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-02-0004

<Begin Segment 4>

gky: Let's talk a little bit about when you got into, when you left Fort Snelling, or Camp Savage. You went to school at Camp Savage?

RM: Yes.

gky: So, you were in what, the second class at...

RM: Yeah, second from the top. We had twenty classes and there was a second class with Hank Gosho.

gky: And you were supposed to graduate in June of 1942?

RM: June, yes.

gky: So, you were the first class at Camp Savage.

RM: First class Camp Savage. We'll be second class, first class was Presidio. And they came down there and graduate first class. That was in the spring they graduate. School started first of the year because I reported there in November, and meantime people started come in there in December. So we were the first one came out of camp as volunteers. Well, some people were already in the service so they got transferred. But like Grant, he was three days before war started, so he was in the service, then he went to Army Air Corps.

gky: Okay. Let me -- I'm a little bit -- I guess there's something I don't quite understand. These people come around, these recruiters come around to internment camps. You'd been put in there, classified as an "enemy alien," and yet you volunteered to --

RM: They made exception to it. See, that's why we're discussing a little while ago, and people already in, but they didn't understand, the people, they classify so they didn't even touch it. But we were specially-qualified people. That's why they're looking for. But you cannot draft because "enemy alien," so you have to volunteer and swear that you... to be loyal to your own country. So that was the provision. But, the meantime they did all the background check and some people were against this, like a "no-no boy" later on.

gky: So the government had insulted you by telling you were an "enemy alien," you were an American citizen, and yet you've gone and volunteered out of camp to serve your country?

RM: Right. I mean, I want to show because I been so much discriminated either here or as a Japanese kid. There, an immigrant kid. Then I been having a hard time. But, I mean, I forgot to mention this, but the reason why I'm so quiet is the time I was playing with a boy with a baseball and the kid yelled at me, "You kid of immigrant." See, "imin no ko" in Japanese. Imin, they think that they're, these people are better than us. It so happened that I was born in the United States and went there and happened to be my parents were, grandparents were immigrant, and so they call me, "Well, that's immigrant kid." That's okay, but then they're using for degrading term. That's why I got mad. I happened to have a bat and swung it, hit the man's, you know, the kid's head in the side and he was unconscious for two days, so I thought I killed him, but finally recovered. Later on, he apologized and I did, too. Then I thought I never going to get temper so I going to count ten and hold my breath and that's what I been doing ever since. So in the army, they think I was a quiet guy, but end up and got so mad. That's why sometimes things turn out in my favor and sometimes it didn't, see. But that's why now I realize that what's a crazy guy, this crazy kid do a thing like that, but that end up in me being inducted me being induct in the [U.S. Army Ranger] Hall of Fame, thing like that. But people didn't think that I was -- according to Aiko Yoshimura, he was one of the member of the Merrill's Marauders but he passed away a few years ago. Anyway, he described all the member, each one came out in the paper, in the Pacific Citizen, and he thought I was a quiet guy because didn't know me personally. Only time didn't know, he came from Amache, I think was, anyway relocation center, but I came from Jerome. I always call them concentration camp, but still is. But some article mentioned that he's mellowed quite a bit and doesn't say too much about camp, but still to me is a concentration camp, not the fancy name of relocation, see.


Then I asked the next door guy, he happened to be a navy veteran. Then tell him, "How would you like to live next door to the Jap?" Then he told them, "He's not Jap, he's an American. As a matter of fact, he's an American hero. What do you mean calling him a Jap?" you know. Then he chewed him out. But he didn't tell me what the name was. But still this thing going on. Just because I live in nice neighborhood on the island there, you know, I have beachfront house and a lot of people envy that. But, fortunately, you know, grace of God, I'm able to acquire the place and I enjoy very much. But anyway, that's beside the point. But still I feel, the way you look at it, call me "Jap." I resent that.

gky: When you retired from the army, what was your rank?

RM: Master Sergeant. I was lucky on account of citation, when I was awarded Legion of Merit, rank came with it. I was always one step ahead of -- I was buck sergeant, then when order came out, said staff sergeant. So when the war ended, I made master sergeant so been master sergeant for fifty-four years.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.