Hichiro Matsumoto
232nd Combat Engineer Company

First War Experiences

The replacements join the 100th Infantry Battalion during the Battle of Anzio. Hichiro is assigned as a rifleman to Company A.

Danger is a constant on the front. Coming from above and not as quickly detected as other forms of attack, mortar attacks are especially feared.

Hichiro learns that frontline combat is very different from training.

Joining up with the 100th

[When we joined them, the 100th was fighting in] Anzio. Anzio is a port city. And the U.S. were holding — they were on the defensive then. They were dug in until the next push or something like that.

[Company A] that’s the infantry, so, being a rifleman, hard to write up the job description on that. [Used a rifle] And your pick and shovel for the foxhole.

First Time on the Front

[I was] scared. Anything beyond you is supposed to be the enemy. And everybody, I don’t care how good soldiers they were in camp, when you go in combat, it’s altogether different.

Because when you go in combat, you don’t know who’s going to take a shot at you. Besides, usually the movements usually at night. Because you don’t want to move during the day because daylight they can spot you right away.

[Basic training was adequate]. But everybody was in shape. I mean, just about everybody. In camp, training time, we used to get long hikes. Usually, we used to walk in the morning. We used to leave camp after breakfast and come back — that weekend, at night, we used to walk back. That really helped.

During camp, the kolohe guys used to make shibai [feign injury], they say oh, they cannot walk. The medics used to go pick ’em up, see, with trucks or jeep.

Nobody did that overseas. You don’t want to be left behind yourself. The boys go forward, you gaman shite [endure], you follow them. That’s the most scariest thing to do, only yourself in no-man’s country.

But no matter what, you cannot compare training and actual combat. And actual combat, to me, is a lot of common sense. Like a lot of times, us guys if we going from here to there, we’d kind of go down, make a small target. But when you really stop and think about it, could be nobody there and yet you’re just being so careful. Because dark, you cannot see anything.

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[Felt I was in danger] all the time. Because the scary thing was — rifle or machine gun, you can more or less observe, you see. But the mortar, artillery, they’re coming from up, [then] down. That was the scariest thing. The mortar, especially. It’s so quiet [at first]. You know what a mortar is? And then when it comes close to you, then you can hear the flutter sound or whatever. Oh, was really terrible. The explosion. Mm-hmm [yes].

100th Infantry Battalion mortar crew, Italy

[For protection I] find shelter wherever. Like, facing a machine gun is scary but you lie down, you’re pretty safe. But the mortar, no, because it’s coming from up.

Hichiro Matsumoto's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Army Signal Corps.

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