lister bag is? That's a water, that's rubberized bag, water in, cool water and had a spigot there and so got thirsty. We had our own canteen, too, but is in the walking and the warm so I wanted cold water, you know. "Could I have water?" said. "Hell no, you Jap," that's what the black guys told me. So even though they hate their, look like Japanese face so they told me, "Hell no, Jap."

TI: What was your response, and the response of people --

RM: Well, I thought I gonna, you know, but can't do it because, well other people there, too, so...

TI: At this point, did any of your fellow soldiers say anything to the other soldier that...

RM: No, some of 'em were drinking and they, you know, they're thirsty, too. See, but I just didn't get it, so... but, of course, I had my warm canteen water, but...

TI: Now how did that make you feel? Here you were just about ready to go into combat --

RM: Boy I was, and they tried to do, so now it made me more, determination to show that I'm not second-class citizen, you know. And tried to do... that's end up in risking my life to speak of. But, well, kinda sad at the time. I was mad more but as I'd stated before, I tried to hold my temper, so I didn't do any foolish thing. I had a weapon; I could have shot him.

<End Segment 63> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 64>

TI: Okay, so let's keep talking. So you did ten days pretty much on a road, and then what happened?

RM: Then, finally arrived there at destination, that's a staging point, see, then they organize and a group who were gonna go where and then start off from there. And we started off 24th of February, finally get into the combat zone. And the way I found out the date was later on, I was awarded the medal and says that service is February 24th to certain date but the incident happened just one day but they cover up in about two weeks' time so that if people find out that, try to find out what happened, but they couldn't pinpoint what took place because my citation stamped "top secret."

TI: Right.

RM: 'Cause they don't want our enemy to know what happens.

TI: But let's talk about that period. Because at that point is when you entered the jungle as a combat unit and so why don't you talk about how that worked? I mean, what, at that point, what was your role and what did you do?

RM: Well, they formed the unit and I was assigned to 2nd Battalion. Then 2nd Battalion...

TI: And Roy, before we get that, why don't you explain roughly the three battalions and how the, each battalion was, was organized?

RM: Well --

TI: And where the Niseis --

RM: The group was regimental size and approximately three thousand, two hundred, I mean, 2,998, the exact number were assigned at the time. So they divided into three battalions, regimental size, so each battalion had approximately a thousand, nine hundred some men to each. And they divide that into two, so about five hundred men to each column, this called combat unit. And they color code it, see, 1st battalion had two column, two combat team, red and white; 2nd Battalion is blue and green; and 3rd Battalion is khaki... let's see...

TI: I can't remember, but there's six colors.

RM: Orange and khaki.

TI: Right, okay.

RM: So and I happened to be assigned to blue combat team I&R. I&R stand for Intelligence and Reconnaissance, in other words, a scout unit. So have to go first, the day --

TI: And before you go there, so there were six columns --

RM: Yeah.

TI: There were fourteen MIS, how were --

RM: Fourteen language team there. And two were picked by regimental headquarters so Sergeant Miyasaki and Sergeant Yoshimura were assigned to regimental headquarters. So there leave twelve others so divide in three battalions so each battalion had four linguists assigned. Then they're divided into two combat team each, so therefore two were assigned to green combat team and two were red and two were white. Each column had two linguists there.

TI: Okay. So roughly --

RM: And the way --

TI: For every five hundred fighting men there were two linguists, right?

RM: Two linguists to five hundred people. And one is supposed to be strong in English and one strong in Japanese. In other words, a Kibei and a Nisei team up to each, originally started that way. And so I team up with Sergeant Nakada and me and, Sergeant Sugeta and Bob Honda and Sergeant Honda and Sugeta, Sergeant Sugeta together.

<End Segment 64> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 65>

TI: Okay, and so --

RM: So two start out, so I was in first group go out there in I&R platoon and Lieutenant Grissom was in charge, he was the platoon sergeant, leader. And he was a schoolteacher. And that's what he told me. But a few days later we came to place called Wesu Ga and first time I met the enemy. But we didn't know, see, we just go on a trail and all of a sudden the machine gun opened up and then the first one got killed was, his name is Private Landis. And our own blue combat team, my own I&R platoon about fifty men there and I was one of 'em in the member and first casualty and Bob Landis got killed and so lieutenant, he said, "I'm a schoolteacher, but that's, most hardest thing was write letter to next of kin," and he said, "I don't know how," that was a schoolteacher and should know. That was his confession, kinda sad. But later on, the, we had a training camp set up for the replacement, other group in honor him, Camp Landis.

TI: So it sounds like that first casualty was pretty hard on the platoon.

RM: Yes.

TI: And so what were you and the other men thinking and talking about when that happened?

RM: Well, then we may encounter so, well, at the time we scared because actually, we met the enemy there in the first experience so everybody's shaking, but we have to do our... so then we can't see, they open up so we withdrew and retreated and we cannot recover, they go out there and they shoot with machine gun. So next day, we wanna bury him so went out there then see where there might be booby trap, see. But there wasn't booby trap, but that happened later on, some people try to get the souvenir, then blown up by grenade, set a booby trap.

TI: So what they would do is they would booby trap, sort of, the bodies --

RM: Body.

TI: -- of people who had been killed.

RM: Yeah.

TI: Realizing people would come back to collect the bodies and they would booby trap those.

RM: Yeah. Well, later on at... I didn't want to mention names, but my unit, "Sergeant, I want to collect some Japanese flag," you know. And they, each one carried a Japanese flag that signed by the neighbors and relatives for good luck, good wishes. And they carried that flag. Then people tried to get souvenir, then hurt because somebody was booby trapped or they waiting with a machine gun go out there. And unfortunately, they talk, "You think we're gonna survive?" I said, "Yeah, if you're careful." But I told 'em, "Don't go after souvenir." But then the one, some Japanese got killed and remained there and then he went after and a sniper got him, got killed, so...

TI: Yeah, so it's, it's terrible.

RM: That's one of, so kinda scary.

<End Segment 65> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 66>

TI: So, let's continue with your I&R, so that's Intelligence and Reconnaissance --

RM: Yes.

TI: -- work that you're doing. So you're sort of a scout team out there looking and checking, so...

RM: Well, we have a scout and, not everybody goes, we split 'em up and, see, just lookin' around. We're, they ahead of. Then we have a radio so come in if it's safe to move in, and the people follow us. So we're, I&R is the scout outfit and also we have a sniper, too, if I located the enemy, see...

TI: So why don't you talk about now what your scout team did at Walawbum, because you did some important things there.

RM: See, 3rd Battalion was first and we were reserve, that next village there at Wesu Ga and they just started fighting and Sergeant Henry Gosho was there and we didn't, we didn't know that the enemy was there. We came out of jungle, then we open field, all of a sudden we found a road there, goin' there. So they tried to go on the road, then the Japanese open up. They were there but we didn't, we didn't know that. Then the battle started so they been fighting for almost a day. Then, since there's a road there, 2nd Battalion reserve came to open and then that road, Japanese were sending a truck to supply the front line who were fighting the Chinese in two divisions and then they also had a tank, too, and go through the road there. So we wanna prevent that. So we made a roadblock, cut the tree down and lay on the road so the truck must stop then we shoot. So we're hiding in jungle but about, well, about thirty-six hours they been fighting, not us but the 3rd Battalion were fighting there. We just got there, then made a roadblock. Then I was with them, too, I&R, first group, see. And look up, there's a telephone wire there, so I thought our telephone wire, because we have a weapons platoon, it's mortar and some observer see where it's landed, see, so we use the wire, field wire. But then the unit, the person of the association was a lieutenant in charge of the weapons, heavy weapons platoon, see. So says, "Is that ours?" He says, "I don't think so." So I borrow his handset, climb up a tree, see. There was a live wire and the Japanese. I didn't expect it, so, then...

TI: So let me, before we go on, let me recap. So you came across, by surprise, a road first that was built by the Japanese to help supply the lines.

RM: Uh-huh.

TI: And then you observed, next to the road, a telephone wire. You climbed up there and it was a live wire --

RM: Yeah.

TI: -- that the Japanese were using to communicate from probably their headquarters up to the front.

RM: Yeah.

TI: Okay, so go ahead.

RM: Yeah. See, then we thought ours, but we didn't lay there, and, of course, normally if you set up a mortar position, we just lay on the ground, see. But some people say telephone post, but no telephone post, that's a tree there. And maybe up in the field they might have a post, but see, right, way top in the big tree there. And so I climb up in the big tree branch and just sat on there. Then, well, been there for a while but then they start to shoot, me --

TI: But Roy, before you even climbed up there, how did, how did you tap into the line? This was a Japanese telephone wire --

RM: Jump-, I mean, a clip. Clip into wire.

TI: Okay, so you had, you had clips or someone had clips that you could clip in --

RM: Uh-huh.

TI: -- and then with your, sort of, radio set you could listen...

RM: Not radio, telephone.

TI: It was more -- just a telephone, just a little telephone. You would clip in and you could hear the Japanese talking back and forth.

RM: Uh-huh, yeah.

TI: And then you would climb the tree and so you would sit up in the tree and you would listen with the telephone --

RM: Yeah.

TI: -- what was happening. Okay.

RM: Uh-huh. Well, first, well, they're makin' lotta noise and down there, too, so have to cover by hand, that mike. So listen, then you cannot write. So then I got an idea, unscrew the mouthpiece. And so kinda hard, then I had a pad there and what they'd say, just translate and just drop it. And down there's a I&R platoon and it has a radio set and then one of hand crank, generator and then send the radio message to where headquarters is, our. And so we take turn. Other people go up there and no report come down.

<End Segment 66> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 67>

TI: Now, I'm curious, I mean, oftentimes in battles, communication is used, they use codes, they don't really speak in, like, standard English or standard Japanese because they're afraid the enemy might intercept it. And so, oftentimes they use code. I mean, were you able to understand what was being said?

RM: Well, not the code, they didn't, they're not aware being tapped. So just ordinary conversation, see. And since the people, the Japanese way is, United States is, if you're drafted you might be sent a different post. But in Japanese, the people who were drafted all stayed together, so this area, the divisional area, all of 'em go there. For instance, if the people in Hiroshima would go to 5th Division in Hiroshima. For instance, our enemy were 18th Division that people around there is, goes to that unit. They don't send it to up north Hokkaido, something like that.

TI: So the 18th Division was what? Fukuoka?

RM: 18th Division was from Fukuoka, Kurume, and people there would be around neighborhood of Kumamoto, Fukuoka and Saga people. And they all speak the same dialect, see. So among themselves, they know each other because, see, they been there for two years already.

TI: So part of the communication on the wire was in dialect.

RM: Not coded, see

TI: Not coded, but they're in dialect. But you were from Hiroshima. I mean, that was a dialect that you understood, they were the 18th Division from Fukuoka, which was a different island, a different dialect, so how were you and the others able to understand?

RM: Well, normally I wouldn't understand, but fortunately while, before the war, I worked for the grocery store and I was young so they made me a delivery boy and so I delivered the goods to the farmers up in the countryside in Los Angeles area. And so happened that the customers were different part of Japan and they, when they speak at home they use, instead of standard Japanese, their own dialect and so happened that this family was from the same area where the --

TI: Right. Yeah, you told that story yesterday.

RM: Yeah.

TI: So it was very, like, fortunate because it wouldn't be usual for you, from, your family being from Hiroshima to really understand this dialect. But because of that delivery job, you and your curiosity, your --

RM: Yeah, that's right, curiosity.

TI: -- your thirst for knowing these other dialects, that really helped you.

RM: Yeah, it did. Well, the saying that curiosity killed cat, but curiosity end up in saving our lives so that's my lucky part of it. I happened to know, acquire knowledge of their slang and local dialect. And some orders would be standard Japanese, but when they talked themselves they used their own dialect and I able to understand their, what their conversation was.

<End Segment 67> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 68>

TI: So what was some of the information that, the important information that you heard while you were up in the tree listening?

RM: Information was that excitedly, sergeant was calling the headquarters saying that there's enemy around there, then, "We're guarding ammunition dump," and then the other side says, "Which one?" See, so they might have several, but so, they mention about thousand yard from the river. So happened that we look at map and coordinate about exactly whereabout, see, because road, and village and right in the spot. So without looking to see, we spotted exactly hidden ammunition dump in the jungle, then later on be destroyed.

TI: So you could tell from the conversation that this Japanese sergeant who was in charge of the ammunition dump --

RM: Two men, he had, with a rifle, so I think they don't know what to do, see.

