2014年09月25日

A Visit to Fort Snelling, MN, where many Japanese Americans graduated from a Military Intelligence Service Language School.

Fort Snelling


 I often visit Minneapolis at Christmas time, as my husband is from there, and I always wanted to visit Fort Snelling, St. Paul, which adjoins Minneapolis. Fort Snelling was the site of a Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) managed by the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) of the US Army during WWU. Most of its students were Nisei, second generation Japanese Americans. They are called MISers.

 Fort Snelling opens only during the summer because of Minnesota’s harsh winter. So, I had no chance to visit there until this summer.



 Frankly speaking, Fort Snelling does not have any special display or document related to Nisei MISers. On the other hand, I interviewed many Nisei ex MISers, when I published the book, “Records of the Fierce Battles of Nisei Soldiers: Japanese Americans and World War II “ (In Japanese) several years ago, and wanted to visit the site since then.

 The most popular part for visitors to Fort Snelling is the fully restored/ reconstructed frontier fortress. I will introduce it first, that you may understand the whole image of Fort Snelling, even though it has no special connection with Nisei MISers.
 Fort Snelling was the site of military training and operations from the Civil War through WWU. Many buildings still remain in the 1,500 acre site. Between 1941 and 1946, approx. 600,000 men and women experienced Fort Snelling.

Fort Snelling
 The symbol of Fort Snelling, Round Tower, built around 1820. The site stands at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers.

Fort Snelling
 The post store served soldiers, officers and their families in the 19th-century. Today, in the former frontier fortress, there are many costumed guides.

Fort Snelling
 At the Commanding Officer’s House, which is Minnesota’s oldest standing private home, a costumed guide cooks food using a 19th-century kitchen.

Nisei Fort Snelling
 The frontier fortress holds events, such as cannon drill, infantry drill, hearth cooking, and so on. Free tour starts in the Visitor Center.

 From here, let’s talk about MISLS and Nisei MISers.


 During the war against Japan, the US made great efforts to gether intelligence. In Novenber 1941, the US Army activated a Japanese language school at the Presidio of San Francisco. The main race of the students was Japanese Americans. Most of them were Nisei.

 The attack on Pearl Harbor occured within a month, and the US entered the war. The Japanese language school had to move, as it was within the designated evacuation area where Japanese and Japanese Americans had to leave, because of Executive Order 9066.

 Camp Savage, which is close to the city of Minneapolis was selected. Why Minnesota? Because, the state provided a high degree of racial tolerance away from the West Coast, where there was a strong anti-Japanese sentiment. The Japanese language school began operating at Camp Savage in June 1942, and was formally named MISLS.

 The exploits of MISers, who graduated from MISLS and sent to battlefields, were incredible. The US Army demanded more and more from MISers. Therefore, again, MISLS had to move to accomodate more students. Fort Snelling was selected as the new site in August 1944.

Fort Snelling
 At the small theater in the Visitor Center, a short film about the fort’s history is shown. Japanese American MISers are introduced in the film.

Fort Snelling
 From the same film. Most Nisei were from Hawaii and the West Coast where their ancestors immigrated to. Some of them saw snow for the fist time in their lives.

Fort Snelling
 Building 18 where Nisei MISers were quartered. Unfortunately, visitors can‘t enter into it.

Fort Snelling
 Building 18 at the time Nisei MISers stayed. Photo from “Fort Snelling Then and Now: The world War U years” (The Friends of Fort Snelling, MN, 2011).

Fort Snelling
 Photo from “Fort Snelling Then and Now: The world War U years” (The Friends of Fort Snelling, MN, 2011).

 The main mission of MIS was “decoding” and the “interrogation of a prisoner of the war”. It required advanced Japanese language skill and high-level knowledge of Japanese culture.
 The program of MISLS included captured document analysis, Japanese military and technical terms, Japanese geography and map reading, radio monitoring, social, political, economic, and cultural background of Japan, cursive writing, in addition to fundamental skills of reading, writing and speaking Japanese.

Fort Snelling
 Doors of Building 18 today. The number of students at MISLS, Fort Snelling at the peak was 1,836. Approx. 5,000 students, including 46 women from the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), graduated from by October 15, 1946, when Fort Snelling was closed for official use.

 What a visitor can see at Fort Snelling regarding Nisei MISers are only the short film, exterior of Building 18, and a couple of photos displayed at the Visitor Center. That is all.
 Nonetheless, I was fully satisfied. It is always great to stand a historical site and breath its air to understand history.
 Honestly speaking, I don’t think that you need to go to Minneapolis/St. Paul just to visit Fort Snelling. But, if you happen to be in one of the twin cities, and you are interested in the history of Nisei MISers and Japanese Americans, you will not regret visiting the site.

 Please don’t forget that it is closed during winter!!

 Fort Snelling
Reference: “Fort Snelling Then and Now: The world War U years” by Stephen E. Osman / The Friends of Fort Snelling / MN, 2011.


 拙著『二世兵士 激戦の記録:日系アメリカ人の第二次大戦』(新潮新書)。二世語学兵についてたくさん書きました。


Historic Fort Snelling
200 Tower Ave., St. Paul, MN 55111
phone: 612-726-1171
Open: Memorial Day Weekend-Labor Day









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