Densho Digital Archive
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection
Title: Roy Matsumoto Interview
Narrator: Roy Matsumoto
Interviewer: John de Chadenedes
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: September 6, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-mroy_2-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

JD: Why don't we start with you telling us a little bit about your parents, where they came from, and what led them to come to this country.

RM: You want me to tell what Grandfather did? Went to? Well, first, my grandfather was the youngest in the family, and in Japan, the eldest inherit everything. So other siblings have to work for him or his father to make a living. And since my grandfather youngest, he had to, he knows that he have to work for his elder brother. And only thing you get paid, he was given his room and board and maybe a little spending money. So he decided to go outside and make his own living. But at the time, he had his sweetheart, and so he want to go out there, so he decided to marry my grandmother. And they married, was happened to be teenage marriage, then had two kids, and one was my father. When he got married... well, when he was born, his father pass away, and his mother married, remarried to the people named Muranaka, so he had a half brother, so to me it's a great-uncle.

But anyway, what he did was, at the time, Japanese government advertised, so that, in Hawaii, the sugar plantation and pineapple, sugar field and pineapple plantation needed some laborer, so Japanese government advertised for volunteer to go as a contract laborer. So he volunteered, went to Hawaii with his wife, but he left two, his kids, including my father, and went to Hawaii. And he worked there for about two contract. Meantime, two child born, one is my uncle and one is my aunt. Then after his contract over, he sent his wife and two children to Japan. And he himself came to United States and landed in Seattle, Washington. He was born in Hiroshima, and Hiroshima is in southern Japan, warm country. And when he came to Seattle, he found out it was too cold for him to live, so he went down to southern California and he leased a hay ranch and started farmer. And right at the time, Japanese or Oriental cannot own land, therefore he leased a hay ranch, then he became... he became, what do you call, I forgot the word. Anyway, he became a truck farmer.

And since he was a pioneer for the Japanese to the United States, so he had many relatives in Japan. So he grew up in the same way, he's the youngest one, or younger one cannot inherit anything, so they also volunteered to go either Hawaii or came to the United States. And when my grandfather was born, the village where the land was... there's hilly country, and not many arable places. So farmers have to do some other work. Fortunately, there's Inland Sea, so they became fishermen, so they're, most of 'em are farmer and fishermen. So they have to go overseas or where to make a living, and lot of people, quite a few people came to my grandfather's place, as my grandfather was pioneer. The thing is, I forgot to mention, but the village is close relation, and most of 'em are related, in-laws and so forth, so they know each other. So therefore, that's why they come to my grandfather's place. So as my great uncle grown up and came to my grandfather's place, meantime, he called my father. Also, this happened to be late 1800s when he went to Hawaii and came there. So that would be early 1900, and I was born in 1913.

Meantime, my grandfather made a little money and made an early retirement and went to Japan to his wife. And while he was there, when I was about three years old, I remembered Grandfather treating me very well. And when I was five years old, he left for Japan. And I started to go to grammar school, but right now that's elementary school. But place called Fruitland grammar school in Maywood, California. And I was in the third grade, and summer vacation time, my great uncle came to our home and said, "Would you like to visit your grandfather?" So since he was very nice to me, I said, "Yes." So I thought summer vacation, visit my grandfather, so I agreed. Then I had one, my sibling, my younger brother, one year younger, he said he likes to go, too. And I was eight years old, so he and I went to Japan and saw my great uncle and saw my grandfather, and I was very happy seeing him, he was very nice to me. And my younger brother didn't remember him so well. But my grandmother, that's grandfather's wife, is very nice to my kid brother. And somehow, my grandmother is always giving me a hard time. The thing is, since we are young, my brother and I played, and I always tried to lose so that he'd be happy. But such as, playing chess or something like that, accidently I win, then he lose, and he'd get mad and cry and throw this, upset the chess. Any game, something like that. So my mother, I mean, my grandmother always come to me, think I'm just abusing him, so I had a hard time.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RM: But on the other hand, my grandfather was very nice to me. He noticed that, so he always take me to fishing. And since, as I mentioned before, the family was half fish, half farmer, so my grandfather take me to fishing. And that's where I learned fishing and I enjoy it. Still, until this time, it's my hobby, fishing. But anyway, every time I play with my younger brother and he cried, then my mother says, "Go to Kimuras." That is my mother's mother, my maternal grandmother is living there about a mile and a half away, so I'd be sent there. I don't mind going there. This lady was very nice to me, my maternal grandmother, and this thing happened so often, but every time I'd be sent there, I have to attend school. I have to come from my grandmother's, maternal grandmother's place to school is about a mile and a half away. Summertime it's all right, but wintertime with the snow and sleet, have to walk, had a hard time. But whereas my paternal grandmother's place is a half block from the school. I could hear the bell and go to school. So sometime I had a good time, sometime I had a hard time.

And meantime, I attended school. And when I first got there, I didn't speak good Japanese, so sometimes I didn't understand what they're talking about. So kids or classmates called me, "You dumb immigrant kid, don't know anything." So that upset me. But fortunately, I have a second cousin, she was born in United States, but father had an accident and passed away, so her mother sent her to Japan, the same village, and she was a baby and she grew up in Japan. So she would speak good Japanese, and she happened to like me, and she taught me how to speak Japanese and also helped me in the class, homework and things like that. So it became a good friend. And I was about eight or nine years old at the time. So then I grew up and I started high school with them.

And meantime, what happened was, the reason I stayed in Japan was, see, summer vacation's just about over, and I have to come back to the States, my mother and father and also my siblings there, too. And classmates, I miss them, so I got to come. At the time, my great uncle, the one took me Japan, that came to my place and he said, "Sayonara, Hiroshi." Means, "Goodbye, Hiroshi." So I said, "What do you mean, goodbye? Am I not going back to the States?" He said, "No. You stay with your grandfather and grandmother." So I'm left there. But later on I found out they already knew that they're gonna give me a Japanese education. But since I was a young kid, they never told me. I didn't know. Just been with my grandfather, so I was so happy seeing him. But I was so sad, I miss everybody. In the meantime, my grandmother, paternal grandmother, give me a hard time. I don't know, somehow she didn't hate me, but dislike, I don't know the reason, but she's partial to my brother. He was welcome. Me, always tell me to go to Kimuras'. So happened that Kimura is the name of my maternal grandfather's, and my maternal grandfather was a famous kendo, that's fencing, instructor for Lord Asano of Hiroshima. Unfortunately, when I arrived, he was already passed away, so I never had the privilege of seeing my maternal grandfather. He was a nice man. But my maternal grandmother was living there, and she was very nice to me. So I had a good maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather.

Anyway, I... just start high school, my father and mother came back to, I mean, went to Japan. They came to me because I was in Japan at the time, so came back to Japan, then what happened was my grandfather was a farmer, but my father was never a farmer because he was left in Japan and he didn't have any experience farming. So what he did is when he came back to United States, he came to United States, he went to town as a schoolboy and learned English. Then went back, then he took a correspondence, international correspondence school, and so he self-made, he didn't attend the school. But he became self-built, self-educated. And what happened was that he didn't go to farm. He did was, at the time, they didn't have a truck. They had a team of horses, so he put the produce on the market and went to Los Angeles to Seventh or Ninth Street Market. Then come back. Anyway, meantime, what it did was, when Grandfather, he know how to farm. And most of the Japanese that came to United States, they never farm in the United States, so they don't know what to plant and when to plant. But the seed men came down to farmers, and tell 'em, "This is the seed you plant this time." So everybody followed the same instruction and planted the same. And so my grandfather would delay three or four weeks and don't plant it. So then when the produce, they said, everybody saying it, so market be flooded. So the price is very cheap. But my father, my grandfather waited, so when the markets, produce was almost the end of it, then the price goes up because it's scarce. So at the time, my grandfather's produce would grow, so higher prices, he made money. In other words, supply and demand. So therefore, other people didn't make too money because too much competition and too much, market was flooded. So when my grandfather went to Japan, my grandfather taught my mother how to do the same thing. So my mother is, that's a samurai family, she doesn't know any farming. But my grandfather taught her how to do, so it made my mother a manager, to manage and hire at the time, Mexican laborer she hired, and also Japanese people came from Japan who worked for my mother and she was the foreman and pay for them, and also take care of the family, too. But what my father did was as soon as Grandfather went to Japan, he went to San Diego and became... his hobby was photography, so he went to San Diego and became a professional photographer. Then came back and worked for Toyo Miyatake Studio, still exists in Los Angeles. Then my mother made little money again, so like Grandfather did, so had our money, took the money and decided to go back to Japan. Then my father went there, too. And since my grandfather was from Hiroshima, the countryside, but my father went to city of Hiroshima and opened the photo studio, and happened to be the center of Hiroshima city. And later on, when the war broke out and the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the epicenter was only two blocks away from the studio.

But meantime, that's later on this happened, but meantime, I started to go to high school. Then summertime, I go to my grandfather's place, go fishing and help him, and what happened was I was in the fourth year of high school, I went to Hiroshima and go, went out fishing with my grandfather. Then the nighttime, I went to see my girlfriend, the one that helped me to learn Japanese, and happened to be second cousin. So I was very close. And family was close, too, because their mother and my father was cousin. Then my grandmother found out that I was associating with my second cousin, and she didn't like that, and she told my mother that I was associating with this girl and she doesn't want me to do that. So the reason was that she was a tomboy and she wouldn't like, wasn't good fit for me. And I was a high school kid, and she was attending the girl's high school, and they thought I was gonna get married. So she didn't approve that and told my mother, then my mother told me, "To keep peace in the family, think you better go back to United States and keep education, and maybe later on, maybe something would turn out good." That's one reason I came back to the States alone.

JD: Did you finish high school in Japan?

RM: In Japan? No, I didn't. Fourth grade. So in Japan is five years. But since I studied hard and made good, so I'm an honor student. So high school what it did was, it's a prestigious school, and school happened to be, used to be Asano clan, Lord Asano's institute school. And they made a private high school later on. But normally --

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

JD: So when you came back to U.S., then did you begin American high school?

RM: Yes. Anyway, that's prestigious school, I thought I won't be able to get in. But I got in and surprise to me, made me the president of the class. And it so happened that now, come to think of it, maybe had my grandfather, people knew that he was instructor for Lord Asano, and his grandson, so maybe I got in there. I don't know, just my guess in there. But anyway, I came back to States, and what I did was I had an uncle that was born in Hawaii. Later on I found out his birth certificate was Kauai, not Oahu where Honolulu is. But I think they were in Kauai island, sugar plantation. Then he was in Los Angeles, and so he was nice to me, too.

JD: What high school did you go to in Los Angeles?

RM: No, I'm gonna come to here. What happened is I came back to his place and then my great uncle was already back in the States, and also came to pick me up at San Pedro harbor, Los Angeles harbor there. But at the time, it was early 1930s and Depression time. So my uncle was the gardener, landscape gardener and lived in a boarding house, so I cannot stay there. Then told me to stay with my great uncle, he's the one took me to Japan. And at the time, I hate him because, fool me, but since my great uncle, he had a farm in Long Beach, so I had to go with them. But they're farmers, all poor, and for instance, crates of cabbage or lettuce cost only fifteen cents, and the crates itself would cost ten cents, so we couldn't make a living if we have to pay for the picker, so you lose money picking it. So my mother told me to keep, continue education, so I want to go to school. So I applied for high school and they accepted me, so I was attending high school, then graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School.

JD: How did you feel having to come back to the U.S.? At that time, would you rather have stayed in Japan?