TI: Right, so, but based on his conversation you could tell exactly where he was located.

RM: Well, mention which one, they ask 'em see. So thousand yard, about thousand, not yard, thousand meters, about the same place, one meter, meter, they call, Japanese use meter, metoru.

TI: And I think you mentioned earlier, too, another thing that helped you was that you found out they were using the same maps that you were. They were British maps.

RM: Yeah, well, Japanese capture this British map so they using that Burma map made by British, so happened that British has their own, so they issue us. So exactly same map we're using, enemy take and then reproduce and we got supply from British. Then we also had advisor from the British liaison officer happen to be a preacher there in that area so they have a vague idea where. So in the same map and talkin', we know exactly where we are because by coordinating we at Walawbum so then the map as well, and there's a river, then we know right. So without lookin' at where the coordinate is right like there, so instead of, go out there and destroy it we, well, some people say I ordered, but no, that's not. See, General -- this message was sent to General Merrill by code, radio, so you could intercept, so we use the code machine and decode, encode, and the other end decode and find out what the message went.

TI: Oh, so good.

RM: Was to General Merrill, then General Merrill contact right away we found ammunition dump, so send, then headquarters want order to... so we get supply mission, the Squadron P-38 come down to drop the bomb and the big boom and it was destroyed. So they give me credit for, because they wanna know who got this information.

TI: Well, because you were the starting point. You intercepted a communication from the sergeant --

RM: Uh-huh.

TI: -- that allowed you to pinpoint where the ammunition dump was, then you gave that information to the people down on the ground, they, through a coded message sent that to, probably, the headquarters and then to General Merrill and then General Merrill was able to order an air strike right on the ammunition dump.

RM: Yeah, on the spot.

TI: Because, in the jungle it would be really hard to see from the air --

RM: But since we got a map and coordinate, they could spot it right away and...

TI: And so this was a, this was a big deal, this was really important for --

RM: Oh yeah, big deal because enemy send a thousand miles from Japan to send precious ammunition. They cannot use it. It was blown up. So that's a big damage to them, so to our benefit. That's why they thought very highly of this information. And later on another information, very critical one, and we intercepted that, too.

TI: So how long were you up in the tree?

RM: Well, almost, practically all day because I couldn't even go urinate because I wet my pants because I don't wanna leave because I don't wanna miss any traffic, communications because important one might go through there.

TI: Now, how about the other linguists? Were they --

RM: Other linguists went up there, so happened that they're good in standard Japanese where we went to school, but don't understand the dialect, I don't think. But nothing come down. But the traffic was there, we know. So in turn they tell me, "Mat, you go up there," so, take a turn but others couldn't catch it, maybe too complicated, well, this strange slang mixed in it so try to figure out everything go there, you cannot ask repeat it, see. So, therefore, nothing come down, see.

TI: So it really was an amazing set of coincidences that this happened, because not only were you in the unit that, you were the one who saw the telephone wires, but, and were able to clip into it and listen, but because of your knowledge of this dialect you were able to understand.

RM: That's right. So --

TI: That if it were another MIS soldier from another unit it would be rare for them to understand this dialect.

RM: Well, if Sergeant Gosho or Sergeant Grant Hirabayashi, they would understand. Well, I don't think the dialect, but if you had knowledge of that, but just so happened that I happened to know the... I don't speak, but usually don't speak, but I understand, listen because I understand all of 'em because I learned that, try to memorize, so...

TI: I imagine this would be for the whole unit, for Merrill's Marauders, this would be a good example of them really being able to see the value of the MIS linguists. That here, because of your language abilities, you were able to pinpoint this target and destroy it without really a loss of lives or anything, it was just from intelligence.

RM: Well, before that, already Hank Gosho been fighting day before, so they realized he, when the enemy give 'em order, he made directly spot translation and we took out major, see, because they're gonna attack, then, so he's very valuable and saved a lotta people's lives. So now they realize how important they were. Then I say, put a, well... [pauses] say that put a frosting on the cake to say that more they realize the importance, how important it was, this information, and spread right away and then spread 'em out, what happen. Well, of course, we do not broadcast, but then come down there, then they knew what gonna take place, so... so I contributed --

<End Segment 68> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 69>

TI: Well, let's, yeah, let's go on because there's another important battle at Nhpum Ga. So let's go there. So why don't you tell, get us to Nhpum Ga. How did, how did you get there?

RM: Well, let me finish this first. After that, staying on there, then in the evening we find out the enemy troop movement because they pushing too hard and we're there so they decided to withdraw. And then Division (Headquarters) man, give 'em order all the troops to withdraw. That's two regiment come down. So we cannot be standing there to encounter bigger, so we got the order to withdraw.

TI: Okay, so --

RM: And got out of there.

TI: So what you did, you overheard that they were gonna do sort of a major assault on, with reinforcements. When you heard that, that was information that your commanding officer realized that, that your units would be threatened, so he, he had them withdraw to keep them safe.

RM: Well, after darkness, we waited because enemy is still around there, too. But then two regiments fighting the Chinese were gonna withdraw, withdraw. But then, so, we decided to get outta there. But then also, mentioning about they made a bypass there and then, see, instead of going to road because... they're afraid we don't know our, they didn't know our strength, see. But we know they're two, see, we know enemy was two regiments there. But they're not aware we're there, but they find out we're there because the fighting started, and they don't know our strength, maybe division, I don't know, so they might thought. So they gonna, whole thing gonna come there but we know their size and we know our size, so we had to wait until darkness, move. But they're then, so move, but then I, until, well, withdraw, I was up in the tree. Then now decided use, instead of coming through the road, come to the river, then bypass, see. We already know, just like we just participate in their plans same way, without looking at, just hearing to find out where they're gonna go. So, we're safe.

TI: So --

RM: So that's save our unit because that's what they thought.

TI: So, although you were much smaller, they had the advantage of size, you had the advantage of information that you knew through intercepting their communication, the size as well as their plans, what they were planning to and when. And that allowed you, even though you were smaller, to outmaneuver them and save a lot of American lives.

RM: That's why, at least, well, we didn't lose any because no fighting, we withdrew to Wesu Ga. Then that's why we been fighting for thirty-six hours in, nothing eat, see, only thing we had is the K-ration but all use up and so we had a air drop at Wesu Ga next day. But nighttime they gonna go through there, but fortunately, they didn't come where we were. They use the bypass when they ordered, see. But, I mean, if they come through there we been all wiped out.

TI: So, again, this is an excellent example of sort of the value of the intelligence information.

RM: Yeah, that's why they then find out how important they are. So then everybody, well, get excited and so we been pretty well-treated. Everybody talked nice to other Nisei, different unit, too. Word spread right away because we're saved. Then look like I save it, but people talk about...

TI: So this is important. So you really felt at this moment a shift in how the Caucasian soldiers treated you and the other Niseis because of this?

RM: Yeah, well, first one started was Hank Gosho because they're fighting there then every time they give 'em a order which way to go, then tell 'em translate and tell 'em they told you what, they said what happened next, so in other words, on-the-spot translation. You don't have to write down anything, it's a verbal order you could give 'em exactly what it said and translate, see, so that's why the, this gentleman, Colonel Logan Weston, he was the boss Sergeant Gosho was attached to, but he received half a dozen Distinguished Service Cross on account. So he did a lot of things to save other troops. Of course, he got some in Vietnam and Korea, too. But he was awarded distinguished so...

TI: Okay, good. Let's --

RM: So that's on account of Hank, Sergeant Gosho doin' that. But they give me credit. You know, restore of Walawbum roadblock.

TI: Okay.

RM: So then people hear that, so they tell my, "He save our lives," and no, I mean, we survived, but that was at the Walawbum. But then later on we be surrounded at a hilltop called Nhpum Ga. And that's about one month later. This happened Walawbum roadblock incident is March 5, '44. Then about a month later, and sixth or seventh of April, see, this thing took place. But we been in there since March 27th, 28th we went to Nhpum Ga, then we been surrounded. What happened was, actually our intention was, there was a road the Japanese made and they withdrew already to place called Kamaing and some troop were at Inkangahtawng. Then our scout reported enemy were there. So we were gonna fight but we, 3rd Battalion and 2nd Battalion went through Nhpum Ga, Kauri, Auche, then Inkangahtawng. And that's end of the jungle in the open field there. There's a road there. Then all of a sudden they open up with artillery and mortar, then the unit was much bigger than we expected. So then we cannot stand it so we're gonna be wiped out. So withdraw order.

<End Segment 69> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 70>

TI: So you were asked, I think it was the 2nd Battalion, to withdraw to Nhpum Ga hill --

RM: Yeah, right.

TI: -- which was a hill.

RM: Backtrack.

TI: And to, and to hold the hill. And in the process of doing that, you were surrounded by the Japanese...

RM: Yeah.

TI: And not just surrounded, but for days. You were surrounded --

RM: Nine days, ten days.

TI: -- for nine days.

RM: Yes.

TI: And, and the Japanese forces were much larger, but you had a perimeter set up with about six hundred men at that time.

RM: Six hundred, yeah, six to seven hundred men. Some of 'em were sick and wounded, so...

TI: And during those nine days, the Japanese would make sort of constant, sort of attacks.

RM: Harassment, artillery.

TI: Assaults, to try to break the perimeter over and over again.

RM: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: So when this was going on, you would do things at night, to help, again, get intelligence or information about what the Japanese were gonna do the next day. Talk abut that a little bit; what did you do to get the information and how did you do it?

RM: Okay. First we withdrew and there was 3rd Battalion, too. So the 3rd Battalion first moved, then passed Nhpum Ga, then went to Hsamshingyang and there's a rice paddy there and so that we could land L-5, that's a liaison plane to evacuate our wounded out, so 3rd Battalion moved up there, but the 2nd Battalion were told to hold the Nhpum Ga hill, that's a trail there so that the enemy wouldn't come back through air strip, not rice paddy, but, so we stopped there, then they kept harassing and we were told to stay there so we dug up and entrenched and waited. In the meantime, we were able to evacuate the sick and wounded and so happened was that Sergeant Nakada and Sergeant Sugeta were sick, so evacuated, and so only leave Sergeant Honda, Bob Honda and myself. But he was sick in the foxhole. So I'm the only one available. So they're already two were evacuated. Then now we cannot evacuate Honda because it was sealed. So...

TI: At that point you were surrounded.

RM: Surrounded, see. So then 3rd Battalion tried to break through so that the sick and wounded would be, get out of there, but couldn't come. The reason couldn't come was there's a resistance, the enemy was there, that's why. So we been surrounded and we're getting short of water and ammunition and rations and so we don't know what to do, going to starve. Of course, sometime we get air drop on calm day but still wind and some of things like grain for the animal, we have a little more than hundred horses and mules to carry the machine guns, tripods and things like that, so radio equipment. But they cannot, enemy cannot dig a hole, foxhole, so they standing there and then each time artillery burst we get, and die, then how, whether the stomach bloated, burst and juice come out and stink and you couldn't stand the stench. That called "Maggot Hill," too, because lot of maggot come and unbearable but no place to go, enemy were there every time try to move. And we also had a water hole in the spring coming out but we getting water from there but every time we go, we be surrounded so open up machine gun, so we lost the water hole, supply of water. So now we requested drop water by, in, put 'em in the plastic bag and drop it, and grain, too, for the animal --

TI: So the circumstances were pretty dire in that you were at this point surrounded. The water hole wasn't usable because the Japanese had covered it --

RM: Put machine guns, we lost that.

TI: -- or machine guns there. That in addition, because your animals couldn't be in foxholes, whenever there was artillery they would be killed so you had dead animals all around.

RM: All around, yes.

TI: And so the stench from the animals was really bad.

RM: Yeah, we lost about hundred animals.

TI: So you were lacking water, it was hard to get supplies to you so you were lacking food, and so it was really a difficult situation.

<End Segment 70> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 71>

TI: Okay, so Roy, we're gonna get going again. So we're at Nhpum Ga, your unit has now been surrounded for what, nine, ten days, we talked just earlier about sort of the circumstances. I'm curious, how did the men feel at this point? What were they thinking and saying after being surrounded for so long?

RM: Well, they think well, we been talkin' and some people askin', "How long this gonna be, last?" And what gonna happen? And when gonna the 3rd Battalion come rescue us, and those were things, then some pray, and I knew that, realize that no atheist in the combat, 'cause everybody prayed, see. And I prayed "ABC," that is Allah, Buddha and Christ, I prayed everything, see they hope that survive. And lotta Catholic in there, they use the hand motions and crying. And some people don't say anything and some go, well, crazy 'cause they're so scared and anxiety and everything else.

