Funded! This project was successfully funded on November 15, 2012.

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Roy Matsumoto’s story exemplifies the heroism of the Japanese Americans who volunteered to serve in the US military in World War II.

CONTRIBUTIONS ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE THROUGH OUR FISCAL SPONSOR, THE BAINBRIDGE ISLAND JAPANESE AMERICAN COMMUNITY.

The Project

They were patriots and heroes, but to many other Americans they looked like the enemy. Their families were put into concentration camps by the US government and remained behind barbed wire throughout the war. They fought to protect the freedom of all Americans while their loved ones’ Constitutional rights were ignored. They fought racial discrimination at the same time as they fought the war with unexampled courage.

Among the bravest of them all were the 14 Nisei linguists who volunteered for a mission to Burma with a special unit called Merrill’s Marauders, a mission so dangerous most of them were not expected to make it back alive. As part of the US Army Military Intelligence Service (MIS), they knew they would be fighting the Japanese army, even though many of them still had families in Japan and close relatives in the Japanese Imperial Army. How was it possible for these brave men of the MIS to balance these contradictions?  

HONOR AND SACRIFICE will be a 27-minute (TV half hour) documentary about the Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in U.S. concentration camps, enlisted in the U.S. military, and volunteered to become linguists in the Military Intelligence Service in the Pacific Theater of WWII. The story will be told by focusing on the experience of one man's personal journey. Born in Los Angeles, Roy Matsumoto was a “Kibei,” raised by his grandparents and educated in Japan. Roy returned to Los Angeles but in 1942, along with more than 110,000 other Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the U.S., was incarcerated in a U.S. concentration camp. Roy was sent first to the Santa Anita Assembly Center and later to the Jerome, Arkansas, concentration camp, from where he enlisted in the U.S. Army, and volunteered to serve with Merrill's Marauders, a famed American guerilla unit that fought behind Japanese lines in Burma. 

Due to his invaluable Japanese language skills, Roy emerged a hero, credited by other members of his battalion with having saved their lives. Roy’s story and those of his Kibei comrades are the more poignant and powerful for the fact that most of their parents and grandparents had been born in Japan, which made itself the enemy of the U.S. with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Roy’s brothers fought with the Japanese Army in China and Guadalcanal, and his parents were living in Hiroshima when that city was destroyed by the historic first use of an atomic bomb. Matsumoto is one of the most highly decorated Nisei soldiers in WWII, and has the unique distinction of being honored in both the MIS and Ranger halls of fame. Up to now, however, his story, which is both exemplary for its heroism and typical among Japanese American veterans for its message of loyalty and sacrifice, has only been known in military circles.

Our Poster
Our Poster

The People

  • Lucy Ostrander, an award–winning documentary filmmaker began to receive accolades for her work with her Masters' thesis from Stanford University, WITNESS TO REVOLUTION: THE STORY OF ANNA LOUISE STRONG. In producing the film, she became the first American student to work with the China Film Co–Production Corporation. The film received a national PBS broadcast, and won a Student Academy Award, the Nissan Focus Award and a CINE Golden Eagle.  In 2005 she was a recipient of an Artist Trust Fellowship. Over the course of 25 years, her documentaries have focused primarily on Northwest and Asian American history and include EAST OF OCCIDENTAL, HOME FROM THE EASTERN SEA, FINDING THEA, THE RED PINES, ISLAND ROOTS, and FUMIKO HAYASHIDA: THE WOMAN BEHIND THE SYMBOL. Most recently, Lucy co-produced the award-winning feature documentary THE REVOLUTIONARY which has been receiving critical acclaim both here and abroad.
  • Don Sellers has been a cinematographer/videographer and editor on documentary films for over 25 years. After receiving a Masters Degree in Film and Broadcasting from Stanford University, Don worked as a cinematographer and editor on numerous programs produced for the PBS series Frontline and Discover. For Frontline, Don photographed around the world covering topics as diverse as the changes in China since the death of Mao, meetings between Afrikaners and the ANC in West Africa, horse racing in upstate New York, papal masses at the Vatican, Hollywood agents, and earthquakes in California. In addition to his work for PBS, Don spent six weeks riding with the graveyard shift of Miami homicide shooting a series for ABC. He has taught film writing and production as a guest lecturer at Stanford University.
  • Karen Matsumoto, daughter of Roy Matsumoto, has been a classroom teacher, environmental educator, and college instructor for over 25 years. Karen received a B.S. degree in environmental studies from U.C. Berkeley, teaching credential from UCLA, and a MEd in Instructional Technology from Utah State University. She is on the Board of Trustees for the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community, and has worked with Stourwater Pictures to produce five short documentary films on the Japanese internment experience and designed corresponding classroom curricula for the films. She also helped to produce over 40 video oral histories of internees from Bainbridge Island, which was the first community on the west coast of the U.S. to be relocated to concentration camp at Manzanar. Karen is also a member of the Nisei Veterans Foundation. Karen’s hope is to complete this film in commemoration of her father’s 100th birthday in May 2013!
Grant Hirabayashi and Roy Matsumoto
Grant Hirabayashi and Roy Matsumoto

"Of all the weapons and supplies the Marauders at Nhpum Ga had at their disposal, none were proving more valuable than Second Battalion's Nisei interpreter, Sargent Roy Matsumoto."  - Donovan Webster, The Burma Road

How Do I Know this Film Will Be Finished?