RM: Well, at the time, I was going to stay and I thought I'm going to marry a girlfriend there, but well, I didn't of being popular, I'm concentrating on education, they know, so I enjoyed go fishing. Go out there and I had a good time there. But then my grandmother told me to cut off association with this girl. So what happened was she had a cousin, and the cousin told my grandmother that I'm going with her. So therefore she didn't like me doing that. Says the reason was that she's a tomboy. But anyway, my mother says, "Keep peace in the family," so she said, she liked, my mother liked her too, but anyway, she said, "Go back to education and be sure to finish high school." So that was one reason I finished. But she said, "Since you're going back America and you're American, be loyal to United States." So that's why I came back, even though Depression time, I finished high school.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

JD: Let's jump ahead a little. I'd like to focus on the military and the war period, MIS and so on. So 1941, when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, how did you feel about that? How did your family feel when they heard about that?

RM: Well, it was a surprise to me; I didn't expect that. But the reason, being in Japan, I know their condition. And also, after I graduated high school, I worked for the Japanese grocery store, and so one day, Sunday, I also had my... see, great aunt, I think, called because my father's cousin had a barber shop there. So it happened to be a Sunday morning about ten o'clock, I decided to go get hair cut. See, my auntie was nice to me, and she always cut my hair for free, because barber. And so Sunday morning I think I'm gonna get hair cut, tried to go, and I had my own car and tried to go there, and turned the radio on, and announced that Japanese air force dropped bomb on Pearl Harbor. And that surprised me, and I didn't expect that. But meantime, I had a shortwave radio, [inaudible] radio and all wave, so it's a shortwave radio from Japan. And since I understand Japanese, hearing Japanese news, what's going on in China and Japan, and relation with this and that, but I didn't expect that they would drop bomb on Hiroshima.

JD: Did you, when you heard that, did you think the U.S. government was going to react against the Japanese American community? Was that one of your thoughts?

RM: No. At the time, we don't know what's gonna happen, and just all the excitement. I didn't expect that we'd be rounded up. What happened was just before the war, we started a draft, and my kid brother, my brother Tsutomu was inducted in the army.

JD: He volunteered or he was drafted?

RM: Just before the war.

JD: He was drafted or he volunteered?

RM: He was drafted, not volunteer. And also, President Roosevelt picked a number out of fishbowl, and my number didn't come out, so I was glad I wasn't inducted. But my brother Tom was inducted, you see. And so I wasn't in the army at the time, but the war broke out, we didn't know what happened, but then decided to line us up and send into assembly center, end up in concentration camps.

JD: So March of 1942, the executive order, all of you were rounded up. Can you say a little bit about what it was like when you and your family was sent to Arkansas?

RM: Well, my immediate family were in Japan. See, my uncle was in Los Angeles, so he was sent to Manzanar. And I was in Long Beach group, but since I was living in Los Angeles, they sent me to assembly center, Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia. And then I was there first, assembly center. Then as soon as the camp was set up, they were sent there. Anyway, when I was there, I want to keep myself busy, so I volunteered to work, and end up that I was in charge of vegetable department, feeding ten thousand people until I been sent out to other camp. So I stayed there about six months, and then finally they completed two concentration camp in Arkansas, one in Rohwer and one in Jerome. And I happened to be sent to, we'd be the last group to leave the assembly center, Santa Anita Racetrack. And the group was the Long Beach group, and I went to Long Beach High, and while I was attending high school I stayed with people from Kagoshima, and he was picked up by FBI because he was the head of the Japanese language school, PTA member or whatever, and also he was involved in the native association there. So then his wife and three kids were left alone, they don't know what to do. So we thought first, gonna take them to either Colorado or Utah. First three months before we were sent in, you could voluntarily move out of California. So I thought I'm gonna take the family with me because they helped me to send me to school. So I got a car myself, and also I got a trailer. Then the rumors started, see, if you had a flat tire, they're not gonna sell you the tire, so you get stranded in the desert. And also gasoline was rationed, and run out of gas, they don't, not going to sell you. So that's not good idea.

JD: Where were you gonna take them?

RM: Take either, anywhere in Utah or Colorado, Denver, Colorado, because Japanese community there.

JD: You thought you could settle there, maybe make a farm or find work?

RM: Yeah, find work. But that was the original intention, but then started, rumors started that everything rationed, tire, gasoline and so forth, so we decided to wait and look where they're gonna take us, to end up in concentration camp. The family I was helped, and myself, were sent to Jerome, Arkansas.

JD: The father who was associated with this Japanese language school, did he end up in a justice camp or Tule Lake?

RM: No, no. This is a detention camp, they pick up, the FBI, it's a different way. Maybe possible sympathizer or saboteur with the Japanese government.

JD: Where did they take him?

RM: Take him to Texas.

JD: It's funny now because in about a minute, we're gonna find out how you got out of Jerome camp to go to language school to become an important part of the U.S. military, and just a little while before that, this man who was connected with a Japanese language school was rounded up by the FBI for that same reason.

RM: Yeah.

JD: That seems funny.

RM: That's funny, but now they realized that they needed Japanese, so change mind. Now, even though we're in a camp, what happened was when draft came, I'm physically fit, so 1-A, you know. So was my brother, but just didn't need so many because the war didn't start at that time, it was prewar. So I thought I was glad I was 1-A but didn't have to serve. Now they classify me as 4-C, that stands for "enemy alien." I'm not an enemy and I'm not an alien. So that's what made me mad. Also, I have to vacate my... I was living in an apartment, but only thing you carry is just suitcase, carry, itself. You cannot get extra goods with you. So you have to leave everything behind, then end up in me losing everything.

JD: Your car, too?

RM: That made me so mad, that they put me into concentration camp, and I lost my car, I lost my other radios, I lost all other things. The bank deposit and everything because they considered "enemy alien property." And car, I left, cannot sell it, they didn't buy, so I left it with my friend. Anyway, only thing I could carry was a suitcase with my clothing. Then we went to camp, then so I want to keep myself busy, so I volunteered to work, and they made me assistant... not assistant, but foreman of the vegetable department to feed the internees.

JD: Good job for you. That's good, that drew on your experience from Los Angeles.

RM: Yes, since I had an experience, what could do, so I told 'em when I went to school I worked for the wholesale produce market, so I know vegetable and fruits. Then also I worked for grocery store, so in the end, when they transferred me to Jerome, I volunteered. I want to keep myself busy instead of idle, so I volunteered and became a storekeeper for the mess hall.

JD: Let's jump to when was your, did you get the chance to leave the camp and join the military? How did that happen?

RM: Well, what happened was when I went to this concentration camp, has a machine gun for the guard, but they're not guarding us, the machine gun was set toward inside of the camp. Then if you go near the fence, if you tried to cross the fence, they shoot you. So I want to get out any way because I want freedom. I was young and I miss going to see, I went to high school in Long Beach, so amusement center, and also go to movie. I want freedom. So I want to get out any way, escape, and so they shoot you. And I was so mad because I lost, no freedom, and what happened was a grocery boy, I was going to the farm, customer all over the Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Riverside County, so I met a lot of farmer's girls, daughters, and friend and everybody. But since we were sent to different camp and we lost contact, so I don't have a friend and have to make a new friend.

Well, so mad, so I want to get out of there anyway, and no way of getting out. Fortunately, one day, recruiting officer from the army came looking for a volunteer to go to language school, Japanese language school. And so I already knew Japanese, so I don't have to go to school. But know enough to get out of camp, if I join, they said I could get out of camp. So that's the reason. At the time, I didn't think about, not the patriotic reasons I want to volunteer, but I volunteered to get out of the camp. So I didn't stay that long, little over a month in the concentration camp, but I was kept in assembly center. Anyway, gave me a chance to get out of camp, to join. But since I joined there, like my mother told me, to be loyal to the country where I was born. So I decided to show --

JD: Your mother was, and other family, immediately family, was in Japan now. Did you hear from them? How did you feel about --

RM: No, I didn't hear, so at the time, I'd been corresponding, so what I did was, the Depression time, and I had a lot of siblings, and all going to school. And what happened was my father was a photographer, and doing all right because no money developing the printing. That's the service. You make money on making the portrait picture. So he was doing all right. But I didn't know what happened because when the war broke out, all of a sudden, cut off. But meantime, when I was working, it's the Depression time, so I make money, I send my money to help my family. Even though they're doing all right, but they needed money because I got so many sibling younger than me, so I helped them.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

JD: Let's go back to the, let's go back to the language school experience. How many people left Jerome to go to the language school, and what was that like when you were there in Minnesota?

RM: Oh, about a dozen people from Jerome and a dozen from Rohwer. The two camp in Arkansas, close by, about thirty miles away. But anyway, since a lot of people mad about the United States because the immigrants, because they've been sent to camp and they lost everything, most of them were farmers, farm implement and they couldn't sell, and produce, couldn't harvest, and lost everything, see. So they get mad at American government is doing to them. But also they did it do American citizen, too, like me, I was born there. But they hate the government and so don't want to help the United States. So says, "Don't volunteer." And, "that's a spy school," and things like that. So we don't want to be attacked, so secretly, early in the morning, we left the camp and get on the train and reported to Fort Snelling, and get clothes and everything, then sent to a place called Camp Savage, that's where they started the language school. But language school originally started in San Francisco, but they moved to Savage.

JD: When you first went there, did you know you were going to be part of Military Intelligence Service?

RM: No. Well, language is important in intelligence, but they didn't say it was Military Intelligence and I didn't think... but anyway, I didn't think of what they could do. But the main thing is I want to get out of camp, so I joined. I didn't know. I went there, but since Japanese, I know they're going to teach from the ABC. But already I'm four years of high school, so I knew I, what they teach, so I know it would be easy for me. But end up that was my easy street for me.

JD: When did you first hear about the Military Intelligence Service and know that you had a chance to be part of that?

RM: Well, I didn't know what going to be doing, either teach language or go in the service, or I don't know. But when I went there, they start to teach military intelligence things, vocabulary about military term and things like that, so I know, found out. But besides, other than that, they sent me to intelligence school. That was a secret, so nobody knew, but I had special training. I didn't have to learn Japanese. Some people said, "Hey, you know more than the instructors." Because only thing I have to... well, answer the questions, things like that, naturally I'll do well. And later on it helped, but it so happened that they have twenty-one classes, then we're top class, Section 2, second from the top. I had a soldier named Grant Hirabayashi, he was a Section 1, and I was Section 2 and also other Marauder pick it up is Henry Gosho was Section 2 with me and sat next to me. And he was also a high school graduate, too, and also college graduate. So the Japanese language, have to, I didn't have to learn, but he didn't have to. He could have been instructor, but as a student, we graduated. Then this Marauder thing came up.

JD: Were the Kibei treated differently from Japanese Americans who had not been to Japan?

RM: At the school?

JD: Well, or in general, by the government. Was there any suspicion of you?

RM: Well, others, Kibeis I think were suspected because might be loyal to... because when attended Japanese school, they teach you to be loyal to the emperor. So some Kibei might be sympathizing with the Japanese. But some people didn't join the army, you know, actually some maybe hate United States government, I suppose. Those are people, the "No-No Boys" later on come up. I joined the army, and so since I joined the army, I decided to show I'm not a second class citizen, I'm not an alien or enemy. So I would show that I'm a loyal American, and so my intention, end up in, what do you call it? Well, I could accomplish what I intend to do. That why I risked my life to show... of course, I'm scared, too, but show that I'm not disloyal. Even though I risk my life to do my duty to show that I'm loyal American.

