Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Fred Matsumura Interview
Narrator: Fred Matsumura
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Beverly Kashino (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: July 2, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-mfred-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay. Well, why don't we start off? Bev mentioned that you grew up in Molokai. But why don't you tell me, when were you born, and where were you born?

FM: Okay, I was born in Molokai, April 14, 1923, in a little place call Kamalo, Molokai. It's a little outskirts of Kaunakakai, the main city.

TI: See, Molokai was one of the islands I've never been to. And... I'm a lot younger, but can you describe what Molokai was like when you were growing up?

FM: Molokai is nice country. There's not too many people. At that time, well maybe, probably about 3,000 or, plus or minus, couple a hundred...

TI: On the whole island?

FM: ...people on the whole island.

TI: Wow.

FM: It's about 3,000, hundred, or whatever.

TI: Because now you live in Los Angeles, which is much, much, much larger. I mean, when you think about raising children -- because I noticed, or know that, you are a grandfather now -- when you think about raising children, was growing up in Molokai, back then, a good place to grow up?

FM: Well, I don't know whether it's a good place to grow up but... well, there's no, no crime. We knew just about everybody on the islands, you know. By name, by family name, for instance. And we grew up with all the kids and everything else. So it was a good place, yeah, I would say.

TI: Of the 3,000, how many were Japanese?

FM: Oh, I'd say about, oh, thirty-five percent maybe.

TI: I'm sorry, thirty-five percent?

FM: Thirty-five percent.

TI: Now were there...

FM: There was a lot of Hawaiian families out there.

TI: Okay. Did they have things like Japanese school, and things like that on Molokai?

FM: Uh-huh, they did.

TI: So did you, did you go to Japanese school?

FM: After we finish English school, we go to Japanese school.

TI: So how did that work? How long did you go to English school, and then how much Japanese school?

FM: English school, I'd say about one to two o'clock in the afternoon. From there, we go to Japanese school for about hour and a half.

TI: And in Japanese school, what did you learn in addition to Japanese? I've heard other people say that, oftentimes, they learn a lot about the culture and other things, or... what did you learn in Japanese school?

FM: Yeah, the usual. Reading, writing. And we put on plays and acts and stuff like that, once or twice a year. And we had sumo wrestling among the kids, you know. And we had baseball teams and we'd compete with the, with the, what do you call, neighborhoods, different towns.

TI: Were you pretty involved in sports? Did you like sports?

FM: Yeah, I was.

TI: What kind of sports did you do?

FM: I played softball, sumo wrestling. That's about all I guess, yeah. Football, yeah. Played with some football.

TI: Did they ever have competitions with other islands? Did you ever compete against...

FM: No. Just within different part of the island. Like Kaunakakai one side, and then we have Mauna Loa, which on the far end of the island. Then a place called Kualapuu, that's in between. So we had competition between all of those three communities, yeah. Plantations, yeah.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Tell me a little bit about your parents. Where did they come from?

FM: My dad came from Kumamoto, and my mom was from Fukushima. They somehow got together and, you know. Picture bride, or whatever you call it, in those days.

TI: So your father was here first on Molokai?

FM: I don't really know whether they came together, or they were... I don't know that part.

TI: What was your relationship with your parents? I mean, do you remember like with your father, what was your father like?

FM: Oh, he was a real hard-working man. He took good care of us. He used to be a dairyman. So he took good care of the cows, and the milking of the cows and all that kind of stuff.

TI: Okay. And then who were his customers? When he got the milk, did he...

FM: Oh, he worked for a senator in the island of Molokai. There was a Senator George P. Cook, and he had a community there. They had about four or five families working for him.

TI: Okay. So your father was the dairyman for the senator?

FM: Yes.

TI: So all the milk that they got was for the people that worked for the senator, and the senator?

FM: Uh-huh. It wasn't for resale or anything like that.

TI: And how about your mother? What did she do?

FM: Oh, just a homemaker. Stayed at home and took care of us kids.

TI: Most of the other Japanese on Molokai, what did they do? What kind of work?

FM: Oh, mostly plantation. They work in the plantations.

TI: I see, that's interesting. Any interesting -- can you... growing up, did you have jobs with the senator also, or, what kind of things did you do?

FM: No, no. We didn't have any work at all, no. All we do, we go to school, come back, and play around.

BK: How many siblings did you have?

FM: We had eight.

BK: Eight in your family?

FM: In the family.

TI: No, eight in the family, or, so you had...

FM: No. Five boys and three girls.

TI: Okay.

BK: And then in terms of birth order, where were you?

FM: Fifth. No, [Laughs] sixth, sixth.

BK: Sixth.

FM: I had two younger brothers.

BK: I see.

TI: What was it like, having so many brothers and sisters?

FM: Oh, we used to have a lot of fun. Yeah, playing together. Even now, when I think about those days when we were little, you know, playing around. We had to go into furo like that, yeah. We were all there playing, everything splashing around, having a great time.

TI: Do any of your siblings still live on Molokai?

FM: No. I have some nephews, nieces out there, but most of them already moved to Honolulu.

TI: Now what... people who live on Molokai, it seemed like all your siblings moved away. What were the reasons for moving away from Molokai? Why did people leave Molokai?

FM: I guess jobs. We can't get any decent jobs in Molokai. So they all go to school in Honolulu or come up to the mainland, go to school, and then find jobs in Honolulu, mostly.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: When you think back to Molokai, growing up, what's your fondest memory of Molokai?

FM: Oh, I don't know. We had some good times out there, yeah. People are great out there, yeah.

TI: Are the people in Molokai, do they seem different than, say, the people in Honolulu or some of the other islands? Can you tell a Molokai person by how they act?

FM: No, you can't tell that. But since the island is so small, we just about knew every family in that area. So the city that I stayed, we know just about everybody there. That's why you can't do anything wrong out there, because everybody find out. [Laughs]

TI: Do you remember instances when someone did something wrong -- or say one of you or one of your siblings, if they did something wrong, or got in trouble, what would happen?

FM: Well, the thing is that, we didn't get into too much trouble. [Laughs] We sort of, pretty good kids, you know.

TI: But the whole community was kind of watching, so if you did something wrong, then it would get back to your parents?

FM: Yes, that's right.

TI: That's interesting.

BK: In terms of, I guess a socioeconomic level, it sounds like in talking to some other people who've lived in Hawaii, generally, working on the plantations was really difficult, because the pay was very poor and so forth. So it sounds like because your father was in a different occupation, then even though you had lots of kids, I mean... were you financially a lot better off than perhaps other people with jobs on the plantations?

FM: No, I don't think so.

BK: No?

FM: No.

BK: Not necessarily.

FM: Everybody has just about the same wage scale out there.

BK: Even relative to the plantations, huh?

FM: Uh-huh. Oh, yeah.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

BK: The other thing is that, my concept when I went to Molokai, the big thing, and historically, has been the leper colony.

FM: Oh, yeah.

BK: How did that impact, or did it, or... that seemed to be the most, the thing that I remembered is that, looking down as we came down, and the leper colony. How did that interplay with your life?

FM: It didn't bother me at all. But I haven't been down their myself.

BK: You never did?

FM: No. Just from the top of the hill, we look down and see little cars moving around, and all that kind of stuff; but, I never been down there. And I read, I heard stories about Father Damien... and all that stuff, but I never been down there at all.

BK: And was the leper colony there when you were born, and...?

FM: I think so, yeah.

BK: Always there.

TI: Well, that's interesting, I didn't realize this. But what, what -- when you're growing up, what kind of stories did you have about the leper colony? Were people sort of wary or frightened about them, or what kind of thoughts did they have?

FM: Yeah. We were sort of frightened, hoping that they won't come up and touch us or something. We thinking about, you know, they -- no fingers, the fingers rotting away, and hands rotting away, and all that kind of stuff. We heard stories about that. We didn't want to get close to them.

TI: That's interesting.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Well, going on, so did you attend high school in Molokai, also?

FM: Yeah, Molokai High School.

TI: And when you graduated, what did you do after you graduated from high school?

FM: I stayed in Molokai, and I worked as a -- just about that time, some GIs were moving to the islands. So we work on the U.S. government, we started to build some barracks and all that kind of stuff, U.S...

