Matsumoto, Teruo


Teruo Matsumoto was born on January 15, 1926, in Los Angeles, to Sukesa and Chiyono (Nakatsu), both from Yamaguchi-ken. Teruo was the second child—his brother, Akira, was born in August 1923. The family ran a laundry business and lived in a one-room apartment adjacent to the laundry. Matsumoto attended school in Los Angeles and had completed one year of high school at Polytechnic before the family was forcibly removed from the area.

The Matsumoto family arrived at the Pomona Assembly Center on May 9, 1942, and at Heart Mountain on August 12, 1942, in the first train of incarcerees at camp. They lived in apartment 1-17-C. While incarcerated at Heart Mountain, Matsumoto worked in the mess hall and the hog farm when school was not in session. During the school term, he played on the famed Heart Mountain Eagles football team. In the summer of 1943, Matsumoto left Heart Mountain for seasonal work on the railroad in Montana before returning to camp for school. He remembered attending one Fair Play Committee meeting by himself. Matsumoto answered No to Question 27 and Yes to Question 28 on the 1943 loyalty questionnaire. When interviewed, his parents explained that he was “very disturbed by the evacuation” and “very close to his older brother Akira, who was imprisoned for draft evasion at an earlier date.”

Matsumoto was called for his pre-induction physical in June 1944 but did not go. He was arrested on August 31, 1944 and sent to Cheyenne County Jail with 22 others from Heart Mountain. He was tried and convicted in July 1945 and sentenced to two years in the federal prison at McNeil Island, Washington. 

After his release from McNeil Island, Matsumoto returned to Los Angeles. He was pardoned by President Harry Truman on December 24, 1947. Matsumoto was drafted into the Army and served in Korea with the 378th Combat Engineers. He worked for an Issei gardener for a month before going into business himself. After a few years, Matsumoto and his older brother, Akira, started a nursery business, eventually running two places—Matsumoto Nursery and Green Thumb Gardeners in Torrance.

Teruo Matsumoto died on May 10, 2008, in Torrance, California.