BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — “Honor & Sacrifice,” the acclaimed documentary focusing on the Matsumoto family, whose sons split themselves between the American and Japanese armies during World War II, recently received the Erik Barnouw Award from the Organization of American Historians for “outstanding programming in documentary film concerned with American history.”

Roy Matsumoto and his daughter Karen.
Roy Matsumoto and his daughter Karen.

The OAH is the major organization for historians who study and teach about the United States. They annually present a small number of awards in recognition of scholarly and professional achievements in the field of American history, only one of which is for film. Past winners include distinguished filmmakers such as Ken Burns and Henry Hampton, as well as revered films such as “The Most Dangerous Man in America” and “Death and the Civil War.”

For the creators of historical documentaries, the Erik Barnouw Award represents one of the most important honors achievable. Awarded by a preeminent academic organization, it not only speaks to the scholarly rigor of the work, but also to its historical importance.

The Matsumoto family included five sons, two who fought for the Americans and three who fought for the Japanese. The eldest, Hiroshi (Roy), became a hero, fighting against the Japanese with Merrill’s Marauders, an American guerrilla unit in Burma. He was born near Los Angeles, educated in Japan, and used his Japanese language skills and military training to save his surrounded, starving battalion deep in the Burmese jungle. At the same time his parents and sisters were living in their family’s ancestral home, Hiroshima.

The story is told by Roy’s daughter Karen as she discovers her father’s work in military intelligence, kept secret for 50 years.

Directed by Don Sellers and Lucy Ostrander, “Honor & Sacrifice” is currently scheduled to air on PBS stations in May as part of a series arranged by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) called “Japanese American Lives.” Different stations are scheduling it for different dates. KQED in the San Francisco Bay Area plans to broadcast it on Saturday, May 17, at 6 p.m.

The documentary has been selected to screen at the Newport Beach Film Festival ( on Wednesday, April 30, at 3 p.m. at Fashion Island Cinema 6, 999 Newport Center Dr. in Newport Beach, as part of “Families of Different Shorts,” which will also feature Jean-Julien Collette’s “Electric Indigo,” Simon Pitts’ “The Boy and the Bus,” and Gerard Monaco’s “The Uncles.” “Honor & Sacrifice” will also be shown at the G.I. Film Festival in Alexandria, Va., on Saturday, May 24.

The film will also be available from the “Honor & Sacrifice” website,, starting on Thursday, May 1, Matsumoto’s 101st birthday.

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