According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, its first known use in America was in 1928. The earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary for the American usage is 1930 from a book on Al Capone by FD Pasley.
The phrase may have been inspired by its use in Ireland during its War of Independence, 1919-'21 to refer to the members of G Division, a section of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. G division was a plainclothes political policing unit that specifically dealt with tackling Irish separatists during the war.
In FBI mythology, the nickname is held to have originated during the arrest of gangster George "Machine Gun" Kelly by agents of the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), a forerunner of the FBI, in September 1933. Finding himself unarmed, Kelly supposedly shouted, "Don't shoot, G-Men! Don't shoot, G-Men!" This event is dramatized in the 1959 film The FBI Story and this dramatization is referenced in the 2011 film J. Edgar. The encounter with Kelly is similarly dramatized in the 1973 film Dillinger.
With the popularity of film noir and gangster films during the 1940s and 50s, "G-Men" became a popular slang term for the FBI.
- p.69 McFerran, Douglass IRA man: Talking with the Rebels Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997
- p.65 Cottrell, Peter The Anglo-Irish War: The Troubles of 1913–1922 Osprey Publishing, 28/03/2006
- "Timeline of FBI History". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on 2006-11-21. Retrieved 2006-11-23.
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