Informants / "inu"
The term was not one of endearment. Literally translated as "dog," it was used by many West Coast Japanese Americans to refer to "spies," or those individuals who, like a dog, go around sniffing for information. The label was specifically applied to individuals suspected of having informed on other Japanese Americans to federal government officials regarding their thoughts, words, and actions expressing support for Japan prior to and during their incarceration in the War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps.
Those tainted with this accusation included individuals whose outward behavior lent credence that they were engaged in monitoring Japanese Americans on behalf of the federal government. Many Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) leaders were believed to be spies for the American government, as were a number of leftists and Communist Party members. Members of the fourth estate, particularly news reporters, were fingered as inu since their investigative reporting activities lent credence to the suspicion that they were gathering information for federal government officials. Korean Japanese, in particular those of "mixed" ancestry or those with Japanese citizenship, were assumed to be inu since the Imperial Japanese government's occupation of Korea might incline them to cooperate with American government officials.
Spies among Japanese Americans were not a figment of imagination. As early as 1916, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tried to recruit a handful of Japanese immigrants to spy on co-ethnics in Los Angeles as well as engage in covert assassinations against Mexican independence leaders. The FBI continued to employ Japanese Americans at least through the 1930s to spy on the Japanese population in Hawai'i, the Philippines, and the continental United States. The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) too, employed Japanese American spies as it conducted surveillance on their fellow co-ethnics in locations where Navy bases and Japanese American commercial fishing fleets were found during the 1930s. The Army's Western Division's intelligence section known as G-2 employed at least one Japanese American, a founder of the League of Nisei Artists and Writers whose newspaper column, "Dear Deidre" was widely read by Japanese Americans.
But only after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 did the presence of spies become a problem. These informants were blamed for the suffering inflicted upon families whose loved ones were arrested and detained in Department of Justice (DOJ) camps as a direct result of their spying. Key JACL leaders in Los Angeles, for example, formed the Anti-Axis Committee and publicly declared they would report to federal government officials any signs of disloyalty towards the United States, leaving them wide open to blame for those FBI arrests. Even after West Coast Japanese Americans were incarcerated in WRA camps, informants for the FBI and the ONI continued sending information on other Japanese Americans resulting in more FBI arrests and removal to DOJ camps.
Viewed from the perspective of mass incarceration in WRA camps, many Japanese Americans found inu behavior unacceptable. For many, mass confinement in WRA camps signaled the end of their sojourn, as they knew it, in the United States. They anticipated a bloody conflict in which American forces would suffer tremendous loss of life, making a Japanese American resettlement in the United States difficult if not impossible, given how deeply racist they perceived the American public was in 1942. Having been dispossessed of their worldly goods through "fire sales" prior to confinement, many believed their only hope of recovering economically was for the Imperial Japanese government to negotiate for their release via prisoner-of-war exchanges to the Japanese empire and for specific promises of war reparations to be written in the peace treaty. Supporting Japan, therefore "made sense" especially in view of their nationality status—Japanese immigrants were ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court as aliens ineligible for U.S. citizenship (see Ozawa v. United States) whereas many local regional governmental offices in Japan where the immigrants hailed from recognized their children's dual citizenship. Coercion of visible signs of loyalty to the United States, such as participation in the making of camouflage nets for the American Army, therefore, was considered "bad"; informing on other Japanese Americans' favoring Japan and causing family separations when all were already locked up, inexcusable.
Although many Japanese Americans believed the inu to be motivated by money, in all probability the informants were motivated by ideology. Admittedly, some received payment for their services but most engaged in spying on Japanese Americans out of a sense of patriotism. Key JACL leaders, for example, were unswerving in their loyalty to the United States and believed it important that all other Japanese Americans too, share their outlook to secure a better postwar future for all Japanese Americans. Hence, they were threatened by any display of support for Japan exhibited among Japanese Americans and sought to stem the rise of such sentiments as rapidly and decisively as possible by contacting the FBI and submitting names of those they deemed as "rotten apples." Others, such as Japanese American leftists and communists were in 1942 ideologically committed to a world-wide struggle against "fascism" and thus found disturbing enough the widespread support for Japan among Japanese Americans in the WRA camps to inform on them.
