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-02-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

gky: Tell me about -- okay, you are now over... you spent some time in central India. Now you're going to out in the field with Merrill's Marauders. What was the first scouting assignment you got sent on?

RM: Scout?

gky: Scout, as a scout?

RM: Well, I didn't go out as a scout. We have scout, leading scout they call, and those experienced guys have a keen eye and so forth, sharp guy as a scout. They don't dare send me because if they lose, then they won't have an interpreter or translator. So stayed more or less back but together, you know. But they had a unit, so we had a radio, so radio in, "Clear," then you could move in the jungle. Even though we don't know where their station is, garrison, they all occupied area, so we don't know exactly where they are. So we have to send out the scout. Then so happened that, well, I was going to say that unit going be split up. Three thousand men each battalion, three battalions, usually first, second, third battalion, but so happened that this is unique. They use the alphabet. A Battalion, B and C Battalion. No such a thing there, but they just started to use that, so B Battalion would be 2nd Battalion, and I'm 2nd Battalion. Then since we took training from the British, so the British way they made a column. So each battalion has two column. In other words, American combat team. So in order to differentiate or to identification purpose, they color coded something. So, therefore, 1st Battalion will be red combat team and white combat team. The 2nd Battalion would be blue combat team and green combat team. And 3rd Battalion in khaki and... let's see.

gky: Brown?

RM: I knew that, but let's see...

gky: So, tell me about a scouting assignment that you did go out on.

RM: Well, when we went out, we are ahead of, a place called [inaudible]. That was a hamlet, but the native were gone because the soldier came, so they've abandoned. But so happened that Japanese stay there. They'd been there for more than a year now because the Americans and British were chased out of there when the Japanese came and occupied the area. So their garrison there. So they had a time to fix up foxhole very neatly, and then plant grass and cover up the hole, so if you walk by the trail, you don't see it. But they had a machine gun nest there, then the first one got killed was Robert Landis, Private First Class, and he was the first casualty in my platoon. The platoon leader was Lieutenant [William C.] Grissom at the time, and after he retire as Lieutenant Colonel Grissom, and he's inducted to Hall of Fame, but when got killed he told me, "I was a schoolteacher in civilian life, but I don't know how to write, make a report to the next of kin." Hardest thing. He confessed to me, so I know it felt, how bad he felt. He lost the first man. Later on, in his memory, or honor, named the camp after him. So Camp Landis and he happened to be from Indianapolis, or somewhere.

gky: Can I ask you to not lean?

RM: Not lean? Okay.

gky: Yeah, yeah. So there are some pretty amazing exploits of yours that you encountered when you were in Burma. Can you tell me about something, you know, one of your scouting missions that saved a lot of lives, American lives, that...

RM: Well, I didn't, but they claim I did. That would depend on how you look at it. If they want to give me credit, they say I saved, but then -- well, that was teamwork and I don't want to say that I get, give me the credit. But it so happened that I've been recognized as such. Well, of course, great honor to be recognized but, to me, I'm satisfied because I came out in one piece, so, with my buddies.

gky: Describe to me what you did.

RM: Pardon?

gky: Tell me what you did.

RM: Well, I did was -- well, after that, a couple days later, this [inaudible], then we came through Wesu Ga, then we came to a place, Walawbum. And this was a little town. We're not getting the town, but the nearer town, there was a road constructed by Japanese and there was a jungle. There wasn't a road but the Japanese were stationed there so they made a road to hold supplies and also tank and truck go through. So they construct a road and so happened that we just got in between the division headquarter at [inaudible], then front echelon there, two regiment and fighting Chinese. Chinese try push it but they couldn't. So we went in between the headquarters, division headquarters, and the front line. So happened that the road, so we made a roadblock there, that is, cut the tree down and lay on the ground so that truck wouldn't get through. In the meantime, if they stop there we going to shoot them, so we hide in the jungle. Look up in a tree, there's a wire there, so look like a telephone wire. So climb up there and there's a live wire. Then, so what I did was Lieutenant Phil Piazza had heavy weapons platoon and so happened that they had a field phone for observation purpose, you know. They launch mortar. We didn't have any artillery so mortar fire and observe, see where land, then a guy climb up in the tree and wire, then direct. Of course, you cannot shout because enemy might hear, so quietly watch and see where it land, then they either say so many mils, that is degree, to south or put 'em at maybe five yard to the side, or whatever, if you want to destroy something. So they use field telephone, the one that crank up.

