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U.S. Navy Japanese Language School and Oriental Language School collection

Identifier: COU:1619

Scope and Contents

The Japanese Language School Collection is a composite of papers from a number of sources related to the US Navy Japanese Language School located at the University of Colorado in Boulder from 1942-1946. Interest in the Japanese Language School commenced in the late 1980s when children of former Nisei instructors against the US Navy made a claim over the treatment of those JLS instructors in Boulder. Subsequent searches for papers on the JLS at the National Archives and US Navy repositories failed to turn up any JLS records. The official files relating to the daily operation of the school, school correspondence, grades, graduation, instructor payrolls, personnel files and student files, seem to have been lost. Nevertheless, Archives staff began searching University of Colorado records and found materials within the Board of Regents Minutes, the Presidents Office Papers, the Treasurer and Finance Office Papers and Academic Records, confirming the degree to which the school was operated by the University. In most cases these records were photocopied and compiled within the JLS collection. Materials were also collected and placed in the collection from a number of JLS graduates who attended the 1992 JLS reunion and the 1993 JLS WAVES reunion. Individual JLS graduate papers which were once part of this collection have been removed and processed into their own collections, under the name of the donor. The first section in this collection is ORIGINAL JLS PAPERS in this section all of the remaining original papers that pertain to the JLS are included in this section. Included is an official history of the US Navy JLS, a play written by JLS students, copies of the JLS student newspaper (Sono Hi No Uwasa), and later publications by graduates of JLS. The second section listed is UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO FILES included are records that the University of Colorado kept and published about the US Navy JLS, while located at the University. A statement from Boulder Council Minutes has been filed under CITY OF BOULDER RECORDS contains copies of the boulder council minutes from July, 20 &21 1942 and April, 20 1946. REUNION/OCCASIONAL RECORDS is the collection of materials from the 2002 60th reunion for the Japanese Language Oriental Language School at the University of Colorado Boulder. Included are correspondence, pamphlets, invitations, planning information for the event, and address lists. WAVES consists of JLS WAVES material has been separated from the rest of the US Navy JLS papers for ease in research. The WAVES papers include textbooks, a songbook, photographs, and the 50th WAVES reunion material from 1993. GRADUATION LIST AND CONTACT LISTS is a result of frequent demand for graduation lists. The renewal of the JLS project in the spring of 2000 greatly increased the number of individual accessions in the JLS area. One facet of the renewed project was the compiling of curriculum vitae, resumes, career descriptions, and Who’s Who entries. Also the Contact Lists created to contact the graduates of the JLS/OLS. PUBLICATIONS AND ARTICLES consist or news and journal articles relating the JLS/OLS program and the Archival Project INDIVIDUAL FILES contain the career resumes, vitas, obituaries, bibliographies and descriptions. These files also direct researchers to where the individuals’ papers are deposited. There are around 1300 Individual Files that are organized alphabetically by last name. In addition there are unnumbered catch-folders at the end of each letter, to absorb additional attendees and graduates as they are discovered. There are some non-Boulder graduates and attendees and instructors, but these are primarily attendees and graduates. A future re-foldering of this section of the collection will take place when all attendees and graduates are located or “accounted for”. A status list can also be found at the end of this section. STILLWATER ATENDEES is the enrollment cards for the school in Stillwater Oklahoma SENSI contains information concerning the instructors teaching Japanese and other Oriental Languages at Boulder. Some of the material in the folders is: resumes, obituaries, correspondence bibliographies, articles and descriptions. These files are organized alphabetically. U.S. NAVAL CRYPTOLOGIC VETRANS ASSOCIATION (NCVA) are membership directories and quarterly publications called “Cryptolog” for the U.S. Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association THE INTERPRETER is copies of the newsletter for the JLS/OLS Archival project OVERSIZE and is composed of Vaccari Kanji flashcards from Japan. Two documentary films, 'An Island Far Away' and 'Return to Iwo Jima' (2012) are available in digital form for fair use.