TI: Now why would the GIs move to Molokai?

FM: I don't know, yeah. The war wasn't going on at that time, yet. I guess for training purposes or... security reasons, I don't know.

BK: So what year was that then?

FM: About '40... '39, '40.

TI: And so you were able to get jobs, building barracks you said, and things like that?

FM: Uh-huh, yeah.

TI: And how was that? Was that pretty good work to do?

FM: Yeah, uh-huh. Carpenter work you know.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Moving to December 7, 1941. Describe what you did that day, or how you heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

FM: Well, that night, a bunch of us, every weekends like that we play cards and stuff like that, see. But we were playing cards, and then in the morning we went, we decided, on the way home, we were sitting around, talking story. And then we heard over the radio that somebody, that war was declared. And they announced to people on Molokai, say, "All able-bodied young men report to the armory." So we reported to the armory, and they gave us rifles. They said, "So you two gonna guard the telephone installation there, you gonna guard the school out here, and you gonna guard the electrical facilities there." So we went out, you know, guard the places at night. But nothing happened.

TI: How long did you, were you a guard? Did you go back the next day and do it again?

FM: Oh, yeah. They give you couple days off and then you go back on duty again, for four or five hours at a time, yeah.

TI: And so how long did this go on?

FM: And they also give you ticket for meal, meal ticket. So we get meal ticket, go to the restaurant, have a good meal.

BK: That sounds good. [Laughs]

FM: No pay, of course. Just a free meal ticket.

TI: And this was in, and you continued building barracks and doing that work, too, or did you stop doing that?

FM: Same thing. We still worked for the government, building barracks and stuff like that. And some GIs started to come in. More GIs started to come in already, yeah.

TI: And then how long did you work as a guard, that they gave you a gun and you...

FM: Oh, no, no. Not very long. About, oh, maybe a month or so. And then they dissolved that portion of security. They said there's no chance of getting invaded by the Japanese, so we stopped doing that.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: You mentioned about a third of the population on Molokai was Japanese.

FM: Uh-huh.

TI: And what reaction did the rest of the island have towards the Japanese after Pearl Harbor? Did they, did it change?

FM: No, it didn't change. Because we're friends from when we were little kids. So no change at all, we still talk and play with them. And no, no hard feelings between Hawaiians or Japanese, or... that's about it, there's only Hawaiians and Japanese, Portuguese.

BK: There was not a large population of haoles?

FM: No, not too many.

TI: And on a small island like Molokai, did the FBI come and pick out certain people and take them away?

FM: Um hm. They did, yeah. Yeah. So some of my friends were picked up. They were put in Honolulu's Sand Island. And they were detained there, for, I don't know, a couple, maybe for questioning and stuff.

BK: And what were your friends -- for what reason did they take and detain them and...

FM: Well, because they had visited Japan within the past few years, or whatever. Or some doctors or businessmen, they make trips to Japan for buying and stuff like that. They were taken in.

TI: What did you think about the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor? I mean, when you talked with your friends and say this thing happened, what would you guys say and talk about?

FM: Yeah, we were really disappointed that such a thing happened, us being Japanese. We felt bad about the whole deal, yeah.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Well, eventually the government called for volunteers for the military. What did you do when that happened?

FM: Well, yeah. They sent some people over to Molokai for recruiting purposes. And we assembled at a big hall. And, well, there were quite a few of us, about our age, at that time, we were about, nineteen, eighteen, nineteen years old. And we went to the meeting, and they explained to us that they gonna form a unit of Japanese Americans, and that they looking for volunteers. So if anybody want to volunteer, sign up. So everybody's sign up; we all sign up, volunteered.

TI: So how, did you have any brothers also sign up, or were you...?

FM: No, they were too young. My two brothers are too young. My older brother, he passed away. He had pneumonia, he died. So I was the only one in our family that was of that particular age.

TI: What was the reaction of your mother and father about you volunteering?

FM: Well, they didn't say too much. They say, "Well, you have to go, so good luck."

TI: What about your siblings, your younger brothers and your sisters, what did they say to you?

FM: Oh, they didn't say too much. But they were later on inducted into Korean War and others, you know. Yeah.

TI: So after you volunteered, were you inducted on Molokai, or did you go to...?

FM: Well, we come under County of Maui, Molokai.

TI: Okay.

FM: So we were inducted -- from Molokai, we went to Maui -- and we inducted in Maui.

TI: Now how often were you off Molokai at this point? Did you travel off Molokai very often?

FM: When I was a kid, you mean?

TI: Yes.

FM: No. Very seldom, 'cause there's only the... by boat. And usually, well, we have nothing to do in Honolulu anyway, unless you have to go to a special doctor or thing. Then we go to Honolulu. But other than that, we just stayed on Molokai.

TI: Okay, so you went from Molokai to Maui. And then from Maui, did you go to Oahu?

FM: Oahu, Uh-huh.

TI: And how was it? Was it, was it -- it must have been pretty exciting for you to go from Molokai to Oahu, with all these other men from all these other islands, coming to the same place?

FM: Yeah, it was, yeah. You see all those, a lot of guys at Schofield barracks. Yeah, we all did, hanging our laundry and stuff. [Laughs]

TI: Did the Molokai boys stay pretty close together and...?

FM: When we first went in, yeah, we were close together. But then we were shipped to different companies. But we still kept in touch. Every now and then, we would visit some of the Molokai group.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: And so after you were in, to Schofield, you came to the mainland from there, then to Camp Shelby. Describe what it felt like coming to the mainland; again, you're going from Molokai to Maui, then to Oahu, and then to the mainland. And what, can you remember anything really interesting about the mainland?

FM: The first time we were there, well, even getting on the boat was a little, kinda' special. [Laughs] Never been on a big boat like that. But we all had our bunks, bunk bed, about five or six of us in one stateroom. And we had to do KP duties in the galley. Oh, that was pretty smelly, and made you sick out there. But, well, we got to meet a lot of friends, new people, and good friends.

TI: Was that a pretty good time for you on the boat ride to the mainland?

FM: I was sick all the way.

TI: [Laughs]

FM: Yeah. I stayed in the bunk all the way, I didn't get up. But the boys used to bring me crackers, and soup, and stuff like that.

TI: So you were glad when you got to the mainland?

FM: Oh, yeah. Uh-huh.

BK: How about your send-off from Oahu?

FM: Send-off, yeah.

BK: Do you have any recollections or thoughts about...?

FM: Yeah, we all boarded trains, carrying our big duffel bag full of our GI issue. Walking from, oh we walked quite a distance to get on the boat. That part I remember, carrying the duffel bag, huffing and puffing.

TI: Now I've heard the story that as you huff, and puff, and walked -- and it was pretty far -- that many of the families of some of the people who were leaving were lined up to watch you leave. Did you have anybody to, sort of, wave goodbye to you?

FM: No.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So let's go back to the mainland. What were your first impressions of the mainland when you got there?

FM: Well, we were kept more or less under secrecy. Even when we get on the train now, they had all the shades pulled down. They told us, "Don't open the shade. Just stay in the train." Then every so often they make a, they stop, and then we peeked a little bit to see where we are. But railroad tracks, they out in the boonies, yeah. They don't go through towns, so we didn't get to see too much.

TI: What reasons did they give you for keeping the shades down?

FM: They didn't say anything to us. Just said, "Keep the shade down. Don't get off the train when it stops."

BK: And you didn't ask them why?

FM: No, we were just recruits. You know, they...

BK: Just follow orders.

FM: ...they tell us to jump, we jump. [Laughs]

TI: But every once in a while, the train would stop, so you can get out and stretch your legs and do things like that?

FM: No, for refueling or taking water or coal or whatever. We stay on the train and peek out there, I see what's going on, but...

TI: Well, I've traveled across country on cars, and the country's quite large. And coming from an island, coming to the mainland, going on a train, it must have seemed like a long ways for you.

FM: Oh, yeah. It was a long ways, yeah. I think it was about five days, I think. I don't remember exactly what.

TI: And what was the first place that you, the first place you came to, where you can get out and see people?

FM: Oh, I remember a place called North Platte, Dakota. Where we were... there's snow on the ground at that time, too. The train stopped, so we got off, look around a little bit. Then say, "Everybody, go." Oh, just for a few minutes we got off, and got right back on again and went out there.

