History of DLIFLC
The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) traces its roots to the eve of America’s entry into World War II, when the U.S.Army established a secret school at the Presidio of San Francisco to teach the Japanese language. Classes began November 1, 1941, with four instructors and 60 students in an abandoned airplane hangar at Crissy Field. The students were mostly second-generation Japanese-Americans (Nisei) from the West Coast. Nisei Hall, at the Presidio of Monterey, is named in honor of these earliest students, whose heroism is portrayed in the Institute’s Yankee Samurai exhibit. The headquarters building and academic library bear the names of our first commandant, Colonel Kai E. Rasmussen, and the director of academic training, John F. Aiso.
During the war the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS), as it came to be called, grew dramatically. When Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were moved into internment camps in 1942, the school moved to temporary quarters at Camp Savage, Minnesota. By 1944 the school had outgrown these facilities and moved to nearby Fort Snelling.
More than 6,000 graduates served throughout the Pacific Theater during the war and the subsequent occupation of Japan. Three academic buildings are named for Nisei graduates who fell in action: George Nakamura, Frank Hachiya, and Y. “Terry” Mizutari.
After World War II
In 1946 the school moved to the historic Presidio of Monterey. By that time little remained of the original Spanish presidio, which had been established in 1770 to protect the San Carlos Borromeo Mission in Carmel. The city of Monterey had grown up near the mission and presidio to become the capital of the Spanish (later Mexican) province of Alta California. Commodore John Drake Sloat commander of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Squadron, captured the town during the War with Mexico in 1846. Following the Spanish-American War the U.S. Army rebuilt the post, beginning in 1902, and after World War I it became the home of the 11th Cavalry, the 2nd Battalion, and the 76th Field Artillery Regiment. Nobel laureate John Steinbeck captures the spirit of Monterey during this period in his novels Tortilla Flat (1935) and Cannery Row (1945).
At the Presidio of Monterey, the renamed Army Language School (ALS) expanded rapidly in 1947–48 to meet the requirements of America’s global commitments during the Cold War.
Instructors, including native speakers of more than thirty languages and dialects, were recruited from all over the world. Russian became the largest language program, followed by Chinese, Korean, and German. After the Korean War (1950–53), the school developed a national reputation for excellence in foreign language education. ALS led the way with the audio-lingual method and the application of educational technology such as the language laboratory.
The U.S. Air Force met most of its foreign language training requirements in the 1950s through contract programs at universities such as Yale, Cornell, Indiana, and Syracuse. The U.S. Navy taught foreign languages at the Naval Intelligence School in Washington, D.C. In 1963, to promote efficiency and economy, these programs were consolidated into the Defense Foreign Language Program. A new headquarters, the Defense Language Institute (DLI), was established in Washington, D.C., and the former Army Language School commandant, Colonel James L. Collins, Jr., became the Institute’s first director. The Army Language School became the DLI West Coast Branch, and the foreign language department at the Naval Intelligence School became the DLI East Coast Branch. The contract programs were gradually phased out. The DLI also took over the English Language School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, which became the DLI English Language Center (DLIELC).
During the peak of American involvement in Vietnam (1965–73), the DLI stepped up the pace of language training. While regular language training continued unabated, more than 20,000 service personnel studied Vietnamese through the DLI’s programs, many taking a special eight-week military adviser “survival” course. From 1966 to 1973, the Institute also operated a Vietnamese branch using contract instructors at Biggs Air Force Base near Fort Bliss, Texas (DLI Support Command, later renamed the DLI Southwest Branch). Dozens of the DLI’s graduates gave their lives during the war. Four student dormitories today bear the names of graduates who died in that conflict: Chief Petty Officer Frank W. Bomar († 1970), Sergeant First Class Alfred H. Combs († 1965), Marine Gunnery Sergeant George P. Kendall, Jr. († 1968), and Staff Sergeant Herbert Smith, Jr. († 1965).
From 1970s On
In the 1970s the Institute’s headquarters and all resident language training were consolidated at the West Coast Branch and renamed the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC). (The Institute continues to operate a small contract foreign language training program in Washington, D.C.) With the advent of the All-Volunteer Forces and the opening of most specialties to women, the character of the student population underwent a gradual change. In 1973, the newly formed U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) assumed administrative control, and in 1976, all English language training operations were returned to the U.S. Air Force, which operates DLIELC to this day.
Since the end of the Vietnam War, the Institute has experienced an exciting period of growth and change. The DLIFLC won academic accreditation in 1979, and in 1981 the position of Academic Dean (later called Provost) was reestablished. A joint-service General Officer Steering Committee was established in 1981 to advise on all aspects of the Defense Foreign Language Program. This function is now performed by the Defense Foreign Language Program Policy Committee. In the early 1980s, a rise in student input forced the Institute to open two temporary branches: a branch for Air Force enlisted students of Russian at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas (1981–1987), and another for Army enlisted students of Russian, German, Korean, and Spanish at the Presidio of San Francisco (1982–1988). The increase in student input also resulted in an extensive facilities expansion program on the Presidio. Support to command language programs worldwide grew, with greater availability of programs such as Gateway and Headstart.
Numerous academic changes have been made as well. More instructors have been recruited, new instructional materials and tests have been written, and a comprehensive academic master plan has been developed. Teaching methodology has become increasingly more proficiency-oriented, team teaching has been implemented, and the average staffing ratio has been increased to two instructors per ten-student sections, additionally, new steps have been taken to further increase this ratio through the Proficiency Enhancement Program (PEP). In the more difficult languages, (Category 3 and 4), PEP decreases the student-faculty ratio from 10:2 to 6:2. In easier language categories, (Category 1 and 2), PEP decreases the student-faculty ratio form 10:2 to 8:2.
In recent years, the Institute has taken on challenging new missions, including support for arms control treaty verification, the War on Drugs, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Restore Hope, and Operation Noble Eagle, as well as Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.