TI: 'Cause there was a strong sense that, that perhaps you would not survive?

RM: Well, everybody thought we'd be perished. And what happened was Lieutenant McLogan had a rifle platoon. He had fifty men there and he stated that forty percent casualty, it's in the book, too. But actually, not the forty percent of six, seven hundred men, forty percent of fifty men, his, that's statement. That's misunderstood that, people think we had forty percent casualty out of there, no, forty percent his. He had twenty-seven men left out of fifty men, that's about forty percent casualty. That's what he meant. So he was worried about he gonna, so something goin' on there, he called up Colonel McGee, this the commanding officer, so he asked 'em, "What's goin' on here?" Gonna find out. Then Colonel says, "I'll send Matsumoto." "Well he's only one." The other one is sick in the foxhole, so Bob Honda, but me, I was going there. Then went there and I couldn't make out what's goin' on.

TI: When you say "went there," so you, you were asked to sort of crawl and go to the Japanese sort of line to see if you could find out what was gonna happen?

RM: Yeah, well, right there, I mean, report, too, the people making noise, Japanese soldiers, so Lieutenant McLogan, he told 'em what's goin' on. But couldn't make out what, so that's when Colonel said, "Send Matsumoto," that's why I went there. And I couldn't make out either because too many people talkin' and yelling and making, harassing us, you know. But they wanna let us know that they were there. Well, of course, we know, we been there almost ten days there. So they just harassing but couldn't make out what they're doin'. So I went down there and I didn't know what they're talking, just makin' noise and yelling and everything else to harass. So I decided to go --

TI: Just, just to clarify, so, so I think what was happening was at night they would make lots of noise to try to keep the Americans up.

RM: Yeah, that's right, yeah.

TI: I mean, so they wouldn't sleep so they would get, again, it's sort of like a siege mentality. They were trying to make you tired, more tired.

RM: Right, right mentally, physically.

TI: So at night, oftentimes they would make a lot of noise, but with all this commotion, Colonel McGee wanted to send you down there to see what was happening so that, yeah, okay, so let's go on.

RM: Exactly, well, of course he's colonel at the CP that CP means Command Post, that's what he was and so I was at his part, and then told me to go McLogan's part. But that part is the easiest way to come up, and other part was very steep. So that's why his places were being attacked and harassed, that's why they tried to break through there. So that's why he had the forty percent causality, his part, not the forty percent of whole out-and-out Marauders. Because other part that they been there because foxhole, but they don't come up. Of course, they throw hand grenade and they throw mortar and things like that, then artillery from the distance, but we just starving, more or less, and a few casualty because the tree burst or something like that, even though we're in the foxhole, the shrapnel might hurt the people. But the one we lost was, well, not exactly all of 'em, twenty-, what the people get killed, no, just wounded, and so, forty percent, he lost few men, but forty percent casualty, the book says, but not the unit, but at his unit platoon, forty percent. That's what he meant because I was there and went down there, he lost almost half the men there. But forty... so that's why he was, get anxious and worried, commanding officer that's why I was sent there. But I couldn't make out. So I decided to go down there find out exactly what's, sneak in the... but I been doin' it previously but nothing important information come through, they talkin' about, "What you gonna do after you go back," and talkin' about wife, how they're doing and things like that. We do the same things, foxhole, "What do you do after you go back to States?" Says, gonna raise some kind of chicken or somethin' like that, you know, or, gonna be a truck driver, or different things talk about, Japanese the same way. Worry about, old man is fighting and who gonna take care of the farm and the yard or the kids, talkin' about the wife and all kinds of things I been listen. But then, all of a sudden, this order, this according to book, not that way exactly, but they give, officer come down there and then give 'em order, you know, I mean, briefing in other words. See, they're gonna have an early morning, it's a dawn attack. and right there where we doin' it so we know exactly where it comin', so right there's the spot where they're gonna go through there, easy to come up. They don't climb up the steep thing like that, you know, not like D-Day, climbing...

<End Segment 71> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 72>

TI: So you, so you crawled down there, you overheard the briefing where they were going to, at dawn, pre-dawn, attack that most vulnerable place where, where...

RM: Yeah, that's why, that's why the McLogan place, see.

TI: I'm curious, when you crawl down there, are you alone or are you, or is someone there with you?

RM: No, alone. I took my pistol belt and so it doesn't jingle, so I left the canteen and helmet, took jacket off. I had a sweater, I mean, woolen sweater there, jacket, I mean, underwear, wool so that when perspire, evaporates to make it cool instead of sticking to body. So that's it, and take jacket off, field jacket.

TI: Now, what would have happened if you were captured?

RM: Well, that's what I worry, but then, you know, you be careful not, so capture. But you know what the hardest things was? Not goin' down there because you been there ten days, I know the area and only thing didn't see, but how many paces down there, how to go there. And as long as I don't make noise they wouldn't know and they talk and so what they do is... hardest thing was you cannot sneeze or cough, then they hear that. So quiet, I mean, you feel like...

TI: But I was thinking, it'd be even more dangerous as a Japanese American, you're in a combat unit, you're literally feet or yards away from the enemy, if you cough --

RM: About fifteen yards -- no, I mean, is up there, they know we're there.

TI: No, but when you were, when you're crawling down there, it would be so easy if you coughed or something for them to capture you.

RM: Sure.

TI: What would you expect if they captured you?

RM: Well, probably torture. So only thing I did was I carried two hand grenades in the pocket.

TI: Why? What --

RM: So in case, for them, and blow myself up, they gonna torture you anyway. Well, I don't know what they gonna do or not but I...

TI: So, in your mind, you weren't gonna be captured.

RM: No, I wouldn't be captured, no, they're gonna torture.

TI: That you would --

RM: Especially Japanese. If they capture American, they might take 'em to prisoner, but, or they might kick you or something like that, but find out the Japanese and then they call traitor and some, kokuzuku or something like that, probably. I don't know what would happen because didn't happen, so, but anyway, either do or don't -- die. 'Cause if I don't, they gonna come, and we be all wiped out. No place to go other than up in heaven.

<End Segment 72> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 73>

TI: So you went back, so you got this information and you crawled back up. And...

RM: Yeah, and so that's why, now, come think of it, of course, I been in foxhole and then told 'em anybody move don't shoot 'em because Lieutenant Lynch went to check the perimeter and he came back wrong place, not the same place. So people was aware somebody climb up, open up and kill their own, Lieutenant Lynch was killed by own people.

TI: So there's a --

RM: It wouldn't happen to me, too.

TI: So there's a, there's a danger there as you crawled back --

RM: So that come back way you went up, then come back so I study and brief and I didn't know that, remember who it was, but three years ago I went to a Marauder reunion and the guy says, "You remember me?" After sixty years, how could I remember? I, then, of course, I know he come to reunion so he must be a Marauder, so I just guessed, saying, "You in 2nd Battalion?" Because people come to know me in the 3rd, but other, see, I don't know. So must've known me. So, "You're in the 2nd Battalion?" He says, "Yeah." "Where, is that Nhpum Ga?" He says, "Yeah." He says, "Don't you remember me? My name is Kohler." "No." Then he says, "Oh, I was your foxhole buddy." Then he's the guy. So he saved my life, he didn't shoot me. [Laughs] I came back there. Of course, after he jokingly tell me, "Good thing you didn't shoot me." I said, that's why he remember, that's the green combat team. Blue combat team I know, but I was originally blue. But nobody but me, blue combat team, but they assigned me to green combat team, then come back to blue and I was the one running around. And meantime, I didn't know how sick Bob Honda was but he wrote the diary and says scare each time artillery burst, he counted so many. He wrote it down. Of course, he passed away, not here but -- so in other words, I'm the only one there --

TI: And not only are you the only one but you're not only, as you crawl out there, you could be captured by the Japanese, or when you're coming back, you could be shot by the U.S. soldiers --

RM: Sure.

TI: -- in doing this.

<End Segment 73> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 74>

TI: But okay, so let's go back. So now you're, you have this information and you report back that there's gonna be this pre-dawn attack. So what happens next?

RM: Well, what happened, Colonel ordered, quietly, see, since gonna be dawn so we have, I just came back just before midnight. So we got about four hours to prepare, do something. So what I did is don't make any noise, enemy are there. So quietly, booby trap the foxhole, get out there and quietly dig slowly about fifteen yards back to twenty yards, because we couldn't go any higher than that because we're almost at the top of the hill. So dig a new foxhole. Then we're gonna reinforce you with a automatic weapon. So Colonel really believed me because I'm not telling lie, made, not a made-up story. So he said actually gonna happen. So he says they're gonna reinforce me. So we send up the machine guns, from, machine guns Weapons Squad 2, reinforce the rifle platoon and BAR, Browning Automatic and also Thompson sub machine guns and waited. And then things break out. But we had a weapon and they told, "Don't shoot, don't commence fire until ordered to do so." So even though enemy charge up, don't do anything, see, let them come up. And that's what exactly happened. They came up.

Then came up to the foxhole, they knew where we were. But we weren't there -- [laughs] -- empty. But they didn't know. So at night couldn't see so well. They know exactly where that is, only their enemy only fifteen yards away, in the bush somewhere, and came up there, charge up the hill. And not steep, gentle, was easiest way to come up, so just run up there and put a bayonet there. Nothing there. Then, well, they thought might be little bit farther up, you know. Then come up there and come to about ten yards or so, all of a sudden I, about fifty, say, automatic weapons open up and each one has carbine and the thing is, we had more firepower and Japanese had Arisaka sanpachi, is a .38 model, bolt action, five-round clip. And each time you squeeze the trigger you have to cock it, so takes time. Whereas, even the carbine, semi-automatic if you pull the trigger, fifteen rounds and then automatic weapon just squeeze, just like a machine gun, Browning Automatic and so more firepower. So...

TI: So you had a lot of firepower, they got within ten yards, they opened up --

RM: Yeah.

TI: And shot down that first wave. And then what happened?

RM: Well, there's the second wave coming up there. Then they decided they didn't give order to retreat, but they're talking, maybe could be the sergeant, "Hike, hike," that means "withdraw." Well, I didn't mention this before, but that's what I heard. That means retreat.

TI: And this was the sergeant in the first wave or second wave?

RM: Second wave. And so instead of retreat, they stop, so they, well, some of 'em jump in the foxhole, then all of a sudden trip wire then, then either wounded or killed. We found some of 'em in, dead in our own foxholes, see, so they just killed by, well, some may be wounded, we don't, couldn't see too well. But at the time tell 'em, totsugeki, so see some sort of a -- all confusion because the firepower and the open up, doin'. And so I gave my, "Totsugeki ni."

TI: Okay, so, at that point you stood up and gave this --

RM: Yes, stood, otherwise they don't hear, because in the foxhole you can't... so that goin' on there, fire, I see the flash all over.

TI: So in all this confusion, so the first wave was pretty much mowed down.

RM: Yeah, some were mowed down.

TI: The second --

RM: Well, not all of 'em get killed, I don't think. Wounded, maybe retreated, tried to...

TI: They're retreating, the second wave is --

RM: The second wave --

TI: -- a sergeant essentially called for a retreat and so they're sort of pulling back a little bit.

RM: Yeah.

TI: At that point you stand up?

RM: Stand up, yes.

TI: And you say...

RM: Give a 'em order. Of course, right now I'm not shouting, but I shout, give 'em order so that it could, everybody hear among the noise goin' on there, poppin' everything else.

TI: So please give me the command again.

RM: So, "Totsugeki ni! Susume! Tokkan! Tsukkome!" All those things. The totsugeki ni is you have to give 'em order, preparative order because that's like a, track and field race, on your mark, you have to say, then let them anticipate the order. So you say, "Susume, susume," they won't move. You have to give 'em a -- so I learned this in field manual, in Japanese and also lecture, see, I remember that. So actually I never gave order before, but this will work because that's the way they've been trained. So totsugeki ni mean, that mean, they get prepared to charge. Then susume, you could say that or they say tokkan is another word. So I use all of 'em there, then confusion, so you know, susume, susume, that's, book just say, "Susume, susume," but actually, I said, "Totsugeki ni."

TI: And what gave you the idea to do this?

RM: Well, I mean, I don't want them to retreat. I want them to get killed because we have machine gun waiting there.

TI: So you saw them retreating and you knew that, that you were ready up here, so you didn't -- so you wanted them to keep going.

RM: Yeah, keep going.

TI: And so it just came to you in your mind that if you did this they would keep going?

