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-02-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

gky: Well, it seems to me that you did some things that some other military intelligence people did not do, some military intelligence soldiers did not do. First of all, you were really in heavy combat.

RM: Right. As a, so even though we were military intelligence specialists, but they classify as infantryman. So we carry a rifle and not just paperwork. So we have to have a pencil and paper, not only myself, but everybody else, but primary job was duty, infantry soldiers, working soldier's duty. If occasion arrived to use our skill or language, if necessary, then we would do that. But the primary classify -- it so happen that he's a linguist soldier. So that's the difference from other people; they have a desk job and translate, or other, but ours is combat, see. Other MIS people were always attached, so not part of the unit. So that's why they don't get credit. But whereas fourteen of us are fortunate enough to be assigned as a soldier. So we had double duty. We have to do soldiers at the same time do any other thing arrive, just like cook, or medic, not only a soldier, but you have to do a specialized thing.

gky: But it seems to me that even though you did have to do a specialized thing, that you still had some sort of special protection, for example, having escorts when you went out.

RM: No, no.

gky: You didn't have any escorts?

RM: No. No, first before for going there, you know, so that other people don't understand us. Well, first they thought as we're the prisoners, the Japanese prisoners in the camp. Then now we're the turncoats, you know, and use as interpreter. So they thought we were Japanese soldier in United States Army uniform. Because some people don't know that, see. That's why some people comment that "we should throw you overboard, but good thing we didn't," you know. [Laughs] Just because look like Japanese, they thought we were prisoners. But anyway, later on we had orientation and then indoctrination, then they told people to, "Look at them and get familiarized and see, and these are the people, Americans, you know, so recognize, so don't shoot 'em." You know, they have to cover. That's why we had protection until -- then, since you're assigned to unit, everybody know because you're part of it.

But when we segregate, when first we went to West Coast from Minnesota, we were put in train and then a shade pulled down so nobody can see us, you know, Japanese face. And when we get there and we arrive the Camp Stoneman but we didn't stay with the troop. We were sent to Angel Island, this immigration part. They have that old fort there they call Fort McDowell. So we stayed at Japanese, well, American, in other words a member of the Marauder, but at the time they didn't call Marauders, just the 5307th Composite Unit Provisional. Anyway, we didn't know what kind of unit going to be. Then stayed there until boat put out so from there ferry across the bay and went to Fort Mason, San Francisco, and got on there. Then meantime, all the other soldier came from Panama or Trinidad, or mainland, East Coast, formed the one battalion; it was mostly 2nd Battalion. The troop stayed at Camp Stoneman near Pittsburg. They ferry there, then get on the boat. That's the time we met other people. So we were segregated, so we weren't together, so they didn't know until they get on that SS Aloha, this [inaudible] ship. We'd been segregated, too, from aboard, but fortunately we group, small group, assigned to stateroom, big stateroom. So we could see the window on our side. But whereas the troop were down the bottom in the hold on a cot in a stinking place. But we stay in a stateroom. But they didn't know. We was segregated so they thought, you know, some people rumor goes that these are prisoners. Going to use them as interpreter. But then we had orientation course and familiarization of other weapons and get to know the people. But at the time we didn't split them up so this whole group was, that was from the mainland. Then we were heading, go through. Then we saw the Diamond Head, so we thought going Hawai'i but we didn't stop there; turned south, then the first place we went to was Noumea, New Caledonia. That's where we picked up --

gky: Now, you were one of, all fourteen of you Nisei were segregated from the regular troops?

RM: Other troops, yes.

gky: And then you were put on Angel Island and the other troops went to...

RM: Camp Stoneman, until we leave.

gky: Okay. Until you left.

RM: So we didn't have any relation with the other troops, you know.

gky: So what did you guys do on Angel Island?

RM: No, just stay there and practice, you know, and...

gky: Drill?

RM: ...what you learn. Not the kind of military drill, but I mean the text. See, you don't want to carry the dictionary. It's a small one, too, but to help each other, what to say, and the procedure. Like me, I don't have to learn Japanese. Well, I hate to say that, but maybe I shouldn't say, but I knew better than some of the instructor there. But I don't argue, "This is wrong." I just let it go.

gky: Okay.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.