JD: Do you think the other, most other Nisei who joined the U.S. military had the same feeling? That it was to prove the loyalty of the Japanese American community with other Nisei?

RM: Well, I think most of 'em... I don't know other people, but as far as I know, the group with me, all of 'em tried to show that they're loyal Americans, to be loyal to America, the way they acted, talked.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

JD: You mentioned the Marauders. When that idea, when that unit was first being formed, can you tell a little bit about that?

RM: Yeah, well, first, what happened was the Hawaiian boys from the 100th Battalion, they were already in the National Guard, so they're soldiers, already had a soldier training. So most of them were sergeant and above. But anyway, we are in a concentration camp, didn't have any prior military. So, but anyway, they're gonna, language specialists, send the students. So we're not soldiers, so even though the rank is a private, but they gave us the rank of T-5, just a corporal rating, after completed so much. Then if you're a graduate, they gave a T-4, that's a sergeant grade. But anyway, after graduation, we didn't have any military training, so they sent us to basic training, infantry. So happened that 442nd was formed, and they're training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, Hattiesburg. Anyway, that's why even though we graduate school in already T-4, but didn't have any prior military training. So basic training, we're sent to infantry training Camp Shelby. Then after graduation, came back to school, wait for assignment. At the time, this deal come up, the War Department said there is a dangerous and hazardous mission to be completed, and it only requires so many. But deal was very attractive because only, see, if you were sent to overseas and completed mission, it only takes three months, and after that you'd be rotated to stateside, then you serve rest of duty in the States. So they're very attractive because... if you're sent to the front anyway, it's dangerous anyway. So we thought the deal was good, so we volunteered, so everybody volunteered. But only took fourteen of us, and what happened... they already told us it's a hazardous mission, but... it is hazardous to go to a war zone anyway, so, "Let's go."

JD: So did they take the fourteen with the best language skills?

RM: Well, mostly they had everybody did, but what it did was, every volunteer, so interview the people has military experience and also well in the language. Then so what happened was each one go to the office and they interview, and they said yes or reject. Then I didn't go to an interview there, but they did come to the office. So they picked me without interview. The reason was Henry Gosho is a college graduate Japanese, and I know he'll be picked because he's qualified. But he sat next to me and I did well, too. So he mentioned maybe, "Pick Matsumoto." He didn't tell me, but I know because he's the only one knew me in the group. So second, Class 2, Section 2 was Henry Gosho and me, and naturally Grant was Section 1, so he's one of the best Japanese... he graduated from Matsumoto High School in Nagano. [Laughs] Name happened to be the same mine, but no relation. But he's from Matsumoto in Nagano, and he was picked. I was surprised I was picked. They told me to report with no interview, because I did well because I already had four years high school and I knew more than what they taught, I mean, as far as the language goes.

JD: Here's a question. If you went to Camp Shelby for training where all of the 442 guys were being trained, how come you didn't end up in the 442?

RM: Well, I already trained as a military language specialist. So just for the basic training we'll go there. Nothing to do with the 442nd, could be any unit to train.

JD: Didn't need language specialists in --

RM: But there's close by... well, of course, Minnesota and Arkansas. But since all Japanese outfit, 442nd, they're a segregated outfit, so we're all Japanese, most of 'em Japanese, anyway, from the camp. The only already soldier, they didn't have to go because they were already soldier with the 100th Battalion, Hawaiian National Guard. So some guy got, come to school, reduced grade and come to school, or some sergeant, so they were soldier already, these ones. So we took half of 'em, the one from the camp, then half... well, then they took seven of us from the mainland and seven from Hawaii out of a couple hundred.

JD: So the Marauders was a unit, about three thousand people, and you were sent to India where you got more training in jungle warfare, right?

RM: Uh-huh.

JD: What was that experience like? How were you treated by the non-Japanese members?

RM: Well, at first they didn't know us, so not all of 'em from mainland. The American troops were, so some from West Indies, they had training there over on the mainland. We'd get on the troop ship, SS Lurline, Hawaiian shipping company was converted into a troop ship. Most of the soldiers were down in the hole, but we'd been segregated, and they kept in the stateroom on the top. So we had a good view there. But anyway, the reason segregated, we didn't have any relation with other troops. And they thought we were Japanese prisoner chapter, then give us uniforms and make us translate, I mean, interpreter. And that was the rumor. They didn't know that we were American soldiers.

JD: They thought you were being forced to help them.

RM: Forced to help them, see, that's right. So some people thought, "Throw those guys overboard," that's what some people mentioned that. Then we'd been introduced later on, put everybody on deck and show that we're American soldiers, and special purpose, capture enemy prisoners and then we could interrogate prisoners. Then we picked some people on the way... we thought when we left San Francisco, few days later we saw Diamond Head, and we thought we were going to stop in Hawaii, good deal. But no, they didn't stop. Seeing island get smaller and smaller and disappear on the horizon. So we missed that. Then we crossed the state line, I mean, the Daylight Savings line, then end up in New Caledonia. Then pick up a few people there, get one group. Then it was a nice, beautiful place, but we didn't get off there. Then we head to Brisbane, Australia, then in the harbor, nice place, but they didn't let us go because we may go AWOL. Then pick up some more troop from, experienced people from Guadalcanal. Then went around, stop at Perth.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

JD: Let's go back to Marauders and the fourteen Nisei and your experience getting to know those people. It sounded like you knew Grant and you knew Henry at the beginning of that, but how did you all work together and how did you become part of the different combat teams?

RM: Well, at first, as I told you before, they put us in segregated, separate from other people. All fourteen Nisei together, and put 'em in staterooms, big staterooms. So we were lucky because not in the hole, we could see the ocean and view. But anyway, we didn't have anything to do, so played card games and things like that, get to know each other. Then I played, too, 'cause they called me Unconscious. See, I had a hand there, but I mean, I don't bet big, so suck them in because they think they'll win. Then end up with me winning, so Unconscious they'd call me. I didn't talk much, but anyway, the one, like Gosho, same class next to me. And he didn't tell me, but I think he's the one responsible for me get in there. I know I'm qualified, but probably they knew I was qualified, too, that's why maybe picked up. But without interview, I was surprised I was a member. Anyway, see, I didn't talk too much to Gosho.

But anyway, when we first got there, down there, made Hawaiian boys was a team leader, 'cause he's already a regular soldier, he's a tech sergeant already. Anyway, what they did was, they picked Miyazaki and Akiji Yoshimura as Merrill's assistants, so made him their interpreter, assigned to him, too. That's the picture, the three soldiers, Merrill and Akiji, Miyazaki and Yoshimura. And the others assigned to company first, then each different rifle company, Company F or Company C. But all of a sudden, they change around and what it did was regular army, they have, regiment has a battalion, and three battalions. But they did it British way, they divided battalion into two combat teams. Then they decided to put two Nisei to each combat team. What they did was they pair one that's strong in Japanese and one is strong in English. The Kibeis is strong in Japanese, then non-Kibeis, Nisei, were stronger in English because went to English school, and the other was Japanese school. So pair up so that they could... one understand Japanese, then their English strong, would make a good report, translation. So I end up in the 2nd Battalion, and Gosho end up in 3rd Battalion, and Grant ended up 1st Battalion. Those are top three. I didn't say I'm the top, but anyway, section 2, high as 3. Rest of 'em down there, 6 or 15 or something like that, lower classes. But then they're soldiers, so put together, and they had... so two Kibeis in 2nd Battalion, it's me and... let's see, I got a list here. Sugeta, Ben Sugeta, then Roy Nakata, Bob Honda is Hawaii, see. Two Hawaiian boys, two mainland boys, so each battalion same way. Two Hawaiians, two battalions. But anyway, right now, Hank Gosho is gone, and top two, Grant and Roy, myself. And in Hawaii, Howard Furumoto and Tom Tsubota is only left. The rest of them are deceased now.

JD: Tell us a little bit about the work that you did as these translators and interpreters. That part is very interesting. When you were in Burma, what were you actually doing and how were you helping the battalion?

RM: Well, in Burma, I got involved with a lot of small things, but the two main things was a roadblock at the place called Walawbum, and the other one is called Nhpum Ga in Burma. The first one is, we arrived about 13th of February in Burma, and finally we started off, the 24th of February, got into real combat zone.

Off camera: Hold on a second. How did you get into Burma? How did you first get into Burma? Tell John, don't tell me.

JD: How did you get... you were training in India, how did you get to Burma?

RM: Oh, we got training in India, combat jungle training, and when you finished, this happened to be British camp first and then create our own camp there in [inaudible]. Well, we got on a train, and have to change the train so often because they have a regular gauge and narrow gauge train, so we had to stop and then transfer to other train, and finally get into Calcutta, then get on the ferry. And Brahmaputra River there go up to north toward the Himalaya, and end up in the ferry, two ferries, and then went to a place called Ledo. Then from there, hiked to Shingbwiyang. And, well, already, General Pick had a combat engineer and made a road there, they used bulldozer and grater and so forth. And reached to Shingbwiyang. But we didn't ride on the truck, already rode there. We hiked from Ledo to Shingbwiyang and took ten days, 110 miles, and on foot we got there. From there, we set up and separated battalion, go to different directions. Then we found the enemy were located at a place called Walawbum.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

JD: Tell us about what you did at Walawbum.

RM: Yeah, that's why I'm going to. See, so we went there, then we were told to make a roadblock there. What happened is as soon as we got out, end of the jungle, there's open place. And there was a road, used to be a trail. But anyway, we set up a roadblock there so that the Japanese wouldn't go through there. And I happened to look up in the tree, there's a wire there. And we just got there, so it couldn't be ours. Of course, we had wire for our observation for our spotter. But anyway, fortunately, we had a heavy weapon platoon, and we had, our wire section happened to have a handset, and Phil Piazza was the platoon leader. So I borrowed his handset to climb up a tree and tap in to the live wire, hot wire. It happened to be enemy, so I tap in and started listening and got some information.

JD: What did you hear?

RM: Pardon?

JD: What did you hear?

RM: Well, the important one was... well, first they're talking about how they're doing and things like that, but all of a sudden, some sergeant came out excited that enemy are around there, and he was guarding the ammunition dump. They don't know what to do, see, they're gonna send a replacement or what, then listened in, and the headquarter asked him which one, mentioned which ammunition depot, place they kept the ammo, says, "Thousand meters," they say, "Sen metoru," "metoru" means "meters," from the river crossing, bridge. So happened that we issued a British map, but they also had a same map captured from a British army before, so we be using the same map. So very easy to, it was [inaudible] thousand meters and see exactly where in the jungle headed. Other part is open, so when we have supply route, mission, escort plane, B-51 came and dropped the bomb and destroyed that. That's one of the information I got. But anyway, listening, then had divisional troop move, and order came from headquarters, 18th Division, tell them what to do and where to do. And so I recorded on the report pad, dropped it, and the sergeant might qualify as a radio operator, so he encoded, then sent it to General Stillwell and General Merrill, and they acted upon my intelligence. So I was able to contribute a little.

Off camera: So were you sitting up in a tree?

RM: Up in a tree.