TI: Was that your first experience with snow?

FM: Oh, yeah.

TI: What did you think about that?

FM: I, oh, it's beautiful, cold. But, "Hey, snow!" [Pretends to throw a snowball] Start playing with each other, yeah.

TI: Well, eventually, what was your destination for the train? Where did you stop?

FM: Oh, went to Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

TI: And what was that like?

FM: Well, we first got off, oh... just barracks. And they called your name, and you assigned to certain company. We were all assigned to I Company. And there were about fifteen in a barracks. Each squad had fifteen people, but first squad, second squad, they all had their different barracks.

TI: When the Hawaiians first got there, already at Camp Shelby were some mainland Japanese Americans. And they were the, sort of the, at that point, I believe the NCOs, they were more the ones in charge. How did you and the other Hawaiians get along with the mainland Japanese?

FM: Well, myself, I got along okay with just about everybody, yeah. There were some people, no matter where they go, they're troublemakers anyway. So, they're always starting fights and stuff like that. But we had a good group, our squad.

TI: Because when I read, now I mean, and maybe it's overblown, but you read these books now, and they say that there was lots of friction between the mainlanders and the Hawaiians. So you don't think it was that bad?

FM: No, it was, I think it was blown out of proportion, I think. Yeah. How could... we had about four mainland people, yeah: Kash, and Hayashi, and Mickey Akiyama -- he's here tonight, he was in our hut -- and a couple others, but we got along real good. We didn't have any fight among ourselves, no.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: You mentioned Kash. What was he like -- and the reason I ask is, we're from Seattle and Kash was from Seattle. But what was Shiro like?

FM: The Hawaii group were there about a week before the mainland group arrive. And when Kash and Hayashi came in, they came in together, you see. And there's two empty bunks on the far end of the hut, so they took those two hut there. And we look at Kash and Hayashi. You know, they're big guys, compared to us. Said, "Oh boy, look at these big guys come in here." And well, we got along real good. Yeah, no friction among us. And Kash, I tell you he's big, but he's got a personality. You know, he's always smiling. He never get mad. We always tease him, "Hey, Kash, how come you're so quiet?" He says, "Hey, I don't want to get a licking." [Laughs] Says, "What are you talkin' about? We the ones gonna get a licking from you." [Laughs]

TI: Was Kash sorta extraordinarily big? People have all said that he was very big compared to the others.

FM: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, to me, he's about a foot taller than I am, I think. But he's a real gentle guy, good guy, yeah. We got along real good. In fact, all of us in the squad, the first squad, which Kash was one of the members there, really got along real good.

BK: So there were about four mainlanders, and the remainder were from the islands?

FM: From Hawaii, yeah. Uh-huh. And we had one cadre that was from the mainland, also. He stayed, he was in the hut there.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Earlier, I was talking with Sadaichi Kubota, and he said that you were one of the men that sort of stood out. Because he said that you were one of, I guess, were promoted to -- I guess in basic training -- to a sergeant?

FM: Uh-huh, yeah.

TI: Why were, why do you think you were chosen to be one of the leaders?

FM: I don't know. I really don't know, because you could have chose anybody, you know.

TI: Was Kubota the one who chose the...?

FM: No. The lieutenant did. I guess the, what to you call, lieutenant from each platoon will choose the leaders for each squad.

TI: And you don't know why they chose you or the other people?

FM: No. Because I, myself, I think we all equally is, what do you call -- good. We all try our best, train hard. But I guess... I really don't know why I was chosen. It could have been anybody, yeah.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Now I know at Camp Shelby you trained hard, but every once in a while you would get leave and go, and then... what was that like, and where would you guys go?

FM: The first leave we had, we went to New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. We would travel by train from here to there. And Hayashi, one of the mainland boys, he gave us his mother's address, he said, "When you go to Chicago, go visit them." So we gave 'em a call and went to visit them. They were really nice people, yeah.

TI: And what kinds of things did they do for you when you went to Chicago, that first time? When you say they're very nice, what did they do?

FM: Oh, they had us over for dinner. And, sit around, talk, and ask us how their son is doing. And tell 'em, "Oh, he's doing great. He's all right. He'll be all right." In fact, one of the guys that went with us, he married Hayashi's sister.

TI: That's interesting.

FM: Yeah.

TI: And did he meet her during this meeting, this trip?

FM: Yeah.

TI: That's interesting.

FM: After he met her, we came back to camp, he said, "Oh, Fred, I'm in love, Freddie." [Laughs]

TI: How did Hayashi feel about that, his younger sister marrying one of his buddies? [Laughs]

FM: He keeps on, "Oh, Freddie, I'm in love. I'm in love."

TI: That's funny.

FM: But he died about four, five years ago. In an accident -- oh, Seattle accident. Remember that automobile accident in Seattle they had? Yeah.

BK: That my dad was driving in?

FM: I don't know who was driving, but yeah. Yeah. Oh, no, no -- well, that's right, he died in that Seattle accident, yeah.

BK: One my dad was driving. Yeah.

FM: Yeah. He was a real nice guy, too. We all, I tell you, they all great guys that I served with.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: When you think of Camp Shelby, were there any times that were really hard? You know, like when you think of like the worst time for you at Camp Shelby, can you remember that?

FM: Well, the training was pretty tough. But the 25-mile hike was pretty rough, yeah. Like, we had a guy named Shorty Kazumura -- oh, he's a Seattle boy, yeah -- Shorty Kazumura.

BK: Oh, Shorty, yeah.

FM: Yeah. Seattle boy. He was in our squad.

BK: Shorty's here.

FM: Oh, he's here?

BK: Sure, I saw him this morning when he checked in.

FM: I didn't see him yet, but... yeah, he take three steps to the lieutenant's one step. So just, he's just about running all the time. And 25-mile hike is a pretty long way, so.... And when he start slowing down, we, one of the guys would grab his rifle, one guy would grab his backpack, and then help him along a little ways. Then we swap over, you know. And Kash would always grab his knapsack, the heaviest. He would carry his backpack for Shorty, and we'd keep on going.

BK: How tall do you think Shorty is?

FM: He's less than four feet, yeah?

TI: Or less than five feet.

BK: Less than five feet.

FM: Oh, five feet, yeah. Four feet nine or something, that's what he was, yeah.

BK: My daughter just loves him, and I think it's because he's close to her height. [Laughs]

FM: Oh, yeah. He's a great guy.

TI: So it's like a sense of helping each other out on things like that?

FM: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Whenever we go training and stuff, somebody have a little problem, we always help each other out. Everybody made that 25-mile trip. Nobody drop out.

TI: Was there sometimes resentment towards the people who couldn't carry their full load, that other people had to help 'em, or how did that feel?

FM: Not in our squad, no. If somebody having a little trouble, we all pitch in and give him a hand. Lot of times I carry his rifle, too, see. I'm carrying two rifles plus my backpack and everything else. And sometimes we go in behind and pick him by the okole. [Laughs] "Come on, Shorty, you can do it. Let's go."

TI: That's funny.

FM: No, but he's a tough kid, that Shorty, yeah. He's a good kid, good, good, good man.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Well, after Camp Shelby, you took a ship to Europe.

FM: Uh-huh.

TI: And the ship, the ride was almost a month long. That was a long time you were on there.

FM: Yeah.

TI: But as you got closer to Europe, can you remember some of the things that you were thinking, and the others, as you got closer and closer?

FM: Yeah. When it got closer to Europe, they handed out booklets, "How to speak in Italian." So we know, "Hey, we're going to Italy." And we studied the book, so that we could communicate. Before you know it, we can, spoke pretty good Italian for a while. Just enough to get along, you know? How to go to the restaurant and order the food, or something like that.

TI: Was it exciting for you to go Europe? You landed in Naples, I believe.

FM: Yeah.

TI: What was it like to land in a, now a foreign country. Again, I keep thinking, you started in Molokai, and you went to the mainland, and now you're going to Europe, another country.

FM: Yeah.

TI: It must have been somewhat exciting for you.

FM: It was exciting, yeah. But then we were going to combat now, you see. So, everybody was a little serious, you know. But we did have our fun.

