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Camp Savage Military Intelligence Service Langauge School
Savage's involvement in shaping the nation's history continued with World War II. In 1942, the city became home to the Military Intelligence Service Language School. The school's purpose was to improve the foreign language skills of Japanese-American soldiers, and to train them in military intelligence.

The entrance to Camp Savage
Camp Savage trained Japanese-Americans for military intelligence service during WWII.  Photo courtesy of Savage Public Library.

The school was necessary because the Nisei (children of Japanese immigrants) had become more Americanized than initially thought. In fact, only 7 percent were fluent or proficient in the Japanese language.

The school was first established in 1941 at the Presidio in San Francisco. But then Pearl Harbor was bombed, and in the interest of national security, Japanese-Americans were evacuated from the West Coast. Consequently, a new location had to be found for the Language School. Savage was selected after a nationwide survey found Minnesota to have the best record of racial amity. Language school commandant Col. Kai E. Rasmussen was quoted as saying he believed Savage was a community that would accept Japanese-Americans for their true worth American soldiers fighting with their brains for their native America.

Camp Savage mess hall
Students at Camp Savage wait in line at the mess hall.  Photo courtesy of Savage Public Library.

The selected site was on 132 acres located south of what is today Highway 13, near Xenwood Avenue. The site had been used by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s, followed by a program that housed elderly, indigent men. Although not initially, the site eventually consisted of barracks, mess hall, classrooms, radio shack, theater and auditorium, gymnasium, and an officers' mess. Dubbed Camp Savage, the school's first classes began on June 1, 1942 with a total of 200 soldiers enrolled. Within two years, the school grew to have 52 academic sections, 27 civilian and 65 enlisted instructors, and 1100 students.

A typical day at the camp consisted of nine hours of studying the Japanese language, a 90-minute lunch break and a two-and-a-half hour dinner break. On the weekends, the soldiers' time was spent recreating on site or visiting Minneapolis or St. Paul. Those who completed classes at the school were stationed throughout the Pacific Theater and in Alaska. Their duties included translating captured documents, monitoring Japanese radio broadcasts, interrogating captured enemy soldiers, and translating for Japanese-speaking civilians.

In 1944, the school outgrew its facilities in Savage and was relocated to Fort Snelling in Minneapolis.

Today, there is little left of Camp Savage except for one building currently being used by the Minnesota Department of Transportation Highway Department. The land adjacent to the building has been turned back to the City and is being used as a training facility for the Savage Police Department's K-9 unit. A historical marker erected in 1993 identifies the site.

Cargill Ship Building
While Nisei soldiers were learning Japanese for intelligence purposes, hundreds of workers were building ships nearby for use in World War II.

Ship launched into the Minnesota River
Cargill, Inc. built 22 ships for the U.S. military during WWII.  Photo courtesy of Savage Public Library.

Cargill Inc. located in Savage in 1942 in order to build ships for the U.S. Navy. The Navy became interested in Cargill after seeing the company's success at building ships and barges used to haul grain. Savage was selected as a site for the shipyard in part because the employment pool was plentiful. Before the first ship could head toward the sea, however, 14 miles of the 3.5 feet deep Minnesota River had to be dredged to 9 feet at a cost of $250,000.

The first ship to be built in Savage, the USS Agawam, was launched on May 6, 1943. Cargill was originally contracted to build only six AOGs (auxiliary oil and gas carriers). The company ended up constructing 18 AOG's and four towboats in four years. AOGs were not engaged in actual warfare activity; rather they were used to carry fuel for other ships and vehicles engaged in WWII. During peak production times, the shipyard employed approximately 3,500 people at once.

After the war ended, Port Cargill in Savage became involved in the shipping of grain and other products. Today, hundreds of trucks visit the site on a daily basis, unloading the corn, wheat, and soybeans grown in Minnesota fields to be distributed throughout the world.

Other War Efforts
In addition to ship building and intelligence training, the community made other contributions to World War II.

The Savage Tool Company manufactured machine tools and precision gages used entirely for the war. Many of the company's employees resided in Savage. Continental Machines, still in operation in Savage, manufactured precision tools for the war. While all of these were beneficial to fighting the war, these efforts did take a toll on Savage. Housing was lacking, as were proper sewer and water facilities.

City records indicate an attempt by officials to construct a Public Water Works and Sewage system in the village. There also are letters referring to a proposition for defense housing within the community. However, other historical accounts point to a lack of supplies as causing both projects to be delayed. Mayor Charles F. McCarthy was quoted as saying, We had plans for a housing project all prepared, with water and sewer system but materials are scarce.

 

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 The City of Savage  |  6000 McColl Drive  |  Savage, MN   55378-2464 
Phone: 952.882.2660  |   
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