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Fort Snelling remembers significant contributions during 70th anniversary

ST. PAUL - In Honor of the 70th Anniversary of VE Day, ending World War II in Europe May 8, 1945, Fort Snelling reflected on its contributions during the war.

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ST. PAUL - In Honor of the 70th Anniversary of VE Day, ending World War II in Europe May 8, 1945, Fort Snelling reflected on its contributions during the war.

More than 300,000 men and women joined the armed forces at Fort Snelling between 1941 and 1945.

"Thousands of people came through Fort Snelling on their way into service," said Matt Cassady of Historic Fort Snelling. "We have a very large connection to the war, even for a small community."

At its height in 1942, the reception center was capable of processing approximately 800 recruits each day. Recruits were sworn into the U.S. military, received medical examinations and vaccinations, were classified and assigned to a unit, and were issued basic equipment.

"Most recruits stayed at Fort Snelling for only a short time before they were transferred to other military posts to begin their basic training," continued Cassady. "Displays of recruit life and conditions at the fort can be seen on June 20-21 at our World War II Weekend event."

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In addition to inducting recruits, specialized units were organized and trained at the fort. One such unit was the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate), made up of Norwegian-speaking soldiers who trained to fight on skis and snowshoes. Military police as well as military railway service soldiers trained at Fort Snelling, many of which used local civilian companies to assist in training.

After 1944 the fort was the location of the Military Intelligence Service Language School, where Nisei (second-generation) Japanese-Americans learned Japanese, Korean and Chinese languages and cultures in preparation for overseas service as interpreters, interrogators and intelligence workers. These soldiers played an important role during and after the end of the war.

"Nisei Soldiers and their knowledge of the enemy's language and culture made a significant contribution to the ending of World War II," said Cassady.

The Nisei shortened the Pacific War by two years and saved possibly a million American lives and billions of dollars, according to Maj. Gen. Charles Willoughby, chief of staff for military intelligence to Gen. Douglas MacArthur 1945.

More than 7,800 Minnesotans lost their lives while serving in the armed forces by the time World War II ended in 1945.

Fort Snelling was officially decommissioned as an active military post in 1946. Today reservists from the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force still maintain a presence on the site. Visit www.historicfortsnelling.org for more information about the fort or upcoming events there.

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