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-01-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

LD: You know, one of the things I remember you telling me was you were standing next to General Mark Clark one time when he was seeing troops off. And there's always been a question about how the 442 fellows were being sent repeatedly into these impossible fighting situations and asked to do the job. What is your view on that? What do you feel about the fellows being asked to do so much, so many times?


SM: We of the 100th Battalion were being used as the point in an attack over and over again. And, well, as a matter of fact, Major Johnson, who was a high officer in our battalion, raised a question. And I happened to be a battalion liaison officer, so I happened to be at that meeting. And he raised the question with the higher authorities, "Why is it that you're sending the 100th Battalion as a point time and time again?" He said, "Is it because our men are expendable in your eyes?" He really said it in very concerned tones. And General Mark Clark said, "No, please don't think that because... we do it because we know the 100th Battalion can do the job as no other unit can." And then, well, when we were ordered to depart from the so-called point of departure, that's where the attack begins, in early dawn in one of the attacks, here was Mark Clark, the general, at the line of departure. Usually that's confined to company command, battalion commander, and even rarely a regimental commander's at the battle, the line of departure. But here was the army commander, General Mark Clark, at the line of departure, watching the men of the 100th Battalion cross that line of departure. And as I watched him -- see, I was at the line of departure with him -- I saw tears streaming down his eyes. And, of course, I knew then, and others who observed him knew then that his heart was with the men of the 100th Battalion. And I relayed this to the men, what I had seen, and so it's, over and over again, men began to look upon him as one who was really at heart with us. So after the war, he was invited, he and his wife were invited to Hawaii for a two-week vacation, fully paid by members of the 442nd/100th. And I happened to be the contact man. I traveled along, I was a traveling companion, tourist guide so to speak when they were in Hawaii. It was quite a thrilling experience to be able to return the favor, not in terms of actually keeping us out of battle, but sending us into battle with the feeling that we could do the job better than anyone else.

And, of course, the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, even to this day, stands as the most highly decorate military unit in the history of the United States, that is, a unit of its size. And General Mark Clark, even after the war, time and time again said that to listening Americans, and that has helped a lot. In fact, it did help a lot in Hawaii, attaining statehood. And, of course, when President Truman decorated the guidon of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team with the 9th Presidential Unit Citation, he said that, he said to the men that... this was done right on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. And he said, "You fought not only the enemy, but prejudice, and won."

Amazingly, I have found even today, that prejudice still remains. In trying to get co-sponsors to a bill to compensate those Japanese Americans who were confined in American-style concentration camps -- truly, they were complete with barbed wire fences and watchtowers and machine gun nests, in truth, a form of concentration camp. And those who were confined there were without any criminal records. As a matter of fact, they weren't charged at all for any crime. There was no indictment, no trial, no hearing, and yet they were taken into these camps and confined for what reason? Just because they happened to be of Japanese ancestry. And because the nine-member commission who made a study of the situation in 1983, the report was completed in '83, found that it was purely out of racial prejudice, out of economic competition, which others, non-Japanese could not stand, because Japanese were so hard-working, especially among the farmers. And political... what is the term they used?

LD: Political leadership.

SM: That's right, failure of political leadership.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1987 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.