Densho Digital Archive
National Japanese American Historical Society Collection
Title: George S. Matsui Interview
Narrator: George S. Matsui
Interviewer: Marvin Uratsu
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 11, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-mgeorge-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

MU: We don't want to go into too much detail on that. But then, you people were awarded the Bronze Star?

GM: (Yes.)

MU: Can you tell us...

GM: Ben Honda and I.

MU: Can you kinda tell us how it happened?

GM: Well, I'm trying to think back. The battalion was making a sweep of the island and they went beyond. And the reserve unit found some guys in the cave. So, right away, they called us, Sergeant Honda and my -- me to the front line there. And, like I said, we had this guy come up from the cave and we talked to him that, that, "American soldiers never torture or kill anybody yet. We never do that. I think it's your job to live, try to rebuild Japan." I said, "There's no sense of committing suicide."

MU: You gave him a pep talk.

GM: Yeah. He said, "Wakarimashita. Hai, wakarimashita." He must've been a soldier 'cause he's very...

MU: Military-like, huh?

GM: (Yes). So, we told him to go on back down... first we asked him, "How many people do you have down there, including the labor people" -- what they call those people?

MU: Slave labor, or...

GM: Not slave labor but construction people, not military, non-military people...

MU: Okay.

GM: ...and military people. He said, "We have about thirty-five or forty." And I guess he was down there talking -- talked them out of it. First we got the civilians out -- men and women. No children, though. (...)

MU: Oh?

GM: Then, finally we got three military people out and right away we had to send them back to the (...) headquarters -- echelon for them to interrogate them.

MU: Tell me, how did you get this fellow out that you spoke to?

GM: Well, we talk, (and) talked. Honda and I talked about half an hour telling him to come out 'cause we...

MU: Oh, anybody could come out?

GM: Yeah.

MU: Did you...

GM: I would have liked to -- if, if I was really in charge, I would have liked to say I was a captain of Japanese Army so come on out. I would have liked to have said that, but we didn't. But one guy came out, and we convinced him that we don't do things like that.

MU: So, was he a soldier or civilian?

GM: I don't know whether he was or not. But I took for granted that he was. He says, "Hai. Hai. Wakarimashita. Hai."

MU: Uh-huh.

GM: "Yatte kimasu." See, so I figured he was one of the soldiers or a army or navy, I don't know which, 'cause see, right away when they all came out they send them back to the rear for further interrogation.

MU: You guys were open to fire...?

GM: Oh, (yes.)

MU: ...from the cave.

GM: Oh, we had people out, protecting us.

MU: Oh, to cover you?

GM: (Yes), 'cause this was in the coral cave, burrowed way down.

MU: Yes.


MU: So, that cave event worked out real well then, huh?

GM: Yeah. It was, he said it was a big cave. It's a coral cave.

MU: Okay.

GM: It winds down -- easy to get in and out. But another cave, we went in.

MU: You went in the cave.

GM: Yeah. They had storage, a huge food storage area. They couldn't get into that. Some, at night I think some snuck in after island was secured. But we went in and saw tons of food supply.

MU: These are Japanese food supply?

GM: Yeah.

MU: And, now these people that came out of the caves, were they half-starved or...?

GM: No, they didn't look like they were starved. Yeah. I went to the prisoner compounds, several days later. I had to talk to somebody about something but I can't remember what that was all about. I don't remember. And after that I was sent back to Honolulu...

MU: Okay.

GM: ...and I went to another prisoner compound in Honolulu.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.