Overview and History of the MISLS (author unknown)
The Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) was established prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, to meet intelligence needs in anticipation of hostilities with Japan, Brigadier General John Weckerling and Colonel Kai E. Rasmussen recognized the importance of skills of individuals who knew the Japanese language.
During the careful screening process for a Japanese language training school, Maj. (later Col.) John F, Aiso was recruited and he became the director of academic training at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling, both in Minnesota. Also Pfc. (later Lt.) Arthur Kaneko and two civilian instructors, Akira Oshida and Shigeya Kihara, joined the teaching staff. The four prepared textbooks and curricula for the Japanese language course.
On November 1, 1941, the Fourth Army Intelligence School was started with an additional civilian instructor, Tetsuo Imagawa, at the Presidio in California. The school consisted of a commandant, an adjutant, three NCOs, eight civilian instructors and 60 students. Thirty-five of the forty-five graduates were deployed to the Pacific Theater of Operations, and to the Guadalcanal and Alaskan area.
The first campaign in which the linguists proved their value was the Battle of Guadalcanal. Language specialists, led by Captain John Burden, translated the Imperial Japanese Navy battle plans.
With the forced mass exodus of Japanese Americans from the West Coast for alleged security reasons and the need for increased facilities, the Fourth Army Intelligence School was deactivated. Acknowledging the continuing need of a Military Intelligence School, the War Department placed the school under its jurisdiction and moved the facilities to Camp Savage, Minnesota. Battle experience proved that Japanese language specialists were essential. On June 1, 1942, the first official MISLS class started with 200 men at Camp Savage. In December the second class got under way and emphasized military Japanese instead of both military and general language. Seventy men were recruited from the 100th Battalion at Cam~ Mc Coy, Wisconsin, for the class.
The third class, in the summer of 1943, was reorganized into upper, middle and lower divisions, according to the students' abilities. The Military Research and Liaison Section began under Akira Oshida, and the Translation Section, under Yutaka Munakata. MISLS counted 23 academic sections and the number increased to 46 sections by graduation time.
The third class consisted of a large group of Nisei volunteers from Hawaii and several hundred Nisei recruited from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. It also included the first officer candidate class of 35 Caucasians, who had some background in Japanese. Twenty-four members of this third class were assigned to airborne units after completing paratroop training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
The fourth class of January 1944, which reached peak size, included a second contingent of volunteers from Hawaii. This group had 52 academic sections with 27 civilian and 65 enlisted instructors. With this class, the so-called "collegiate" divisions replaced the upper-middle-lower divisions system, and the academic term was lengthened from six to nine months. By the fall of 1944, as an established intelligence service school, the Camp Savage MISLS had graduated some 1,600 enlisted men, 142 officer candidates and 53 officers. They completed courses in Japanese reading, writing and speaking; translation, interpretation, and interrogation; analysis of captured documents; heiga (Japanese military and technical terms); Japanese geography and map reading; radio monitoring; social, political, economic, and cultural background of Japan; sasho (cursive writing); and Order of Battle of the Japanese army.
With the increased enrollment and need for larger facilities, the school was moved from Camp Savage to historic Fort Snelling, where the first graduation (ninth of the MISLS) took place in November 1944. Eleven Americans of Chinese ancestry and 362 Nisei received diplomas. In February 1945, the Chinese Division was organized and placed under the training school for administrative purposes.
After the defeat of the German forces in May 1945, the U.S. Armed Forces accelerated their operations in the Pacific against the Japanese enemy. With the continuing demand for linguists, MISLS exerted every effort to supply the personnel requirements.
Women in the Armed Forces were in a separate section beginning in June 1945. WACs were trained in the written language to qualify solely as translators.
With the realization that oral linguists would be needed in combat and in the initial phases of occupation in the Pacific, the Oral Language School, designated as Division F, was created in July 1945.
After V-J Day on August 15, 1945, emphasis shifted from military to general Japanese. The demand for language personnel continued as the need for replacements for earlier graduates, now eligible for military discharge, became urgent.
A revision of the curriculum eliminated military courses (military reading, field service regulations, applied tactics, captured documents and POW interrogation) and implemented general Japanese courses (reading and translation of Naganuma Readers, Japanese to English translation, Chinese characters and diction). New courses were added: civil terminology, Japanese government and administration. "The job of winning the war had been finished, but the job of winning the peace had yet to be accomplished." *
A Korean language school began in October 1945 with Lieutenant Calvin Kim
in charge. At graduation on March 16, 1946, 13 men received their diplomas.
The graduation class of 307 men on June 6, 1946, represented the 11th commencement at Fort Snelling and the 21st overall in the school's history for a total of over 6,000 graduates.
* "History of MISLS," The MISLS Album 1946 Pg. 13
(Courtesy of "Secret Valor" by Military Intelligence Service Veterans Club of Hawaii.)