TI: When you said the guys were serious, did anyone talk about that a little bit, about what they were feeling, or some of their fears, or anything like that?

FM: Not in that sense, but you can sense that people are getting serious about doing their job. Going there... end the war as soon as we can.

TI: So...

BK: How did you do on the ship going over?

FM: Oh, the first five days I was sick.

TI: That's a good question.

BK: But felt better?

FM: But, after that, yeah. 'Cause they force you upstairs, you know. They don't want you staying down in the hole. They want you go upstairs and, we did some calisthenics and all that kind of stuff. Before you know it, nothing to it. The boat is going like that, we eating and everything else. No problem.

BK: Thank goodness.

FM: Yeah. And there was some activities on the ship, too. Like, our group have a boxing session with the guys on the ship, the crew of the ship. And we had some semi-professional boxers in our group on the ship. All the matches were -- they were bigger than our group -- but see, they were semi-professional boxers, they really beat the, what do you call, the sailors out there.

TI: So that was kind of almost a form of entertainment, just to do things like...?

FM: Yeah, just to pass the time. Yeah.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: But now that you're in Italy, how long was it before you saw your first action?

FM: Oh, I don't know. About, I don't really know. Maybe about a month, 'cause you have to travel from area to area. Every place you go, you spend a day here, or a day there. And they went to assembly area, a villa outside of Rome, I think, a city, a place called Civitavecchia.

TI: At this point, I believe the 442 met up with the 100th?

FM: Yeah.

TI: And so describe those first few days of fighting. What was that like?

FM: Yeah. Anyway, the 100th were already in that area when we arrived there. So first thing I looked was, I had some friends in the 100th, Molokai people. So I went around asking, "Where is Company C?" Say, "Oh, Company C out there." So I look around, and I found this person, Molokai person out there. So we talked about the war. I say, "Hey, what's it's like out there?" He says, "Oh," he says, "it's pretty rough out there. So just be careful."

TI: Did he give you any hints or any suggestions? Can you remember anything he told you to...?

FM: No, no. Nothing like that.

TI: Did he seem different when you -- you knew him back in Molokai growing up, and then, now that you saw him after he had been in the 100th and had seen fighting -- did he seem different to you?

FM: No, not really. He seemed like the same person, yeah.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So, go back and talk about your experiences, the first few days of fighting. What was that like?

FM: First few days of fighting? Well, the first hill we were told to attack, we all spread out in a column. And we started charging up that hill there. But the machine gun and German machine gun placement were so good, they told us to pull back. So, as we were pulling back, a German machine gunner stood up, looking around there. And at the time, I was carrying an anti-tank grenade gun. So I attached the anti-tank grenade to my rifle, and I shot. Fired, you know. See, the missile sort of flies like that. It don't go straight. So I fired about four feet over his head. And the missile, it's slow. It's not like a bullet. So I could see that thing going like that. And boom, that's it. I saw a little phhh. Then after that, we pulled back.

TI: So you got a direct hit on that soldier that stood up?

FM: Yeah.

TI: 'Cause you could see where he was, and you got...

FM: Mhmm. I just aim and I shot. And after the bullet, the shell made contact, we pulled back from that hill. And we went to reorganize. Then they started to shell -- what do you call -- mortar shells in that area. And then we were all out to go back in, but then 2nd Platoon were held back. 3rd Platoon were told to go ahead. They went through there couple of days later, they said, one of the 3rd Platoon members said, they saw a body there. Half of the body was gone with the machine nest. So I figured, "Oh, I must have got that guy."

TI: That was probably the one you got.

FM: Yeah. And when we came down from that hill, I look at my ammo bag. There's bullet holes in the ammo bag. And the belt that I'm wearing here with all of my bullets, there was a hole through the bullet, through the belt there. So I had a pretty close call that time.

TI: So if the bullet had hit the ammunition, it would have probably exploded?

FM: It would have probably, yeah.

TI: Or if it got even closer to you, it would have hit you. So you were pretty lucky?

FM: Yeah.

TI: I mean, what did you think? I mean, when you saw how close you came to death?

FM: Oh, yeah.

TI: I mean, what did you, what were you thinking?

FM: I thought, "Wow. Look at...." [Laughs]

BK: You didn't faint or anything?

FM: No. No, I was really glad I didn't get hit. But I didn't think like, the bullet came that close. But where the bag was, God, the hole through that...

TI: Boy that's, that's...

FM: That was pretty close, yeah.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: When you got back -- at this point, what was your position in the squad? Were you a squad leader or...?

FM: Assistant squad leader. Kubota was the squad leader. I was the assistant squad leader.

TI: And so when you got back, how, how were the men doing after their first taste of battle?

FM: Yeah. As soon as we come back, the squad leader always check on the men, see how they doing. So I check on some of the men, Kubota check on the rest of the guys. And everybody's fine, so...

TI: Okay. I think Kubota also mentioned that later on, when you went around the hill, he mentioned how, I guess the 100th sort of did a flanking motion around the hill and knocked out some of the Germans. Do you recall that, too?

FM: Oh, yeah.

TI: What was that like? What did you see?

FM: Oh, we saw bodies lying all over the place, bodies burning. Oh, it was really... the meat, you know, you could, bodies burning, the meat, you could smell all that. Yeah, we look at that, and oh, we felt sort of sick.

TI: But to Kubota that was a sign of how good the 100th was, too, the fact that they can go around and surprise them, and take out this group of Germans. Were you thinking the same thing about the 100th and how good they were?

FM: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Right, yeah. They're experienced fighters, and they know what they doing. We, first time we're out there, they told us to take that hill, so we charge up that hill like cowboys and Indians, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Bullets flying all over (your head). [Laughs]

TI: How did the men react when one of the guys in the company either got wounded really badly or was killed? How did you guys feel?

FM: Oh, yeah. Really felt bad. But this is war, so you can't help it.

TI: Was there anything that you guys did to sort of cope, help each other out, when something like that happened? Did you guys talk about it, or how did you handle that?

FM: Well, yeah... I guess we talk about it. Say that so and so got hit, and so, where he got hit, and all that.

TI: Periodically, you guys would get rest times or would go on leave. What was that like when you guys were able to go on a leave after this intense period of fighting? How would you guys just sort of relax?

FM: Well, while we're fighting and we pull back, we stay in the area. We don't go out to town or anything like that. You just stay in the rest area, take a shower and change our clothes. And within a few days we back on the line again, see. So it's not like we're going to a restaurant, or nightclub, or anything like that.

TI: Okay. So as you went through Italy, is there anything else that you can remember about the first campaign in Italy that was interesting, or anything that stood out in terms of a battle or a memory?

FM: Well, in some occasions, we would hike. As soon as it get dark, we would start marching. We march all night long, in the dark. You can hardly see the guy in front of you, and then, every so often we rest. And everything's so quiet at night now. So we would rest, sit down. Every now and then somebody would drop something, and you can hear that thing miles away, "Gatatatata!" Making all kinds of noise. And then just before dawn we would reach our destination, and we would attack. And the scary part is when they tell you, "Fix bayonet." You know, when they say, "Fix bayonet," that means hand-to-hand combat now. That was scary to me. But I'm glad we didn't have any hand-to-hand combat with the Germans, because they're big guys. And hand-to-hand combat, I don't think we had a chance with them, so I'd rather pull the trigger.

TI: But you would march all night, and then at dawn you would surprise the enemy?

FM: Yeah, we would attack at dawn.

TI: Because they wouldn't expect you to be so far, or be there, because you had marched all night?

FM: Yeah, right. We would get 'em by surprise, and we usually take the town, or whatever destination that we are supposed to do.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: There was an incident that you and Kash participated in. I believe it was in Italy. It was a town in Italy, where there was a situation where an MP officer was hit? Can you tell us a little bit about what happened at that incident?

FM: Oh, yeah. That was in southern France.

TI: Oh, was it southern France?

FM: Yeah.

TI: I'm sorry. That's right. It was after the "Lost Battalion" battle.

FM: Yeah.

TI: I'm sorry. Yeah.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Well, why don't we -- let's talk about France and fighting, and then we'll talk about that. But, so from Italy you went up to France. And why don't you talk about what France was like and what you did there?

