Exterior of the MIS Historic Learning Center, former home of the MIS Language School, at the Presidio of San Francisco. (Photo by Kahn Yamada)
Exterior of the MIS Historic Learning Center, former home of the MIS Language School, at the Presidio of San Francisco. (Photo by Kahn Yamada)

SAN FRANCISCO — A ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception will be held at the Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center, 640 Mason St. in the Presidio of San Francisco, on Monday, Nov. 11, at 9 a.m.

A luncheon will follow at noon at the Presidio Observation Post.

The center, developed by the National Japanese American Historical Society in partnership with the Presidio Trust and the National Park Service, informs the public about the unique role that the MIS soldiers played in America’s defense, even as their families were incarcerated in U.S. concentration camps.

On Nov. 1, 1941, one month before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, enlisted soldiers, mostly Japanese Americans, were secretly trained as military interpreters and translators in Building 640, an abandoned airplane hangar on Crissy Field, Fourth Army Headquarters, Presidio of San Francisco. From these humble beginnings, the MIS Language School eventually trained over 4,000 linguist soldiers for service throughout the world during World War II as well as the Allied occupation of Japan.

The school was moved to Minnesota in May 1942 after Japanese Americans were barred from the West Coast. It was the forerunner to the Defense Language Institute and Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey.

MIS soldiers participated in every major battle and campaign of the Pacific, and were credited with shortening the war and saving countless lives. Later, the MIS played a vital role in rebuilding Japan and forged enduring bilateral relations.

The MIS, whose work was top secret at the time, received a Presidential Unit Citation in 2000 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011 for it wartime efforts.

The 10,000-square-foot MIS Historic Learning Center, the result of restoration and renovation by the Presidio Trust, Oliver & Co., and Ohashi Design Studio, will include:

• Interactive exhibitions about Japanese American history, development of the MIS at Building 640, Pearl Harbor and Executive Order 9066, the MIS in Minnesota, the internment, “Winning the War” and “Winning the Peace.”

• A replica of an MIS Language School classroom.

• The MIS Honor Wall, containing the names of over 7,000 MIS soldiers, instructors, support staff, WACs and others who served alongside the MIS.

• A database based on lists of MIS, 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team service members compiled by the Japanese American Veterans Association and Japanese American Memorial Alliance.

• The Donor Wall, honoring those who have contributed $800,000 to the project’s $1.3 million goal, including Col. Tom Sakamoto (retired), first class graduate and instructor, who donated $100,000. All gifts of $2,500 and above will be acknowledged; there are also naming opportunities for areas of the building.

General hours are Saturday and Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 general, free for NJAHS members and children 12 and under.

For more information, call (415) 921-5007, email njahs@njahs.org or visit www.njahs.org.

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