Chito Isonaga
A Different View

WAC: Military Service

In Washington, D.C., they are tested at the Office of Strategic Services section for rumored duty overseas. In nearby New York, the women enjoy Broadway shows with free tickets provided by the United Service Organizations.

They are sent to Military Intelligence Service Language School in Fort Snelling, Minnesota. Chito has no problems studying and is later assigned to teach Caucasian officers.

The war ends in August 1945. Chito is sent to Japan.

Washington, D.C.

They didn’t tell us directly [where we would be assigned], but we went [to Washington, D.C.]. And they sort of tested us, the group of us. And the rumor was that they were seeing if we were suitable to go to the China-India-Burma area. I think it was the OSS [Office of Strategic Services] section that we went to. Every morning we used to go past the Lincoln Memorial, and there were a lot of buildings there. OSS [was the predecessor to the] CIA [Central Intelligence Agency]. We used to go to that building.

Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial

We weren’t there for more than a month, I guess. We used to go up to New York all the time, the weekends. We used to go to the USO [United Service Organizations]. They would give us tickets to shows or to the radio shows and we used to go. So I saw a lot of shows there. Like Oklahoma. Song of Norway. All with free tickets. We used to go to the radio shows, too. We used to stay at a former mansion behind St. Patrick’s [Cathedral], Catholic church. We used to stay there for fifty cents a night.

Military Intelligence Service Language School

I wanted to go overseas, but they yanked us out. It was summer; we were in summer uniform there. Then, we were told to go to [Fort] Snelling, [Minnesota]. And so, we had to drag out our winter clothes, change to winter clothes, and go up to [Fort] Snelling to [language] school. The rumor was that the general from MIS [Military Intelligence Service] was higher than the one from OSS. So he had most say, so we were yanked out and sent to [Fort] Snelling (chuckles).

[From May 1945 to November 1945, I was at Fort Snelling] going to language school. They taught us military terms [heigo].

It wasn’t too difficult for me [to learn] because I had, more or less, the Japanese[-language] background. But I’m sure the others had difficulty. We used to go down every evening and had study class for one or two hours. I remember we used to march down after dinner, go study. Every Saturday we had the examination, Saturday morning.

Chito Isonaga. WAC Duties.
Chito Isonaga. WAC Duties.

[The instructors were] nisei men. There was one [instructor] I found out later that he was from Hawaii. He was my teacher. Raymond Aka. He was a Maui boy. [A native of Wailuku, Maui, Raymond Aka was a graduate of Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. After completing language training at MISLS in 1943, he remained as an in instructor until 1946.]

The cook [at Fort Snelling] was — the head master sergeant there was from Hawaii. We used to have Japanese rice and stuff.

Every weekend some boys used to take us fishing. There are a lot of lakes there [Minnesota]. They had camps there, and we used to stay there. I don’t remember going to town.

End of War

We were all happy [when the war ended], of course. Florence [Fumiko] Segawa and myself were the ones assigned to teaching. That’s [teaching] officers, haole officers, mainly. But, the war ended and pretty soon they wanted us to go to Japan. So, I was really happy because I didn’t like to teach (chuckles).

They didn’t explain to us why we were going to Japan. They were just going to send us.

Chito Isonaga's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Chito Isonaga.

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