FM: In France, well, that's when we went to rescue the "Lost Battalion" there. And the fighting was really fierce. We were fighting, in the forest, you know. And they're throwing shells at us; every time the shell hit the tree, it burst like geysers. And a lot of people got hurt that way. And the machine guns enplacement by the Germans, were all set up. They were so well entrenched, we had a hell of a time getting through. A lotta' there we'd have to just crawl, crawl from position to position, stick your head out just a little bit and fire, and keep moving up slowly at a time, yeah. That was really rough fighting.

TI: In your squad, how many people were injured or killed in that battle?

FM: In that battle, just about everybody was injured or killed. Well, not the whole squad. No, I mean just our squad only. We didn't lose anybody at that time. But everybody got injured. There weren't any second platoon, first squad members standing when the battle was over. They all in the hospital.

TI: What kind of injuries did you have?

FM: I had, a tree burst, and I got hit in the ankle at that time. So when I got hit, I said, "Thank God. I'm still alive." And I crawled back.

TI: Because I understand that after that battle, General Dahlquist called for a, I think it's a retreat parade. He wanted to address the troops. And when he saw the men standing, the ones left, he thought that the company had gone on furlough, because there were just so few people. But that was all that was left standing. He was pretty devastated.

FM: I wasn't there, because I was in the hospital at the time...

TI: Right.

FM: ...but that's what I heard, yeah.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Well, after the battle of the "Lost Battalion," then you pulled back down to southern France. And, although you're still on duty, sort of guarding the line there, it was a chance to sort of relax a little bit more, too; it wasn't as intense.

FM: Yeah.

TI: And I think it was at this time, there was that incident with the MP. Can you explain what happened then?

FM: Yeah, sure. At that time we went to a local nightclub, like music, drinking, and dancing. We were there, about seven of us is sitting around the table, enjoying a few drinks, talking. And when the music come out, some of us would go dancing. And we were doing that, and I saw some MPs coming in. Where I was sitting, I could see the bar. And one of our guys, Tadao Hayashi, he was at the bar talking to the bartender, making hand signs and all kind of stuff. And the MPs came in. And I looked up there, and they were talking to Hayashi, so I stood up. The rest were sitting there. Just by myself I went up there. I talk to the MPs, and I says, "Is anything, anything wrong here? Are you having any problems?" They say, "No, no problem." They say, "Is he one of your men?" I say, "Yeah, he's one of my men." Says, "Well, take care of him." "Yeah, I sure will." And they started to walk off.

So I returned to the table. Just when I was about to sit, I heard some footsteps running. So I turn around, just in time to see one of the guys throw a punch at somebody in the crowd there of the MPs. I couldn't tell who it was. In that instant, Kash and I, and about three or four others rush over there. And I think Kash was the one that pulled that kid away, and we tried to get things to settle down. We talked to the MPs, and say, "Hey, let's take it easy. We don't want any problems here." And in a few minutes, everything was settled, and we shook hands with the MPs, and they said, you know. And they left.

TI: Why did he run over there and throw a punch? Do you know why?

FM: I don't really know why.

TI: Okay.

FM: But he said later that the, the MP ask him about a pass, whether he have a pass or not to be out here. And I guess... that, that's what he told Kubota, and later on in the statement that he wrote, see. But I saw him running, and when I look, I saw this guy throwing a punch. So the following day, we were all picked up in the morning. There were about eight of us.

TI: And who picked you up?

FM: Some MPs came by. And, 'til this day, I don't know how they found out who were there, or what happened.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: And so you said about eight of you were picked up, or...?

FM: Uh-huh. Were eight of us picked up.

TI: And was it just the MP officers who came and picked you up? Do you remember exactly who picked you up?

FM: No, I don't. I didn't see Pursall there, but...

BK: Were they the same MPs that you saw the night before?

FM: No.

BK: They were different.

FM: Somebody else that we didn't even know.

TI: But you couldn't figure out how they picked you guys out?

FM: That's right, yeah.

TI: Okay. And then what happened?

FM: Then we were put in a big room, all of us together. And they called us in one at a time for questioning. They wanted to know who hit the MP. We didn't accuse anybody, but we figured that he's gonna say that he did it. Then we all could all go home. But, no, he didn't say anything.

TI: And so when they'd asked you exactly what happened, you would just say one person hit somebody or -- but you wouldn't tell 'em who it was? Is that kind of...?

FM: Yeah. They asked us, "Who hit the lieutenant?" I says, "I don't know."

TI: And do you think all eight of you said pretty much the same thing?

FM: Yeah.

TI: No one gave a name?

FM: Nobody.

TI: Now, why is that? Why wouldn't any of the guys mention a name?

FM: I guess they didn't want to squeal on their buddy. But actually, he wasn't with us, you know. He was alone at the bar by himself.

TI: Oh, so he wasn't with you?

FM: He wasn't one of our group guys.

TI: I see. And even then, even though you knew who he was, but you wouldn't give his name?

FM: Uh-huh. Yeah.

TI: But there was an expectation that he, the person who did swing, would admit it, so the others would get off the hook?

FM: Uh-huh, yeah. We thought he would. In fact, our Chaplain Yamada came down to see us while we were in the stockade, in that room. And he told the guy, "Yeah, why don't you just admit that you did it, and everybody can go home?" But he won't do it.

TI: Well, then, what happened next after they questioned the eight of you? Then what happened?

FM: They let people go, and they kept three of us, plus the guy that did the damage.

TI: Now why do you think they kept the three of you?

FM: I don't know. I really don't know why.

BK: Who was that? Who were those people?

FM: Kash, myself, Hayashi, and Matsuda. Matsuda is the one that caused all the problems.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: And so they kept the four of you now. And then what happened?

FM: Then they let all the rest of the guys go, and they put us in company confinement. They built a stockade of barbed wire, not barbed wire, but fenced area. And they put us in that area there.

TI: Now with the four of you there, did you guys talk to Matsuda and ask him why he didn't say anything?

FM: No. We never did talk to him. Yeah, we called him chicken and all that stuff, but... [Laughs]

BK: So you talked to each other, but not to him.

FM: Yeah. No, we talked to him. We told him, "What a chicken. Why don't you say that you did it, and we can all go, you know." But he don't, he didn't say a word. So we were all confined in that area. And funny thing is, they have guard around that enclosure, you see. And there, there was some, just, that particular, one particular night, they had a movie showing down the area, about a hundred yards away. So we told the guy, "Hey, we going to see the movie." So Kash, myself, and Hayashi, all went to see the movie, the guard, he walking around nobody or nothing.

TI: [Laughs] So it was a pretty relaxed confinement?

FM: Yeah. After the movie, we come back and all our squad boys, you know, bringing in cases of beer into the stockade. We all sitting around drinking. The guard is walking around. [Laughs]

TI: That's funny. What did you think was going to happen to you when this was going on?

FM: Oh, thought they'd keep us for a little while, and then, they're going to let us out, let us go. And when we were called upon to get back on the line for fighting, they had to let us out, so, well, okay, we're back with our troops. So, at that time, Kash was staff sergeant that time, you see, and I was his assistant now. So, he let us go out with me assisting him; and we fought. And when we pulled back for rest area, we go, "We're back in the stockade again!"

TI: Now how did that make you feel? I mean, it was like you were just used to fight, and then when you weren't fighting, they'd put you back in the stockade.

FM: Yeah. I say, "Hey, you know, something's funny here." But we can't do anything. Just do what they tell us to do. Say, "Okay, you three men go down to the stockade there." Put us in there.

TI: Yeah.

FM: And then when company's ready to move out again, "Come on guys. Take your squad into combat." So we lead the squad back into combat.

TI: What about your officers? I would think that they would think that that was very unfair.

FM: Yeah, but, well, our officers, the officers above them is telling them what to do, so they cannot say anything.

TI: So it was almost like they were being ordered to use you to fight, but then, when the fighting was done, put you back in the stockade.

FM: Yeah, that's right.

TI: And the person who was giving those orders, was that the Colonel Pence?

FM: Pursall.

TI: Pursall, I mean. Pursall. Okay.