RM: Yeah, sure. They follow orders. Japanese, if give them a charge order, different charge, they'll either get killed by own coward, court-martial or whatever, but this is the war, you have to --

TI: So you gave the command and then what happened?

RM: Then they charge up, everybody. So they'll open up and they shoot at, of course, they see ours, muzzle flash, too, and theirs, too, but theirs is slow and also our caliber is thirty caliber and Japanese was twenty-five caliber and also each time cock, so nobody got hurt our side because they didn't have a chance to shoot much.

TI: So on your side no one was hurt?

RM: No one hurt.

TI: And when daylight was there --

RM: Day come, then we had a head count and found out that the body count, fifty-four right immediate area and two of 'em were officers and the one carry a nice sword. According to book I didn't explain all of 'em but one of the officer I saw is, his name is Tanaka. Tanaka, Minoru Tanaka, second lieutenant.

<End Segment 74> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 75>

TI: And when this happened, what, what was the reaction from the unit? I mean, the fifty men that were there with you? I mean, it was, what were you guys --

AI: Were you -- excuse me -- were you standing right with --

RM: Right in between the fire, well, more or less, because, just right there, then bullets are coming. If you, let's see... Sergeant Warren Ventura, his statement, eye-witness, but he say everybody was in a foxhole, just sticking out the weapon to do it. They don't stand up and do it, they get more chance of getting hit.

AI: So you --

RM: But I have to give 'em order in order to carry the voice out.

AI: So you got out of your foxhole?

RM: Got out of fox. Good thing nothing hit me, see.

AI: You were standing up way away from the foxhole?

RM: Yeah, well, yeah, not in the foxhole itself, I mean, stand up.

AI: And did you have your uniform on?

RM: Huh?

AI: Did you have your uniform on?

RM: Well, I'm in, I have, one of the pictures taken was Akiji Yoshimura. It's, see, I have jacket and hang it on the tree stump. There was artillery hit it. So I have a woolen sweater.

AI: So if someone looked at you --

RM: But, I mean, you cannot see anyway. Just, they heard me. You cannot see me because I didn't have any flashlight or anything to see.

AI: It was still dark.

RM: Dark. So they don't see, they just heard the voice order, so some lieutenant or sergeant maybe give 'em order. Never heard my voice before, but distinctly, totsugeki ni they understand, so could be somebody else and just reinforcement, new guy, but the old guy, too, the one, original people, I don't know how many were, at least they figured that company size, but only found fifty-four that's about platoon size, but probably they, some of 'em dragged away or some just wounded or some didn't wounded, retreated.

AI: And as you were saying earlier, for the Japanese army, if someone gives the order to charge, everyone's going to go. No one's going to --

RM: Yeah, even corporal give 'em order, or PFC give 'em order and then private have to follow, no question asked. So they didn't know who gave 'em order but that was an order some, and some authority, and that's the way they been trained, so I knew that. You have to follow it, no yes or buts about it.

<End Segment 75> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 76>

TI: You mentioned Sergeant Ventura, so I'm actually gonna read something that he wrote after the war describing this. So he wrote: "We six hundred men on the Nhpum Ga hill were convinced we could not survive. We expected to meet our God. Sergeant Roy Matsumoto stood up in the midst of the Japanese assault on our perimeter and fully exposed himself calling out to the Japanese as if he were a Japanese officer and ordered them to an all-out Banzai attack on our position. As the attack continued, Sergeant Matsumoto stood fully exposed to the enemy and they had to have seen that he was continually shooting at them with his pea shooter carbine. No other man in our battalion exposed himself. We were all in holes in the ground, firing from ground level. Sergeant Matsumoto was fully exposed and most certainly drawing attention of the enemy to himself. That he survived was and is a miracle. When I asked our commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel George McGee, why this man was not recommended for the Medal of Honor, he told me that, 'He was only an enlisted man doing his duty. Enlisted men do not get medals for this.'" Because what --

RM: So, I didn't get any medal.

TI: You didn't get a medal because what I've read and heard from you is many of the men on Nhpum Ga hill see you as saving their lives with this action.

RM: But some people believe that and think so. And so even now, after sixty years, they still send me card and present and, especially at Christmas time, people, either call me up or send me the card. They don't have to do that but I think they feel that I save it. But I, I was just a member of the team doing just my duty and I'm just a cog in the wheel.

TI: Although there, although there were many men who felt for this action that you should have gotten the Medal of Honor. I mean, how do you, how do you feel about that?

RM: Well, well, may be, it should, but since I came out in one piece, that's good enough for me. And I have knowledge that we survived and that's the most important thing for me and people appreciate what I have done. And so this medal don't mean anything, and see people happy because we survived.

TI: Yeah, because after, after Burma -- and I'm jumping ahead a little bit -- but you received the Legion of Merit award, which is, at that point, was a medal right below the Medal of Honor for your action at Walawbum in terms of intercepting the key information that led to the destroying of the ammunition dump. By all accounts, what you did at Nhpum Ga was, was much more heroic in terms of saving the unit and yet your commanding officer did not even recommend you for a medal. Why do you think that was, Roy?

RM: Well, I don't know, but not only me, but other people should deserve, still they weren't recommended so I think it was just his policy. He doesn't want to cheapen the medal giving it to everybody. But, to me, I have a satisfaction of surviving ourselves and that's the most important thing. And I'm happy at this age still in one piece and the way people treat me, I feel very honored and thank you, and so people treat me nice, that's one of my happiest moment.

By the way, anyway... after more than sixty years, finally the Secretary of the Army give me, awarded me the Bronze Star medal with a V device, that stands for "valor." So that's greatly honored, even though after sixty years, but better late than never. So I appreciate this still. So that means I was recognized and this is Secretary of the Army.

<End Segment 76> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 77>

TI: Going back to Nhpum Ga, so this, this battle was a real turning point in terms of what happened in Nhpum Ga hill. Because at this point what happened with the Japanese and the 3rd Battalion breaking through, what happened next?

RM: Well, if we were annihilated, would be no Myitkyina and they'll be a complete failure for General Stillwell because we won't be able to open up the Burma Road; but fortunately we survived, and also, if 2nd Battalion were annihilated, 3rd Battalion would suffer big damage, too, because they had more superior forces and more weapons and manpower. So then this turning point, we survived, therefore we were able to march to Myitkyina and capture air strip, therefore we were able to send in the reinforcement by plane and later on able to capture Myitkyina and open up the Burma Road and able to supply our allies in China. So...

TI: Right, so after, after, so four months of combat, the mission that you started off with -- because the original mission was to capture Myitkyina.

RM: Yeah.

TI: That was the goal of the mission and so it took four months. The air strip was captured. At that point, of the original three thousand men that started off, there were only two hundred men who were left standing to fight.

RM: Yes.

TI: You left with the very last group.

RM: Last group of seventeen men.

TI: Of seventeen to be evacuated. I mean, at that point, given that you accomplished the mission but took such huge causalities over the last four months, what were you and the others thinking about? What were you thinking about?

RM: Well, we thought it fortunate the fourteen men, language team, everybody survived. No one got killed, so we just fortunate and thankful God that we were able to accomplish our mission. Then the grateful nation recognized this and they made a monument in Fort Bragg -- I mean not Fort Bragg -- Fort Benning, Georgia, praising the fourteen men who have done.

TI: And we'll get to that later, but I was wondering, as you were being evacuated from Myitkyina on that last, that last group, the last group of Merrill's Marauders, from a successful mission, what were you thinking about, about the price that was paid to do this? Was it a success?

RM: Well, mission was successful but since we expect the 85 percent casualty, and almost ended that, but most of 'em, people, causality, were not exactly wounded, but sickness we encountered. Lotta people disabled but most of 'em survived. But anyway...

TI: But Roy, something else came up -- I mean, when I think about this. So you finished the mission, it took four months. Going back to when you volunteered for this mission, back at Camp Savage, they said this would be this dangerous secret mission --

RM: Yeah.

TI: -- three months, 85 percent casualties. You completed the mission. At this point why weren't you and others sent back to stateside?

RM: Well, we don't know why but since we thought we gonna be return to the stateside, but didn't happen because more important mission coming up. So, "After you complete that, then you be rotated." So, in other words, they broke the promise, it didn't turn out, but it kinda disappointed us. But since, after that was most of the people, for most of the people it was not a combat area, so it was headquarters in India, so we have to follow orders so that was the order and we went there and then things turn out and supposed to be back in three months, took me a few years before I rotated back to States. I went back in '52 so... [laughs]

<End Segment 77> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 78>

TI: So we just finished the Burma campaign. And at this point you were awarded Legion of Merit. Can you, can you explain how that was awarded to you, because it wasn't, it didn't come from your commanding officer, it came from another source. So can you explain for what action and who actually prompted this award?

RM: Well, I don't know exactly how it happened but they didn't say anything at the time, but later on, when the mission was over, at the... Myitkyina, I was the last seventeen men and was sent to Camp Landis -- that man who got killed in my platoon and in his honor, in memory or whatever, made name after camp, and Camp Landis in Burma and I was sent there and they just form a 475th Infantry and all of it transferred to. But then original Marauder part they were send it to other places or some of 'em kept on goin' instead of rotating to stateside and new outfit 475th turn up the, later on they call it Mars Task Force. And, but that unit I was assigned, but then at the Nhpum Ga, artillery shell, shrapnel hit my wrist and right here still got mark, but I got wounded there. And then I went to aid station, they patch up, just put the bandage on and then that's it because Doctor Kolodny was battalion sergeant and he was working on the man whose guts blown out and so fixing him up so too busy, minor things don't worry about, just patch up. So they didn't report that I was wounded so I didn't get the Purple Heart. He tried to do a third time we put 'em in but still didn't hear anything. But anyway, that's beside the point, but my infection wounded and that's infection was, see, my wound was infected and blown up and I was sent to 14th Evac Hospital to fix that. And at the 14th General, so happened that Noel Coward, who was, he was a play writer, and also wrote a book, but he came and visited me and interviewed me but people heard that what happened in Burma so -- this in the Ledo, Assam Hospital, 14th Evac and he visited the hospital and so that incident in Burma, so he interviewed me and they took a picture and that shows that I had the big bandage on it in the picture. And so it showed that I was wounded but, anyway, I was... then I met Sergeant Jimmy Yamaguchi. He was to join the rest of the boys at New Delhi, but he happened to have a stomach ulcer and hospital decided to rotate it back to hospital in the stateside but he didn't want to go back to state, he want to join the boys and so he asked me, can I help him? So I talked to the adjutant, "This the situation. He's supposed to be sending back but he want to join and could he possible that if I escort him, could he join?" He says, "Okay, if you're, in case something happen, you take care of him." That's why the two of us, we got permission. Then meantime he said, "You gotta go to Delhi anyway, you gonna receive the Legion of Merit," that's what adjutant told me. And this is what happened, that, "You get it." So they didn't give me a citation on anything, anything.

TI: See, my understanding, though, is you were recommended for this award, was it either from headquarters because they, they asked the question, because the information at Walawbum that knocked out the ammunition dump was so valuable, I think the question was asked, "How did we get this information? Who got it?" And it was based on that that your name surfaced and that's why you were recommended for --

RM: Well, actually what happened was, nobody was recommended for anything, only thing's, message went up is, the message was so important that the General Stillwell want to know who did it, so, so asked General Merrill, then he ordered him find out who did it. Because they're four Nisei there attached to 2nd Battalion, and 2nd Battalion was at the roadblock, see, the first battalion and the reserve and 3rd Battalion was fighting by the river, river crossing, so four, then they look to see. They knew, friend, it was me, but they needed proof. Then those report pad, my initial was on. Naturally others were blank, nothing incidental. Well, may got some information, but nothing to do with intelligence, they talk about some understand, so wrote it down what they talkin' about, but that's nothing to do with military operations. But mine and also after troop movement, also mine. Because I was the one up there and I didn't even have time to eat lunch and go down there, nobody dug a foxhole for me. So I have to stay in somebody else's foxhole. And that's what I'm going over --

TI: So --

RM: -- and this happened to be this guy, his name is Kohler, see, and then --

TI: Right, you mentioned that.

RM: I mentioned that before, so...

TI: So, so, they awarded you the Legion of Merit and at New Delhi, General Merrill presented this to you.

