So Minnesota: Camp Savage’s Historical Connection to World War II

There’s a little-known former military base in the South Underground that helped America win World War II.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, anti-Japanese sentiment prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to set up Japanese internment camps in seven western states, which included Native Americans Japanese who volunteered at the US Military Intelligence Language School in San Francisco. The school and the volunteers had to leave the so-called “exclusion zone”.

Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen offered 132 acres of land to Savage to house the school. In 1942 Camp Savage was established.

“They approached a number of states, but it was Minnesota that ended up agreeing,” said Heather Hoagland, executive director of the Scott County Historical Society. “It was an incredibly intensive language learning program.”

The purpose of the school was for volunteers to teach the Japanese language to military personnel. This skill could then be used to interrogate POWs, translate captured documents, and aid in the American war effort. A total of 6,000 students graduated from the school before it moved to Fort Snelling in 1944.

“After the war, American military officers said that these students’ work at the language school may have shortened the war in the Pacific theater by two years,” Hoagland said.

Along Route 13, an American flag and plaque now mark the former location of Camp Savage.

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