Military Intelligence Service
Military Training at Camp Savage
Takejiro arrives at the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) at Camp Savage, Minnesota in 1943.
Training accelerates to produce interpreters and translators urgently needed at the front.
Anyway, Camp Savage available. All barracks-type. And the first class started the 42. We were the 43, second class.
[T]hey had issued a uniform, basic uniform. That's about it. We had a basic uniform. And in those days, uniform is shabby. Khaki pants and the old khaki hat. That's about it. No more stripe, no more nothing. Buck private. Somehow fit, yeah. Look kind of baggy, but. Somehow managed.
[Leaving Schofield] we just transported by truck to the pier, we boarded a ship, and arrived in San Francisco. First time I seen the Golden Gate. And the first time I see - what's that famous rock? Alcatraz. I read about Alcatraz but never seen before. Then we got into the San Francisco. And from there, right away to the train station, trucked out, and went somewhere. And then, I don't know what route we took, but a couple days later, we're passing the middle part. Midwest I guess, no? In the morning, you see wheat fields. Evening, we're still passing wheat fields. America no hirosa wakatta, bikkurishita. Until we reach Minnesota. Once we reached Minnesota, I don't remember what kind of field it was. And from there, trucked out to Camp Savage.
So, in Minnesota, being dairy country, we have all the fresh milk we want to drink. And fresh egg in the morning for breakfast with scrambled egg. Camp Shelby get powdered milk, powdered egg. And the dirty ground, eh. Minnesota was nice. Summer months were nice and green, you know. You can roll around in the grass. Whereas Mississippi, hell, it's sandy, it's a dusty place, you can't do all those things. I used to write about that. So when the recruiters went to Shelby, from Savage, my brother was one of the first ones to sign up.
So his group came up as soon as we finished our basic language training, and ready to go to basic training. So when he came over, we were just about finished. And soon after, we finished our language course so we were sent to Camp Blanding in Florida for basic infantry training.
Prior to that, basic training consisted of sixteen weeks, yeah. But in our case, because of urgency, they need more interpreters and translators in the front, our training was cut in half. Eight weeks. But we have to cover the same subject matter. So from one training to training area, instead of marching, we were trucked out. Trucked out to save all the time. Although we have to cover the same subject training. So we finished in eight weeks, then we came back. By that time, they finished accelerated training program. We took eight months, but they took only a few months.
The living condition [at Camp Savage], nothing to complain. Winter months, of course, cold, eh. So every barracks had three pot-belly stoves with the coal inside. And my bunk was right next to the pot-belly stove. In fact, that thing come red, you know. So the middle of the night, sometimes I used to take the blanket off. Then in the morning I got to put back the blanket. I was very close to the stove, so very warm. The first snow, all Hawaii guys run out to the snow and play around in the snow. Afterwards, of course, everybody stay in. (Chuckles) First snow, everybody went out to play around, like a bunch of kids. Something never seen before.
Very little [contact with people outside of the camp]. The only time we go out is weekend pass. Few hours. So we used to go to Minneapolis. And in Minneapolis, there was a serviceman center. Just about the center of the city. And right next to it, there's two chop suey houses. Nanking was the one I remember most because right next to the entrance. So we often went there, chop suey. So then, after Sunday evening, bus comes around and takes us back to camp. Chop suey was the most sought after. (Chuckles) Not so much Japanese food, no.
Minnesota people were very nice to us. I have nothing but good memories of Minnesota. And then during the training, we had the furlough. I went to furlough in New York City, with a couple of other guys. And here, I get another story I don't think anybody else had. One day, we happened to go into a spaghetti house. Three of us eating spaghetti. And we noticed one man from the balcony looking down at us kind of curiously. Never mind, we just keep eating spaghetti. And then he finally came down, started talking to us. "Where you boys from?"
"Oh, from Hawaii."
"Oh, I see. Then you're Japanese? You're Japanese? You're not Japanese." He pointed to me.
"No, I'm Japanese."
"No, you're not Japanese, you don't look like other nisei I've seen."
Before that, 100th Infantry boys from Camp McCoy happened to go in there, I heard. So he start talking to me, "No, you look different, you don't look like Japanese. You look more like Italian. Nose a little bit higher than others." And so and so. They talk story with us. At the end of the conversation, he picks up a beer, "Oh, the meal is on me, nice talking to you." (Laughs) On account of my nose, three of us got a free meal.
Takejiro Higa's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takejiro Higa.