RM: Yeah, yeah. So told me to report to General Merrill, went there, then met him and shook hands. He pin on and that was shaking hands, and then Signal Corps took picture of that, so that's proof that I got Legion of Merit. But after came back to stateside, the people didn't believe that I got a Legion of Merit. And some officer just finish OSS, tell that's a lieutenant come up to see it, "Sergeant, you're out of uniform," see. "What, sir?" Then he says, "You're wearing ribbon wrong." And says, "Purple Heart doesn't go before Bronze Star," says, says that. "This is not the Purple Heart, sir." And then I told him, he said, "What is it?" I said, "Legion of Merit." He didn't know the Legion of Merit, but he thought that was a faded. Of course, if you compare, you could see one is pink and purple, see, but that guy, faded, purple, it's like a pink. So the pink ribbon is before Bronze Star. I had a half a dozen Bronze Star.

TI: The Legion of Merit, for people who don't understand, at that point, was, that was right below the Medal of Honor wasn't it?

RM: No, no.

TI: Or Distinguished Service Cross?

RM: Next to Distinguished --

TI: Distinguished Service Cross.

RM: Distinguished Service Cross.

TI: Okay, so it's after that one.

RM: And above Silver Star, but now the other way, Silver Star is above it. At the time, so --

TI: But it is a very, very high honor. I mean, out of Merrill's --

RM: Yeah, it's the highest honor for the service.

TI: So how did you feel?

RM: The others are all valor.

TI: Yeah, how did you feel receiving the Legion of Merit?

RM: I kinda embarrassed because other people didn't get anything and, well, so I don't know, we get together and to people my nickname is "Medal," see, because I got so many medals to show, but others don't. But one thing, maybe I shouldn't say on this, but this man already passed away, but he is, he was University of Hawaii, you know, honor graduate. He mentioned -- other people told me that, I wasn't, hear myself directly -- but says, "That uneducated moron shouldn't get any medal." You know, uneducated. Sure, I'm only high school and he's a university graduate, so, but uneducated, right. But he's not the moron. If I'm a moron I don't think I could go on a team, you know. But after they go, I feel sorry for the guy. But then we had a reunion in Hawaii, went down there and he had a stroke, so I had to help him out to go bathroom and things like and he apologized to me. But he got drunk and probably carried... because envious, you know, because I was the only one outta... and then later on when I was inducted Hall of Fame, I --

TI: But Roy, before we get there, I'd, let's because I'm gonna get to the Ranger Hall of Fame.

RM: No, I want to mention but other got it, that is Hank Gosho.

<End Segment 78> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 79>

TI: Okay, we'll, we can talk about that then, but let's, let's go back to New Delhi and so you were assigned to New Delhi and what happened then, next?

RM: Oh. So Sergeant Grant Hirabayashi and I were assigned to Royal Air Force. That is the British Air Force, so we know we gonna have a desk job for a change instead of combat. So we would be probably doing the translation, or if they captured prisoners, maybe interrogating, but thought a good job. Then went to town one day and, with a bunch of, four or five of us, walking the street of New Delhi and here comes a British general, officer, so here comes officer been talkin' about, but nobody saluted. Then when get too close and nobody saluted, so, "Soldier," said, "Yes, sir," we salute. It's too late. "You disrespect to the general officer so give us your names." Then we gave 'em name, "You'll be court-martialed," disrespectful for the general.

TI: So Roy, so why --

RM: But, so we reported back to our officer so we don't wanna stand the court-martial --

TI: But Roy, before you go there, why didn't you salute the general?

RM: Well, oh, the reason is, we were told not to salute or say "sir" in a combat. If enemy see you salute then saluted back, he was the one get the shot. If one bullet left, who get the shot? The one that return the salute, so you don't salute. That was the order.

TI: So your --

RM: Also you don't say "sir." Then the other one, you know, would be shot.

TI: So your combat training --

RM: So combat was, this our, well... you have to carry out that, remember that you don't forget that so still, you know, we just forgot it We're not in combat but, see, just force of habit. Then, just ignore. So that's our luck probably but we made a mistake there. We should have been informed that this not a combat area, so you see the officer, you salute, but we didn't and we were shipped to China. [Laughs] Lost a good desk job. Something follow that but...

<End Segment 79> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 80>

TI: Okay, so you went to China and maybe what would be interesting is, you knew from even before the war that the 5th Division, which was Hiroshima-based --

RM: Yes.

TI: -- was fighting in China.

RM: Yes.

TI: And here now, you were assigned to China. I guess the question I wanted to ask you is, did you ever come in contact to any kinsmen while you were in China, in terms of either interrogating --

AI: Oh, excuse me, before we get to that point I wanted to just establish when this was that you were in New Delhi. About when was that that you were then shipped from New Delhi to China?

RM: Well, right after I left Ledo, that's the 14th Evac was, I think it's October or something like that. Anyway, when we went to New Delhi -- did I mention about meeting General Merrill?

AI: Yes.

RM: I did?

TI: Well, maybe we'll, let's do this -- because I did forget something. I mean, while you were in China the war came to an end.

RM: Yes.

TI: And one of the dramatic things that happened at the end of World War II was the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, which was where your family was living. So, I guess my question is, when, where were you when you heard about the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima and what did you think about this?

RM: At the time I was assigned to Detachment 202, OSS and stationed at place called Taiping in Kwangsi Province, that was in August, and when stationed there, radio announced that dropped atomic bomb. So happened that my folks, my parents were in Hiroshima and that's where dropped the bomb and I know they were living there so I thought they'd be wiped out and the radio said that after dropped the bomb, no tree or grass will grow for seventy-five years. Well, kinda exaggeration, later on I found out, but that was the radio announcement. Then, so we knew right away, that as far as I knew, my parents were there and so they were wiped out so they didn't suffer. Then later on found out that the epicenter was two blocks away from they're supposed to be living there, but later on I found out that they weren't there.

TI: Yeah, before we go there, though -- but, so, so, the United States dropped the bomb.

RM: Yeah.

TI: And so you thought your family was wiped out.

RM: Gone.

<End Segment 80> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 81>

TI: So at this point, let's go to, after the war, the Japanese had surrendered and one of the things that you did was you had access to prisoner of war camps and the lists. And in particular, you came across a list that had a name that you recognized. Why don't you tell us about and who that was and...

RM: Okay, then war ended so no more activity, so I asked commanding officer, "Is it alright to visit Kunming?" And I could ride and hitchhike, hitched on the cargo plane. So he says it's alright. I get permission to go back Kunming and as soon as got Kunming, General Boatner, Hayden Boatner, spotted me, and, "You come with me," he says. So I'm not going back to OSS. And so took me and then went to place called Chinkiang, and as his personal interpreter, and secretly negotiated with the Japanese to surrender, then where, and so, and decided to, Japanese to surrender at Nanking, China, the whole capital of Nationalist, but this puppet regime had capital there in Nanking so that's where they're gonna surrender. So I, we arrange and I interpret for General, General -- I mean, Admiral Fukuda of Imperial Japanese Fleet was their representative. Then, so I was, accomplished that mission anyway then decided have. Then they had a surrender, formal surrender activities and the surrender ceremony at Nanking, China, and Ho Ying and our generals went down there and General Lucas, and anyway I attended that, too.

But then after that, they're gonna have a war crime trial so since I was there so therefore they appoint me to investigate, and so helped at the tribunal. And they wanted me to go find out, look and see the unit roster and also passenger list to be repatriate to Japan. But meantime their prisoners surrender, so they kept in the compound like a schoolhouses or playground or whatever and certain unit were segregated certain place. So they gave me the list of names who belong to a unit, happened to be 5th Division and I went through and looking for certain names because name was given a suspect who might have committed crime. So going through, then I saw the familiar name and the ring to me, happened to be name was Yoro Omoto. Then that's a similar name, you know, I had a relative there and then I know his name was Japanese, Yoro but his name was Harry Omoto and he happened to be my second cousin and so I commandeered the jeep and Chinese interpreter and he, driver, he know where the camp was so we went there, then at the guard and gate tell him, "I want to interview this man." So they thought the MP or, I wore a MP band and so, armband and went there so they thought I'm coming after him, and he thought he was one of the criminals they picked up because everybody has a guilty conscience of minor crime they committed. So they're aware of that so they thought right away he was one of the suspect. But, so I give 'em a name and get him and as he turn around the corner he came, he spotted me even though I'm in uniform, he recognized me and he says Hiroshi Niisan, that means "elder brother Hiroshi." I'm not a brother but I'm closer than brother because he lived with me in Los Angeles before he was inducted in the Japanese army.

TI: So this was, this was the Harry Omoto that was going to UCLA, lived with you --

RM: Yes.

TI: -- and got the scholarship.

RM: Didn't I mention about that before?

TI: Right, you got all that.

RM: Yes, I was working for the grocery store and he commuted from my house to, I mean, my apartment to Westwood.

TI: Right. So he must've been really happy to see you.

RM: Oh, he happy to see and not -- see, he saw me in not the regular military police looking after him. Happened to be I went down there to see it's him or not, but I know sure because then I look at down there what the domicile was. Then he was from Hiroshima, so I know it's him.

TI: But he also shared with you some important information, too. Not only was it good to see him --

RM: Yeah, that's right. So he asked the first thing is, he thought, he thought I thought, I believed that my parents were perished because of atomic bomb. But he knew the fact that was evacuated that place and went to countryside where my grandfather and grandmother was. The reason was that they been old age and ill so try to take care. Meantime, as I said before, my father was a photographer and had a studio but the material, film and everything, army, navy had a priority so couldn't get in the ration so he quit and then he went. So that was his luck that survived the atomic bomb.

TI: So that must've been really good news to hear that --

RM: And that was good news. Then another thing, well, another thing is, "Your brother survived." He says he's in the other unit and gave me the unit number where he's located. So I saw him. Then went there to find out what my family was doing and everything. So that was a great relief for me. So, then I find out from him. Then he, I didn't know him because when I left Japan he was a small kid, and that's just started, I think, elementary school or something like that. So, but he knew me because I'm already grown up.

TI: So Roy, we just have like a minute left on a tape and I just want to end this with... one of the things that you did with your younger brother was, you gave him some advice that was important that helped him at this point. What was that piece of advice you gave him?

RM: Well, I, when I met him he asked me, "What should I do? Because gonna be discharged but I have no skill, no job and I don't know what to do." Well, I tell you that see, "You in the army and what kind of job you doin' it, you could be doin' it for long time because there will be a repatriation, the people, soldier all surrender coming back then you have to make a tally of accountability and who's missing then ask 'em his name and check off the repatriate, and didn't come back, is whether he got killed or missing or whatever. So you be doin' that -- "

TI: So the piece of advice you gave him was, "Stay in the army" --

RM: So that's why I got --

TI: -- "because you'd have a job there," because if he went back to Japan there would be nothing there for work and it'd be easier for him.

RM: Yeah, So then he follow that and fortunately, he doin' that and later on lotta prisoners came back from Siberia but even though he's out of army, he's doin' the job and he was transferred to Welfare Department and then when he quit, he retired he was way up in the chief so good pay and good family security and he appreciate that.

<End Segment 81> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 82>

TI: So we're back together, Roy.

RM: Okay.

TI: And where we ended up on the last tape was, we were talking at that point about how you met your second cousin and your brother Isao in the prisoner of war camps. And the one thing I didn't establish or ask you about was, how did you become a military police, an MP?

RM: Well, that's a long story, but short, when I was supposed to be rotated to stateside as soon as we finish our mission, but then we were held on account of this is more important than givin' the people rotation, so we were called up to New Delhi. Then we were sent to China, they needed us, so went to China. Then I was staying there, meantime my girlfriend passed away so I lost the desire going back to States. But anyway, so in order to -- well, I like, happened to be fond of Chinese food there and of the people, I like it so I gonna try to stay there but in order to do that I'm in the service so I have to reenlist then, so I inquire at the office, they says I cannot reenlist, find out how come, then find out that I was classified as infantry because we went to Military Intelligence school and supposed to be Military Intelligence personnel but since we went in with the combat unit as an infantryman, so they classify us to infantry. So there is no infantry troop in China to enlist. So I asked is there any other way, see, any other branch you qualify, could. But being a Military Intelligence I didn't have any experience in quartermaster, signal corps, or engineer, anything else. And I found that there was the military police were there and so I said I could do the investigative work. Then okay, that was permissible. So all of a sudden I was a Corps of Military Police so they assigned me. So then it became my duty as a military police escort; meantime, pending the war crimes trial for missing airmen. So just fit in there because I speak Japanese and I could talk to the Japanese soldiers, therefore I was assigned to Judge Advocate General's office to help out this War Crime Tribunal. And so assigned me to pick up the suspect or the material witness to the case and they were wanted the person list, but roster is all in Japanese. So have to read that screen so we requested that passenger list goin' back to Japan.

