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-02-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

gky: Tell me, how was it that you volunteered for the Merrill's Marauders?

RM: This I didn't expect to join, but they called me in. Then there was... the people I knew was Eddie Mitsukado, sergeant, he's still living in Hawai'i, and he was drill sergeant, and Thomas, Tom Tsubota was drill sergeant, too. Because they came from 100th Battalion. And I knew by reputation, other than that, I didn't know. But I knew Grant Hirabayashi because he was a corporal already and we were buck privates, just went there. It so happened that Hank Gosho and Karl Yoneda, he passed away, but my classmates, the second class, so I knew them very well. Then I've been called to office and went there, called my name, then there was Hank Gosho, see. So he might be one picked me up, I don't know. But, at the time, they didn't tell me what the score was, but there is a mission there and this will be a dangerous and hazardous mission. But the catch is that it's dangerous, but if you survive you'll be transferred back to stateside and duration of war you'll be serving in the States. So, that was the catch, so we bought the bait. So we volunteered. No, I know that we got to go to war anyway because we're soldiers, see. So that's my...

gky: But you didn't know whether it was going to be a three-month mission, a six-month mission, a two-year...

RM: Three months. They said three months. Of course, the time getting there and coming back, about six months' time you'll be back. Well, that the way probably told other people too. They told me -- they didn't say the nature, but this hazardous and expect 85 percent casualty, see. But, I mean, still young and reckless, you know, so I want to join because then Gosho was going and my classmate, he sat next to me at the table.

gky: So you were thirty-one years old now?

RM: Yeah, about. Let's see, it'll be in '42, so yeah.

gky: And when they say it's a dangerous and hazardous mission, you may not come back...

RM: Right, that's a possibility, but never can tell. And if you're lucky, just plain lucky, just playing... it's a poker or gamble anyway.

gky: But why did -- I guess I don't understand, when they tell you you might die, I...

RM: Well, everybody die if you go to war, you know, there's a possibility of getting killed. But then, well, later on, this is afterthought. But I didn't know why I did a crazy thing like that. But the thing is, people claim that it was a miracle that I survived because I was exposed to the enemy all the time. If I make one slip, I'd be captured, you know, what the Japanese going to do to me? But that's why I decided to carry two hand grenade, one for them and one for me if I get captured. So when in a foxhole, every time I go out, "Sarge, why you do a crazy thing like that? You might get killed." But always, I tell them, "Well, you know, if I don't go out and find out, all going to get killed, but at least there is a chance of survival." And that's why I end up in -- and we survive all of them. At that instant, we'd been losing people because every time we're surrounded for ten days, then every time the artillery bursts or mortar shell burst, somebody got killed or wounded and we been losing people. At the time, people getting sick, nothing to eat, and drinking dirty waters, so lot of people disabled, they're sick. So we lost that way a lot of people died. So we had casualty, but as far as that incident, they were going to wipe us out but end up nobody got killed. Not even a scratch. Nobody got wounded. But we found fifty-four dead Japanese there and two of them were officers. Then I don't know how many got wounded. I don't know how many were there. So they claimed that the ratio of wounded and killed is maybe ten to one, see. So, lot of people got wounded and maybe lot of them dead, but we don't know. Maybe dragged away. Because we're on top of the hill surrounded, but they are downhill so they could take people away. But at least we found fifty-four, that's actual body count. And they tried to give me credit, see. But some don't because I didn't do anything, just did his duty. Someone, some sergeant, Sergeant Warren Ventura, asked the commanding officer why Matsumoto wasn't recommended for a Medal of Honor. He said was, "Japs don't get any medal." But he didn't use that word. He said, "He's only enlisted man doing his duty and enlisted men don't receive such a medal." That was a quote that came out of a book. But, I mean, at least, to my satisfaction, I don't have to get a medal. I survived myself with rest of guy. That's why every time I go reunion, they hug me and shake hand and everything else, and still some few people send me a present every Christmas. They pay five dollars for postage and send me can of pecan or can of peanuts. And still people appreciate what I've done. So I don't need any medal, but so happened that after forty-nine years, finally somebody saw I be recognized so that's why they induct me to Hall of Fame, and then everything.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.