RM: Well, see, we had four men, and take turn. I want to take a leak, so you know, I mean, well, they call it piss. But anyway, so I come down and the other guy go up there, and nothing come down because some had no intelligence, they just talk about the private things. And same thing, they talk in the foxhole, same thing, telephone line. Of course, not too many nonsense, but nothing goes on. And sometime, there's private things he understand, so drop them, but no use. But when I... so they told me, I go back again. Now, I cannot go, so I go down, I got to wet my pants and still stay on the tree. And enemy spotted, and we're just observing, they didn't know. And sharpshooter, and ping, hit the tree, so I got to go to the other side. Fortunately, bullet never hit me, or either they're poor marksmanship, I don't know. But anyhow, I was lucky. Then later on, that's when I found out the enemy gonna come toward us. They know we made roadblock. So since we'd been there thirty-six hours, and we spent our ammunition, so we cannot stand the new troop coming. So we got an order to move to a place called Wesu Ga, and so that we got out of there. Those are the things that contributed. So what happened was General Stillwell awarded me with the Legion of Merit. But I think other boys are all envy because I was the only one awarded at the time. But anyway, we were able to get out of there.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

JD: Let's go to Nhpum Ga, another important event.

RM: Yeah, what happened was then we know where they're going, so we're gonna... their plan was they're gonna go down to Inkangahtawng, so we know exactly where they're going. But they had the road because they had the truck and tanks, but we don't have anything, heavy weapon, other than mortar and machine guns. So we have to go through the jungle, and we got to cut own trail and get to, well, through some village and some trail, and get to Inkangahtawng. Took several days, and almost to the year. We left the 5th of March from Walawbum, then we head to place, Inkangahtawng was 23rd of April, I mean, 23rd of March. March 5th, yeah, 23rd of March we got there. Then all of a sudden they were there already because they have a truck to go there. And so beat us. And they're the ones waiting and we didn't know that. Well, we know that we were supposed to go there and then make a roadblock, but we were late. Then already they opened up with artillery and we didn't have that. So three days fighting, we lost quite a few men. Then we got retreat order. Well, we don't say retreat, we say "strategic withdrawal." But anyway, we came through a place called Hsamshingyang and Nhpum Ga, Kauri, and so forth, [inaudible] backtrack. Then the 2nd Battalion and 3rd Battalion were supposed to go there, but the 3rd Battalion were told to go to Hsamshingyang, and the 2nd Battalion stopped at Nhpum Ga, so that stop their advance.

In the first three days, we were able to evacuate the sick and the wounded, then all of a sudden being surrounded, and couldn't take sick. And most of the guys get sick. And fortunately, we were able to evacuate Sergeant Nakata and Sergeant Sugeta, they were sick, so evacuated to 3rd Battalion place in Hsamshingyang. And they had a dry rice field paddy there, rice paddy there, so we could land L-5 and take out the sick and wounded. And the rest of them all kept, then surrounded for ten days, and then we have nowhere to go. And they're attacking us and suffering casualties. We have, we lost about a hundred horses, horses couldn't dig a foxhole, they're standing there, and a treeburst or artillery hit or mortar and get killed. And this hot weather, getting rotten, stink, and no water. We had a water hole on the side of the hill, but after a few days, they discovered that water hole we've been using, so they set out machine guns, so we couldn't go there anymore, we lost water. So no water, and so we have to drop water in a plastic bag to us, and also supply, too. But since right on a hilltop, and sometime parachutes used to drift away by wind, and enemy get our supply. We get, say, for instance, we got part of a machine gun and they got a part of ammunition, and they couldn't use the different caliber anyway. We lost ration, too, and some soldier, we found their backpack, they're carrying our k-rations and things like that. And we don't know what to do.

Lieutenant Ed McLogan of the rifle platoon, he was guarding by the trail, and he lost about, he had a fifty man crew, and he lost about twenty-two or three. Not all killed, just sick and wounded and some killed. But he had forty percent casualties. Some book mentioned that forty percent casualty means that your whole unit forty percent. We had about eight hundred men, so we didn't lose three hundred-some men. Just forty percent of... in McLogan's sector, just the platoon. Fifty men, so book was misquoting there. We didn't lose that many, forty percent. But forty percent... so he was all shook up, excited because any time enemy attacked his place. So he called the commanding officer, Colonel McGee, something making noise, so send someone to find out what's going on. But, see, there were four Nisei boys, but two are already evacuated. So only two left, but Sergeant Honda was sick in the foxhole, so he couldn't move. So I'm weak and tired, but I'm the only one available, but Colonel said, "Got to send Matsumoto up there." So sent me, I was ordered to go to McLogan's place, then I went there. And I couldn't make out either, they're talking about just harassing us, just like [inaudible] everybody talking, just making noise. We could hear, but we cannot see, because they're in a bush and we're in the top of the hill. We could hear, but they don't know what's going on. So I decided when it gets dark, go down there and find out exactly what they're talking about. So I normally come back about... well, before daybreak, but that particular night, I came back before midnight. According to McLogan -- I don't know how long I was there -- but he said I'd been gone down there twenty or thirty minutes, and 'til ten or twenty minutes, came back there, and he said.. that's his calling. In fact, you'd like to hear this, but mentioned that they're gonna attack your place. Actually what they said was they're going to make a dawn attack while we're asleep. So I reported that and so he called the colonel, "That's what Matsumoto heard." So they said they're gonna set up, they're gonna fool them.

So dawn, quietly move out the fox holes, don't make noise. They're fifteen, about fifteen yards away, so if you make a noise, they could hear. So quietly move out, then quietly dug a hole about fifty feet above. We could not go any higher than that. But anyway, and quietly dig a foxhole. Then he said he's gonna send a, reinforce the firing part, so get automatic weapons, machine guns and bazooka and things like that, BAR, Browning Automatic Weapon, and automatic weapon there. Plus M-1 and carbine, and waited. Sure enough, they start to make noise and come up there, and stick a bayonet in the foxhole, but nobody there. So they got fooled. They said they're gonna go up there, up more. Then we waited, they're making noise so we know. All of a sudden opened up. They're in the open, we're in the foxhole, so, then mowed it down. Then they gave 'em... "Well, let's get out of here." So I just got up there... well, in the foxhole, you give 'em something, you don't hear. So I have to get up there, stand, then tell 'em to advance. Then moved out. Then the second group, reinforcements come up there, and people dead, they don't know what to do. And so that same thing, come up there, then started open up again. So they're gonna get out, hide, so they jump into our foxhole, then all the booby trap, so that thing went up, too. Then they're confusion, see. So they tell 'em, "Let's get out of here." I don't know who's saying, sergeant or not. So I gave 'em a regiment order. "Prepare to charge," then, "Charge." The book says just, "Charge," they don't... you have to give 'em preparatory order. For instance, like, "To the rear, march." Or on the track and field, "On your mark," you have to say preparatory order such as, "About face," or, "rear march," or whatever. "To the rear," you have to say that. So you have to say [inaudible] orders.

As I mentioned before, I went to high school there. In Japan, all the high school people have to take a junior ROTC course, military training. So they issued a field manual, and I still have the field manual. It happened to mention what order to give to make 'em advance. Just, "Charge, charge," they won't do it. You have to give. So I happened to know that, so I used that. I still got this field manual at home. But anyway, I may donate this to a museum, but that saved our lives, to give 'em order. And they didn't know. Not total dark, but still dark. So somebody gave 'em an order, standing there, they thought the sergeant ordered, lieutenant, or team leader, because about the two platoon size. And I estimated maybe close to one company gonna come and charge up. But it so happened that as I expected came. And when war ended, I mean, the shooting ended, see, we found fifty-four dead one, and among them, two officers. I happened to know one of the officer, I never mentioned that. But anyway, two officers, so one of them give orders. And they didn't know I was the one giving orders. But anyway...

JD: You gave orders in Japanese, right?

RM: Yeah, of course, Japanese soldier, have to give 'em. So happened that I learned what to order in Japanese. So they hear that, they didn't know I did it because they thought one of the officers did it because darkness, and they don't know. They were regimental orders, so anybody could, higher ranking people, give 'em orders.

JD: What was the order?

RM: Order was to advance, charge. And charging, too, then we opened up, then all wipe out. And I don't know how many were retreated, but anyway, we didn't find any wounded ones.

JD: What was the order in Japanese?

RM: Yeah, Japanese.

JD: What was the order in Japanese that you gave them, the preparatory order?

RM: Yeah, I said -- I don't want to shout it, but I said, "Totsugeki ni! Susume! Tokkan!" Tokkan means to charge. Susume means "advance." But this order is, the main thing is, totsugeki ni is the important one. Then they anticipate they have to charge. Then go, whatever the order is. But this is what exactly said in Japanese: totsugeki ni. Anyway, so I was lucky. And good thing, bullet didn't hit me, either side, the bullet. But if you stay in foxhole, they wouldn't hear, see, 'cause they got to stand in the open like the enemy is. But I was lucky. Well, lucky thing was, about three or four years ago, three years ago, the guy came to me, "Do you remember me?" Well, I didn't know who it could be. But the guy says, "Remember me," means I happened to know him, supposed to. But anyway, so I said, since this is a reunion, so must be a member of the Marauders, so I know it's the Marauders. Says, who could know me, because I'm 2nd Battalion? So I asked him, "Were you in 2nd Battalion?" Said, "Yeah." So still, I couldn't place him. So, well, I didn't know what, where, so I says, "Nhpum Ga?" He said, "Yeah." Then what happened at Nhpum Ga, I didn't know a particular person. But then, "Green combat team?" He said, "Yeah. How'd you know?" I didn't know, I'm just guessing. "Don't you know? I was your foxhole buddy." [Laughs] And he happened to be, his name happened to be Ed Kohler, and so he asked me, and when I said I got to go down there, said, "Sarge," I was a sergeant, see buck sergeant. "Why do you do crazy things like that? You might get killed." He doesn't want me to go up because get killed. But I told him, "If I don't go down there, all going to be killed." Because they're waiting, surround us, ten days shooting, and eventually everybody going to be wiped out. We'd be starving there, and so that's what happened, Ed Kohler. I didn't know the name at the time, because I'd get in somebody else's foxhole, I didn't even have time to... of course, I had a foxhole there, but every time artillery shell burst, got, dug couple inches deeper. But anyway, always sergeant order me, "Go there, go there."

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RM: One time colonel order me to go a certain place there, and, well, this happened to be a machine gun nest, his name is George Rose, he passed away now. He got a machine gun nest, and so I went to go in there. And all of a sudden a machine gun opened up, a Japanese machine gun. But didn't hit me. And the reason was we had it displayed at the army reunion, but nanbu submachine gun there, the Japanese had 25 caliber machine gun sitting, bipod. So this machine gun, just pulled trigger, just jumped up and down, because bipod, two legs. But I was laying sideways, then the bullet hitting one side. But our machine gun, pull the trigger, it goes sideways. So if I were laying there, it would be sideways, I'd be stitch. It's a good thing the enemy one was just up and down. So that saved, so somebody up there helping me, because that was lucky. I just remembered. Then, well, Major Healy, Dick Healy, was the blue combat team, that's where I belonged. And McLogan was green combat team. But while going to green combat team, he saw me, so I was going, and bravery, Major Healy recommended me for Silver Star. But I understand [inaudible] turned down and get a Bronze Star. So downgraded. The reason that people told me... now I can say because he is passed away, I don't want to embarrass him, but he doesn't want anybody to get higher medal than he does. But anyway, I went to machine gun place, George Rose had it, and two man there. Then as soon as I got there, the enemy spotted me walking there, so they, just got there, black thing coming up there. So I thought, oh, hand grenade. Then if it landed there, I have no, could be short fuse. It blow up, so three got killed or wounded, no time to pick 'em, throw up. But fortunately, there's a two-inch size of a tree there, hit there, and bounced back. They're down there, so naturally it goes down there and hit the tree. Then all of a sudden we heard a moan in there, they got wounded or got killed, instead of three of us getting wounded and killed. That lucky, that's remember.