TI: But that was, that was useful for you and for them because, because you were an MP and so you were an escort but you understood Japanese and could read it so they didn't have to send an interpreter with the --

RM: No, that's why didn't need my own interpreter because I'm an investigator but normally they have to have, see, enemy troop, you have to have an interpreter to understand but whereas I was able to comprehend the Japanese and therefore --

TI: Right, okay.

RM: They send me there.

TI: So, good --

RM: And before do that I have to screen where the wounded person was located, because they had a million troop there and they don't know what unit they're in. But we have a general idea that around people stationed around Hankow, and city of Hankow, so the unit were there were all be suspected. So they, well, we requested the unit roster --

TI: But this is where, how you, you found out and met your second cousin and your brother --

RM: Yes, I will go through, then come up with his name, but, of course, I didn't know it was him, until...

TI: Right. Yeah, you told us that story on the last tape, so, but I wanted to ask about the other brother, Noboru, because he --

RM: Not Noboru.

TI: Noboru.

RM: You mean Isao.

TI: Yeah, you met Isao, but Isao told you about your other brother.

RM: Right.

TI: And so can you tell us what happened to him?

RM: Well, other brother, well, according to him, he was in China but then this artillery regiment was sent to Guadalcanal, Guadalcanal, to reinforce their troop there and he was a corporal but fortunately or unfortunately he became ill and vitamin deficiency and had the beri beri and he couldn't walk too well. And then, at the time, there was one other soldier who had a bellyache and very sick, so commanding officer told Corporal Matsumoto look after him. And meantime, rest of the people made a banzai charge and perished. The next day, submarine came to shore and they floated a rubber raft and came to shore, only found two people living there. So they picked 'em up. The reason is, they cannot move during daytime, the ship, supply ship be strafe and so forth so they re-supply by submarine. But anyway, didn't find anybody so these two were picked up and sent to Manila, then sent to Japan on hospital ship. And then since he was weak, he served in the rest of the duration in Japan. So he survived.

TI: So that's pretty, that's pretty fortunate; in your family, there were two men who fought for the United States.

RM: Yes.

TI: And there were two men who fought for the Japanese military.

RM: Yes.

TI: And all four of you survived.

RM: Yes. So that was a miracle and there was an interview about my brothers, but my (mother) refuses to be interviewed because she had mixed emotion, 'cause the two in America and they don't want to lose, either side to lose or either side to win and so that would be safe. But fortunately, she was very glad that both sides soldiers, the one, sons survived.

<End Segment 82> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 83>

TI: Well, let's get to the, sort of how you re-met your parents because now we're towards the end of 1945.

RM: Uh-huh.

TI: And you were an MP and one of the things that you did was you would sometimes need to transport prisoners to Japan.

RM: Yeah. This in '46.

TI: '46. Okay.

RM: Yes.

TI: And so when you did that, there was one time that you went to Japan and you were able to take a side trip --

RM: Yes.

TI: -- down to Hiroshima. Why don't you tell us that story?

RM: Well, when I escort twenty-four war crime prisoners, sentenced prisoners, and they were to serve a term in Japan rather in China because these prisoners were American prisoners, because committed, crime committed against the United States airmen so they were served their term in Sugamo Prison in Japan, so therefore they have to be escorted to Japan and I had a duty... well, I have a duty to take them. But they asked a volunteer but since I'm in charge of the prison, I volunteered, and then I have to get the two guards to go with the weapons. I just picked the people who best suited for. And we made the trip and went to Japan. And order read in conjunction with the trip, but twenty days TDY, doesn't specify what you could do. But I interpret this occupation that whatever I could do would be fine so I went to provost marshal office, and, "How about giving me permission to visit my folks in Hiroshima?" And that place had been off limit to all the military personnel. However, I'm being an MP, I authorized to go anywhere I wanna go. So therefore I got an Allied train, went as far down as Hiroshima. But then no transportation go to the village. And they have a local train so I, when the train stopped I got on the train and conductor says, "You cannot, soldier cannot get in the civilian section of Japanese train." So that's in case you cannot put in passenger, I ride with the engineer. He says, "No, no, but I said, well, I'm MP." So I force it to let me ride in engineer. And when you passed by the village where my folks lived, I stopped the engine, told him to stop, then I got off, and so I was able to visit my parents there. And they were surprised, but they knew I was alive already because one of my brother already told 'em, as a matter of fact, two of 'em.

TI: Well, sort of describe, so here you, you went from a sort of a, more of an Allied train --

RM: Yeah.

TI: -- down to Hiroshima as a main train. And then you went on the local train.

RM: Local train.

TI: They wouldn't let you on there so you, you went up to the engineer's station and then they stopped the train right at your village --

RM: Yeah, right.

TI: -- which was not a normal stop.

RM: No, no, not normal station.

TI: And so after it stopped, then you would walk to the village. Can you describe what you saw and how you first met your relatives?

RM: Well, they were surprised, they didn't expect and I didn't have time to let them know because as soon as I got there my thought was, "What am I gonna do?" Well, of course, I wanna visit them but they told me they were safe, but not in the city. But meantime, when they stop Hiroshima and saw it, it was devastated. It was flat with nothing there except a few buildings. And one of the buildings was the dome where the bomb was dropped and, but the village wasn't touched.

<End Segment 83> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 84>

TI: Actually, go back to that. I didn't ask you, so when you went into the main part, I mean, what did you see and what were the people like when you first saw, because this was just months after --

RM: Yes.

TI: -- the atomic bomb.

RM: Well, people look at it because I'm in a uniform, you know, and a stranger, "What's the MP doin' here?" Well, of course, Japanese so, maybe didn't know, they didn't recognize me but I went to, I know the house because I was there before, same house staying there. So, but anyway, I met and surprised. But meantime, my other brother in the United States army, he was to go to China but when he get to, arrived at Shanghai, the war ended. So instead of staying in China they were told to go to general headquarters and talk to McArthur headquarter, be needed. So he went to occupation headquarters, then he, he know the way because he was a lieutenant, then he went down to Allied train and he went to Hiroshima then met, so, the people knew my other brother but didn't see me or just heard that I was in China. It was a surprise because they didn't know that I escorted prisoners, so it was kinda surprise to the family but they're glad, everybody is safe now, because other brother was in Japan and, of course, after coming back from Guadalcanal. That was a coincidence, too. But this one wasn't picked up as a war criminal so he was able to repatriate and he got the job in Tokyo doin' the same job he was doin' it.

TI: So Roy, let me go back, so, we're back at the village. This was the same village that you lived --

RM: Yeah, went to school.

TI: -- when you went to school, when you were --

RM: Elementary school there.

TI: So again, coming back to the village, you haven't been there for a long time.

RM: Uh-huh.

TI: What did it feel like? Because you said it wasn't damaged that much.

RM: No.

TI: So what were you, what did it feel like?

RM: Well, except next door, the plane that bombed Hiroshima, escaping, probably, well, chased by Zero, whatever, on the way back, they dropped a bomb accidentally and hit the next-door warehouse and five people got killed, just next door. So that, by precaution, the stairway to upstairs was kinda crooked because on account of bomb exploding there. But my family, mother told me it was scary but nothing happened.

<End Segment 84> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 85>

TI: So who was the first person you recognized when you went to the village?

RM: My mother. It was there, then, oh, everybody was there, but it was a surprise because they knew I was alive in China but didn't expect me to visit because this, was one of the duty and I have to go there. And I didn't know I was able to come to Hiroshima or not but fortunately, the order got twenty days TDY, so give me time enough. Then, after about a week I went back to Tokyo and see where I would be assigned. So that's why I'm stopping there.

TI: But before we go there, so it's been about, you had not seen your mother for about fifteen years? 'Cause you left Japan 1929 and --

RM: Yeah, right.

TI: So even a little bit longer.

RM: No, no... yeah that's right.

TI: '29, so maybe about seventeen years, sixteen or seventeen years.

RM: Something like that. Yes.

TI: And so what was her --

RM: Because, you know, small kids already grown up and a soldier already, see.

TI: Right. So what was the reaction, when you say they were surprised, was it tearful, was it happy, was it, how would you describe it? Or was it --

RM: Well, I know she was happy because she haven't seen me and... what I did was when I was working at the grocery store, I been sending spending money all the time. That's why I wasn't rich because all the money went to help other kids. I don't know whether Mother did it, but Mother the one that pay the way to come back to the States, like I told you before, you asked me who did it. My mother did it so I appreciate, I wanna pay back, not the debts, but I mean, since I was able to spare because I was single and working and I had my own transportation paid for so I was helping, so Mother appreciate what I've done and he's safe, so, my mother one I think the most, but my father is a quiet man and he usually don't talk. But my mother is the one, she cried and happy, so that everybody was survived so she's so happy. Maybe that's why she lived that long and she's happy after that. Anyway, I was a kinda -- but I got a duty to do, I didn't know what gonna happen, and I don't know whether I was able to find a job or not. Because this not assignment, just came on duty, this trip, but I have to go back. That was sad part was I didn't get the job right away go back. Then surprise was they sent me to Beijing but I didn't go. Good thing is I had enough time to be rotated.

<End Segment 85> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 86>

TI: So you're on this twenty-day pass --

RM: Yeah.

TI: And so you're in Hiroshima for about ten days. Then you go back up to Tokyo --

RM: Tokyo.

TI: And there, again, it's sort of like your life, you keep on sort of, the circumstances are always really fortunate. You came across a, an officer that years before, you had helped as a tutor.

RM: Yes, a few years before.

TI: Okay, why don't you tell that story about how you got to see him again?

RM: Well, the reason I recognized the name was, he was one of the few officers, language officer assigned to Camp, Camp Savage, there brushing up Japanese. But since, after I finished basic training, just waiting for the assignment so I'm practically doing nothing so they put me to, asked me to help officers, especially the conversation --

TI: Right, yeah, so you told that story already about how you helped conversational Japanese. So you're in Tokyo walking through the hallways and you recognize the name.

RM: Recognize the name.

TI: And so what did you do?

RM: So I knocked the door then they said come in. So I went in there, then he recognized me right away and he was glad and talk about old times for few seconds and then he told me that, "I like to have you here but since not authorized only (one) enlisted, authorized is the chief clerk and we have one already and so good one, so I wish I could use you. By the way," says, "I gonna send you to Wayne," but I didn't know what "Wayne" meant, look like someone first name, but I didn't know who talking about. But they know each other, classmates and same, just a civilian and military difference but same intelligence section under G-2 under General Willoughby so he told me report to Colonel Homan, Wayne Homan. Now I found out that his name was Homan, so told me the Sanshin Building there and office, so I walked down there because I went down there and then I knocked the door and he expected me. So tell me, "Sit down." Then he told me, "Get rid of your uniform right away." He thought that I was put to work, you know, assigned, but he didn't request me. But by talkin' to, they thought he could use me. But then I told him, "Sir, I have to go back to China." So in that case, if you wanna work, get a job waiting for you, so he says, "Well, this what I can do for you. I give you a letter of recommend -- I mean, acceptance," so that means I'd be accepted if I ask for it. "So best thing is go back to unit, then get transferred here, then give me call, so cut the order and assign to me." Said, "Yes sir," then I salute back. Then I know now I got the job here in Tokyo. So, since in Tokyo, the all, were, of course, bombed out but since the war ended almost, well, year after, this is '46, it's the end of '46, and happened to be November of '46 now, it's almost the end of it. But anyway, I went back, then order was waiting for me because my job was finished and no more prisoner to take care and no more investigation, nothing, as MP. So my job is abolished. So meantime, they found out I was, even though MP, but I was in infantry before, the record shows, in combat, and veteran, so to train the Chinese infantry in 6th Army, in 6th Nationalist Army. But then I thought I've already got job, I wanna go there and find out what can I do. Oh yes, I gonna use this enough points to be repatriate, send it back to stateside, rotation, see.

TI: So what did, so --

RM: Then record show that I never been back to Japan. So...

TI: So let me just recap because this is a good story. Because of the, in some ways, the good deed you did back at Camp Savage to help this junior officer with conversational English, you had a connection there.

RM: Yes.

TI: And so when you went through Tokyo and you walked down the hallway and saw that name, because of that good connection, you knocked on the door -- because you wanted to actually be stationed in Tokyo because you're --

RM: That's why I'm lookin' for --

TI: You're looking for a new duty.

RM: -- meet somebody or nice because all Japanese and also lotta classmate were assigned to ATIS, you know, at the Yusen Building there in Tokyo.

