Takejiro Higa
Military Intelligence Service

Language Training

MISLS students study Japanese military textbooks for ten hours a day. They focus on heigo (military terminology).

To be as proficient as others, Takejiro regularly sneaks into the latrine after the 10 P.M. curfew to study English.

His team undergoes basic training at Fort Blanding, Florida and jungle training on Oahu before shipping out.

[Supplemental historical text excerpted from Shari Y. Tamashiro's manuscript "The MISLS and the MIS."]

"[Instructors] all Japan university grads. Kibei nisei [nisei who spent youth in Japan]."

Daily Routine

"Eight months training [at Camp Savage]. [E]ight o'clock in the morning to about four o'clock, classroom training. We studied the Japanese textbook based on Japanese Military Academy. We learned military terminology. All heigo [military terminology] Sore ga yo. The class was divided according to Japanese knowledge, see. Section 1 was the top class. Many of them had Japan education, university grad. Many of them American university grad. And many of them became instructors afterward."

According to the memoirs of Camp Savage graduate Joe Milanoski, a typical day in the life of a MISLS student was full. It included:

"Reveille formation every morning, breakfast at the only mess hall, march to classes, march to lunch, march back to classes, march back to barracks, stand retreat formation, evening meal, march back to classrooms for evening study, march back to barracks, and collapse. Sandwiched in between these activities were some very brief moments of respite which did not give one time for a quick trip to the latrine, Post Exchange, or Post Office. Free time was on Saturday afternoon and Sunday." (Ichinokuchi, John Aiso and the MIS, p. 54)

"And then down the line. I was in Section 5. In my class, we had two Japan University grads, two University of Hawaii grads, the rest, all high school grad at least. I was the only one who never even finished high school. Only one year high school. So everybody breaking their okole [behind] to study Japanese. Heigo yeah. I was studying English. Bakatare."

Despite the long hours assigned to studying, students managed to squeeze in even more study time. A lot of them stayed up so late studying that special watches had to be posted to turn off latrine lights and make sure men went to bed.

Section 5, Military Intelligence Service Language School, Camp Savage

"Okay, four o'clock, school is over. Then between four to six, there's a time period for dinner. Dinner as well as shower and do other odd work. And then go back to school another two hours, night school. So come back about eight o'clock. Eight to ten you had whatever you wanted to do."

Despite their efforts, the Nisei were viewed with suspicion and not entirely trusted. One of the few Caucasian students at Camp Savage, Sheldon Covell, admitted that:

"We were told that our principal mission was to learn sufficient Japanese so that we could be sure the Nisei were translating, interrogating, and reporting accurately, and not deceiving our intelligence people with false information." (Harrington, Yankee Samurai, p. 62)

Burning the Midnight Oil

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"So after ten, lights out. Everybody got to go sleep. Me, I go bathroom. Latrine, we call 'em in the army. I study. And then one day, charge of quarters, CQ, came around and caught me studying after ten o'clock. They scold me, see. "What are you doing, go back and sleep." I said, "Okay." No can disobey sergeant."

"Then again, same thing happen, day after day. I used to make believe I'm doing the business, sit on the toilet bowl with pants down and studying."

"What are you doing?"
"Oh, you know what I ate? I don't know what I ate today, but kind of upset my stomach. I'm sitting down."
"Oh, okay. Then okay. Anyway, finish quick and go back sleep."
"Okay."

"Again. Very obedient. "Yes, Sir, sergeant?" And about a few days later, he found out why I was studying so damn hard. So after that, he didn't bother me. Every time he look at me, "Oh, again?" He'd just smile and he'd let me go. But I really studied hard to catch up with them."

"I had to, to catch up with the rest of the guys. Everybody else had high school education and above. I was the only guy without a high school education. I've got to keep up with them, Section 5."

Section 5 at Camp Savage, Minnesota

"We had one of them [Caucasian], don't know nothing. Later on, a navy intelligence officer was assigned to us. He was good. Donald Keene. He became a university professor, Columbia, as well as in Japan. He was real good. See, first we had a Caucasian army officer, ninety-day-wonder, assigned to us. In the Philippines, he caught a cold and he got shipped out, back. So, at that time, 96th Division, we were known as [314th Headquarters Intelligence Team], see. Needed a language officer. So Donald Keene was assigned to us from that time. So he joined us and went to Okinawa. He and I became very good friends. And too bad I never got to see him after the war."

96th Division, Okinawa

Basic Training at Camp Blanding

"[We had] military training, too. Every now and then, military training. You got to go through the formality. In the morning, stand up and the flag raising. And afternoon, lower the flag, retreat formation. And in between, we have a drill in between. Not only strictly language training."

"[Basic Training at] Camp Blanding, Florida. Rough. Sandy place. And got a lot of snakes. Rattlesnakes, coral snakes. And [coral snake] is a beautiful snake. It's just like a feather lei. Right in the back of the head, there's a black band. And in between, just like a flower lei. Beautiful. So one day, one Hawaii guy was playing around with the snake. Cadre grabbed this guy from behind and threw him over, say, "You know what that is, you stupid? That's a coral snake. If you're ever bitten by that, by the time we take you to the aid station, you'll be dead. Don't you ever play around with that." We didn't know what kind of snake it was. So after that. . . . Rattlesnake makes noise so you afraid. You avoid, of course. Ko-ko-ko-koron."

Takejiro Higa on guard position, Company C, 232nd IRTC Btn, Camp Blanding
"Okinawa snakes, all triangle head. The more triangle, the more poisonous. Get two kinds of snakes in Okinawa I know of. What they call regular habu. And the other one is akamata. Akamata is reddish. That is less poisonous than the regular habu. But, I learned later, that snakes avoid, don't like sulfur smell. So during the wartime, all crawled into the hole and hide. Lucky for us." (Chuckles)

"[We did] regular infantry training. How to shoot the rifle, how to shoot machine gun, how to throw hand grenades, how to dig foxholes. . .That's manegoto [imitation], that. Imitation. That's real kindergarten training."

Jungle Training in Hawaii

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"Then, we came back to Hawaii. Before shipped out to overseas, we went through jungle training, on this island [Oahu]. Other [windward] side of the island. I don't know what part of the island. Just over the mountain, there's a terrible place training. Man, I never thought we had such a place in Hawaii. Jungle. It rains a lot."

Jungle training school, Hawaii

"So for one week, we hardly had a dry moment. And then once we dry up, we get river-crossing training. And get wet up to here again. And then the other side you get sandy ground, hand-to-hand combat training. Then muddy again. Then go back in the river, wash up again. And then come home evening for dinner and sleep. First thing, we go to shower room. Scrub off all our uniform, wash, and hang 'em. And then change to regular fatigues for dinner and sleep."

"And next morning, five o'clock, you try put on the half-wet pants. For one week. Hardly a dry moment. It's a wonder that you know, we were in shape, that's why we survived. If you're not in shape, you would catch cold and become sick. Rained so much. And if not raining, they make you wet in the river crossing. Jungle training, one week. Just before we shipped out."

Takejiro Higa's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Historical information excerpted from the manuscript "The MISLS and the MIS," courtesy of Shari Tamashiro. Photographs courtesy of Takejiro Higa and Department of Defense Still Media Depository, U.S. Army.

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