And one other thing how lucky it was, we had a Mexican boy named Leo Espinoza, and I'm going with him because sometime before I called him "wetback," and other people did, too, but that's a derogatory term for a Mexican, illegal immigrant, "wetback." He was Mexican and he said, he told me he sneak into United States. But the wartime, government, even though he's an immigrant, but draft him. But since he doesn't speak English, so, but anyway, made him, can't do anything, so made him company barber. So his name is Leo Espinoza, I call him Leo, and he told me, he cut my hair, and so became friends. Since he didn't know anything about it, I'm going to teach him English. So I go, start off and say, "You know how to count one, two, three?" He could talk, one, two, three, four, five, or, you see, A, B, C, he could say. But he cannot write. So I'm going to teach him, so I said, "One, O-N-E, and two, T-W-O, and three, T-H-R-E-E." And he remembered that. In the meantime, I'm going to share with him, he says, "I'm of Mexican Indian descent." Indian. "So I could see nighttime well." I'm night blind, couldn't see anything, so we're going to hit the, walking around in the dark, hit the stump or something like that, he says, "Watch it, this way." So fortunately, whenever they drop the supplies, I kept the parachute cord. I didn't take the parachute apart, but I just kept the parachute cord there, many of them. So I make a rope, tied it, and let him pull me around, and say, "Watch it, there's stump there." So actually, he sees better than me, anyway. So I said, "Well, in return, I'm gonna do him a favor. So, "Stay with me." So only thing he did was made him company runner, message runner. He carried a message, 'cause he cannot express himself well. So then also, spare time, he's company barber, cut everybody's hair. He had clippers and scissors. But anyway, in the jungle it's rain, nighttime, if you're sleeping, you sleep on the ground, so get wet. So we have a poncho. So if you put it on the top, your back get wet. If you put 'em in the bottom, you get, top be wet. So we decided, "I'm gonna use your poncho as a seat there," then the other poncho got to be tents. So we kept dry, both of 'em. So we're doing all right.

So one day, knee mortar, that's not actually knee mortar. There's a grenade launcher, we call it knee mortar, but a round exploded, and his rear end got wounded. So we're kidding about it, "Your ass got shot off." But actually, just a little wound there, and got a Purple Heart. But me... same place. Here coming around, and a pop, and so then a black scene, and it's slow because grenade launcher. And right in front of me, "Oh," I said, "I got it." Then all of a sudden, fizzle, nothing happened, it's a dud. How many round could be dud out of a hundred? Maybe one or two. So that was lucky but I don't want to kick that, it might explode. So what I did is I dug the trench, then put the parachute cord, wrap around, went behind the tree, then rode, put it there, and it didn't explode. I don't want to kick, nighttime. We can go anywhere, so if you walk there, if you kick 'em, might explode. So then I put the dirt down so that you wouldn't kick. And that lucky I was, that's what I remember. And actual remember is later on came a place called Myitkyina airfield, we captured that. Then I was in [inaudible], then they found out we were occupying the place, so sniper shooting at us. And I see that popping noise, and I didn't see the enemy, but popping noise. Then I was in the bush, see it, so I know the sand kick up, so they are shooting. So I said, next it's going to be this, because doing each bushes because they think we are hiding in the bush. Then I was there, and going to be next to mine, so I put it the other way. And the bush, just move into it. Then Sergeant Fleer, he was a platoon sergeant there, and he's a runner, move in when I was there. Sure enough, they shot at him, then it went through his arm, and went through other guy's arm, and the two got hurt, didn't get killed. But if it was face or head, they'd be dead. But he got wounded, two sergeant and runner. That's what I remember, how lucky I was. Then one bullet get two, could have been killed. If I was there, I may have got killed. That's what I realized. So I just put luck.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

JD: More detail, how you would sneak down at night to hear the, what the Japanese were talking about. Can you tell us a little more about that and how you heard about that?

RM: Well, when... then, before I decided to go down, even though I won't do that, what it did was I took a helmet and took a belt off and left weapon aside, and stripped myself off, except I carried two hand grenades, each pocket. Then crawled down, which way to go down. Daytime I just remember my memory time, then when it get dark, they have no streetlight in the jungle, so total dark unless the moonlight, but otherwise, dark in the woods there. So I know exactly where they are, they'll come back. So I told -- this happened to be Ed Kohler, but some other people, too. Anyway, his name was Ed Kohler, and I told him, "Don't shoot."


JD: All right, start again, where you're going to go down and listen to the Japanese.

RM: Yeah, go down there and first hear is just like we talk. Just nothing to do with military intelligence, they just talk of family things. And since they're talking to each other, some of... so happened that the enemy were 18th Division from Kurume in Fukuoka Prefecture. And in Japan, the people around there all go to division where headquarters is located. For instance, Hiroshima goes to 5th Division and Kumamoto goes, I mean, Kumamoto goes 6th Division, and Kurume happened to be 18th Division. And Sendai happened to be 2nd Division. I remember all of that because I studied the military education in Japan. But anyway, in the United States, I'm from California, drafted, I may serve, take training in maybe New York, or Texas, or like Camp Robinson, Arkansas, or could be in same state, Fort Ord or whatever. But in Japan, people, inductee were all from same area, so they speak the same dialect. So they used their same dialect and talking about, mix their standard Japanese. Everybody goes to Japanese school, so they know Japanese, standard Japanese, but they mixed in their local dialect. And I happened to be able to understand their talking. Of course, I don't speak the dialect, but I understood what they're saying, and they're talking about, says, "Well, poor wife, have to work in the field, and don't know how they're doing, crop going, who's going to help harvesting," things like that they talk about. Just like we talk about, "What do you do when you get out of the service?" Well, may raise a certain kind of chicken or whatever. Nothing to do with military intelligence. But then they're talking about, well, tomorrow morning's attack. That means they're going to plan an attack, because they knew, then they know, come around there and give me instructions what to do. So that's the military intelligence, they're going to attack us. Then it's a dawn attack, I know. Myouchou, early, myouchou means "tomorrow morning."

And I knew all those Japanese words, so I understand it. But some people didn't... well, all of them went, graduate from their language school, got the diploma, and they're supposed to be able to do that, but they didn't learn any dialect. And fortunately, I'm not from Kyushu, so normally I wouldn't understand, but fortunately I was working in a grocery store as I mentioned before, so I picked up a little. I don't know whether I mentioned before or not, but when I go out to deliver the goods to the farmers, and husband and wife were talking some strange dialect I wouldn't know, so I asked them, "What does it mean in standard Japanese?" So they tell me, so I made a memo out of it, then remembered. The next time I had a chance to use that word, instead of using standard Japanese, use that word, and they get a kick out of it even though I'm not from that area. The reason have done is when, as I mentioned before, I grew up with my grandfather and go fishing there. But what he did was, like I told you before, he made a little money sifting [inaudible], and he made a little money to be able to retire. Before fifty he retired. The reason went Japan is he left his wife in Japan as I told you before with his two kids. His hobby is fish because he helped his elder brother and he learned fishing, so he know how to do it. But he's more than fifty years old, so his fingers not sensitive as mine. Mine are a young kid. So when the fish is nibbling, I could tell. But he doesn't know until he's hooked. So he liked to take me there and I catch more fish than my grandfather. But anyway, when you're doing it, either going or coming fishing, nothing else to do, so he'd tell me all kind of story he knows. History and geography. So amazing, I know all the name of the old country name for the prefectures. My wife is college graduate and I'm only high school, but I know more than her because Grandfather told me old history and geography.

JD: Can we jump back to Nhpum Ga and when you're overhearing the Japanese soldiers talking, you said that you took grenades with you.

RM: Yeah, well, one grenade. If I get killed, that's the end of it, but, see, I don't want to be tortured and captured. And being a Japanese descent, they consider me as a traitor because I was, went to school. Told me I'd be loyal to the emperor. Hell, no, I'm an American, but they don't think that way. They think a traitor, and they torture me. So I don't want to get captured, so they throw one for them and one for me instead of captured. I hoped things didn't happen, but just in case, I don't want to be tortured. And I know, before that, in Japan, talking about what they did at the Russo-Japanese War and the Chinese things, and they did what they do, they torture 'em instead of capturing 'em.

JD: Yeah, that makes sense. And when you were sneaking down at night, how close could you get to where they were talking? Could you get pretty close?

RM: Pretty close, just like me. Only thing is bush there, so I couldn't... this is the hard part. You know what is the hard part? The hard part is you cannot cough, sneeze, could hear. So that's the hard part is listening, at the time I was young, and right now my hearing's a little weak, and then eyesight, but at the time, I could hear well. And then also nearby, and I could pick up anything they say, then understood. Whereas other people, sure, if it's standard Japanese, of course understand. But they didn't understand, because we learn a particular dialect. But so happened that their folks came from a certain area, and their area is the dialect they understand. Like Hiroshima, a lot of people, immigrant from Hiroshima, so Hiroshima dialect is very common, lot of people knows about it. But this happened to be Kurume. But me, myself, don't learn, but the people from the 2nd Battalion, I mean, the division in Sendai, hardly anybody understand except their own people, Sendai.

JD: That sounds, the language ability was very useful in Burma. We'd like to perhaps talk a little more about your military intelligence activities using that language ability in, later you were, for example, you were interrogating soldiers after the war. Can you tell us some more about that?

RM: Well, I never thought of that, but since you mentioned, I think they should teach where the enemy is, such as their custom and language should be taught.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

JD: Let's talk a little, because we were just talking about the Hollywood movie they made about Merrill's Marauders. What did you think about that? It was 1963, and the Nisei were not even in the story at that point. Tell us about what you thought about that. So what did you think about that when they finally made a movie about this important stuff?

RM: Well, at the time, I was stationed at Fort Storey, and people said they made a movie out of it. But then there was an ad there, brochure came out, and Jeff Chandler, and so I thought the Nisei might be involved. Not me, but the younger people. Then didn't see any Japanese name, and then I have to pay to see my own movie, I thought. So went there, then now, the guy named Tak was a Filipino, and he was playing my part. But they never mentioned my name or what I'd done exactly. Of course, it's a Filipino, didn't speak Japanese, so they didn't know. But the enemy part was played by Filipino, and then the Nisei part is Filipino, and I was kind of disappointed. It wasn't like that. And their scenery, the location was in the Philippines, so not in jungles, in the open. This happened to happen in the jungle, thick jungle. And then this is dawn break, and supposed to be dark. But broad daylight they're charging up. It's not realistic. They knew about the Merrill's Marauders, but it wasn't like that at all. So to me, that was a failure, but I don't pay much attention to that film, because not right. Of course, we had taken advisor there, but way off...

JD: So even in 1963, even then, there was still so much anti-Japanese feeling?

RM: Well, I don't know about that part, but completely illuminating. There are a lot of Nisei ex-soldiers, they could use them as the Japanese, I mean, as far as American Japanese goes. And Filipino could play Filipino, but Filipino played the Burmese part, Filipino played the Japanese soldier part, then also Nisei part, it's all Filipinos. And I think just unfair, I don't know why didn't include the Nisei there. 'Cause lot of Nisei in Hollywood.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

JD: So you got the Legion of Merit award, and you've said some things about that. Do you feel as if, if you had been a white sergeant, would you have gotten the Medal of Honor?

