News / USA

Q&A with Don Sellers: ‘Honor and Sacrifice’

Roy Matsumoto was one of 14 Nisei to join a 2,700 man guerilla unit known as Merrill’s Marauders to reopen the Burma Road, a supply route for China, then an ally of the United States.
Roy Matsumoto was one of 14 Nisei to join a 2,700 man guerilla unit known as Merrill’s Marauders to reopen the Burma Road, a supply route for China, then an ally of the United States.
Ray Kouguell

Roy Matsumoto was a man with a secret. And it wasn’t until his daughter Karen was given a book in graduate school about the US Army unit called Merrill’s Marauders did the war story come out. She narrates the documentary about his life called Honor and Sacrifice.

Matsumoto was born in the Los Angeles area of California in 1913. He spent part of his childhood there and in Hiroshima where his family came from, sending him to their ancestral homeland to receive a Japanese education. Matsumoto returned to the United States where he graduated from high school.

In the aftermath of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, he was one of 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent forced to live in relocation camps by an executive order issued by President Franklin Roosevelt. Matsumoto was sent to one in Arkansas but volunteered to get out and recruited for military intelligence service because of his Japanese language skills.

Matsumoto was one of 14 Nisei to join a 2,700 man guerilla unit known as Merrill’s Marauders to reopen the Burma Road, a supply route for China, then an ally of the United States. Fighting rough terrain and disease in the Burmese jungle, the men’s survival depended on the Nisei’s language skills.

Matsumoto climbed a tree where he tapped into telephone lines to intercept Japanese communications which enabled the Americans to destroy a large ammunition dump. He later crept into “No Man’s Land” and overheard enemy plans for attack in a dialect he had learned as a grocery delivery boy back home in Los Angeles. The information allowed the Americans to move to higher ground and annihilate the enemy when Matsumoto yelled for the Japanese to charge.

After six months, only 200 of Merrill’s Marauders survived. Matsumoto earned a bronze star and Legion of Merit. He later was sent to China to interrogate Japanese prisoners of war and became a master sergeant during the allied occupation of Japan.

There are also a series of coincidences: survival of three brothers who fought for Japan, family who just missed the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and all reuniting there after the war.

Don Sellers co-directed and wrote Honor and Sacrifice. VOA’s Ray Kouguell asked Sellers, who is based in Bainbridge Island, Washington, about how Matsumoto managed to carry his experiences around in silence and why his story is not better known.

Q&A with Don Sellers: ‘Honor and Sacrifice’
Q&A with Don Sellers: ‘Honor and Sacrifice’i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

SELLERS:  The only reason that I could figure that it’s not better known is because he was told in military intelligence that he was supposed to keep his work a secret for fifty years. And like many people of that generation he didn’t talk about what he did. But a lot of people in World War II and people who experienced that didn’t talk about what happened then. A lot of Japanese Americans didn’t talk about what happened, who experienced the different things that went on during that period of time.

KOUGUELL: Did Matsumoto, an American citizen, ever feel a dual loyalty since he spent much of his adolescence in Japan?

SELLERS: From what we understand and this was something that he did not talk about, he decided to be loyal to the United States. He cast his lot with the Americans, with the country of his birth. And a lot of the Nisei interpreters said the same thing, that they just never questioned it. They were with the Americans, they were with the country of their birth and that’s who they fought for.

KOUGUELL: Did he suffer any discrimination during his American military training or in Merrill’s Marauders?

SELLERS: There was discrimination that went on and it was - just for lack of a better term - it was natural. It was what happened in society at that time and so he was called derogatory things. He was even mentioned that way when the people who were calling him derogatory terms realized that he was saving their lives. He was instrumental to what they were doing.

KOUGUELL:  Were there any family strains years later or reconciliation between family members after fighting on opposite sides?

SELLERS: Karen, Roy’s daughter, talks about the fact that there [were] some real strains within the family, as one might expect with brothers fighting on both sides of the conflict. And after the war those strains continued to a certain extent and it took years for them to resolve themselves. And indeed, I don’t believe that they ever fully resolved themselves among Roy’s generation.

KOUGUELL: Did Matsumoto ever share with you, how difficult it was not to talk about his war experience with his family?

SELLERS: No, he never did and we tried very hard to get him to talk about a lot of different things. This is a film that talks about a story where people were very conflicted. He was fighting for his life with Americans who had locked him up and locked up other Japanese Americans in concentration camps. He was fighting with them in the middle of Burma against the Japanese, against his ancestral people and they were fighting for their lives. At the same time his family [was] living in their ancestral home of Hiroshima.

KOUGUELL:  What kind of reaction is his story getting from World War II veterans groups and Japanese American groups?

SELLERS: For Japanese American groups it’s just another chapter in the story of the Japanese American experience during WWII. There’s a lot of different chapters to that story. There are those who were in the concentration camps. There were those who volunteered to serve in the US military, many of them fought very bravely in Europe. And there were others who decided that what was happening was unconstitutional. For World War II veterans I think that they see it as just another indication of the service and the bravery that went on during WWII for the Americans. For those who served with Merrill’s Marauders, many of them have said that they owed their lives to the Nisei interpreters who were with them in the jungles of Burma.

KOUGUELL: Sellers’ documentary uses archival film and family photos, along with interviews including Matsumoto himself to make this a compelling piece of history. It is an account of pluck, luck, grit and boldness of a man who survived horrors that are often the price of patriotism. Honor and Sacrifice is the winner of several prestigious history and historical documentary awards. They are richly deserved.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs