Densho Digital Archive
Loni Ding Collection
Title: Spark M. Matsunaga Interview
Narrator: Spark M. Matsunaga
Interviewer: Loni Ding
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: April 17, 1987
Densho ID: denshovh-mspark-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

LD: So let's start off by saying what it was that was the hardest for the Nisei.

SM: The difficulty over and above what men of the 100th Battalion, 442nd faced, facing the Military Intelligence Service language group, was that while the members of the 100th Battalion, 442nd could go out into combat, one battle, and prove their loyalty, the Military Intelligence Service people were not sent into combat as combat soldiers. They were there as interpreters, and they were translating documents, Japanese documents, and also interviewing captured Japanese soldiers. And, of course, the Japanese looked upon them as traitors. And the Americans did not quite trust them until such time as they could prove that they were indeed loyal Americans. And this was a difficult thing as I saw it. So, in fact, they were faced with gun pointing at them from the front, and, of course, gun at their backs even. Until such time as they proved that they were in fact Americans. And many a time, the results of the translation, of the interpretations were not immediately evident.

LD: How did you think the Nisei did prove, how do you think they went about proving who they were?

SM: Well, of course, in time, by use of their language, there were many who commanded the enemy to surrender. I know of a number of instances where the MIS men -- when I say MIS, Military Intelligence Service men -- were trained in Japan. They were the so-called Kibei group, Americans born in the United States but trained in Japan as a youngster. And some of them, because of the military training requirement in Japanese schools, had that training in order to be able to give orders to Japanese troops. And when they were dressed in Japanese uniform, for example, in Japanese officers uniform, well, the Japanese soldiers themselves, the troops, didn't know the difference. And when they gave orders to surrender, they did surrender in compliance with the orders issued by this American masquerading as a Japanese officer. And because his Japanese was perfect, then they, the enemy, didn't know the difference. Whereas we did, our American officers did. But whenever they put on that Japanese uniform, they endangered themselves against their own troop. Because American troops didn't know the difference, couldn't even distinguish one from the other. So, in fact, I would say that the MIS group out on the battlefield faced even greater dangers than we of the 100th Battalion/442nd did. I happened to serve with the MIS only after I had served with the 100th Battalion/442nd over in Italy, and having returned to be discharged because of my wounds. But then I was assigned to MIS basically to teach infantry tactics to the students. Although my principal duty at that time was to go into the Midwest and eastern cities to prepare the business community to accept those who were interned, Japanese Americans who were interned in the so-called "internment camps," which were, of course, in effect, American-style concentration camps.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1987 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.