232nd Combat Engineer Company
100th Infantry Battalion Replacement
In February, Hichiro is woken up at 2 am with orders to "saddle up" as a replacement for the 100th Infantry Battalion.
In February 1944, Hichiro is roused from sleep at 2 AM. Ordered to "saddle up" as a replacement for the 100th Infantry Battalion, his heart sinks at the prospect of being separated from his unit.
Only kolohe [mischievous] soldiers are rumored to be replacements. He wonders why he - and not an older brother whom he considers kolohe - is chosen.
Aboard a Liberty Ship en route to the European front, Hichiro suffers from seasickness; only once does he go to the galley.
This was February, I remember. When we were in the forest, cold — the reason that I remember is was cold. So must be wintertime, yeah.
I was bed down already, I was cold, and I hear this guy calling names out. They called me, “Matsumoto.” I go, “Yeah.” He said, “Saddle up.” “Saddle up” means pick up your gear, see.
So I told him, “What the f**k you want?” Well, that’s the army’s language, let’s face it. We don’t say, “Oh, what do you want?”
And the guy said, “Get over here, get your ass over here.” He said, “You’re going back camp.” I told him, “What for?” He said, “You’re going to replacement 100th.”
Oh, really, my heart went down like that. On the first day in camp, they kind of preach to you that, “This is your core squad,” yeah. Your platoon and your company. “You’ve got to get along good and fight together as a machine.” And then all of a sudden, they tell you they pull you out and you’re going someplace else. Oh, that really shocked me.
So, to be honest with you, I’m not the kind that use that word, the “F” word. Because I think, especially da kine, you don’t hear a kid using that word, eh?
No, because I don’t think I ever used that word at home or elsewhere. Because I try to keep away from words like that.
Two o’clock in the morning, you freezing your ass and you hear this guy call you. Oh, you’re not going to think and say. It’s just going to come out.
Thoughts on Being a 100th Replacement
I don’t know [how I felt to be selected]. Anyway, what the word was, all the “deadheads.” They picked the deadheads to go, see. I was thinking, “I never give my sergeant a bad time.” And my older brother, yeah — he was in the 442nd, too — that guy is just the opposite. Kolohe [mischieveous], that’s what he was. And he wasn’t selected to go overseas. So I think, “What the hell goes on?”
[W]hile we were in France, southern France, we were in Nice. My brother, the one just above me, he’s a kolohe guy. He and his friends went to town. They raise hell. Drink up and raise hell. And the MP [military police] station called the 442nd, telling them to send somebody to pick up the 442nd boys, bring them back to our area. And my other brother, he was in charge of that — you don’t call it CP.
[Walter] was back in camp, he was acting CO [commanding officer] of that group, see. So he went down with some boys to pick the kolohe guys up, bring them back. And he goes over there, he goes to the brig there, “Who the hell is there?” My other brother. (Laughter)
That’s the kolohe one. Yeah, that actually happened. One brother picking up the other guy. And to me, to this day, I said, “That’s the guy that should have gone 100th not me.”
Several times, I met my sergeant when I was at F Company’s reunion. But I never did ask him why I was picked because I don’t want to spoil things after so many years.
Crossing to Europe
Anyway, when we left the U.S.A. Mainland, we left from Camp Patrick Henry, Newport News, Virginia. And at night, we boarded the Liberty Ship.
The Liberty Ship is a small boat. Mostly it was built for World War II, for troops. Troop movement. So, what they did to us was, we went on the ship, we went down in the hold, only so big an area. And then the bunks were so, something else. You get one post here, you get one post here, and get about five, six, beds like that. The hammock type.
And all so close. So had guys snoring, you can hear everything. So the light sleepers couldn’t sleep. I was a pretty good sleeper, sleep was all right for me. But I’m not a good sailor. So I think only once, I went up the galley for food. All the time I was in bed throwing up. And had guys worse than me. And the boys were all our friends, being all local guys, so they used to bring back food for us.
Hichiro Matsumoto's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Hichiro Matsumoto, Library of Congress, and U.S. Army Signal Corps.