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Apr 12, 2017

PlaceMaker: Rosalyn Tonai Talks Presidio History During World War II

Meet a champion of the Presidio's Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center.


Rosalyn Tonai’s mission is to ensure that one of the Presidio’s most complex and important stories is shared with the public.

As the long-time executive director of the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS), she was a key figure championing the creation of the Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center, located at the Presidio’s Crissy Field. Within its walls, visitors learn about the US Army language school created just before the attack on Pearl Harbor where mostly Japanese American soldiers were trained as linguists supporting the American World War II effort. These linguist soldiers have been credited with significantly shortening the war in the Pacific and saving many lives.

Ironically, at the same time these soldiers were serving their country, many of their family members were incarcerated in camps as a result of Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt and implemented by Civilian Exclusion Orders issued from the Presidio military post in 1942.

In recognition of the 75th anniversary of these events in 2017, the Presidio in partnership with NJAHS and the Fred T. Korematsu Institute unveiled an exhibition at the Presidio Officer’ Club, EXCLUSION: The Presidio’s Role in World War II Japanese American Incarceration, to help visitors understand what transpired and think about how lessons learned may apply to the issues of our times.

Interview with Rosalyn Tonai

At the opening of the EXCLUSION exhibition, we spoke with Rosalyn about the MIS Historic Learning Center, the World War II incarceration, and the role the Presidio can plan in helping today’s visitors draw present-day meaning from historical events. She’s featured in both videos below.