Violence and mass protests were one consequence of inu spying. In Poston, Arizona, a general strike took place in late November 1942 after the FBI threatened to whisk away suspects in the beating of an alleged inu. A riot took place at Manzanar the next month when the FBI again came to take away a suspect in the beating of another alleged inu. Threats of violence against those suspected inu spread through other WRA camps as well, causing a number of the alleged inu to opt for relocation. Hence, many of them volunteered for the U.S. armed forces or requested leave clearance and headed for New York City where a number of other Japanese American leftists congregated. Still others applied for leave clearance and took up federal government positions in Washington, D.C. Once outside the camps, some of them still continued with their inu role, as one apparently did in 1946, keeping watch over other Japanese Americans in Washington, D.C. for the FBI.
Another important outcome of inu activities was the impetus it provided for conducting a loyalty registration. The WRA and the War Department could not agree on a common basis for instituting such a registration until the Poston Strike and Manzanar Riot galvanized them into action. They finally reached a compromise on a registration program that took place in February 1943 to determine the loyalty of all incarcerated in WRA camps and to provide a justification for inducting Japanese American males into the armed forces of the United States.
For More Information
Hansen, Arthur A. "Demon Dogs: Cultural Deviance and Community Control in the Japanese-American Evacuation." Western Conference Association for Asian Studies Selected Papers New Series, no. 10, (1983).
Harris, Charles H. III and Louis R. Sadler. The Border and the Revolution. Las Cruces, NM: Center for Latin American Studies/Joint Border Research Institute, New Mexico State University, 1988.
Hayashi, Brian Masaru. Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese American Internment. Princeton University Press, 2004.
Irons, Peter. Justice at War: The Story of Japanese American Internment Cases. New York: Oxford University, 1983.
Lim, Deborah K. The Lim Report: A Research Report on Japanese Americans in American Concentration Camps during World War II. Kearney, NE: Morris Pub., 1990.
Loureiro, Pedro A. "U.S. Counterintelligence against Japan in Southern California, 1933-1941." MA thesis, San Diego State University, 1987.
———. "Japanese Espionage and American Countermeasures in Pre-Pearl Harbor California." Journal of American-East Asia Relations 3, no.3 (fall 1994).
Matsuda, Koh. Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary. Tokyo: Kenkyusha Ltd., 1974.
McCoy, Alfred W. Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009.
Monobe, Hiromi. "The Intersection of 'Americanization' and 'Racial Expansion': Nisei Identity Politics in Prewar Hawai'i". In The Transnational Politics of Asian Americans, edited by Christian Collet and Pei-te Lien. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2009.
Thomas, Dorothy S. and Richard Nishimoto. The Spoilage: Japanese-American Evacuation and Resettlement during World War II. Berkeley: University of California, 1946.
Yoneda, Karl. Ganbatte: Sixty-Year Struggle of a Kibei Worker. Los Angeles: Asian American Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles, 1983.
- Koh Matsuda, Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary (Tokyo: Kenkyusha Ltd., 1974), 545.
- Brian Masaru Hayashi, Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese American Internment (Princeton University Press, 2004), 100, 125; Deborah K. Lim, The Lim Report: A Research Report on Japanese Americans in American Concentration Camps during World War II (Kearney, NE: Morris Pub., 1990), Part IB; Peter Irons, Justice at War: The Story of Japanese American Internment Cases (New York: Oxford University, 1983), 78-79; Karl Yondeda, Ganbatte: Sixty-Year Struggle of a Kibei Worker (Los Angeles: Asian American Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles, 1983), 112-13, 138-39.
- Charles H. Harris, III and Louis R. Sadler, The Border and the Revolution (Las Cruces, NM: Center for Latin American Studies/Joint Border Research Institute, New Mexico State University, 1988), 8-11, 13-15; Hiromi Monobe, "The Intersection of 'Americanization' and 'Racial Expansion': Nisei Identity Politics in Prewar Hawai'i," in Christian Collet and Pei-te Lien, eds., The Transnational Politics of Asian Americans (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2009), 166; Alfred W. McCoy, Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009), 330-31; Lim, The Lim Report, Part IA; Pedro A. Loureiro, "Japanese Espionage and American Countermeasures in Pre-Pearl Harbor California," Journal of American-East Asia Relations 3, no.3 (fall 1994), 200.
- Hayashi, Democratizing the Enemy, 74; Irons, Justice at War, 79-81.
- Hayashi, Democratizing the Enemy, 104-05, 121-124, 127.
- Lim, The Lim report, Part IIC; Hayashi, Democratizing the Enemy, 125-26.
- Hayashi, Democratizing the Enemy, 127-30, 134, 213.
- Ibid., 136-38.