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Student Life

The following is an excerpt from an oral history interview of WWII veteran Edwin Nakasone. He graduated from the MISLS at Fort Snelling and served as an interpreter in post-war Japan. As you read the excerpts and look at the images and videos, think about the following:

  • What were the basics of learning Japanese for the MISLS students?
  • How would you describe the students' lives at Fort Snelling?
  • Why do you think the U.S. military wanted to recruit Nisei students for the MISLS?

"I came in December of 1945 but we did not have our classes begin until March [1946].  But they did test us.  And we had twenty-two sections of Japanese language.  Every section would have maybe about twelve, fifteen people.  I remember being in section fourteen of twenty-two.  So I was in the middle.  By the time we got done I had progressed to section eleven."

"I enjoyed learning the language.  I enjoyed the times.  Mondays through Fridays I would sit in classes.  Tuesdays and Thursdays we had two hours of study hall.  We would be marched over for study hall.  Study in the barracks also.  And we had occasion to go out to Minneapolis-St. Paul.  We learned - basic one was Kanji.  Kanji means character.  You have characters in Japanese adapted from the Chinese.  You had to learn those because you can't read anything without learning Kanji.  And you have to learn grammar.  And we did that.  And you had Kaiwa, conversational Japanese, where you would have to take another person and interrogate that person and just plain talk about, 'What are you going to do this week? What are you going to do this weekend?'"


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Japanese translators at Fort Snelling.


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Japanese American soldiers at Fort Snelling, VJ Day.


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Japanese translators at Fort Snelling.


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Fort Snelling Classroom Project: Interview with Edwin Nakasone, Clip 3


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Fort Snelling Classroom Project: Interview with Edwin Nakasone, Clip 4


The Starvation Study Medical Care at Fort Snelling Minnesota Home Front Induction Military Intelligence Service Language School