The Military Intelligence Service (MIS) 1941-1952
Prior to the onset of World War II, in anticipation of possible conflict with Japan, Japanese Americans had been recruited for gathering military intelligence for the United States. Officials in the War Department conducted a survey that revealed an almost total lack of competence in the Japanese language within the armed forces. Only about 3% of the 3,700 enlisted Nisei interviewed were judged competent linguists.
More than 6,000 Military Intelligence Service (MIS) students graduated. Then, they were shipped out to every major combat unit in the Pacific, translating Japanese maps and technical manuals, combat orders, enemy diaries, and interrogated Japanese POWs. General Douglas MacArthur stated, "Never in military history did an army know so much about the enemy prior to actual engagement." And General Charles Willoughby, G-2 intelligence chief, said, "The Nisei saved countless Allied lives and shortened the war by two years."
The War Department budgeted $2,000 to start the first Army Japanese language school. On November 1, 1941, the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) began in an abandoned aircraft hangar on Crissy Field, in San Franciscos Presidio. The first class consisted 4 Nisei instructors and 60 students58 Nisei and 2 Caucasians. After the war broke out, the language school was moved to Minnesota, first at Camp Savage, then to Ft. Snelling. In its peak year in 1946, there were 160 instructors, 3,000 students, and more than 125 classrooms.
The vital role of the MIS Nisei linguists in the successful combat strategy of the American forces was generally concealed and kept low-key. Accordingly, the MIS Nisei were almost totally absent from the press information and pictorial record of the Pacific War.
Areas of Interest:
Nikkei memorialized at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA
Halls and buildings named after Nisei KIAs and veterans:
Munakata Hall, Instructor at MIS training school
John Aiso Library, Director of Academic Training School
Mizutari Hall, KIA
Nakamura Hall, KIA
Hachiya Hall, KIA
MISLS First Class
Noritake, Yoshio T.
Sakamoto, Kaye K.