DVIDS – News – MIS Language School moves to the Presidio of Monterey

by Lori S. Stewart, USAICoE Command Historian

On June 11, 1946, the War Department moved the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) from Fort Snelling, Minnesota, to the Presidio in Monterey, California. There it would evolve into the multilingual school known today as the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.

MISLS began as the Fourth Army Intelligence School at the Presidio of San Francisco in November 1941. The school, commanded by Captain Kai Rasmussen, was established to teach the Japanese language primarily to American soldiers of Japanese descent second generation. In May 1942, when Presidential Executive Order 9066 ordered the relocation of all people of Japanese descent away from US coastal areas, the school moved to Camp Savage and then to Fort Snelling, both in Minnesota. During World War II, under the command of the current Colonel Rasmussen, MISLS trained approximately 6,000 people to serve as translators/interpreters for the United States armed forces in the Pacific theater.

After the war, MISLS continued to train Japanese linguists for occupation duties in Japan. At the beginning of 1946, however, the army was to leave Fort Snelling. After unsuccessfully pleading with General Douglas MacArthur’s Far East Command to assume responsibility for the school, Colonel Rasmussen sought another suitable location in the United States. He moved to the Presidio of Monterey, established in 1770 by the Spanish and used intermittently by the US military since 1847. It seemed like the perfect location for the language school. Not only was the weather nicer than the cold, biting Minnesota winters, it was closer to Japan, where most MISLS graduates would be assigned. Additionally, most of the school’s students and instructors had family returning to the West Coast after being interned in resettlement centers during the war.

On May 22, 1946, the Army announced the move of MISLS to the Presidio of Monterey on June 11, 1946 with First Class beginning July 15. Colonel Rasmussen, soon to take a posting as a military attaché in Norway, published MISLS Travel Circular No. 1 initiated the transfer to what he called “one of the finest posts in the army”. On June 8, the final class of 207 students graduated from Fort Snelling Institution. Shortly thereafter, the school’s 15 officers, 925 enlisted personnel and students, and its remaining civilian instructors boarded trains for California.

Arriving at the Presidio, Shigeya Kihara, who had been one of the first civilian instructors of the Fourth Army Intelligence School, recalled, “The Presidio was abandoned as an empty military post and the grass of was one meter high. And in the summer it’s foggy here in Monterey, and the fog horns were sounding. The buildings were all chipped with old, old paint. There was no suitable building for teaching. We were told to set up classes in abandoned cafeterias…”.

Despite the need for repairs and renovations, MISLS resumed Japanese lessons at the Presidio on July 15, 1946. Ten days later, Colonel Elliott R. Thorpe, who had served as MacArthur’s wartime counterintelligence chief , took command. Recognizing the realities of the early Cold War, Thorpe reoriented the school—renamed the Army Language School in September 1947—to teach a variety of languages, including Russian, Chinese, and Korean.

Date taken: 06.07.2022
Date posted: 06.07.2022 11:23
Story ID: 422350
Location: FORT HUACHUCA, Arizona, USA

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