TI: Right, so good, so, and because of that good deed again, he remembered you and so he put you in contact with --

RM: Colonel Homan.

TI: Colonel Homan. And so he had a job ready for you. So when you went back to China, if you didn't have this you would've been assigned to train infantry in China at the 6th Division.

RM: Yes, 6th Division.

TI: Which was a division that was wiped out by --

RM: By communist, 6th Army.

TI: -- the communist army. So in that case if you went up there, there was a good chance that you might've been killed.

RM: Right, right.

TI: If you were up there.

RM: Come to think of it, this is my luck, you know. Says, oh, think do a good deed then you're rewarded, you could get out that hazardous thing, so...

<End Segment 86> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 87>

TI: So, so, instead of going to China, you instead go to Tokyo back to work for Colonel Homan. Okay, so let's pick it up there now.

RM: Okay, then I came to Tokyo, then billet assigned is ATIS building because a lotta people there and lotta opening in room there. But as for the people in ATIS thinks I'm assigned there, see, came the billet, 'cause came from China, then assigned to general headquarters, so they thought I was, but my job waiting, but I didn't say that. I'd refused to get billeted and put 'em in the roster or things like that. No, I have my job waiting. In the meantime, I notify Colonel Homan's office so they so they waiting for me to come back. May never have come back, because if I, they, my low, but I have a chance to be rotated, that's a excuse to get out, go into Beijing. So okay, now come to Japan and then I was assigned, but right away they said I could be billeted Norton Hall, used to be Kenpeitai, gendarme headquarters, Japanese. We occupy that and made out accounting jobs corps, billets, and they had a mess hall and everything in the billet there. So I was sent there. And right away they told me to get rid of uniform so I went to --

TI: So explain this: they told you to get rid of the uniform because you were gonna go undercover.

RM: Undercover, yes.

TI: And so they wanted to give you, essentially, a new identity.

RM: New identity.

TI: They, no longer would be Sergeant --

RM: Matsumoto.

TI: -- Matsumoto, in a uniform, but you would be a different person.

RM: Mr.

TI: Mr. --

RM: Mr., Mr. Satoru Takahashi. And Takahashi happen to be common name and familiar name to me because I know lotta people Takahashi and the girl, I get to know in China was a Takahashi, too. And the Chief of Staff was a Takahashi, too. And that was on the dealing with the Japanese prisoners. So Takahashi is right name. But I'm just a little careless, you know, ask me, "What's your name?" well, that is, I have to, well, I get civilian clothes and went to PX and got shirts and trousers and... then they assign me billet right away and, "That's where you gonna go. You're at hotel and register as Takahashi then we gonna issue you a identification card." And I'm a civilian, rank, junior officer's grade and name will be, see, no Matsumoto, see.

TI: So you get all these new clothes.

RM: New clothes.

TI: And then what do you do then?

RM: Well, new clothes, but trousers too long, baggy, so I have to, and I asked 'em, "Where's the tailor shop?" "Oh, down the basement," the other people told me. And they also had their own PX in the small part and Japanese girl workin', then there's a newcomer, new face, so ask me in Japanese, in Japanese, "What's your name?" They want to get acquainted because want to try to make a boyfriend out of me. [Laughs] Anyway, I told 'em, "Takahashi." But then went down basement, then asked me, in just a friendly atmosphere, and the reason I found out was she was from, she were in Canada and know the English. It goes together know to deal, English to deal with the Americans, so, and then here comes the Japanese face and look like a Kibei, so ask me in Japanese -- well, first is, "What's your name?" So I said, "Matsumoto" -- no, no, I said, "Takahashi," then it come to me I'd registered as a Takahashi and living in a room assigned. So I cannot say Matsumoto, Matsumoto's not registered there. So I said, "Oh, Takahashi," see. So the girl is listening because curious because this boy speaks Japanese to this lady here and oh, then all of a sudden they giggling say oh, are yoshi, that is adopted to family.

TI: So that they thought that you were perhaps confused because you perhaps named Matsumoto.

RM: Uh-huh, but I dropped that.

TI: But that you were adopted a new name Takahashi because of marriage.

RM: Uh-huh.

TI: And that... okay.

RM: And Satoru happened to me my deceased brother's name, so he died when he was a baby. But anyway, it's easy to remember my substitute my name for her -- his name, so, and Takahashi's common last name so they thought it was Takahashi. And then, well, they think adopted. This girl's giggling. I understand everything they talk about, is Japanese, you know. But anyway, the way of polite way she says, she asked me where from. So I said, "Los Angeles." Because in case the people call you in, if you give a fictitious place and ask me, "What's the name of the bridge?" If you didn't, weren't there, you don't know. But like me, if I said I was in China, "Where you stay?" "Oh, I stayed in New Asia Hotel," see. Then oh, is that the Soochow Creek, or Broadway Mansion or whatever. I know that, so I could get by. That's why I use "I'm from China" later on. I says, "I'm a repatriate from China." So anyway, I don't tell a lie, make up a story because I'm from Los Angeles so eventually, well, it doesn't hurt because Los Angeles is big, so even though I'm not there if I say Los Angeles. So then this lady tell, "Oh, I was there," see? So then I says, "Was it 1932?" "Yes, how come you know that?"

TI: This was the year the ship went from Vancouver down to Los Angeles, 1932?

RM: Not Los Angeles, just, this... what do you mean? No, she is repatriated from Canada, exchange ship prisoner.

TI: I see, okay.

RM: And this American prisoner were exchanged with Japanese prisoner, and so they held them for exchange purpose. And so she was one of them. She was living in Canada and came back to Japan for exchange and so she said she been to Los Angeles.

TI: Now, Roy --

RM: By driving a car.

TI: When you say "she, she, she," who are you talking about?

RM: Oh, I talkin' this lady that, Akiyama. So happened --

TI: And she's the shop owner?

RM: Shop owner, yes. And several, you know, about ten people workin' there as a presser, there's ironing or making dresses, so forth. And so she happened to sound like she likes me and asked me whether I like to eat some Japanese food because they thought I came from stateside, 'cause they didn't know I didn't come, I came from China, I didn't say that. But anyway, so Japanese, says sushi or noodle or something in Japanese, say, "Yeah." "Then, in that case, I invite you for dinner. So come over." So okay, then when I'm not workin', in spare time, evening, and says, so visit with her. Then see the familiar face, when I'm working in the store. Then I didn't know they were related. And introduced me to the girls and one was, happened to be Mrs. Akiyama's brother's wife, in other words, sister in-law, and the other one that was the cashier, the one I remember, is, she says, my own sister. And her name is Kimiko, and later on happen to be my wife but that's the way I met my wife.

<End Segment 87> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 88>

TI: Well, so how did you and Kimiko sort of start dating? I mean, what was it, what was the next step, so you noticed her and she noticed you but how did you --

RM: Well, I'm so busy, so, well, if I talk just a little bit, or she go down basement, then bring shirts that sleeves cut off or mended or something, but once in a while they invited me, and they're busy, too, so didn't, because I was so busy at the time and I gotta be on duty, take a turn, but this is a, now I can tell, but this hotel is a junior -- used to be the insurance company building, but converted into Junior Officers' quarters. And that's what I was assigned, and give me the ID card, identification and then we were billeted in third floor facing the Mitsubishi #13 building. So happened that this is a Russian, Soviet Information office so lotta passerby went down there and look at the things so we watch who goes there and who might be connected with their activities. So, if you find out that frequent visitor, the visitor usually don't repeat their visit. So frequent visit might means that have some kind of connection, so find out where he lives. And that's why I'm come in because I'm dressed Japanese. And what I did was the first unit, they issued me new civilian clothes but too obvious because they know right away he's American even though Japanese face. So what I did is my brother came from China --

TI: And the reason they would know that you were American was because the clothes were too new. And that's the reason.

RM: Too new, that's why they, because the Japanese couldn't afford to wear new trousers and shirts and jacket or whatever, see, so what I did was, the brother I met in China was assigned to Tokyo and so he was there, I met him and give me, I asked him to exchange my clothes with his. He was glad to do that because he could wear new clothes. So I got his old army clothes, jacket and wear that and baggy pants, and come out the street. They thought I one of... so they never see the GI or these Japanese, I mean, as American civilian so nobody noticed.

TI: So it was fortunate that you had a brother that you could exchange clothes because it helped you go undercover. But I want to go back to your, your future wife. How did you know that she was the one you wanted to marry?

RM: Well, I didn't know at the time. But then, well, she was pretty girl, and everybody, see, this not only me visiting but lotta Nisei and civilian get Department of Army Civilian, see, DAC, and they're workin' ATIS translation or wherever any other duties, military government or whatever, but their rank authorized them to stay in this hotel, junior officers' quarters. And some people stay from ATIS Building, Yusen building, Nippon Yusen shipping company's building that army took over and made translation section. So the people know that the Japanese tailor shop there to alteration, so if needed, word of mouth say to mouth information, they knew the place so a lotta people, Nisei come down there and talk to other people and get familiar. And later on -- but I thought I, I speak better Japanese than the others, 'cause others just school-trained and try to use. So other people probably didn't even convince that, he's good at speaker. But me, she happened to like me on account of connection to Los Angeles, I didn't... was impressed with that. I told 1932, see, but they didn't think of, they know they want to see the Olympics so they came down there. But me, and the way my, well, thought was, why people come down to Los Angeles? I thought -- see, I was in Los Angeles goin' to school, high school.

TI: But going back to your wife-to-be, so at some point the two of you decided that it would be a good idea for you to get married. How did that work? Was that hard to do?

RM: No, that's, I never been married before, or I never had a steady girl before, I knew lotta girls because I been a delivery boy and going out and I could have married a farmer's girl, too, but they're financially very poor and then financially I wouldn't be able to support because very, pay was very low and Depression time and I didn't have house and don't anything. I was just living on wages so didn't give me chance. But right here, so happened that farm was in, they operated a clinic before, in a hospital. So therefore, that's, the brother's a doctor, the, most of 'em, the brother were medical officers. But even though one was sent to Philippines and they ordered them to charge and charge up and got killed. So this family was doctor but meantime, the sickbay was converted into apartment because they're scarce because Tokyo was bombed and house burned down. So meantime, this hospital itself inactive, but the meantime, the rooms, they rented it out for the people to stay.

TI: So this was Kimiko's family.

RM: Kimiko's family. So her --

TI: So they --

RM: -- family was a doctor's family. So she could have married some doctors or something like that but so happened at the time, ailment and all the eligible bachelor went to war and killed or crippled or come back and so she was there, and lotta women, less boys, so...

TI: So let me make sure I understand. So it sounds like Kimiko's family was, had money, pretty --

RM: Yeah, well --

TI: -- they were pretty well-off.

RM: Well, not rich but, I mean, they're well enough to...

TI: Not rich, and before the war, because of that they, the, her brothers were able to become doctors and they were associated with the medical... and they owned the building.

RM: Uh-huh.

TI: And so they were pretty well-off and you said she was pretty also.

RM: Yes, she was.

TI: So she was a nice -- excuse me -- nice catch. [Laughs]

RM: [Laughs] Yeah, you may say so, but... well, I don't wanna brag about I got a beautiful wife, but some people just compliment your wife so you pull these things like that. But I don't have to say that, and my daughter knows she was nice lady and this not my story, but she raised two nice, well, intelligent girls.

<End Segment 88> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 89>

TI: Yeah, right before, we're going to get that next, but I just want to say, how long did you date before you got married?

RM: I was so busy so sometime I went to call 'em up and I be, but then something come up in case, so I cannot go, and I have to stay in the couch in the office and stay there and the detective, you'd have a Japanese detective bring in information and things. Sometime I have to go myself so I cannot come. So, she thought I might have a girlfriend somewhere else. But it's not too serious but they invited me for the dinner or something like that, so, "How about if you're not doin' anything, just come over." So then they cook Japanese things and...

TI: How did her family feel about you, that you were an American soldier born in United States? Did they --

AI: Excuse me, but they didn't --

RM: No, she has been in Canada so you know --

AI: But they didn't know you were an American soldier. They thought you were a civilian. Right?

RM: No, when I get married was, I was already... at the time they didn't know it.

AI: When you first --

RM: Just knew, but just invited me and nothing friend or anything, I didn't, you know, approach to her or anything. What happened was, as I told you, this thing was compromise, did I mention that?

TI: Right, uh-huh.

RM: So I was transferred to military police because I was military police before. So instead of becoming a CIC agent, I became a CID agent, to investigate criminal thing.

TI: Right, right.

