Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community

Receives draft notice while in college, MIS training – Sada Omoto (OH0094)


I was going to school at that point, at Oberlin College in Ohio. When the draft notice came up — I had took my physical and so forth — I can remember going into the dean’s office some time during that early period, and I said I was getting drafted. The dean looked at me and said I owed him whatever amount of money that I had to pay for that fairly short duration in which I was attending school in the second semester. I said, no, that’s not correct. Because I am exempt from any kind of financial liability for my situation because I am prevented from going to school and therefore I should be, that shouldn’t bother me. But in the kind of strange way, after the war, I was going to school, one day I noticed I got a letter from the college saying that I didn’t have to take the requisite foreign language — that I was then studying Spanish — because they had given me credit for the weeks of training at the Military Intelligence Language School in Japanese. They said that would suffice in terms of the college’s requirement. So I didn’t have to take a second or third year of Spanish and got away with what was then my limited Japanese.

Interviewer: You were drafted then eventually ended up in Military Intelligence Service.

Sada Omoto: Right.

Interviewer: Tell me something about going through that program.

Sada Omoto: I think it was a very rigorous program, but I think they had very… had limited field of people that they could call upon. First of all the Niseis were miserably poor in Japanese. And the kibeis, the trained in Japan, they were miserably poor in English. I had a teacher who could barely speak English who knew Japanese. And I could barely speak Japanese. And here we’re in this classroom. It was a rigorous program, but I think they should have had a better control of the material that they had. At one point, I think, Fort Snelling had 3,000 students in this program.

Video Interview — June, 2008

Sada Omoto

Sada was 19 years old at the time of evacuation. At that time, he had three brothers: Setsuo (27), Masakatsu (21), Taketo (24). When the US entered the war, Sada was a student at the University of Washington. He evacuated with his mother and brother Taketo. Sets and Mas, or "Bear," were serving in the military. Daikichi Omoto, Sada's father, passed away in 1931. Sada also had a sister, Kanee, who passed away in 1932. All four of the Omoto boys served in the army during WWII. Sada is a retired professor of Art History from the Michigan State University.