RM: No, that's a different think. Book caught that I was awarded Legion of Merit at Nhpum Ga, but Legion of Merit is awarded not bravery, they're for the service. Of course, bravery involved, too. But the value of the information, therefore... and about couple months ago, I saw the Army Times, and mentioned about Legion of Merit. Legion of Merit is awarded to senior officer and senior noncom. And that means lieutenant and captain are not authorized to be awarded, not qualified to be. What I mean is they could give it to 'em, but not allowed to receive it, qualification. Same way, the Legion of Merit goes to the senior officer such as a colonel and general, and foreign dignitaries, foreign heads, and senior noncom, noncommissioned officer. So sergeant and corporal is noncommissioned, but lower. Got to be senior such as staff sergeant and tech sergeant, master sergeant. Only one allowed, qualified. The reason is that I was a buck sergeant, then buck sergeant didn't. But so important that they awarded me. In order for me to be qualified, made me a staff sergeant. I just recently found out. I thought, meantime I was promoted staff sergeant, so staff sergeant got it, but no. In order to make staff sergeant to be eligible to receive Legion of Merit, so that's a high honor. That's the third highest service medal, not bravery. See, if it's bravery it would be Distinguished Service Cross or whatever.

But when Nhpum Ga thing over, name Warren Ventura, he's the sergeant, machine gun nest, he witnessed that because he was green combat team, exactly, I stood up among the enemy, so our side could shoot me or enemy shoot me, too, if they recognized me. So I'm risking my life, and so he mentioned what I've done. And this article came out in Burma News, our Merrill's Marauders organ there. And what happened was Sergeant Ventura asked Colonel McGee, "How come he wasn't recommended for Medal of Honor?" Then the article said, "He was only enlisted man doing his job," and enlisted men don't receive it. Well, enlisted men receive a lot of prior record there, but he said, "He's only enlisted man doing his job, so he's not qualified." That was his statement.

But what happened was when I was inducted Hall of Fame, in lieu of a medal, after fifty years, forty-nine years, then next year I had a chance go to go San Diego, and on the way back, stopped by his place, Sergeant Ventura's place, and stopped him and thanked him for mentioning me in the Burma News. Then he said that wasn't it, the way he said it. Now, this year, a few months ago, commanding officer passed away. And my habit is I don't want to degrade or talk about commanding officer, my commanding officer. I respect his authority, so I didn't say anything until this time for sixty years. And anyway, what he said was he mentioned... I don't know whether you could say it now, but anyway, I'm gonna say it. What happened was he's deceased, so it won't be embarrassing himself, but the thing he said was, "Well, he's of Jap descent, and Jap don't deserve that." But he cannot write that, so make it that "he's only enlisted man doing his job." So kind of disappointed me. I didn't mention anybody until this time. But he's gone now, and reunion, I just went there and I made a donation to the association in memory of the commanding officer. But that's all right with me because I was inducted Hall of Fame, and anyway, that was a true story. I never mentioned it to anybody, so never knew. So that's a kind of... because he's from Texas, and he told me, Ventura is Italian descent, and he told me he looked down on me. So that's racial discrimination. He tell me, "He didn't tell you at the time was that he said, 'He's a Jap.'" Then I got a book he wrote. He didn't mention Japanese, he said, "Jap, Jap, Jap" everything. So even though I'm an American Japanese, he said he was just a good soldier, that's all they did. And his book, I still got it. He gave me copy. He didn't go into detail what I've done, but story, true story, in McLogan wrote an eyewitness account to commanding officer in Fort Huachuca. That's why I was also inducted into Military Intelligence. That's a great intelligence I got at Nhpum Ga. Not only Walawbum. But Walawbum is the one, troop movement, that's the most important. That's why even though I'm only sergeant, but made me to staff sergeant to be qualified to be able to receive Legion. So I appreciate the consideration, but General Stillwell, General Merrill made it. Well, General Stillwell, by command of General Stillwell, and they presented me by General Merrill, and also there's a picture of me, colonel, I mean, general congratulating me. And nobody mentioned that, but eyewitness probably, they're gone already, but he mentioned, he's speaking Japanese, and he said, "Job well done," in Japanese. So I know how much they appreciate what I have done risking my life up in a tree, then shooting at us.

But they never mentioned -- some book mentioned, but I was awarded Legion of Merit, but not the bravery, but service medal. But people think it was a secret, see, and my orders is top secret, so nobody's supposed to know. So they know I was awarded, but they didn't say what I've done. So they think the people, everybody talk about Nhpum Ga, we survived. But they tried to give me credit, but to me, it's teamwork. So that's why I thought, first thing, why I was awarded this? Well, I know, because Lieutenant Ed McLogan, co-commanding officer, what's going on. So to me, his alertness started it all. So he's my only true hero. So I recommended him for the Hall of Fame, and fortunately, he was inducted Hall of Fame. That's why he made, he knows that he recommended me for Military Intelligence, and I got a letter, copy of a letter what he wrote to them, eyewitness account of what I have done.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

JD: Let's go back and talk a little more about your Military Intelligence activities. You were still involved in that after the war was over. Can you tell us a little more about that period?

RM: Yes. What happened was, fortunately, I was the last man, Nisei, to be with the unit. And when it disbanded, I was the last seventeen men, last group of seventeen men to be evacuated from Myitkyina air strip. And instead of going to New Delhi, I was transferred into 475th Infantry because they thought they needed me, or I was still weak but capable of serving. Then what happened was I didn't go to combat from there. What happened was when I was transferred there, my shrapnel wound in the arm got infected because unsanitary conditions, then I almost lost that, so they transferred me to 14th Evacuation Hospital to be treated. Then I was supposed to receive Purple Heart but they denied it because no witnesses. But the order says I transferred, too, then also there's a picture of Noel Coward, famous British writer, but he interviewed me and did a United States Army Signal Corps photo there, but still they don't believe it. And just last year, a colonel from special forces wrote a letter to the army and still deny it, all the witness all dead, so they don't take their word for it. But anyway, I'm still kicking around, so I don't mind.

JD: So was that the end of your combat experience? Then did you move on to other intelligence activities?

RM: Yeah. No, so that's why instead of, when I went to the hospital, then Sergeant Jimmy Yamaguchi was in the 20th General Hospital, and the rest of 'em was already India, so he told me he want to join them, but he had a stomach ulcer, so army gonna send him back to stateside. He doesn't want to go back to stateside, he'd like to join the rest of the boys. So then I talked to the adjutant there, and they found me. They're looking for me, they don't know where, but I understand that General Merrill was looking for me. I didn't know why, but then I found out they're gonna, later on I found out they're gonna present me with Legion of Merit. But anyway, so I didn't go back to 475th, so my personal belongings were all left at the 475th, then the hospital, then from there, he said, "You report to General Merrill in New Delhi, India." So from 14th Evacuation Hospital, I stayed a week or ten days there, then I asked him, "Sergeant Yamaguchi want to join the people, but he's supposed to be sent back. Can I escort him?" Said, "As long as you escort him and if it turns bad, turn him into hospital, then let you know. So instead of, he was a tech sergeant, I was a staff sergeant.

JD: So what kinds of activities were you going to get involved in?

RM: Yeah, that's why I'm gonna go, send him to New Delhi. But already had an assignment with the British Royal Air Force with sergeant, Grant Hirabayashi and me, going to be assigned to Royal Air Force headquartered in New Delhi. So I have a desk job. No more bullet flying, so that's a good deal. So Grant and I, because of the top grades, so we knew each other very well. Anyway, but unfortunate thing happened, about a half a dozen guys walking on a street of New Delhi, and we spotted a general officer, British officer, general coming down the street. So here comes a Limey general, but we didn't salute. Then, of course, nearby then, "Soldiers," "Yes, sir," then everybody salute. "It's too late. You didn't salute when you saw me." So, "Disrespect for general officers. Give your names." Since the general ordered me, we have to give our name. Then after got the name there, "We're gonna court martial you for disrespecting the general officer." So we're gonna be court martialed, so we didn't know what to do. We reported our chief, then said, "No, you don't have to stand a court martial. We cancelled your assignment and sent you to China." So a bunch of us got in the cargo plane and went to Kunming. And I, Grant, and a few other guys together.

Anyway, we went to Kunming, then there says, "Oh, you made it." "What do you mean, 'you made it'?" You see, last one didn't make it. We're carrying ammunition, and aviation fuel for the return trip. Laboring, going like that, the hump is very high, high altitude, so we're sitting on an ammunition box, and we worried about it, but got there safely. Then they tell us. Then as soon as we got there, it was Christmas Eve. Then all of a sudden, the Japanese come, air raid, so we run out of there, and when there was nighttime, daybreak, that happened to be a graveyard in Kunming. Then what happened was since we went there, he was assigned to a translation section, and Akiji Yoshimura, he made a field commission, he was a lieutenant, and I'm already sergeant there. And send me to Chunking, so I didn't know what, went there, reported there. Then the officer there in charge said, says, "You go to Nangunchen and interrogate prisoners. So we saw the newly captured prisoner in China.

Anyway, we went to Nangunchen, that's the place name, that's where Chiang Kai-shek had a resort there with his mistress. Anyway, Nangunchen means "thousand hot springs," and there's a place called Heiwasong, that means "peace village" in English, Japanese is Heiwasong. That's a prison camp there, and the Japanese there, so we asked 'em, "How long you been here?" Said, "Eight years." So no use interrogating eight years old prisoner, but so when we get mad, tell the officer that, 'Wasting our time. We didn't need any training there, no use interrogating eight years old." They thought we came from stateside, so need practice, but we'd been in combat. So we told 'em, "Waste of time," then they got mad, I think. "In that case, we're gonna send you combat area." So lieutenant that was assigned to China Combat Command, CCC, and headquartered in Kunming. And me, G-2 in China Command, and sent me to a place called Kai-Yuan, it's in Yunan province, near [inaudible] border. And so happened that the unit assigned me was a Chinese American troop, battalion there. So I'm the only Japanese among Chinese Americans, and I'm Japanese American. So we go out of town, said, he don't speak Chinese, so, "You keep quiet, we order for you." And didn't tell restaurant there, and all uniform, so you didn't know it. People think that I was Chinese, too, but I don't speak Chinese, just but a few words. So then says, "This guy grow up in a Caucasian billet, so didn't speak Chinese." So they thought, they're telling other people, because they spotted, look like a Japanese, but he told them, "He grew up in a Caucasian group," so I don't speak. But they covered me up, then I had a good time.

Then all of a sudden, General Hayden Boatner wanted you to report to a certain place. So I went to a place called [inaudible], it's closer to the border there, and when I went there, then they told me, "Here, take this." It was can like a film can, 35 millimeter can, film can. I never saw this before. "What's this?" I asked him. "Don't you know?" I said I didn't know. So open up, black inside, that was opium. [inaudible] Then here's a .38, that's a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson, the pistol there, revolver. But already I had a .45 automatic. [Laughs] So I don't need two sidearm, but no, we have plenty of ammunition for this, so you take this, too. So I had two sidearm, .45 and .38. But anyway, they didn't mention there was... they didn't know what unit. They wouldn't even say secret, just the general said you would be going there. "So I'm going to take you there," so all of a sudden I left G-2, and G-2 is intelligence section in headquarters, general headquarters. And S-2 is a company grade, battalion, S-2. But that is intelligence section. [Inaudible] from there, they put 'em in a cargo plane, and [inaudible] they took me there and dropped me off. Then, now put 'em in that L-5, the liaison plane there, then some village. I didn't know where I was going, I just go there. Then there was a Chinese, two Chinese soldier waiting for me. And go there, now, says, carrying my pack, one soldier, so I carried carbine and the canteen and pistol there, and went to hike about twenty miles, got there, place called Taipin, the river, the edge there, in Kwangsi province. Then there's about a dozen people there, then says, "Are you Chinese?" I don't speak Chinese, and they don't understand English. I just follow what to go there, and went there. Then there's a Major Buchanan, Joseph Buchanan, he was the commanding officer and says, welcome you, and made me intelligence sergeant there. And they didn't even tell me this is OSS. Later on, find out. They didn't even mention that. And so secret, they didn't know where I went. I was missing there, but secretly assigned there.

