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On the Move

Above: CAMP SAVAGE, Minnesota, 1944: Some members of Company D of the MIS Language School class of February 1944. From left, front row (kneeling): Makoto Kunimune, Giichiro Shiraki, Kazuo Nakamura, Richard Maesato, Takenaka, Ginso Wakayama, Jiro Toma, unknown, unknown. Second row: Sam Shimabukuro, Francis Sogi, unknown, unknown, Richard Kosaki, Clarence Miyagi, Satoru Ochi, Edwin Kaneko, Etsuo Tonokawa, Daniel Lyum, Warren Gima. Third row: Sidney Kan, unknown, James Irikura, Ralph Miwa. Fourth row: Riki Yamaguchi, Louis Yamauchi, Soichi Hashizumi. Fifth row: Fujio “Wymo” Takaki, James Ishihara, unknown, Arthur Ishimoto, George Matsunaga, Charles “Slim” Matsumoto. (Photo courtesy of George Matsunaga)


The war’s early days were characterized by fear and uncertainty as Imperial Japanese forces moved unchecked throughout Asia and the Western Pacific.

On the U.S. mainland, widespread anti-Japanese hysteria on the
West Coast convinced President Franklin Roosevelt to sign Executive Order 9066 in February 1942.

Posters like this spelled out how the Army wanted to remove all Japanese persons from the West Coast following President Roosevelt’s order.
Posters like this spelled out how the Army wanted to remove all Japanese persons from the West Coast following President Roosevelt’s order. View enlargement here. Download a pdf copy here. (Reproduction of U.S. Army poster)
MANZANAR, California, 1943: Barracks at one of 10 internment camps where Japanese were imprisoned after the federal government forcibly relocated them from the West Coast. These camps were run by the War Relocation Authority. Many referred to these desolate facilities as concentration camps. Some Issei – first-generation Japanese immigrants – from Hawaii, the West Coast and Latin America along with smaller numbers of German and Italian Americans were sent to separate Justice Department camps. Ansel Adams / War Relocation Authority photo
MANZANAR, California, 1943: Barracks at one of 10 internment camps where Japanese were imprisoned after the federal government forcibly relocated them from the West Coast. These camps were run by the War Relocation Authority. Many referred to these desolate facilities as concentration camps. Some Issei – first-generation Japanese immigrants – from Hawaii, the West Coast and Latin America along with smaller numbers of German and Italian Americans were sent to separate Justice Department camps. (Ansel Adams / War Relocation Authority photo)
Woodworking helped pass the time for some internment camp inmates. Usaburo Katamoto, a Honolulu boat builder interned at Santa Fe, New Mexico, made these wooden boxes featuring carved turtles and landscapes for his daughter, Jane. Her twin sister Jean got a matching set, with cranes instead of turtles, and their kid sister Beatrice got boxes with cherry blossoms. After the war, the twins both married MIS veterans. (Artifact: Mark Matsunaga photo)
HAYWARD, California, May 8, 1942: Moriyuki “Eddy” Mochida and family await the evacuation bus. Mochida, who had immigrated with wife Masayo from Fukuoka prefecture, Japan, had a nursery and five hothouses on two acres in Eden Township. The Mochidas and their seven children spent the war at the Topaz, Utah, internment

That authorized the forced relocation of all Japanese from the West Coast, more than 110,000 of them, to internment camps in the interior, at the loss of their hard-earned livelihoods and property. The Selective Service Commission reclassified Japanese Americans from draft eligible to 4-C, “enemy alien.”

Meanwhile, Richard Sakakida and Arthur Komori were continuing their intelligence work for General Douglas MacArthur’s defense of the Philippines, adding prisoner interrogation to their duties. After Bataan fell, Komori was ordered to Australia; Sakakida stayed behind and was imprisoned by the Japanese.

Executive Order 9066 Forces MIS Move

A gopher wearing an Indian headdress was designed as the MIS Language School mascot in 1943 by MIS student Chris Ishii, a Disney Studios animator before the war. The language school was located at the time at Camp Savage, in former Lakota territory in Minnesota, commonly known as “the Gopher State.” The Savage gopher was not official, but Nisei veterans of the MIS used it as their emblem for years, until complaints from Native Americans led to its replacement 50 years later.


The ban on Japanese on the West Coast forced the Fourth Army Language School to leave San Francisco as soon as its first class graduated. Renamed the Military Intelligence Service Language School, it moved in May 1942 to Camp Savage, Minnesota, one of only a few states willing to welcome the Japanese soldiers. Early graduates of the school were sent to Allied units in Australia, the Southwest Pacific and the Aleutian Islands.

100th Infantry Battalion Arrives in Wisconsin

The colors of the 100th Infantry Battalion
The colors of the 100th Infantry Battalion

In Hawaii, the Army removed 1,400 Nisei soldiers from their units, where they had served faithfully since before the December 7 attack, as apprehensive and watchful as the next man for a Japanese invasion. On June 5, with the decisive Battle of Midway raging, those suspect Nisei left Hawaii for Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, where they became the 100th Infantry Battalion.

Finally, Action

The Army sorely needed more linguists, so in December 1942, about 60 of those Hawaii soldiers were transferred to Camp Savage. That same month, members of the language school’s first class went into action on Guadalcanal where U.S. troops were battling Japanese forces.

Next: Distant Shores

Japanese Americans of the Military Intelligence Service during World War II