FM: I'm sure that was him, because he was a battalion commander at that time, so he's the one giving the orders.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: How about the other men, the men in your squad, now there's -- what did they say to you when you'd come out to fight?

FM: Oh, they were glad to see us back there. Because Kash was a leader, he's a leader. He's a good fighter, he got good fighting brains. He's not afraid of anything. In fact, a lot of time, before we go into actual combat, all the squad leaders get together with the Lieutenant Kubota, and we go through our plan of attack. Then we go back to our squad and tell our squad what we gonna do, how we gonna attack this position, and all that. And Kash would always say, "C'mon, Fred, let's go get 'em." I say, "Hey, slow down Kash. We have to stay together. We can't let just our squad go up ahead, and like that, and come back there. And we just go altogether as a group." Say, "Ah, c'mon, let's go, let's go." He's got so much guts, I'm telling you.

BK: He's going to drag just you guys into the combat, and forget the rest of 'em?

FM: Oh, no, no, no. No.

TI: Or not forget about them, but be out there in front of everyone.

FM: In front, yeah. Yeah. He wants to go right now. I say, "Hey, slow down man, slow down. We'll get 'em, but we go step by step."

TI: So it sounds like the two of you made a pretty good team because...

FM: We did.

TI: ...where Shiro would want to go forward, and you would say, "Well, yeah, but we have go step by step."

FM: Yeah, right. Yeah.

TI: So it was a good combination.

FM: Yeah.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

FM: Yeah, that guy, why, got so much guts. I got so much respect for him. See, I started off as a sergeant, and he was a private. He was a BR man. But when I got injured the first time, I went in the hospital. They didn't know when I was gonna come back, so they moved Kash up as the staff sergeant. Then when I come back from the hospital, Kash was... "Hey, Kash, how come you taking my job?"

TI: How did that make you feel, because at the beginning, you were his sergeant and he reported to you.

FM: Yeah.

TI: And when you came back, you had to report to Kash. Did that, was that kind of funny for you, or did that, was that hard?

FM: No, it wasn't, because he was such a good man. When Kubota move up -- the platoon sergeant got hit -- so Kubota moved up as a platoon sergeant. I move out as a squad leader, and I told Kash to be my assistant. So we were working as a team already while he was still a PFC. So... and in fact, when I went on, we went on a patrol the time I got hit, I led the patrol out to determine the strength and location of the enemy. So I was about a hundred yards ahead of the main body, me and another first scout, two of us. And the main body was about hundred yards behind of us. And Kash was leading the main body out. And we came across the enemy by going in no-man's land by Arno River. Close to the Arno River. Now, Arno River, it was just river banks, so up and down like that. Flat area, then you go up and down like that. I was just about to go up a slope to see what's on the other side. A German soldier stood about 15 feet away from me. So both of us fired the Tommy gun -- I was carrying a Tommy gun on that patrol. Because when you go on patrol, you need fire power. As long as, anything that fire rapid fire. So I was carrying a Tommy gun, and the German guy was carrying a Tommy gun, also. He stood up. I look at him, he look at me, and we both fired at the same time. But he got me. I don't know whether I got him or not, but anyway... he got me, and I can hear the rest of the troops rushing up forward...

TI: To come help you.

FM: Yeah. I can hear them yelling, "We get them for you, Fred. Don't worry."

TI: And how were you hit? Where were you hit, and how badly?

FM: I got hit, it wasn't bad at all. I got a graze on the head. I got a bullet through my left wrist here, and bullet through my leg here.

TI: Boy, that was a really close call.

FM: It wasn't a major, you know. Bullet went through here, went through here, so... though, probably, if caught me here some place then I would have been killed maybe, but...


FM: We thought all the Germans pulled back, but there was one guy still in the (hole) yet. So I start to place our men in position, say, "George you come here, go here. Koba over here, Champ there..." I was leading the squad, and, "okay, right here." And then just (as) soon I'd place a guy, "George, take this position here..." Then I saw a German guy, in a foxhole there, about ten feet away. So only thing, only German thing I know is achtung. And I go, "Achtung," put hand up like that. Well, he reached for his rifle, so I shot him... right there. I could see blood pouring out from his head and... oh, yeah.

TI: How did you feel when you killed somebody like that?

FM: Well, I can still see him, even today. I can still see his face. He was a young guy, you know, just like we were young, too, at that time, but...

TI: Does it still, when you have those memories, does it bother you, or how do you, how do you...

FM: No, it don't bother me as much now, but it did bother me for a while, yeah.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: Well, let's go to now the, back in the stockade. This was during what was called the "Champagne Campaign..."

FM: Yeah.

TI: ...where it was a lot easier. Did you and Kash, especially when you talked or think about it, did you sort of resent it? Because the other men would have it pretty easy, and they would go into town and sometimes be able to party and things like that, but you had to stay in the stockade.

FM: Uh hm.

TI: Did you talk about that, especially when the boys came back and told you what they were doing? How'd you feel about that?

FM: No. But actually, because when the group go down for rest area, although we in the stockade at night, the troops that were guarding us, they let us go out. Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] I didn't know that.

FM: Yeah, they tell us...

TI: So you would go into town then?

FM: Yeah. He'd say, "You guys want to go downtown?" I say, "Sure." So they'd bring a truck over, and Kash I and get on a truck with those guys. They take us to town, have a few drinks and come back...

BK: Who was guarding you?

FM: At that particular time, regimental headquarters. We were in the regimental headquarters area. And they'd come over during the night, just the guards standing there, but they all from the same outfit, same group. So they all know each other, say, "Hey, we're taking these guys to town." They'd say, "Go ahead."

BK: So you would get a sponsor, you would get a sponsor, and then, and go out?

FM: Sponsor? What do you mean?

BK: Whoever knew the guard would tell 'em, "We're gonna take this guy, these guys out."

FM: Yeah.

BK: And that's how you got out.

FM: Yeah, no, but, even the guards, they're part of the, this service group anyway.

BK: Right.

FM: So they all know each other. So they'd just thought, "Hey, Harry," or whatever his name is, "Harry, we're taking these guys out." "Go ahead." So he, the guard stand there with his rifle like that, and Kash and I, we'd go out.

TI: How about the other two, would they go out, too? Hayashi and...

FM: Hayashi will go with us. But...

TI: And Matsuda would...

FM: ...but Matsuda would stay by himself.

TI: Tell me about -- he sounds like, Matsuda was a real loner. He didn't have very many friends.

FM: He was a loner, yeah. He was loner.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: And at any point, did you guys think about, just sort of telling the truth and saying it was Matsuda who did it?

FM: I wish I did. I wish I did. When I think back, I wish I told them that it was Matsuda that did it. Then we wouldn't have to go through all this. Kash probably would be a lieutenant, at least a lieutenant, when he come out.

TI: But this was part of this sort of code of silence that you had, that you didn't think it was right to turn him in?

FM: Yeah, um hm.

TI: Even though he was someone who wasn't close, he sounds like he had problems in some ways, or...

FM: Yeah, he wasn't even close to us. He was, he was in the second squad. In fact, one battle, we took this particular hill, and they told us that, "The Germans gonna counterattack, so dig in and be prepared." So we all dug in; we were prepared. And first squad lined up this way. And Kash was on this end, I'm on this end of the squad. And second squad, they ended from this side in. That Matsuda kid was right next, next to the foxhole with, to me. So the Germans counterattack, so we start firing, firing. And I don't hear any rifle shot coming from the man next to me, so I call out, "Matsuda, Matsuda! Are you okay?" No answer. So after things settle down little, I crawl over, see if he's okay. He's on the bottom of the hole. He's like this. [Puts hands over ears] So, "Hey, come on, get up and fire." But he didn't say anything, he's just like this. He was shaking a little.

TI: Was that common, or were there other men like that, too?

FM: No. Very few. That's not common at all. Most of the guys are out there fighting; they don't hear anything around they'll yell over and say, "How are you doing?" Whether you got hit, or what.

TI: I would imagine, that on some dangerous, like patrols, a recon, or something like that, that having a man who was like that could be very dangerous to the others?

FM: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

TI: I mean, how -- so again, I know you talked about earlier how the, the men in the 442 all helped each other. But when it came to these life and death situations, how would you, sort of, work around people like Matsuda, who really had a hard time?