What happened was General Boatner knew, he was a staff officer of Stillwell. Then they knew I was awarded Legion of Merit, so he knew I could do the job, but didn't tell me what kind of job. But happened to [inaudible] job, and one of the story, I don't mention the unit, but I have a paper that one of the, my accomplishment there, and what it is... they brought the prisoner in there, so I pretended I was a Chinese officer, and asked this prisoner, is shaking there, "Have you eaten?" That's a Chinese greeting words is, "Shi fan yu ma," just like, "How are you?" And that means, "Have you eaten?" the Chinese greeting words. So I asked him, "Have you eaten." He says, "No," and then, so I tell the Chinese cook to feed him. So he don't see anything there, then he is saying to me, "Shi shi ne," that means, Chinese, "Thank you." Okay. All right, then he finished eating, so I put my hand in a pocket and reach up and offer him tobacco and cigarette. And he took one and thanked me and says, in Chinese, "Thank you." So a few puff later, he's relaxing and he looks happy, so I ask him in Japanese, "Have you eaten enough?" "Tabemashita ka" in Japanese. He was surprised. He didn't know, he thought I was a Chinese officer. Then he'd start to cry, then I asked him what happened. He thought he was gonna be, "Fed me, and they're gonna torture and kill me." That's what the Japanese officer told him. "If you get captured, they're gonna torture you, so don't get captured." Blow himself. But he gave 'em, used a hand grenade, kill himself.

But what happened, this prisoner was, he was one of the troop going by the road, marching. What he'd do is, we had our plane, if Japanese move in there, to drop the bomb or strafe 'em, see. So they don't move during daytime. The truck moves, so they do nighttime, but we do is sabotage. Made a big crater on the road so the truck get by. Or the broad bridge, so that they don't cross the bridge to go to, from China to French Indochina at the time. It's Vietnam, but at the time, called French Indochina, and we're just disrupting. In the meantime, what we do is put the troop into labor and fix up the places, fill up the crater or bridge, or making a forward place, something like that, work as a laborer, so they're tired. And nighttime they march and come through there, take a ten minute break or fifteen minutes, whatever. But they're so tired and so sleepy, they'll fall asleep. Then quietly, guy move out, and didn't wake up, so when woke up, nobody there, alone. So they're straggler, so they hide in the Chinese field, the Chinese. But meantime, we send a message to the chief of the village there. Call mayor, but chief of the village, telling the people that, "If you're bringing a Japanese prisoner alive, we gave 'em so many thousand, ten thousand men or three thousand, I mean, not ten thousand, twenty thousand or whatever, big amount of money, even though it's occupation money, but anyway, we're gonna give it. So bring 'em in and don't hurt 'em if they cannot work. They tell 'em, put 'em on a stretcher and bring 'em in. So several prisoners they brought in, but my job is to interrogate and see what they know about it. But I used my tactics to feed 'em without telling 'em that, then they relax. The kindness, they fell for it. Then talk about, you don't directly ask 'em military intelligence, ask about the family things. The prisoner's not supposed to say the military thing, reveal it. Everything is name, rank and serial number, international law there. So anyway, treat him nice, that's one of my tactics.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

JD: So you got involved in war crimes trials, and this is, you were interrogation and translation service?

RM: Yeah, so that's later on, come along, but...

JD: Can you tell us a little about that?

RM: What happened was when I was in China, see, we received maybe once a week or so in the mail, and L-5 come down there and drop it, mail. So we have a mail call. And one day, "Sergeant Matsumoto," that's me, then mail, and I looked through mail looking for me. It was my mail returned, then addressed to Camp Rohwer in Arkansas, and I had a girlfriend there, I was corresponding. But says, "Deceased," then a doctor's signature there. So all of a sudden, she died. But it was my mail came back, but before that, she had tuberculosis, consumption, so she's in the hospital with it and she told me, "Doctor says now cure." Then good family and those things, she wrote. But next letter I didn't receive it, she died. So I lost a girlfriend, so no more. But anyway, then dropped a bomb on Hiroshima, on southern part of China. And they said they dropped a bomb, that's the radio, see, we heard. Tree and grass grew up for seventy-five years, then they were flat, that's what the radio said. Well, I found out it was the other way around. But anyway, I had a chance to see that about a year later, but when I went there, already grass and tree was growing there, so that was wrong. But anyway, the place was flat. And so happened that epicenter, I saw it, was two block away from where my folks were living. But at the time, I knew, they said it was flat, that means I knew I went to high school in Hiroshima, and my father's studio was two blocks away from where they dropped the bomb, so I know it's all gone. The way they said, it's all flat, nothing there. Well, only thing, K.B. Ginko there, Hiroshima bank, it's a brick I mean, a stone building, that was standing there. But otherwise, all the things were flat. And so I knew, to me, they didn't suffer, they just wiped out instantly. But anyway, I didn't know what happened, but that's war, and I didn't expect that they'd drop the bomb in Hiroshima, but nothing I can do about it anyway. So I know it's gone right away, that's what I thought.

Then what happened was war gonna end, so what I did was my bio mentioned this, but place called Lunjow, in Japanese Ryushu, in Chinese, Lunjow, and incident there. This incident is that some people killed, in other words, massacre, so we want to go out and find out, so we hiked a few days, couple days, get there, then saw the place, then dead people all over there. What happened was that, not Japanese didn't do it, we thought the Japanese did, but the Nationalist Army, Chiang Kai-shek's agent was staying there, then killed, collaborator, helped the Japanese. So this is revenge, I suppose. But, see, when occupy, you have to follow their orders, so can't help it. But they think these people collaborated with Japanese and killed. And I called it, myself, that Lunjow incident. That was, at the time, a secret, everything we do. But anyway, that's what it is, and never came out, I never saw the article, this incident, but I was there and saw, they stick a cigar -- you know, Chinese, even the women smoke a cigar. Instead of mouth, put 'em in [inaudible] place, and ripped the clothes up and stabbed, knife and everything else. It's real, what do you call... anyway, they commit mass murder, and some of 'em tie the hands behind, and all kind of things, naked. It was summertime, it's August, and down in the south, and we're a day later, so it's fly flying all over, and unsightly, the visible. But then they said look like a Japanese, since we dropped the bomb there, look like the Japanese gonna surrender. And then that was about the 6th of August, they dropped the bomb, then 15th, they finally surrendered.

But about the 8th or 9th or so, right after the bomb, Nagasaki, too, then what I did is we're going to go up to Nan-ning is the capital of Kwangsi province, that's why we're told all to go. But to me, I don't want to have the pack in back and hike for a hundred mile, so what I did was, right there is the Xiao River, and ending to Nan-ning, the capital of Kwangsi province. So what I did is there's a sampan there, go up the river and then hauled us in. So I commandeered three sampans, and I told 'em... see, we had a nationalist army, too, from Sichuan province, Chiang Kai-shek's, and we are attached to, OSS attached to this first commando battalion, Chinese nationalist army. So I get the soldier, "Let's go down." We had an interpreter. I don't speak... I spoke few words, but, so we had an interpreter, two interpreters. One speak Mandarin, then Cantonese. And one would speak Mandarin to English. So we need two interpreters to understand the nationalist army, then local people is Kwangtunese, they can't speak Cantonese. Then some people... only thing people speak Mandarin is the government official or schoolteachers knew about it, so need an interpreter, so had two interpreter. So the one that speak English, I told him I'm gonna go down there on the boat, sampan, so they told others, local people that we're gonna pay for it, so let's go down. So we rode down. And some places rapid, so I knew, see, my grandfather taught me how to handle a boat, so normally the ladder in the rear, in the stern. In the bow, go there. But what I did is, two bows facing this way, in between, one stern there, and tied together. Then instead of going forward, it's going backward, so a ladder in the front just like a bicycle, front handle, steer. And what I did is the mast, put the three sampan together, roped together, and I told 'em how to do it and they did it, so that it wouldn't tip over, going to go rapids, see. So floated down, and took two and a half days instead of walking four or five days. And I don't want to walk hundred miles, see. So just commandeered, that's one of, maybe against the rules, I don't know, but OSS do anything get by to accomplish the mission.

JD: So you were part of OSS at this point.

RM: Yeah, OSS --

JD: But what was your mission? What kind of work did you do after the Japanese war was over?

RM: Yeah, that's what I mean. See, so, but anyway, then got there, then went to Nan-ning, then Nan-nei, and we had detachment headquarter there, so the plane come down there. And I ask the commanding officer, "Could I go report to General Boatner?" I know he was in Kunming, because he was the staff officer. So he knew me personally, because congratulate me when I receive Legion of Merit.

JD: Did you know what your mission was when you went there?

RM: No, I don't know the mission, nothing. Anyway, what I did was, when I got permission, because already they're gonna surrender, so our unit... of course, we could gather anything we could do it, but it gave me permission to go to Kunming. So only way is to hitch a ride. Went to Kunming, then I reported to General Boatner, and he said -- he's the one placed me, so I know exactly where I was. But I didn't know where I was going, but anyway, I report back, he says, "Look like the Japanese gonna surrender, see, I need an interpreter. How about you come with me?" "Yes, sir." I just went without uniform, nothing, what I just wear in there, because I just left there and then went there right away. Since I don't know where I belonged to, so I just following orders, so from OSS to General, General says, "Let's go." Then also Kunming, Lieutenant Akiji Yoshimura was there. So he says, "Let's go." So he's lieutenant, so I'm his assistant.

JD: So the general needed an interpreter, but to do what?

RM: Well, go down there and negotiate. So we didn't know we didn't know what he did, but anyway, the company we went to, probably they negotiated by radio, they know. Japanese agree to send a delegate to a place called Chinkiang. Then we landed there, then the Japanese landed there, too, airport. Then we had an office there, then says, "Matsumoto, you come."

JD: This is after the surrender?

RM: No, not surrender, before. There's a surrender negotiation, preliminary surrender.

JD: So you acted as an interpreter for this general in the preparatory negotiations for the surrender.

RM: Right. So the book doesn't say anything about it but that's my experience, and what happened was, well, everybody stay out there and just you and me, the general, me, and the Japanese side was Admiral Fukuda, book says he's... let's see. Major general, but he wasn't a general, he was an admiral, navy, see. The book says general.

JD: Which book are you referring to?

RM: The Japanese, Fukuda was a rear admiral.

JD: Right. You mentioned a book. Which book are you referring to?

