232nd Combat Engineer Company
Military Service: France
As Germans retreat in Bruyeres, they fell trees to impede advancing U.S. forces. The 232nd Combat Engineers remove the fallen trees and land mines. The unit also builds temporary bridges.
The Champagne Campaign is a welcome break. After sleeping on hard ground for weeks, Hichiro enjoys the comfort of a real bed.
In Nice, the men enjoy nights on the town. Fights occur but Hichiro stays out of trouble.
[T]hat Bruyeres area was a lot of work for the engineers because you got to improvise bridges and things like that. And a lot of these forests, so get a lot of big pine trees.
What the Germans did was, as they retreated, they used to blow the trees down all over the road. So what the engineers had to do was, go up there and remove the trees with a power saw or whatever. And that was a lot of work. And this making temporary bridges and things like that.
And one incident was with the Caterpillar. What do you call that, earth mover or something. You know in front of the Caterpillar they get the big shovel [bulldozer]. So what they did, anyway, while they were working on that road, had land mines. So they exploded and the Caterpillar was out of commission.
So what the engineers did was — cannot move that, too damn heavy — make a temporary bridge over that so the vehicles can go over. Things like that. And that wasn’t too easy because you’re making a lot of noises. And the Germans, the enemy, is still there. So every once in a while, when you hear the shell falling, you got to go for cover, yeah.
That was wintertime, too. Cold, a lot of pine trees. And what the men were afraid of most was the tree burst. You know, tree burst is the artillery shell hitting the pine trees, big trees, and it explodes. And all the branches and things like that fall. That injured a lot of boys.
[T]hen we were in the other area. So what we know is when we see the report of this and that. I felt we were glad that we weren’t there.
That was in Nice. You folks heard about Nice, yeah? That’s a resort area. The GIs, we stayed in hotels and things like that. You sleep in beds, the comfort of beds. Up till then, we slept on the ground. Everybody enjoyed that.
Every night, we used to go in town, raise hell (chuckles). That’s why I was thinking, I think the MPs, I think they dreaded the Japanese boys coming in town. Yeah, the guys make iran [unnecessary] enough trouble.
[W]hen we used to go, usually with our boys, see, we very seldom met these other haole boys. And that’s one thing good, these local boys was, we used to stick together. And then when trouble happens, they used to help one another. So the other guys never get chance. The other guys, you figure like say, for instance, picking on haole guys. They come from, say, New York, Nevada, or Louisiana, or wherever, so they don’t know each other. The only thing they know is they’re in the same outfit. Like Hawaii guys, it’s different. We know them from back home. And you get Kalihi, Palama, or something like that. Say, “Eh, the guy is one of us.” Everybody jump in. (Laughs) So, that’s how it was.
Had a lot of unnecessary rough fighting. If you’re the type that, well — I was on the side that I kept away from trouble. Because you always can keep away from trouble, you just go the other way. The troublemakers, they go looking for trouble. As simple as that.
Hichiro Matsumoto's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of National Archives.