FM: Well, if he was in our squad, I would let him stay in the background. I wouldn't want him out with us. But the first squad were really, really... they take orders, they listen. They bitch like anything, but we tell 'em to start digging. They say, "Why are we gonna to dig for? We're gonna be moving on in a little while" I say, "Okay, never mind, you start digging. You start digging." And quite often, Kash and I would dig a big one, and we'll sleep together in the same foxhole. So, I can say that I slept with Kash. [Laughs]

BK: Not with him, Matsuda.

FM: No, no. Yeah.

TI: So you and Kash were really, really close?

FM: Oh, yeah. We used to dig up -- I start, I dig half way, he dig the other half, "Hey, Kash, how come your side is so shallow? Dig some more!" Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: So...

FM: And well, it's cold at nights. So, I sleep on him. I cover him up. He'd say, "Hey, get your hands off of here!" [Laughs]

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: After France, you were then moved to Italy to break the Gothic line?

FM: Oh, yeah.

TI: So did, again, did you all, did you go with the unit, and were you still sort of in the stockade and -- the four of you? Is that how it...

FM: Yeah. We went back on the line again, then we were released. And we climbed a little -- the big, it's not a little mountain. As soon as it got dark, we start to climb that mountain. We climb all night. We can hardly see the guy in front of you. The engineers, or somebody... they, toilet paper. Here, here, and say, "Okay, just follow the trail of the toilet paper." Step by step, we take one step, tell the guy, "Okay, put your feet right next to mine." Put his feet here. And then we take another step, the guy in the front telling you, "Okay, put your feet here." Because one misstep, and you fall all the way down. In fact, one of the guys fell all the way, not all the way, but about half-way down.

TI: And if they fell, would they be injured then, or...

FM: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

TI: Because it was very steep.

FM: Uh-huh. In fact, he's here -- I don't know if he's here tonight, but one of them fell, and he got pretty well banged up.

BK: In I Company?

FM: I Company, yeah. And just about dawn again, now, we just about at the top of the mountain, all spread right around that ridge there. As soon as day break, we hit. And the Germans were so surprised to see us, they all coming up with their hands up like that.

TI: And this was a very strategic battle. I mean, you get a lot of publicity for the battle of "Lost Battalion." But the breaking of the Gothic line really broke this line. And after that moment, the Germans really went to a full retreat.

FM: Yeah. Because there was, from what I understand, there was a stalemate of six months there. They couldn't move.

TI: Oh. 'Cause my understanding was, when you were in Italy, you had crossed the, what, the Arno River?

FM: Um hm.

TI: And then you went to France. And then when you came back, the Americans were pushed back on the other side again of the...

FM: Oh, I don't know. Yeah.

TI: And then they had to, so they actually lost ground when you were in France, and then you guys came back. So that was good.

FM: Maybe, I don't know. I'm not too, what do you call? I don't pay too much attention to where we were, whatever, I just want to get there, and start, get going all the time.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: Now, each time you went out, I mean, there was a good chance that you'd be wounded or even killed.

FM: Oh, yeah.

TI: And did that, again, it just didn't seem fair. You'd go out there and fight, and risk your lives, and then you'd have to come back and be put back into the stockade.

FM: Yeah.

TI: At some point, Hayashi, I believe, was killed, wasn't he?

FM: Yeah.

TI: Was this during this last battle of the Gothic line?

FM: The last battle, yeah.

TI: Now when you went back to the stockade and Hayashi had been killed, what did you and Kash talk about? I mean...

FM: Well, we felt really bad. At the time that Hayashi got killed, Kubota sent me down. He says, "Go down and take couple of days off." So I walked down the trail, I went down to where they had the headquarters, whatever. So took a shower, changed. And I was having dinner, I think. And Kash come walking down, "Hey, what you doing down here?" "Oh, Kubota told me to get back. Get some rest." So he and I had dinner, we talked and things like that. And then, before you know it, we heard that Hayashi got killed. So Kash, "What? Hayashi got killed?" So he rushed up again, up to the -- he says, "I'm going to look for him." They said that they couldn't find him. They couldn't find the body. So Kash ran up, went back to the battlefield. And he tried to go find Hayashi, but he couldn't find him. They found him a couple of days later. They took his shoes, and his clothes.

TI: That must have been very difficult for, especially the two of you.

FM: Oh, yeah.

TI: Because you had spent so much time with him.

FM: Uh-huh. It was really tough. I think he's the only guy we lost in our first squad, got killed. Hayashi's the only one, I think.

TI: And it seems so, and to me it seems so sad, too, that he had to, again, be in the stockade under this cloud, and then have to go fight and do that.

FM: Yeah. So the charges against him were dropped, I think, because since he's dead, you know... were dropped.

TI: Did you or Kash ever talk to Hayashi's family about -- did they ever come to you and ask what happened, or were they curious?

FM: No, but Hayashi's sister is married to one of the I Company guys. I talked to her, yeah.

TI: So they found out.

FM: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: So after the Gothic line battle, the war was winding down pretty fast. So what happened next to you and Kash?

FM: We were still leading our squads. Quite often, the different squads don't have a leader, 'cause they got (wounded), whatever, so they put me in the second squad, for instance, to lead the second squad until their sergeant come back. So we go ahead and lead the respective squads into battle, and come back. And soon thereafter, the war ended, so we thought everything was fine, settled. Then they, one day they call us in, they says, "Okay, we going to have a court-martial now." And went to a hearing, and...

TI: Did it surprise you that they said that they're going to court-martial you at that point?

FM: Yeah. We was, yeah.

TI: Because you thought it was just going to be over.

FM: I thought that everything was dropped.

TI: Now at that point, did you and Kash talk about maybe saying that it was Matsuda who did it?

FM: Oh, we all knew Matsuda did it, yeah.

TI: But then, again, you still didn't say he did it?

FM: No. In fact, at that trial, they didn't ask us anything. They just, that was said, sit here. They call you in one at a time they say, "Sergeant Matsumura," do this and that. "How do you plead?" "Not guilty." And we didn't have any counseling. They just Shanghaied us, I guess. And a couple of days later, we were busted.

TI: And then what happened after you were, I guess convicted, then what happened?

FM: After that, well, we had enough points -- every time you get wounded, you get so many points -- Kash got hit six times, so he got a lot of points. So they sent him home. And one week later, they sent me home, because I got wounded two times. Longevity, you know, original, plus all the points that we have, so, they sent us home -- as a private, you know. That hurt, really hurt, because... throughout the war, we were leading our troops. And when everything's done, they sent us home as privates. Yeah. I think if they kept us there for another four or five weeks, they could have given us our stripes back, see.

TI: Why was that? Why do you think if you were there for another four or five weeks, they would have...

FM: No, because people are being sent home all the time, you see, 'cause the war was ended now. So they start sending the sergeants home. They send sergeants home, then we get promoted, you see. I think they could have held us back. If the first sergeant was good, they could have held us back, and wait until there's opening for staff sergeant or sergeant, then give us our stripe and send us home.

TI: But even if they did that, you still would have the special court-martial on your record?

FM: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: When you got back, did people ask you what happened with it? Because on your record you had a court-martial, a special court-martial. How did you tell people about this?

FM: Oh, I Company people knew what was going on. They didn't ask us any questions. They knew that we were leaders throughout the war, and due to unforeseen, bad luck or whatever you call it, we were busted. And I say to Kash, Kash at least would have been a lieutenant. Yeah. He should have had DSC also, I think.

TI: And both of you came back as privates.

FM: Um hm.

TI: That must have been very hard.

FM: Yeah.

BK: And what would you have come back as?

FM: Me, at least a staff sergeant, anyway.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

BK: You know, my mom has talked, my dad never talked about the conditions under which you were under, when you kept on being thrown back into the stockades, stockade. Were there any times in which the situation wasn't just letting you out so you can go see the movie or to go have a drink? I mean, what was the worst scenario in which...

FM: Oh, while we were in the stockade?

BK: found yourself, when you were in the stockade?

FM: Yeah, they made us dig six-by-six hole, Kash, and I, and Hayashi. Three of us digging six-by-six hole, you know, right in the company area. Everybody's around us, watching us, we digging away. So then we finished digging it, cover it up. Cover it up.