RM: Well, I don't have the book, but the Japanese book says Fukuda... well, some book, I don't know where, Fukuda was a mentioned name, see. But this says "General Fukuda," but he's not a general. Admiral Fukuda was a naval fleet, commanding... let's see what it says. Well, anyway, he was a fleet admiral, imperial Japanese forces, and not the army forces.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

JD: So after you were involved in the negotiations --

RM: And decided where gonna have, then since they agreed to have one in Nanking, Nanking is the nationalist capital at the time. Now it's Peiping, but at the time, Nanking, so that's where they're gonna surrender. So we asked them to promise that they were not gonna attack us, and officially that was ended, so they agreed, so there was a meeting, then PIO, Public Information Officer want to cover that. But this is a secret. So you stay away, and if you mention it, General Boatner told this lieutenant, "Gonna court martial you, so just forget about it. Don't say anything." Then also, "Akiji, you stay out, don't mention anything." And me, so naturally, I don't mention it, but I'm with the General, and General told me. Anyway, they negotiated, but don't need me too much because Japanese had their own interpreter and talking Chinese. China and Japan fighting, see, we're helping them, so we observe what says, safe conduct, and we found out where they're going to do that. And this, so I had a peace, I mean a surrender, peacefully, in Nanking. Then I went as an observer there, and so happened that Grant Hirabayashi was one of the interpreters there, and Akiji Yoshimura and me were just observers, went there. So I saw these real negotiations there. That's part of my story. What happened was when this thing ended, now we know, I'm still OSS. And General... I don't know what General Boatner to do with OSS. General Donovan was the head. But anyway, General Stillwell was the staff, also General Boatner was the one assigned me. Then also, I think he's the one probably told them that I'd be transferred to investigate the war crimes now, different things. So I understood that if I stayed there, I'd be transferred to special forces. Then officers were assigned to [inaudible]. What happened was when war ended, President Truman abolished OSS. Then create special forces, so soldier all went there, so I could be in special forces, but no, transferred to military police, then assigned me to 701st Military Police Battalion in China command. So I'm already a sergeant and military police.

So then this war crimes, they assigned me to CID, Criminal Investigation Detachment of the China command. So I became an agent. Well, I'm in uniform, so just a sergeant in the military police in charge of investigating. That's why, so my duty was, duty was the judge advocate general's office, just a lawyer office in the army to conduct this war crime. So they wanted me to pick up the suspect and a material witness, and they gave us the name of a staff officer, so I got interview to see who was there. Then who was there, find out who got a certain unit. So they gave me a bunch of unit rosters, each different unit. And also shipping, too, there's supposed to be war ending, so surrender, so they're going to be repatriated to Japan. But we don't want to release them until clear, may be involved in war crimes. So that's why those lists, I was looking at the headquarters, and find the name Yoro Omoto. Name sounds familiar, and I knew the people, my second cousin's name is Harry Omoto, used to stay with me, and he attended UCLA while I was in Los Angeles. So look down where the domicile was, where come from. Then was Hiroshima, and the same village that my grandfather came. So I knew right away, that's the same person, my relative. So I want to go see him, not investigate. The purpose was, you didn't give me my authority to investigate anybody anywhere, so they assigned me the jeep, transportation, with a Chinese driver.

So I know where it's located, so he knows where to go. Took me there, then when the MP, master sergeant come down there, I didn't use Japanese. I pretended American officer, and asked him, "I want to see this Omoto, Corporal Omoto." And they're talking in Japanese, "Oh, another one got caught." [Laughs] They thought... everybody commit minor atrocities, and so they think they picked up because commit a crime. So I told 'em, "Bring this Iromoto here." So they told 'em, and way back there, I think, notify him, and some MP was looking at him, and mentioned that he was a criminal. But as soon as he turned the corner, he said, "Hiroshi Niisan," that means, "Elder Hiroshi," that's me, in other words, English. "My dear elder brother Hiroshi." He recognized me right away even though I'm in uniform. The reason is he was living with me when he was going to school. Then he found out, well, I located him, and I didn't ask him, there's criminal things, I just personal, family things. And first thing is he says, "Your family's safe." They moved out a few months before the bomb was dropped, to Jigozen, where's the country he came from. So that's the time, first time I found out they're safe. Until then, I thought they all perished. When he told me it was safe, because he was corresponding with my family.

Then, so I asked him what, asked him not the criminal things, but his activity, I asked him what they do. So they said was... as I told you before, he went to Japan as an exchange student, but actually didn't go, and he was picked up, and they sent him to south Manchuria, and the Kwangtung army in Manchuria pick him up and made him a translator and interpreter. So I asked him what his job was, he said, "Well, I listen to the air to ground or air to air verbal communication," so translate what they say. So in other words, that's like the same thing we did, listening to what the enemy's doing. So they let him do it because he's a college student in the United States, UCLA, so let him, and they know... he said some Japanese guys knew, the understand. So that was the hard part, says, "I cannot mistranslate." You've got to translate what they say, so that's the hard part. But even though he's the American army, he was born in the United States, in our heart, he want to be truthful to own country, so that's the hardest part, he said. You have to follow. But the reason, even though how good he was, never being... some people made promotion, but he was only made a corporal. And don't trust him, so don't award him higher rank. Same as, he told me, "Oh, by the way, your kid brother is in the army. I didn't even know that he was drafted," because war broke out. But he was in the army in certain unit. So then, this the same way. I didn't pick any suspect or criminal. But anyway, I went to see my brother there. Then I had a chance to talk to him about a couple hours, and he told me all the family things. And so I gave him some advice, and that's the end. In the meantime, I have to pick up other criminals because name there.

Meantime, I was an MP, so first I was investigator. Then we got to wind up all the suspect and material witness, then put 'em in jail. So I'm all wound up. Now, trial gonna start. So now I already picked all of 'em up, so made me in charge of, a provo sergeant in charge of jail. I had about fifty people cooped up in jail, Chinese Kenwan Road prison. Chinese execute the mayor there, I witnessed that. But anyway, I took a picture, too. I lost the film. But anyway, jail I kept, so now I'm like a warden in the prison, in charge of prisoner. There's a picture that I'm escorting one of the staff officers to the court, and have an MP band, MP armband there.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

JD: All right. So what year did that happen, that you were recommended for the MIS Hall of Fame?

RM: What happened was in 1992, we had a reunion in Richmond, Virginia. And, see, so I got Burma News, and I know exactly what's going on, so I mentioned that we got a reunion in Richmond to Fumi and my daughter Karen. And Fumi says, "Let's go, Daddy." But I was still working at that time because that's '92, and it was too hard to go, so I decided I'm not going to go there. But then Fumi says, "Let's go, Daddy. I'd like to see my friend." So I was retired already then. I retired in '63, so that's many years later, '92. And so we decided to go there, so took the whole family and went to Richmond. Well, what it did was flew to Washington, and then rent a car, and went down, drove the coast, then went to where I was stationed, Fort Storey, near Virginia Beach. So we went to Norfolk and then Virginia Beach, then we saw where I worked and still there. Then we stopped at Williamsburg and had a good time, then went to Richmond.

JD: Did you know that you were going to be honored at this reunion?

RM: No, no, that was '62. I mean, not '62, '92. Then this all started.

JD: Right. So you just, you just thought you were going with the family to this reunion.

RM: Yeah, family to reunion, but we're taking our sweet time because Fumi, my daughter, want to meet her friend. Of course, she met, but the first thing she did was when we hit Virginia Beach, she hit an elementary school where she went, then asked a schoolteacher what happened to her, then she said... see, we left there in '63, and this was '92. So she wants to know what the schoolteacher was... then the school told her that the teacher was promoted and became a principal of Cox High School there. So she went to high school and met her, and good shot, and came back, and, "Well, let's go to reunion." So we went to Richmond by way of Williamsburg, that's in Virginia, famous place, then we went to Richmond, and finally went to hotel. Then we were, get the room there, I met a few friends and they welcomed me. But anyway, the evening banquet, so look at time, "Oh, have to go to banquet now," so we, all we went down. Already, people in there, we're kind of late. So only open place was by the entrance, there's a table there and nobody's sitting there, so we sat there. And some people spotted me being there, because I never went there before. So long time no see, and saw me come, so came and talked to me, and chatting, then says, one of the veterans came to me. Then Fumi was there, just sitting there, and don't even met my family, this guy says Fumi is my wife. And Kimiko, she looked young, took, at the time. And the daughter, and another daughter, says. Then you know what? Fumi said, "What?" "Your daddy saved our asses." In front of the girls, he says, "asses." That's army talk. They saved life, but says, "asses." Then people heard that commotion, then here comes Phil Piazza, says, "Where were you? We're waiting for you. We had a reserved table for your family." But then, head table. Then, well, the reason we're late, so that's empty, so some other people sat there, so we don't want to let them move, so we sat there. "By the way, General Downing here want to meet you here." So then the head table, General Downing there, then came there and then Colonel Grange there, he was the commanding officer, 75th Ranger Battalion. So then the two come down there, so Piazza escorted me to the general, then both of 'em stood up, so I salute 'em. And he says, "Sergeant, it's our pleasure and honor to meet you, Sir." See, two star general, major general, "sir," to me, I'm the sergeant. [Laughs] So everybody laugh because, "sir," that's just for the kick, I think, he "sir" me. Then says, he thanked me what I've done. Then the next year, I think he told Phil, "Put him on."

So at the time, this so happened that that year, we had Ranger Hall of Fame started. Then the colonel and the general group, General Merrill, some colonels and some other outfit, too. Then the book says "first Ranger Hall of Fame," but not exactly first, we're the second. But the other one is inaugural hall of fame, then first, second, third. So that was the first group of the enlisted me to be inducted Hall of Fame. It was a great honor, but nobody told me, but I know general is the one, "Put him on." He knew all about it, he told me, "I know all about you." So naturally, we're rangers, and his command, and he was a commanding general of this special operation command, including rangers, special forces and everything. The navy seal and things like that, he was the head of it. Then he became a full general and retired now, and I understand that he passed a couple years ago. Then every time I go to Ranger Hall of Fame or Ranger Rendezvous, go out there, and people... see, I start in the hall, he's there, "I see Matsumoto every day." In other words, he took my picture, then here in the living room, he tells other people, general tell them, "I saw him every day." [Laughs] That's what I heard. Kind of embarrassing, but great honor, general mentioned that he sees me, he's telling other people he knows me. You saw the picture. He put an arm around me, and also I commandeer thirteen stars. Seven general there in the picture. That was just before I was inducted, let's take a picture. So put me in the center, there's a picture when you come to my house by the door you see the general all lined up, and General Sunafu in the middle in a white uniform, rest are all army. I'm very proud of that picture, I commandeered the general. But General Grange is the one that did it. That's why I was inducted.

First, they inducted me as an honorary member of the service Ranger, then I found out that I was a ranger myself already, so not an honorary member, I was a regular member. So they made me a distinguished member of the Ranger Regiment. That's a great honor. Then later on, they kept the fifty years quiet, and after sixty years, special forces inducted me as an honorary member because I didn't go into the special forces. But I'm qualified because I'm OSS member. So that's what happened two years ago, three years ago, and now. Yeah, two years ago at the Fort Lewis, remember, you know. Three hour ceremony, and they won't let the other people come in because too many soldier there in the chapel. But Kimiko and I were invited there, and General Dolan, I mean, Colonel Dolan was a Medal of Honor soldier, and he's the one recommended me. I mean, maybe did originally. But General Parker, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, special forces headquarters, the one appoint me as an honorary member, and I have a certificate and great honor, because he mentioned that I was in the OSS. But before that, I couldn't mention OSS, so nobody knew I was in OSS. But I was in a super secret, I did a little contribution so I'm very proud of it and honored. And so, well, I'm inducted, too. Then also, governor of Kentucky appoint me as a Kentucky Colonel. I'm only sergeant, but then mailing address says, "Colonel Matsumoto." Kind of embarrassing. Well, don't feel too bad about it, but kind of funny. He called me, mentioned colonel. Of course, Colonel Matsumoto, my brother was a full colonel, but he passed away twenty-seven years ago. But I'm still kicking.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.