232nd Combat Engineer Company
All five Matsumoto brothers - Susumu, Walter, Tsutomu, Matao, and Hichiro - volunteer for military service. Three - Walter, Matao, and Hichiro - are inducted into the 442nd RCT.
From the first day he reports to Schofield Barracks, Hichiro asks himself, "What did I get myself into?"
The 442nd RCT sails on the S.S. Lurline to California and goes by train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
Being an American, I was grown up already. That’s one of my duties. And before this volunteering came up, I was called by the draft board, the number two draft. But I got deferred because I was working the defense job, Red Hill. So, if I didn’t get that, if I was working outside [i.e., for a private company], I would have been drafted right before the war. But I was working for the defense job, so in March of 43, when the volunteer came up, I volunteered and we were accepted.
Three of us [were accepted], yeah.
[My mother] wasn’t too much of a talker, so I guess she kind of damatte ita [was silent]. And our conversation, when I’m talking to her, too, some things is kind of hard to explain. Yeah. But I think she understood why [we volunteered].
[Before going to Camp Shelby for training] I was working the Red Hill defense job. So I worked the defense job for about two or three years before I went into the service.
We went to Washington Intermediate School. That’s where our local draft board was. Board number three. And we were told that they were going to let us know if we were accepted or not at that get-together at Washington Intermediate.
No, but that day came, as they call you, you went on the truck, army truck. They had all the trucks ready for us. Just go in the truck and took us down to Schofield. That was it. But some guys, I don’t know how they knew that they were being accepted. They brought, you know, small hand bags, I guess their toilet articles or things like that. But the majority of us just went on the truck and we went Schofield.
[W]e just went to Schofield and we stayed there for about — of course, they clothed us and all that — and we stayed there for about a week before they shipped us to the Mainland. But we went home for a one-day pass before we were shipped over.
[I went] home and then (chuckles) enjoy a good old mom cooking. Mm-hmm [yes]. Like I said, no more girlfriend so you get no place to go.
Traveling to Camp Shelby
[O]n that trip to Camp Shelby, you had to go on a boat from Honolulu to San Francisco.
From Hawaii to Mainland, we caught the Lurline. It was a luxury ship, then. Yeah, all the tourists, yeah. And then from the Mainland to Europe, we caught the Liberty Ship. Twenty-eight days. And the thing is, the toilet. That’s something. You know they get that metal trough. So long. And then in between, they get wooden board. For, I guess, two is for one feet, and the next one, so on. And when the ocean is rough, the water goes up like this, eh. So when you sit in the middle, it’s all right. But both ends, when the ship comes this way, the water comes up to your okole [buttocks]. All get wet.
Anyway, after a while, we adjusted, we got used to that. So that, the guys will never forget that.
From the first day. From the first day we went to Schofield, I said to myself, “What did I get myself into?”
We got on the train and we took a northern train route and we went to Chicago. And from Chicago, we went down to Camp Shelby.
[The trip] was really something. Day and night, day and night, you’re sitting on the train. And the food they give you is, well, you don’t exactly call it “food” because something they only pass out to GIs. Sandwich and only bread and butter or something like that. You sleep on the train.
One day, what we did was, every so often, the train would stop in a open area. And what we would do was, everybody would get up, do some calisthenics and run around. Run a little, you know, that really helped. Instead of being on the train for twenty-four hours a day.
[We slept] on the seat. No more that comfort, no. On the train seat, you sit, or whatever you want to do. You want to lie down in the aisle, up to you.
Hichiro Matsumoto's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Army Signal Corps and U.S. Naval Historical Center.