Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: James C. McNaughton Interview
Narrator: James C. McNaughton
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Monterey, California
Date: July 1, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-mjames-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

gky: When the school moved to Camp Savage, can you describe why it made the move and how it made the move?

JM: Yeah. In the spring of 1942, when the War Department and General DeWitt made the decision to evacuate all Japanese off the West Coast, the situation immediately became untenable for the school in San Francisco.

gky: Can you start that again, instead of saying "Japanese," say "people of Japanese ancestry."

JM: Yeah, okay. I mean, they're eighty percent Japanese citizens. Yeah, in the spring of '42, when the War Department and General Weckerling made the decision to remove all individuals of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, regardless of citizenship, that immediately became, made the situation untenable for the school because, of course, all of its instructors and all of its students were Japanese American, so they could not stay. So in the spring of '42 the commandant, Colonel Rasmussen, made a quick trip to the Midwest looking for some place to put the school, and after visiting several different locations came to Minnesota and somehow arranged a meeting with the governor of Minnesota, who was then a young Harold Stassen. And Harold Stassen offered him this CCC camp that was maybe fifteen miles south of Minneapolis along a road and a railroad line that was available, and Rasmussen took one look at it and said that's, that'll do just fine. It was remote. It was quiet. The presence of a few Japanese soldiers, Japanese American soldiers, was not gonna cause any great concern, and so he went back to San Francisco and they packed up the school and moved it.

gky: Only one class had gone through at this point, is that correct?

JM: That's right. They recruited one class of sixty students in summer of '41, and that was the class that had just started when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. They continued that class and graduated forty-five in May of 1942. At that point the army could've shut down the school. They could've said it was an experiment, it didn't work, we can't find any more students, let's live with what we have. But thanks to a few people, like John Weckerling, they kept it alive, they moved it, and then went out and recruited more students. The difference this time was, where could they find those students? Well, the students on the West Coast were being, potential students were being discharged, they were being moved out of the region. Even if they were already in the army, they were being moved to inland army posts, and then new recruits, well, the army had stopped recruiting Nisei and stopped allowing them to enlist. So that summer and fall of '42 Rasmussen had to go back to the War Department and get special authority to allow those MIS Nisei to enlist for the language school, because otherwise there was a total ban on Japanese enlistments during 1942.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.