Newspaper Citations: Silver & Gold June 18, 1942, p.3 June 25, 1942, p.2, 4 October 6, 1942, p.2 “Cosmopolitan Club to Expand Activities.” October 20, 1942, p.1 November 6, 1942, P.5 (2 stories) Newspaper Citations: Silver & Gold (Con’t.) November 13, 1942, p.2 (Editorial) November 20, 1942, p.1

January 8, 1943, p.1 (2 stories) January 19, 1943, p.1,3,5 January 22, 1943, p.1 March 9, 1943, p.2 (letter to the editor) April 27, 1943, p.2 (editorial) April 30, 1943, p.2 (editorial) May 7, 1943, p.2 (editorial) May 18, 1943, p.2 (editorial) June 30, 1943, p.2, 4, 5 July 7, 1943, p.2 (Waves Arrive...) July 13, 1943, p.2 (Japanese Language School Song...) July 16, 1943, p.2 July 20, 1943, p.2 (editorial) August 10, 1943, p.2 (editorial), 4 August 31, 1943, p.4-5 October 15, 1943, p.2 (editorial) November 2, 1943, p.1 (2 stories) December 3, 1943, p.1 February 8, 1944, p.1-2 ("CU Waves...) April 4, 1944, p.1 April 18, 1944, p.1 May 30, 1944, p.1 May 30, 1945, p.1 July 20, 1945, p.1

THESIS: Donald Paul Irish, Reactions of Residents of Boulder, Colorado to the Introduction of Japanese Into the Community, Master of Arts, University of Colorado, 1950, (378.788B Ir46r). Letter of permission to copy on file in Archives.

Jessica Natsuko Arntson, Journey to Boulder: The Japanese American Instructors of the Navy Japanese Language School, 1942-1946, Master of Arts, University of Colorado, 2003 (T 2003 .Ar66).

US Navy JLS/OLS Archival Project Newsletter, The Interpreter, (2000- )

BOOKS: Roster of Students: Army-Navy Training Program, 1939-1946. (See Admissions and Records Collection).


  • 1942 - 1946

Historical Note

The US Navy Japanese Language School expanded and renamed the Navy School of Oriental Languages, began in 1922 with a three-year Japanese language course taught in Tokyo. The total number trained in that program by 1940 was sixty-five. Of those, only twelve were regarded as fully proficient in the use of written and spoken Japanese in December 1940. By 1940 the prospect of the U.S. entering a war with Japan forced the removal of the school from Tokyo to the United States. The Navy saw a clear and immediate need for producing junior Naval Reserve officers thoroughly competent in Japanese. In February 1941, Commander A. E. Hindmarsh was instructed to proceed with a nationwide survey to determine the availability of Japanese linguists in and out of the Navy, to institute the organization of a training course, and to administer such courses henceforth.

Six hundred people in the United States were identified to possess a knowledge of Chinese or Japanese. Of those, only fifty-six were selected as having a background knowledge of Japanese sufficient to justify inviting them to become the nucleus of the Navy Japanese Language School. All were native-born U.S. citizens, white, male, college graduates, between the age of twenty to thirty, and all were anxious to serve the Navy.

On August 1, 1941, Commander Hindmarsh submitted a plan to establish two training centers, one at Harvard University, the other at the University of California, Berkeley. The plan was approved and the military tested Naganuma Japanese Language Course formed the basis for the program. Of the original fifty-six candidates, forty-eight were enrolled after extensive interviews and examinations. Twenty-one were assigned to the University of California and twenty-seven to Harvard University. The students were first classified as Naval Agents under a civilian contract. A very specific contract was drawn up between the Navy and the universities with explicit details assuring strict adherence to a twelve-month training schedule and to methods and techniques prescribed by the Navy. The Navy paid each University a set tuition charge for each student, which constituted the entire payment to the universities. The universities employed and paid the language instructors, being limited only by the terms of the contract that gave the Navy the right to approve or disapprove any instructor and required that there be one full-time instructor for every six students. Thus, none of the instructors were directly employed by the Navy. However, the teachers were uniformly trained to teach only what the Navy provided and every teacher taught exactly as he was instructed, so that the results were of a uniformly high standard. Students also had a list of strict rules by which to comply in order to complete the course with sufficient proficiency. Upon review of both programs, the Navy determined that Berkeley’s program more closely complied with Navy standards, using the Naganuma texts, whereas the Harvard program had their own method. The Harvard program ended with the expiration of their contract in September 1942.

