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Discover Stories of Minnesota's Secret WWII Language School in a New Panel Exhibit

Developed by the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League, this free display opens Saturday, June 15 at Historic Fort Snelling


MISLS graduate Lt. Pat Neishi discusses surrender terms with an Imperial Japanese Lieutenant General, east of Manila, 1945, courtesy of the National Archives (left).

Quick Facts

What: "Minnesota's Secret Language School" Photo Display

When: June 15-Sept. 2, 2019. Opening event June 15, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Where: Historic Fort Snelling visitor center, 200 Tower Ave., St. Paul

Cost: Free. Site admission required for virtual reality demos on opening day.

During World War II, nearly 6,000 Japanese-Americans attended the secret Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS)-located at Camp Savage and then Fort Snelling-and trained as linguists to fight in the Pacific theater.

In a new display developed by the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League, a dozen panels share narratives and photographs of MISLS students and their experiences during the war, including the challenge of serving in the military while the U.S. government forcibly held hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps. The photographs featured include images from historical collections as well as personal family photo albums.

Hawaii-born MISLS student Edwin "Bud" Nakasone experiencing snow in Minnesota, courtesy of Bud Nakasone (right).

On Saturday, June 15, visitors can get a first look at the exhibit and enjoy a 1 p.m. opening day presentation on the history of the MISLS from Kimmy Tanaka, Historic Fort Snelling interpreter, and Rosalyn Tonai, executive director of the National Japanese American Historical Society.

Plus, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Kat Hayes, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, will lead demonstrations of Virtual MISLS, a virtual reality experience that allows users to explore 3D models recreating the spaces where students trained at Fort Snelling. You can view a short demo here; the app is available on iOS and Android. The VR experience was developed by Hayes with the Advanced Imaging Service for Objects and Spaces Lab at the U of M.

While the exhibit and MISLS presentation in the Historic Fort Snelling visitor center are free, general admission is required for the VR experience, which will take place in the historic fort.

"Minnesota's Secret Language School" will be on display through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2.


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