Three reasons:

  • What's Been Done. Much of the work has already been accomplished. We completed a 17-minute version of the film that included interviews with Roy Matsumoto and Grant Hirabyashi (a fellow MIS member who served with Merrill's Marauders). We realized that film would provide a great core of a half-hour TV documentary. We subsequently filmed interviews with Ted McLogan, Roy's company commander in Burma, and James C. McNaughton, US Army Historian, who wrote the seminal book on Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service in WWII. We also collected a bounty of stock footage from the National Archives in Bethesda, MD.
  • What's Needed. We still need to acquire music, narration and more stock footage. For the music, we're hoping to be able to hire the accomplished documentary film composer Joel Goodman. Joel's work includes the music for the award-winning film, CATS OF MIRIKITANI, as well as the theme music of the PBS series, The American Experience. Don and Lucy recently worked with Joel as the composer of their feature documentary, THE REVOLUTIONARY. We haven't decided on our narrator yet, but are in the process of contacting a number of Japanese American actors who would be terrific. For stock footage, we have a few surprises up our sleeves. The Kickstarter funds would be used to acquire this new material and edit it into a great film.
Still from U.S. Army footage of Merrill's Marauders - U.S. National Archives
Still from U.S. Army footage of Merrill's Marauders - U.S. National Archives
  • Who's Doing It. We're experienced documentary filmmakers. Take a look at our bios, above. Within the last decade, we've completed a trio of documentaries for IslandWood, an environmental learning center on Bainbridge Island. The films, PORT BLAKELY: MEMORIES OF A MILL TOWN,THE RED PINES and ISLAND ROOTS depict the cultural history of the Native and immigrant communities on Bainbridge Island and their relationship to the land. The three films received local PBS broadcasts.  In addition, we worked with the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community (BIJAC) to produce a number of short films on the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II as well as over 40 oral histories. Our film FUMIKO HAYASHIDA: THE WOMAN BEHIND THE SYMBOL screened at both the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and the D.C. Asian Pacific American Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS throughout the Northwest. Last year, we completed the feature-length documentary THE REVOLUTIONARY, on the life of Sidney Rittenberg, the only American citizen to join the Chinese Communist Party.

Who Has Funded This Film So Far?

The following organizations have provided funds for the preliminary short film or to lengthen it to a half hour:

  • Washington State Civil Liberties Public Education Program
  • California Civil Liberties Public Education Program
  • National Japanese American Historical Society
  • Humanities Washington
  • Berkeley JACL
  • Merrill's Marauders Association

What Will We Do If We Raise Excess Funds?

If we are fortunate enough to go over our goal, we're not moving to Rio. Once a film is done, most people think that filmmakers sit back and wait for Hollywood to come bearing big denomination bills. That couldn't be further from the truth, especially now. These days, filmmakers must market their films to festivals and often need to secure funding to have their films shown on PBS. 

Extra donations will go to having the film seen by as many people as possible.  If we receive enough, we'll pay to have the film broadcast at PBS stations in markets with large Japanese American communities. We'll do outreach to high schools and universities. This film will be a valuable contribution to the understanding of what loyalty to country sometimes requires, illuminating the past, and providing an understanding of what many of our new immigrants contend with now.

Description of Some Special Rewards

$500 Level - "In Defense of our Neighbors" by Mary Woodward

Part of the $500-level reward is this handsome book.
Part of the $500-level reward is this handsome book.

At the start of WWII, the Seattle suburb of Bainbridge Island was 10% Japanese American, an ethnic community fully integrated into a small town way of life. Walt and Milly Woodward, publishers of the island's community newspaper, fought the forced internment of their neighbors, and helped the island community grapple with their exile. Mary Woodward tells her parents' story, fully illustrated with period photographs and documents. This brave, principled couple remain heroes to the Japanese American community -- the story of their fight helps us comprehend how precious our civil liberties are, and how easily they can be lost.

$1000 Level - Original art print by Alaskan artist Fumiko Matsumoto, daughter of Roy.

Part of the $1000-level reward is an original print similar to this.
Part of the $1000-level reward is an original print similar to this.

A limited edition wildlife print by Alaska artist and Roy's daughter Fumiko Matsumoto. Similar to this one, the print will be roughly 10"X12".

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

No film project is simple, so the usual hurdles need to be cleared. There's always unanticipated events that must be overcome. We are still looking for the right narrator, so that needs to be done. And while we're hoping to use Joel Goodman to compose music, if he is unavailable, another composer must be found. But this isn't our first rodeo -- we're well versed in the vagaries of film production and have a long history of solving problems to create successful films.

FAQ

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