Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Roy Matsumoto Interview
Narrator: Roy Matsumoto
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: November 8, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-mroy-02-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

gky: This is November 8, 2000. We are interviewing Roy Matsumoto. R-O-Y, last name Matsumoto, M-A-T-S-U-M-O-T-O in Washington, D.C. Roy, what year were you born in?

RM: Pardon?

gky: What year were you born in?

RM: 1913, May 1st.

gky: How did you get into the army?

RM: Well, you want me to start from the beginning or...

gky: Just how you got in the army, how you were inducted.

RM: Oh. Well, the thing is, see, first sequence is when draft came out, they didn't need so many so I was, even though 1-A, but deferred. Then, in the meantime, war broke out so they put me in the concentration camp in Arkansas. And, fortunately, I wanted to get out so bad and, fortunately, a recruiting officer come around looking for people to serve in the army. So, in order to get out that, and also they classify me as a 4-C, that is 4-F, you know, that is physically unfit. But 4-C stand for "enemy alien" and I'm not an "enemy alien." I was born here and my grandfather came from old country, so I'd be a third-generation, native-born American classified me as "enemy alien." So I was so mad and tried to get out the dump, and fortunately, I tried to show them that I'm not an "enemy alien," show what I can do for my country. So recruiting officer come around so I volunteered. It so happen that this happened to be Military Intelligence Language School.

gky: How is it that you were -- you're Kibei, right?

RM: Yes.

gky: How was it that you got sent back to Japan when you were young?

RM: When I was young, well, as I told you before, my grandfather, Mr. Wakamatsu Matsumoto, came from Hiroshima and started farming in Southern California. So I was born there, and he treated me nice when I was a child, so I was very fond of him. Since my father was there and mother was there, so he want to do a early retirement. So he made a little money on some farm product, so he decided to retire even though he was in the fifties and he went back to his country. He was there and meantime, when I become school age, I was attending the Fruitland Elementary, they call grammar school at the time, that's elementary school. My mother and father asked me whether I would like to visit my grandfather. I had other younger brother and sisters, but my next brother and I were agree, were sent to Japan upon agreeing that I'd like to see him. And I didn't know that I'm going to stay there for a while but, anyway, to visit. My grandfather's brother, younger brother, is my great uncle, took me to Japan. That's the way end up there and then stay there until I went to high school there. So they tell me Kibei but, yes, they could classify me as a Kibei. When I came back, I went to Long Beach Polytechnic High School and graduate there. So either I be a Nisei but they classify me as a Kibei. So it's okay with me because I came back. "Kibei" means return to America, so...

gky: You, but you spoke Japanese fluently.

RM: Oh, yes. Well, I went to high school and I was an honor student there and I did pretty well. Beside, when I went there, very little knowledge of Japanese so I have to study hard and I have to meet with discrimination because they spoke funny Japanese. They tell me, "You're a son of the immigrant," and I was very upset and mad about it, so I don't know, I think I'll catch up and show them what I can do. I had a very short temper, especially when they tell me immigrant kids. A lot of immigrant kids there, too, because my family came from Hiroshima, so lot of immigrants came to... then a lot of them returned there, but they themselves were immigrants' kid.

gky: It must have been tough for you. You go back to Japan, you've got an American accent, you don't speak much Japanese. Then you come back to the United States and you've got a Japanese accent and you --

RM: Yeah, that right. Yeah, I think I still have. But, anyway, I study after came back to state. Still, I read the newspaper and read the Japanese book and study in the things I didn't know and I became very proficient. But, I mean as far as the school goes, only high school. So I didn't go to college like rest of the soldier did. Some people like Grant [Hirabayashi], you know, GI Bill, went to Southern Cal and so forth. But I stayed in for twenty years so I didn't have much education other than the service school. I attended Military Intelligence Language School, Military Intelligence School and Counterintelligence School, and so forth.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.