TI: So they just wanted to keep you busy?

FM: That was kind of embarrassing, yeah.

BK: And they wanted to kind of disgrace you.

FM: Yeah, yeah. Orders from Colonel Pursall. Because our company kind of commanded, they were on our side. In fact, the MP lieutenant that -- this Matsuda kid hit -- he didn't press any charges. So he was surprised that we got court-martialed.

BK: Were there any other situations that come to mind in terms of dehumanizing, like the digging the hole?

FM: Yeah, uh-huh. They put us on garbage detail. We go to each company on a garbage truck, slop, all of, full from the mess hall. Pick it up, put 'em in a big gallon, go each company. Pick up slop, put 'em in. Kash, I, myself, and Hayashi, three of us. I don't know why that Matsuda kid wasn't around.

BK: Right?

FM: Yeah. I don't recall seeing Matsuda kid at all. But the three of us, we were doing that all.

TI: The men in your squad, it must have been hard for them to see you do this, because here the leaders were having to have to do this. I would, I mean, I imagine the men in your squad...

FM: Yeah.

TI: ...didn't like to see that at all.

FM: No, I don't think so.

TI: And people like Kubota, too. I imagine it was very hard for him...

FM: Yeah.

TI: see it, also. Now, do you ever feel as if people like Kubota, and say the lieutenant, well, Lieutenant Kubota and others, could have done more to perhaps plead your case or do something different?

FM: I don't think Lieutenant Kubota could have done too much, because he's a junior lieutenant at that time. So even though he might say something, then they're gonna give Kubota a hard time, too, now. But I'm sure he did his best.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

TI: When you think about this whole incident, did this, do you think this impacted your life after the war, when you think about the court-martial, or were you able to go on and live your life and forget about this?

FM: Yeah, I try to do that -- live my life, forget about it. But it's always in my mind, you know. Yeah. If this thing happened, I probably come out as at least a staff sergeant, Kash would probably be a lieutenant, as a DSC, at least a DSC. The guys, the guys, they didn't tease me too much about it, because like, different company guys. You know, they always tell, "Hey, Kash, how come you're always in the stockade?" And all that kind of stuff. Kash is a good-natured guy; he just laughed it off. But when I talked to Kash about it, he says, he said he feels pretty bad about that, too. There was a black mark on his record, too.

BK: Yeah, 'cause my recollection of the reunions were you guys used to just yuck it up about how you would always get thrown back in the stockade again. But in actuality it was just...

FM: It hurts inside.

BK: was hurting every time you talked about it.

FM: Um hm, yeah. Because we didn't do anything wrong, you see.

BK: Right, right.

FM: All we did was try to stop the fight. And I don't know how they got Kash and myself involved in that.

TI: Well, over a period of a fourteen year stretch from 1983 to 1997, through the efforts of Kash, Louise, Sadaichi Kubota and Bill Thompson, they worked, and they were able to get the court-martial overturned for Kash.

FM: Yeah.

TI: Are you hoping to do a similar thing with your record?

FM: They working on it, but they say they can't find my records. So you can't find your records, you can't do anything, so... but Bill Thompson is still workin' on it. He says, "Well, we'll refer to Kash's record," because we did the same thing; his charges and my charges are the same. So he's working on it. He's trying to clear my name also. But I told him, you know, they just give me my stripes back...

BK: But it wasn't until 1995, I think it was, that they finally found his records.

FM: Yeah.

BK: And so that was a span, it's between 1983 to 1995. And unfortunately, I mean hopefully, they're not going to take that long to find them, but they'll find them. I mean, they better find 'em, because I mean...

TI: Well, one of the problems was there was a fire. And I think even your father's records, they could see the burn marks, and so a lot of records were destroyed.

FM: Yeah, yeah.

BK: I guess I'm just a cynic, though. I think, I don't know if I kind of buy into that. You know what I mean? And so I think, hopefully it won't take them that much longer, though, with the pressure from the previous situation with my dad.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

TI: Oh, just, one of the turning points of overturning the court-martial for Shiro Kashino was that they finally got Matsuda to admit that he was the one who punched the MP officer. And we talked to Kubota earlier about that. And initially, Matsuda didn't want to say anything. But after repeatedly -- Kubota going there and trying to talk to him -- finally he agreed to tell the story, the truth. And I guess what was interesting was that finally after Matsuda told the story, Kubota said that it was like a huge weight being lifted off. And I guess I don't really have a question, it's just sort of an observation that, it's unfortunate that he wasn't able to do this fifty-five years ago. It caused a lot of pain and grief to you and Kash and Hayashi and his family. But when I mention that, I mean, do you have any thoughts, because Matsuda has died, so he's gone. But what are your thoughts about the whole thing right now?

FM: Well, I'm glad Kash got his, what do you call, stripes back, and his records are clear. I hope they can clear my record also, but without my records, I don't know.

BK: Did...

FM: But Bill Thompson and Kubota, they're really working hard on it. I told 'em, "Forget about it, don't worry about it," but they insist on doing it.

TI: Why do you think the two of them have been working so hard? On, first Kash's case and now yours? What is it that keeps them going?

FM: I don't really know. Maybe Kubota feel that he could have done something earlier, maybe. But like I say, he was a junior lieutenant at that time, so he couldn't speak up too much. But maybe he wished that he did say something. So now, maybe he's trying to make up for that.

TI: And how do you feel? Do you sometimes think that maybe Kubota could have done something? That perhaps he could have spoken up, or done something that may have changed things?

FM: Myself, no. I don't think he could have done too much, even though he wanted to do it. I'm sure he wanted to do it, but -- his hands are tied also, I think. But we had Lieutenant Whitley, and he was a senior... in fact, he was acting CO when he got killed. People like that, who could have helped but, too bad they got killed.

TI: Have you been able to talk to, to -- but you have a son, one son, or...? Have you ever talked to him about this?

FM: Not too much, no.

BK: I bet you he would be interested in it, though.

FM: Yeah, he's kinda' interested in it. I thought, "Well, forget about it. It's been long gone anyway, so it's not going to change my life anyway." He said, "No," he said, "you better go and get your thing cleared away."

BK: He'll be interested in seeing this video, though, I'm sure, because growing up, we went to all these reunions. And so I think it means a lot to him, also.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

TI: Do you have anything else, Bev?

BK: Well, I guess. Well, just, I don't know, to lighten up, perhaps. [Laughs] I don't know. Are there other stories or anecdotes in regard to you and my dad, that you recall, come to mind? You guys were always yucking it up at all these reunions. In the stockade, or outside of it....

FM: In the stockade. Yeah, well.

BK: Or outside of it, or during battle, or while you were in the service?

FM: Well, we always -- whenever we go to battle, one man don't decide what we're gonna do. He get the orders, and he'll always come to me and we talk about it, say, "This is the way Kubota wants to do it. What do you think?" I say, "Yeah, that's fine." And so we go along and we talk to our men, and tell 'em that this is the way that the thing gonna be run, how we going into combat. I'll tell you, that Kash is just such a nice guy. Yeah, he's big, he's tough, and he's so gentle. Really, I never see him get mad at the troops. Get mad at the lieutenants, raise hell like that, but, to the troops, well, he never raise his voice. I'm the guy doing all the raising, raising hell.

TI: You've been coming to a lot of these reunions over the years, and I guess this is the first one that your father hasn't been at. Does it, does this reunion for you seem different, because the two of you were so close?

FM: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It really, it really is a, makes a lot of difference without Kash.

TI: Yeah. Okay.

FM: He's, like I say, he's one of a kind. Even when we were in training you know, he receive letters from Louise, your mom, all the time, see? Sometime he get four or five letters, they all come together. And he don't have any letter for a few days, say, "Goddarn it, how come she's not writing to me?" Then he get a bunch of 'em. He's always talking about Louise, what she's doing and all that. So I feel as though I knew Louise from way back.

BK: Did he share his goodies with you?

FM: Oh, yeah. Whenever he get goodies, why...

BK: [Laughs] My mom used to send all these omiyage, that kind of stuff...

FM: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

BK: And so he'd say later, "Oh, yeah, I kinda' shared 'em with my friends."

FM: Yeah.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.