232nd Combat Engineer Company
232nd Combat Engineer Company
Hichiro joins his brother, 1st Lt. Walter Matsumoto, in the 232nd Combat Engineer Company, 442nd RCT.
At the front, the 232nd Combat Engineer Company sweeps mines on the road or roadside, allowing the infantry and other units to advance safely. The company also clears trees and constructs bridges.
[I ended up being with the 232nd because of my brother]. I think he’d like to see me live a little longer or something like that, huh?
Well, I felt both ways. One way, engineers, way better life than the infantry. But leaving the 100th, I felt like chee, all the guys I get to know. But maybe that’s one of the big reasons why I’m here today, I went to the engineers which is much better than the infantry.
[The 232nd] was outside of Marseilles, Aix. Small place. And that place was rain, rain, rain. And you know you pitch your tent — see, I’m a new guy there — all the other guys, they from the company, they paired up already, yeah. Two to a tent, see. Pup tent.
And I’m the only guy so I’m the only guy who’s going to sleep in the pup tent. Rain day and night, rain day and night. So the tent collapse on me because the pegs. The ground is so muddy, so soft, just give away. Ah heck, I just stayed in there until the rain let up. No sense of going out, all muddy and getting wet. I stayed in there.
M1, we had what gun you’re assigned to. Some had the carbine, a little smaller. And majority is the M1, yeah.
You would sling your arm, or, usually you put ’em on the side. Because those guys [enemy] are not right there. If they’re going to come, going to take them a little bit time to come. But with the shelling, that was from way back, they can shell, so.
At the Front
[U]sually it’s the infantry [going before the engineers]. But at times when the infantry gets bogged down, the engineers used to go sweep the mines on the road, or the roadside, they sweep the mines. And that is when nobody in front of you but the Germans, the enemy.
This is - I’ll never forget this story, this was in France. This was in a forest, Bruyeres — our 2nd Platoon was ordered to do some scouting. Patrol forward, no man’s land. And on the way back — good thing we never met any resistance — we came back, our platoon sergeant — he’s not quite back to our line yet. On the roadside, he stopped, he’s making shishi [urinating]. In the frontline now.
Everybody see that, “What the hell?” Anybody who was there, they’ll never forget that. He was a real — Japanese say, “nonkina.” [easygoing guy] I tell you. When I saw that, I just said, “Wow, this guy.” That’s why I say, after all that, nothing bothered him, that’s why he lived to ninety-four.
[W]e never had the experience destroying things because the U.S. Army was always pushing forward. You destroy things when you’re pulling back. Like bridge laying, you destroy the bridge because you don’t want the enemy to come. So, being on the offensive, we never did experience that. Blowing up bridges or roads, things like that.
Hichiro Matsumoto's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Hichiro Matsumoto and U.S. Army Signal Corps.