So borrow that handset, climb up that tree, sure enough, you know. Then take a turn. Other people go up there. Couldn't make out what's going on. If I say, that look like a degrading, didn't know anything, but they went to school, but so happen that they're not speaking standard Japanese. They are using a local dialect. So happened that this enemy we're fighting is 18th Division from Kurume in Fukuoka prefecture, then all the people around Saga, Nagasaki, but mostly Fukuoka and Kumamoto speak Kyushu-ben, see, Kumamoto, you know. So the people, we had... well, I forgot to mention that split up fourteen men, each battalion had four men assigned, and two men to regimental quarters, so that's a dozen plus two make fourteen. So two, Herbie Miyasaki and Akiji Yoshimura, regiment headquarters with General [Frank] Merrill. And Grant in the 1st Battalion and I'm 3rd Battalion, I'm 2nd Battalion, and Gosho was in the 3rd Battalion. And I have a list here who belongs to what unit. But, anyway, we had four in the 2nd Battalion. I had Roy Nakada, Bob Honda, and Sugeta and myself, four of them. So I team up with Bob Honda, then Sugeta and Roy Nakada were green combat team and I was in the blue combat team. So they move independently, so we have six unit so we could hit six different places in the same time, all together sometime, you know, four together. And when went Walawbum, Hank Gosho was in 3rd Battalion. They're already fighting the enemy there around that neighbor. But 2nd Battalion hit it. See, enemy hiding there but no fighting, so that's why we set the roadblock there. Then if they come through, truck come through, they could stop 'em and then we could capture, or if they're riding we could shoot them. But, anyway, that was during the daytime, see.

Everybody hiding in the woods, then I'm climb up. But enemy there so they shoot at me, but they're very, what I call, they're not sharpshooters, not snipers, so they miss me, you know. So I have to go the other side of tree and the bullet hit the tree and fortunately, I didn't get hit. But so happened that every time I go out, something come down. Other boy, I don't want to say they didn't know any better than me, but we went to same school, learn same thing, but why Roy Matsumoto knew better? Of course I know. I studied the local dialect, because I'm from, my people from Hiroshima so I'm pretty proficient in Hiroshima dialect. However, the people speaking there was using a Kyushu dialect, and we didn't learn at the schools. So I don't blame them because they couldn't get anything. You cannot, you miss it, you cannot ask them to repeat it because you're tapping the wire, see. So what I did was there was a lot of noise get in there, so what I did was unscrew the mike. First I cover, and it kind of hard, you know, hold in hand, then you cannot write, see. So what I did was unscrew the mike and just listen so no noise was going to go in there, see. Then enemy didn't know that we were tapping the wire. But the people up in the tree, you know, they shooting at us, but, fortunately, I didn't get hit. So I have to go the other side. You know, how could you stand that? Well, I don't want to get out of there but couldn't because of orders and the troop movement. Then later on, general asked, you know, who got this information because I had a buddy, my partner, is a communication sergeant, his name is Herbie Crowfine, a Jewish boy, and he went to signal school and he is a radio transmitter, so he transmitted the message but he knows exactly what to send, encoded, then send out on the radio so anyone intercept couldn't understand what's going on. So we got a machine, encoding machine, crypto machine they call, so the other end will receive it then find out what's new. So a lot of people say exactly what went but they never been because we had an S-2, that is an intelligence officer, he just passed away, but he's the one knows what's going on and then he's the one that sent out me and when it show to commanding officer, no. But other people didn't know what went on because I just dropped the message from the tree, pad, then I put my initial there so that who got this information. So when general asked commanding officer who got this information, see. So look up and see it happen to be Matsumoto. He got the credit. So that was very good intelligence, so that's why two occasions, see.

The citation mentioned about discovering the hidden ammunition dump location because they're begging what to do, you know, hidden. So happened that we had the same map as the enemy had because they took it from the British so they got a map, but we got the map from British. So using the same terrain map, exactly where the river was and where the trail was and so forth, so I know exactly where it's hidden by the river. They're talking about which one, they ask, and I understand it perfectly at the time. I don't know about now but, anyway, it was my luck. So, eventually, this ammunition dump was destroyed. We didn't drop a 500-pound bomb, but some people said, you know, plane come and they don't carry 500-pound bomb, don't need that big, maybe 50-pound would be sufficient to... but anyway, blew up the ammunition dump. Enemy, they send a thousand mile away from Japan and said ammunition they couldn't use it because it's destroyed. So they give me credit for that. That's a big accomplishment. Also they found out that divisional troop men, they're ordered to withdraw because they're fighting two Chinese division there, two regiments. So that much firepower Japanese had compared to Chinese, but whereas we had automatics, so we, less than one-fifth, still we got same firepower. Anyway, we found out that the troop was gonna withdraw. Then exactly they told where. Then later on find out that had made a bypass, just like I'm attending their conference, see. Everything they say, we knew exactly what they're going to do, so they're going to withdraw, so we know for sure, see. So that's the two incident they quote that for Hall of Fame citation.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.