Military Intelligence Service (United States)

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The Military Intelligence Service (Japanese: 陸軍情報部) was a World War II U.S. military unit consisting of two branches, the Japanese American Unit described here and the German-Austrian Unit based at Camp Ritchie, described partly in Ritchie Boys. The unit described here was primarily composed of Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) who were trained as linguists. Graduates of the MIS language school (MISLS) were attached to other military units to provide translation, interpretation, and interrogation services.

The MISLS (initially known as the Fourth Army Intelligence School) began operation in November 1941, about a month before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The school initially operated at Crissy Field in San Francisco, but moved to Savage, Minnesota in 1942. There were more than 6000 graduates of the MISLS.

The first MISLS students came from the army, but later students were also recruited from Japanese internment camps. MIS members attached to the joint Australian/American Allied Translator and Interpreter Section were instrumental in deciphering and translating the Z plan, an important captured document that described Japanese plans for a counterattack in the central Pacific.

In March 1942, the Military Intelligence Division was reorganized as the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). Originally comprising just 26 people, 16 of them officers, it was quickly expanded to include 342 officers and 1,000 enlisted men and civilians. It was tasked with collecting, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence. Initially it included:

  • an Administrative Group
  • an Intelligence Group
  • a Counterintelligence Group
  • an Operations Group

In May 1942, Alfred McCormack, established the Special Branch of MIS which specialised in COMINT.

Nisei servicemen of the Military Intelligence Service Civil Censorship Detachment helped implement censorship during the Allied occupation of Japan.[1] The Allied occupation forces suppressed news of criminal activities such as rape; on September 10, 1945, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers "issued press and pre-censorship codes outlawing the publication of all reports and statistics 'inimical to the objectives of the Occupation'."[2]

According to David M. Rosenfeld:

Not only did Occupation censorship forbid criticism of the United States or other Allied nations, but the mention of censorship itself was forbidden. This means, as Donald Keene observes, that for some producers of texts "the Occupation censorship was even more exasperating than Japanese military censorship had been because it insisted that all traces of censorship be concealed. This meant that articles had to be rewritten in full, rather than merely submitting XXs for the offending phrases."

— Donald Keene, quoted in Dawn to the West[3]

During the occupation, Nisei members of the MIS addressed issues related to public welfare and the rebuilding of Japanese cities. They also assisted in the demobilization of Japanese military personnel returning from various overseas posts, and contributed to the arrest and prosecution of Japan's military leaders during war trials that began in December 1945 and lasted until 1948.[4]


In April 2000, more than 50 years after World War II, the Military Intelligence Service became the recipient of the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest honor given to a U.S. military unit.[5]

The Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Military Intelligence Service, as well as the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion

On October 5, 2010, the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the 6,000 Japanese Americans who served in the Military Intelligence Service during the war, as well as the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 100th Infantry Battalion.[6]

State Route 23 between U.S. Route 101 and State Route 118 is named the "Military Intelligence Service Memorial Highway".

The story of the MIS Japanese-American translators was published in the 2007 book, Nisei Linguists: Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service During World War II by James C. McNaughton.

List of Military Intelligence Service members[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-17. Retrieved 2012-07-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Eiji Takemae, Robert Ricketts, Sebastian Swann, Inside GHQ: The Allied Occupation of Japan and Its Legacy. p. 67. (Google.books)
  3. ^ David M. Rosenfeld, Dawn to the West, New York: Henry Holt, 1984), p. 967, quoting from Donald Keene in Unhappy Soldier: Hino Ashihei and Japanese World War II Literature, p. 86.
  4. ^ Nakamura, Kelli Y. "Military Intelligence Service". Densho. Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  5. ^ "Military Intelligence Service - Honors and Awards". Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  6. ^ Steffen, Jordan (October 6, 2010), "White House honors Japanese American WWII veterans", The Los Angeles Times