RM: That's the time --

TI: No, you're right.

RM: Case come up and so emergencies.

TI: I'm sorry, you were undercover as a --

RM: That's why I won't be able to go.

TI: You were undercover civilian.

RM: Now you know Matsumoto say first, when I went there, I'm MP, so I have a uniform there. I don't care they recognize me, uniform, it's okay because I'm not connected with any --

AI: So, so when Kimiko first met you she thought you were civilian Takahashi.

RM: Yes.

AI: But then, after your undercover identity was compromised, then, of course, then you were able to tell her that really --

RM: I went back to Matsumoto, then in the army, you have to use real name because I don't use the MP, nothing to do with alias undercover because... then, after that, well, policeman, then made me agent again. Now went to civilian clothes so they don't want people to know my rank, see.

TI: Okay.

RM: Of course, I'm not ashamed of master sergeant, but not the policeman and so they didn't know the rank. So they thought civilian so, since I had my old clothes, civilian clothes, so I became a agent. Now, see, then I had a pistol there, go visit there, and I didn't tell what I was doin' but pistol fell down. Boy, they were surprised. So I said, "Oh, I do that for my own protection," I said, but embarrassed, the pistol fell down from my... [laughs]

AI: So what did they think? Did they think maybe you were a gangster or something?

RM: Well, I mean, I know they're... I was a GI because I went to MP now.

AI: Oh.

RM: And they saw the uniform and --

AI: They already knew.

RM: -- before. Then I went undercover, then the family get to know by then, so it took a little time before we got married.

TI: Right.

<End Segment 89> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 90>

TI: But then after you got married, you had a daughter, born in Japan?

RM: Yeah, Red Cross Hospital.

TI: What, why don't you tell, what was her name and about what year was...

RM: Fumi. I think it was '47, I think. '46, '48 or something like that. I don't know exact now. I could find out, that's --

TI: No, that's okay that's, but earlier, I mean, I interrupted you earlier but you were gonna tell me about your two daughters. Why don't you tell me a little bit about your two daughters, what they do now, where they live.

RM: Well, from there, something happened at the CIC, so since I been there before instead of some other stranger sending, they send me there because I happen to know the inside out there. And then in case find out that this was inside job so I report it, so, but instead of me, me being there before, so they don't wanna grill me, being grilled at the court so to eliminate the embarrassment, the officer in charge told make a sworn statement. In the meantime, they got transfer somewhere way far so that they cannot get a hold of me 'cause they have grudge against me 'cause I turned them in. And then court convince but I was away and, but place happened to be Okinawa. So I don't have to stand and they had a statement go by there and finally this court-martial came up and then concluded and few people were sentenced to...

TI: Yeah, so this was one of the, the, cases you worked on.

RM: So that's one of the reason I have to leave military police.

TI: Right. And so what I'm gonna do here is I'm really gonna jump forward in years.

RM: I'm coming to the girls here now. Then, I got the job in Okinawa and assigned to Signal Corps and still I'm doin' undercover but this the cover so they announce that I be in charge of the labor working for the Signal Corps, about five hundred men including the linemen, splicer, telephone operator, radio operator, and so forth. So I was doin' the job well. Now, my job was secure so I thought my wife should join me and put 'em in for transfer, then I went to headquarters and quarter, dependant quarter section says I could choose any building I wanted because I had priority over other people, seniority. So I decided to get my wife. Then the records show that I been there more than three years so instead of getting family, should be rotated stateside. So therefore I had to be sent back my wife and daughter. But I don't know whether I should tell you or not but I asked the transportation office, see, "What is the best way to stay here longer?"

TI: Right, you told me this story and about how you could delay your, your time --

RM: Departure.

TI: Departure.

RM: Well, meantime, I wanted my wife to stay as long as the family because they gonna go to foreign country, America, and they gonna miss them so let them have a good time as long, longer. Meantime, in order to delay, I should do something, then asked 'em transportation, "What is it things, delay?" Not illegal about it but they informed me to register at Naha Harbor.

TI: Yeah. No, you told me that story.

RM: I told you that.

<End Segment 90> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 91>

TI: What I'm gonna do, Roy, because we only have a few minutes on this tape is, I wanna jump to 1993, because in 1993 you were inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame?

RM: Yes.

TI: And this is an extremely high honor and I wanted to ask you how you felt about that honor being inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame?

RM: Well, I didn't expect it but I was surprised when I was noticed that I would be inducted at the Ranger Rendezvous time I gotta have Ranger Hall of Fame induction. So I told my family that I being inducted so we, whole family went there. And I been inducted but... it was a great honor but I felt bad about other people not being recognized. So at the time I decided to get other people recognized, not other than me. I already been awarded Legion of Merit and other things, too...

TI: And when you say "others," you're talking about...

RM: Other Marauders.

TI: The other Marauders, the other MIS...

RM: Thirteen MIS, yes.

TI: So you wanted all fourteen of you honored in some way. So you actually worked on a project to get recognized. And would you explain what that --

RM: Well, meantime, there were fourteen of us and some people were outstanding such as Henry Gosho, 3rd Battalion and he was very famous because people write about his action and when encounter enemy, he made a direct translation, translation of their orders so therefore we were able to counter, take a countermeasure and be successful. So I thought that he's the one should be inducted first, other than me. But it's a great honor for me but I know deserve it not only him but find out that some people deserve it, but other people they wouldn't recognize so best way to get recognition is to blanketly recognize. So I talked to the president of the association, but so I initiated to do and find out that we have our memorial at Fort Benning, Georgia, and we could ask army to recognize them and work and it took a few years. Finally army okayed and successful and this turned out that the citation reads, "A grateful nation dedicate this plaque to American of Japanese descent for service above and beyond the call of duty," and the fourteen names are engraved so everybody I mentioned that after approved, I notified other people, living person and they all thank me and they been all honored and this is also included deceased person, too. But their families very appreciative and I thought I accomplished my mission there.

TI: Well, in addition to the memories of the men and their families, you spent a lot of time to create this very visible monument, you spent a lot of time talking to people about your experiences.

RM: Yes.

TI: And so I know it's important to you that people understand and hear the story of what the Niseis did with Merrill's Marauders. Why is this so important to you?

RM: Well, that's shows you that even though we been classified 4-C, that's enemy alien, but yet, they come out and risk their lives to serve our country and this example that we, part of us that did it. So I'm very proud that, you know, it turned out that way, but... anyway, well, other than that I was able to submit the name and recommend for Sergeant Henry Gosho, but unfortunately he passed away, but posthumously he been induct to Hall of Fame. And later on he deserving of Legion of Merit was awarded after he had died. It's too bad he passed away. But also, I won't be able to put Grant Hirabayashi, there's another surviving Marauder in United States but I was able to recommend him for Distinguished Member of the Regiment and then Secretary of the Army allowed that so he been inducted, so now, automatically, he became Board of Director of the association now.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 91> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 92>

TI: Something else that you received a while back was, because you were incarcerated at Jerome, you were given a, in the late '80s or early '90s, a presidential apology and a check for $20,000.

RM: Yes.

TI: This came from the redress movement.

RM: Yes.

TI: I wanted to ask how you felt about the apology and the money that you received.

RM: Well, I thought that I receive it, I appreciate, but the people that say that we receive it, but that part, I, well, didn't like that. You see, they think they compensate, but actually the anguish... the reason I joined the army was to try to get out and that bad I felt at the time. But anyway, I tell 'em, well, sure, I received, but compared to my anguish it's a drop in the bucket, given $20,000. That much I felt bad. But I felt good that at least some people admit that they made a mistake so we been exonerated.

TI: Well, one of the organizations that worked hard for redress was the JACL.

RM: Yes.

TI: And I just wanted to know how you feel about this organization?

RM: Well, when the war broke out, they recommend that should follow the government order so the people, some, especially Issei didn't like it to be in, abandon their properties and so subsequently they suffer the losses. And then this redress and $20,000 is a drop in the bucket for them. To me, actually, it is not, see. Because mentally I suffer, but I, financially, see, or as a material I didn't suffer that other than, of course, I lost everything, but, well, $20,000 was okay with me. But it's not to the farmers and they lost farm implement and trucks and not only the crop, everything, couldn't even harvest. So they're feeling, probably, so they didn't like the idea what the JACL at the time did it. But now they want to remedy that so work hard to get this reparation, see. So we appreciate that effort there, but at the time, there's some people say "yes" and some people say "no," but eventually they have to follow the government policy, so...

TI: Right, so when you mention some people saying "yes" and some people "no," I guess that leads to another question where the JACL recently offered an apology to the resisters of conscience.

RM: Yes.

TI: And these were men who refused to serve in the military during WWII because of the unfair treatment they received from the U.S. government. And I wanted to ask you about how you felt about that action by the JACL to apologize to these resisters of conscience.

RM: Well, as far as apology, nothing to apologize. But the thing is, they be... what I meant to say was they been excused. They're pardoned of it. So it's the past so no longer pursue this thing. I mean, that's my feeling, so I'm member of the Military Intelligence Association. Several of 'em, including Hawaii and Northern California and also Java and also this, Seattle chapter but Northwest chapter, but other than military personnel, we decided we don't apologize, we pardoned. That's okay. That's the past and forgive 'em; that's, so I have to go by the majority. So, but personally, I risked my life, then why didn't, but therefore, no need to apologize, JACL don't have to. But if they did it's alright, but not my idea to apologize. Nothing to apologize, I mean, as far as the military veterans concerned, among the JACL.

TI: So you feel for the resisters of conscience, there is, there is no need to apologize to them for what happened?

RM: Uh-huh.

TI: But instead, when you say pardoned, you mean, more like to forgive --

RM: Pardon.

TI: -- or pardon for their actions.

RM: Yeah, forgive, but what they did was, well, their own initiative there and we don't have to apologize, I don't think so. That's individual, my opinion, but we took a vote in the board meeting and as far as the MIS Northern Cal concerned, that's not right to... so we don't, and apologize. Nothing to... but some people probably is right to apologize, but what for? But I'm the member of both sides and JACL want to apologize and MIS doesn't want to apologize, but that was a fact and came out and some, especially VFW in Sacramento that's against it.

TI: Okay, good, Roy, thanks.

<End Segment 92> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 93>

TI: Alice, do you have any other questions?

AI: Well, I did just want to finish up with just to finish up with your family, that you didn't just have one daughter, you actually...

RM: Oh, yeah, didn't come to that. Two daughters, yeah, after came back, well, the order to come back, then Karen was born. What happened was, when I was in Okinawa they assigned me to 6th Armored Division stationed at Camp Roberts, California. And I was supposed to go there, the order read, because no longer you're able to serve in Okinawa because overstayed, more than three -- I stayed three and a half years. Three years the limit, but I say it's more than four years because I was in Japan before that. And so I have to be rotated and go there but on account of delaying action I didn't get there, but I'm not able because officially I'm there but no shipping order come. The reason that transportation informed me to go to Naha instead of White Point.

TI: Roy, I'm gonna interrupt you because we have just one more minute left on tape and I just wanted to ask you if there's anything that you want to say about Karen or Fumi as a closing statement.

RM: Okay, anyway, well, assigned and Karen was born in Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco and then they went to school, meantime, I was assigned to Fort Story, Virginia and that's why I retire. But they went to school then came back with me after retirement, then since my home in Berkeley, both of 'em were Berkeley High graduate, honor student and accepted at UC and graduated honor student, both of 'em, and one, well, of course I'm just a sergeant couldn't ever support but they got the scholarship and Fumi, the elder one, got California -- I mean, the University of California Alumni Association Scholarship grant and then the other one is, get the California State P.T.A. scholarship and start -- finish school and honor student and they're both successful. Fumi's semi-retired, now part-time teach at the University of Alaska, Southeast, that is Juneau and Karen work for this IslandWood in Bainbridge Island and is a science coordinator and she got the Master of Education degree and doing well, so I'm very happy, even though at my, ninety years old I been livin' a happy, happy life. And that's one way to keep me goin' and I'm very happy have two nice daughters and I have three grandchildren and all of 'em honor students and two of 'em are high school seniors and probably most of 'em, two of 'em like to go into Oregon State, most likely.

TI: Well, I mean --

RM: That's about it.

TI: Yeah, that's about it.

RM: That's why I'm very happy. That's one way to keep me goin' even though I'm over ninety years old but I'm very happy and I have a nice wife, been married for fifty-six years. And just say I'm happy.

TI: [Laughs] Roy, thank you so much.

RM: Okay.

AI: Thank you very much.

<End Segment 93> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.