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-02-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

gky: Let's go back to the war. When you were in Merrill's Marauders, how did you feel when you were the target of Japanese enemy fire? How did you feel inside?

RM: Well, hoping that, you know, won't hit me because other people getting hit and unfortunately wounded, see. Well, a few people got killed, I witnessed. But happen so fast, you know, the next morning he's already stiff, you know. Don't even say, I shake them and already dead, see. So I know it gonna happen to me, but hoping that it wouldn't hit me. Then, as I know of it, half a dozen times, just sheer luck, I'm safe. For instance, the green combat team, Sergeant [George] Rose, he had the machine gun nest, two boys machine gun. He wasn't there, but two of his men there. Then hear some noise down there, and we be surrounded. In daytime, running around and I have to go there because no light. Before it used to be jungle but every time tree burst, mortar or the artillery, the branch come down and the bushes all gone up the hill. So only time you hide is the foxhole. If you move, they be hiding in the bushes down there, they could see. So they open up, but fortunately it didn't hit them. The one time I went to machine gun place, that's why want to know what's going on there. They hear Japanese talking, but they didn't...


RM: So then I went there. Then they stopped talking so I couldn't make out what's going on. Then I was talking and all of a sudden here come like a stone, somebody threw it, was a hand grenade. So happened that about a two-inch diameter tree was just in front of me and it hit the tree and bounced back. If it landed there, I have no time to pick up and throw back, see. But so happen that bounce back. Then now hear the moaning see, so he got wounded, or maybe died. I don't know because we didn't see it. But he threw hand grenade up high so you can throw, you could see it's coming up but happened to hit that. It was just sheer luck. If trying to hit even the target, most of the time you miss it, see. Pretty hard to hit the two-inch tree with even a pitcher, you know, baseball still wouldn't hit it. But so happened that the tree was standing there and it hit it and bounced back and died. Then my friend, he's a Mexican boy, I helped him. His name is Leo Espinosa. He was up in the hill and, then the Japanese send a [inaudible] mortar. That's a grenade launcher. And this round came down and exploded, then his back, fanny that hit it, and he got wounded. Then he got Purple Heart. But when I was going to go through there, enemy, I don't see 'em, but they hide in the bush. Then they, he'll come around. You could see because not a rifle fast, you know, because just like a launcher come up, then with a scissoring, you know. I thought it was going to explode so I was goner. But just fizzle then stop. It was a dud. How many rounds of dud, just in front of you? So I know I was lucky. So what it is, every time we have a ration or a supply drop, I always save a parachute cord. It comes in handy, see. Later on it came in handy. But at that time, too, so we tied together then wrap around, then went behind a tree, and then rolled it. Meantime, I dug a little hole there, so bury that. I don't want to tamper or anything else. Kick it, it might go off, see. But what happened was it was a dud, then we save ourselves and a couple guys there, probably we're saved there. Those kind of things.

Then this is a different place. We captured... of course, we survived so we were able to capture all weather airstrip at Myitkyina. Then enemy are still around there, because we just capture it and occupy then area, then hide in the bush, then open up and try to shoot us every time move. But the thing is, when they shoot it, the Japanese had a Model 38 Arisaka rifle, see. So there is a bolt action and five round clip, so each time you pull the trigger, you have to cock it again, bolt action. So takes time, see. So one goes off, we got time to move. So they shoot and miss at me. So they know where I'm at because they are hiding in the bush and we are moving, so they're open -- so I thought it was dangerous because already spotted, miss me. So I rolled and went to next bush then was empty, so Sergeant Fleer and his runner, he was the platoon sergeant in I&R. And so he went in and his runner, then hid where I was, then one bullet hit two people, see. Went through arm, then hand. The two people with one bullet, see, was there. So if I were there, probably hit me in my head or be goner. Those thing I realized how close I came, see. So I believe, well, some people laugh at me, "You're not that good." But anyway, I try to help people out, see. That was my practice. So when Depression time, I work in the market and some old man, well, go to find a job called keian, that's in Japanese, keian. That's information agency, see, keian. And old Issei boy down there, need a job, so ask them, well, to find a job. So what they do is supermarket or the vegetable stand grand opening, so they extra hire, so they assign there. So I work in their all day market so every time they had sales, extra hand come down there. And I always talk with Japanese, because Issei. Tell them, you know, you have a steady job, say no, see. This is the first one, so I ask them, "You got a place to stay? Oh, I'm staying with friends," you know. So I told them come over my place. I got apartment. So then you hungry. Oh, yeah, just got paid, but run out of money, no money, see, because Depression time. Even the farmer had a hard time. I witnessed this all. The reason is after I graduate high school, then I was working. But before I went there, I went through hardship, nobody give me a job and I have to support myself and the working --

gky: So, that's why you tried to help other people?

RM: Yeah, so I decided I appreciate -- I didn't have anything to, it so happened that Mr. Izumi -- well, I don't know whether to go into detail or not, but show you the sequence what happened was this place, I don't want to mention the name, but the classmates, I worked there, then had two brothers, see. One was a buyer and go out there in the countryside and buy apple, or peaches, or whatever, send them out. So the elder brother had a store in selling produce, you know, fruits and vegetables, and the other brother go out and buy apple and he went to wrong place. He went to different -- I remember what happened, in Watsonville, see. He bought quite a few green apple and many cheap because Depression times, but won't be able to sell that, you know, cheap one. So the two brother got in fight, see. Then one day I want to go market, see, because three o'clock in the morning. So I went there and tried to wake up. He had a pipe in his mouth and the gas. He tried to commit suicide because of fight. So that was a sad case.

Then, anyway, I have to leave that. Then I went to other place. Unfortunately, this man, this same produce, different people. Mr. Izumi, Tom Izumi, he himself goes to Los Angeles, Ninth Street or Seventh Street market, produce. Then bring back two Long Beach produce market. That's why I worked, I got the job, because I don't want to stand, two brothers fighting, so I say I don't want to stay. The meantime, I didn't want to tell family affairs to other people, but they know they had a fight. So it happened to be neighbor, next door neighbor. So he said, "Come my place, I could use you." But there was the Issei boy, I mean Nisei boy working there and he was a big boy and play basketball. I'm short guy; I cannot compete. But he always, you know, basket; he's a tall guy, reach it. But, anyway, I worked for him one day, he didn't come back. Then I got the telephone call he's in the hospital. So this helper and I went there, see. Alameda Boulevard from Los Angeles to Long Beach is foggy. So the truck in front of it, he didn't know it, he didn't see it and pull into. So he's internal injury. So, at the time, he was conscious at the time, but doctor says, you know, internal injury, lost a lot of blood, and he won't live much. Those are the things I experienced, hard time. Then, at the time now, there's no business, cannot stay. I have no place. So happened that people knew because big accident. Then I have no place to go so I work the people know, and they fed me, and I was about three days, nothing to eat. Of course, I had money, little bit, but I needed it for school. And just before graduate, then they helped me so I thought how I appreciate them, you know, people help. So my experience, the poor guy, maybe I shouldn't, but I help. Those things as the Japanese saying, if you sow nice seed, you will harvest nice crop.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.