On June 23, l942, EO-9066 compelled the transfer of the school from the University of California, Berkeley, to the University of Colorado, Boulder. This move was made necessary by an order issued by General DeWitt, Western Defense Command, which required all persons of Japanese ancestry to be evacuated, first, from the coastal strip of the West Coast states and, later, inland from the State of California. Boulder, Colorado, had been kept in reserve as a potential location to meet this eventuality. The contract was signed between University President Robert Stearns and Commander Hindmarsh. As required by the contract, Miss Florence Walne, who had directed the Japanese Language Program at Berkeley, became the director at Boulder. Eleven teaching staff transferred to Boulder under the same terms and conditions as governed their employment at Berkeley. In addition, one hundred and fifty-three new students and twenty new teachers began the program on July 1, 1942. New instructors were recruited directly from transit and internment camps, the names often provided by Senior Sensei Susumu Nakamura. The University of Colorado authorities, especially President Stearns, were completely cooperative and literally adapted a large part of the institution to the Navy's special needs. The townspeople of Boulder were called upon to help house the increasing members of the faculty and their families. Compared to the hostility shown to Japanese Americans elsewhere in the West, the spirit of the university was very accepting of the whole Navy language program participants. Boulder, however, required limits on how many Japanese Americans could come to the University. Navy intelligence officers, University officials, and JLS authorities constantly met with town councilmen, chamber members, and news media owners in order to allay fears and cut off anti-Japanese American sentiment.

Difficulties surrounding draft age men in civilian clothes with unusual identification cards led to their wholesale induction as Yoemen, Second Class, V-4, U.S.N.R., placed on active duty. Upon successful completion of the course, the students were commissioned, their rank dependant on their education and facility with Japanese, and assigned to Washington, DC or the Pacific Theater. The program expanded rapidly with hundreds of new students entering and graduating each semester. The first class of women students began on July 21, 1943, as Naval agents and were later commissioned as officers in the Waves. British Naval Officers began work in the Japanese Language School on October 12, 1943. In 1944, the school’s name was changed to the US Navy Oriental Language School, so as to include curricula in Chinese, Russian and Malay. The contract between the Navy and the University of Colorado terminated on June 15, 1946.

Several reunions of the graduates from the Japanese Language School have been held throughout the United States. The 50th reunion was held at the University of Colorado, Boulder Campus, on August 7-9, 1992, and the 50th reunion of the WAVES was held on the Boulder Campus on July 16-19, 1993. On June 6-9, 2002, the Archives, Navy ROTC, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the CU Foundation sponsored the 60th Reunion of the US Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School. During this event a bronze plaque, honoring the school, its graduates, and instructors was dedicated. The plaque hangs in the Veterans Lounge in the University Memorial Center.


6 linear feet (Boxes, Photocopies, Records)

Language of Materials



Collection was amassed from available CU sources after 1988 when both the National Archives and the US Navy revealed that the official school records were no longer extant. This collection consists almost entirely of photocopies. They relate to the US Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School located at the University of Colorado, Boulder from June 23, 1942 to June 15, 1946. Male graduates of the language school were commissioned as officers (rank depending on previous education and language skill) into the US Navy and the US Marine Corps. Female graduates were commissioned into the US Navy WAVES. The collection contains a history of the Japanese/Oriental Language School training program beginning in 1922 until 1946; copies of minutes of the University's Board of Regents from 1942-1946; graduation lists derived from these transcripts, financial records of the University's Treasurer and Business Office; and WAVES material. Reunion materials and lists of students and teachers have been added. Also included is a section of career resumes, curriculum vitae, and obituaries for approximately 1300 JLS graduates.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States