1942: Roy Matsumoto

Military Intelligence Hall of Fame

Hero or enemy? That was a question that the United States asked about Roy Matsumoto and thousands of other Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. Matsumoto and his family were interned at the beginning of WWII but he soon volunteered to use his Japanese language skills for the US Army’s Military Intelligence Service. The Army selected Matsumoto as one of just 14 linguists to serve in the Merrill’s Marauders, a special guerrilla unit. Matsumoto’s skills proved critical to the Marauders during the war as he translated and intercepted enemy communications, interrogated Japanese prisoners and, at times, operated behind enemy lines. In 1944, Matsumoto was supporting the 2nd Marauder Battalion when it was pinned down at Nhpum Ga, Burma (Myanmar). He snuck over enemy lines each night to gather information and listen to their plans. One night, he heard a plan to attack the next day, giving the Marauders time to plan an ambush for the Japanese troops. When the Japanese attack faltered at the surprise ambush, Matsumoto called out in Japanese to keep moving forward, allowing the Marauders to neutralize the enemy troops. Matsumoto’s bravery earned him the Legion of Merit. Matsumoto continued to serve as an intelligence non-commissioned officer after the war and retired in 1963. The US Army inducted him into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1997.