Recruiting and Induction at Fort Snelling
Fort Snelling's final years of service to the U.S. Army occurred during World War II, which proved to be the most active years in the Fort's history. The Army adapted the cantonment area south of the Fort's main facilities to serve as a recruiting and induction station and as a reception center to accommodate the massive influx of draftees and recruits. In September of 1941, there were 38 buildings in the cantonment area capable of processing 250 recruits a day. After Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Fort quickly expanded. By the end of 1942, over 260 additional buildings stood at the Fort and a staff of 700 could process 450 recruits a day. During the war years, the Fort inducted 300,000 men into the military service, many entering the Air Corps. During World War II, Fort Snelling consisted of offices, warehouses, rail yards, barracks, officer's houses, parade grounds and classrooms sprawled over a 1,500-acre site, making it the largest and most capable recruiting and induction station in the Midwest.
New Functions for the Military
Three new types of military units were stationed at Fort Snelling during World War II, each playing a unique part in the war effort.
At the beginning of 1941, the War Department activated nine military police battalions, including a unit of more than 600 at Fort Snelling. The military police were trained to guard prisoners of war and strategic locations, as well as deal with civil unrest. In part, the Army established the military police to replace the National Guard units being called into federal service. The 701st and 710th Military Police Battalions were activated at Fort Snelling in 1941 and 1942 respectively.
The Army established the national headquarters of the Military Railway Service at Fort Snelling in May of 1942, with around 200 officers and enlisted men assigned to it. The unit functioned as a liaison with commercial railroads, developed operating procedures for railroads in battle zones and studied the railroad systems of countries where American forces might see combat. By the end of 1942, the Army activated two Railway Grand Divisions, the 702nd and 704th, to help prepare for the Allied invasion of North Africa.
In August of 1944, the Military Intelligence Service Language School, which the Army created to provide better intelligence for the Pacific Theatre, moved to Fort Snelling from Camp Savage, Minnesota. The school specialized in teaching Japanese reading, writing, interrogation, translation and interpretation. Students also studied Japan's social, political, economic and cultural background. They examined captured documents and studied Japanese geography, military organization and technical terms. By the end of the war, over 6,000 students had successfully completed the training and graduated from the school, serving as interpreters and intelligence agents in the Pacific.
Last updated: November 22, 2019