BAINBRIDGE ISLAND -- Roy Matsumoto was born 99 years ago, one of 7 kids born in the United States to a farming couple.
When World War II erupted, Roy volunteered for the US Army's Military Intelligence Service (MIS) out of an Arkansas concentration camp. He could speak excellent Japanese because he had gone to school in Japan as a youngster. It made him an excellent spy, attached to the elite guerilla unit nicknamed "Merrill's Marauders" after its commander, Gen. Frank Merrill.
But two of Roy's brothers -- who were getting their educations in Japan at the time -- were drafted into the Imperial Army. His brothers had become the enemy.
Roy said he didn't know his brothers were in the Japanese army and they didn't know he was fighting for the Americans in the Pacific. So they could've ended up shooting at one another. He said being drafted by the Japanese command was a real threat.
"That's one of the reasons I came back here (to the U.S.) because if I'd stayed there, I knew I'd be fighting for the Japanese," he said. He later learned his brothers' unit wasn't in Burma where Merrill's Marauders were fighting behind enemy lines.
In Burma, Roy's unit was surrounded on "Maggot Hill" for 10 days by Japanese forces. Roy pretended to be a Japanese commander, giving the order to charge into a booby trap, in perfect Japanese.
"I gave the order, 'Prepare to charge! Susume .. sai!" recalls Roy.
Roy's daughter Karen Matsumoto can only shake her head in amazement. "It's pretty crazy. Actually, I have a hard time believing he did that," she laughs. She says her father only recently began talking about his exploits because he was inducted into the "Ranger Hall of Fame" in 1993 and the "Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame" in 1997.
"He said, 'Well, you know I was with the MIS and I was supposed to keep this secret for 50 years.'" says Karen. "But of course, he kept it much longer!"
Producers want to finish a documentary about Roy for his 100th birthday next year. But they need to raise $30,000 in the next two weeks to do so. To contribute or learn more about the project, go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stourwater/honor-and-sacrifice-the-roy-matsumoto-story