Kanao Inouye (1916 – August 27, 1947) was a Canadian citizen convicted of high treason and war crimes for his actions during World War II. Known as the "Kamloops Kid", he served as an interpreter and prison camp guard for the Imperial Japanese Army and the political police, or Kempeitai.
Early life in Canada
A Nisei (second-generation Japanese-Canadian), Kanao Inouye was born to immigrant parents in Kamloops, British Columbia. His father, Tadashi Inouye, had emigrated to British Columbia from Tokyo, and had been a decorated Canadian soldier during World War I. Although his father died in 1926, Inouye at his first trial described his life in Canada as happy. His family nevertheless maintained close ties to Japan, where his grandfather, Chotahara Inouye, was a Member of Parliament in the House of Peers. After he graduated from Vancouver Technical School, Inouye's family urged him to go to Japan to continue his education. He did so in 1938 and was still there when World War II began.
In 1942, Inouye was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army as an interpreter. Made a sergeant, he was assigned to Sham Shui Po prison camp in Hong Kong, which housed Canadian prisoners of war from the Hong Kong Garrison. Inouye was noted for his unusual brutality. He beat prisoners at random, claiming it was in retaliation for discrimination he had received in Canada. In contrast to his later trial testimony about his childhood, he allegedly told them: “When I was in Canada I took all kinds of abuse. ... They called me a 'little yellow bastard.' Now where is your so-called superiority, you dirty scum?”
Inouye was discharged from the army the following year, but in 1944 he was conscripted as an interpreter for the notorious Kempeitai military police in Hong Kong. Trial testimony stated he had been an enthusiastic torturer of suspected spies and traitors. Former POWs would later testify that Inouye was responsible for the torture and death of at least eight Canadian POWs.
Conviction and execution
After the Japanese capitulation in August 1945, Inouye was arrested in Kowloon and tried for war crimes by a military tribunal. He was convicted and was sentenced to death. However, the verdict was overturned on appeal, since as a Canadian citizen, he could not be prosecuted for war crimes committed by an enemy army.
In April 1947, Inouye was tried on the criminal charge of treason, was again found guilty and sentenced to death. On August 27, 1947, he was executed by hanging on the gallows at Hong Kong's Stanley Prison. His last word was "Banzai!"
Inouye is a rare counterexample to the overall Canadian loyalty of Japanese-Canadians during World War II. He was one of only two Canadians in history to have faced prosecution for war crimes (the second being Omar Khadr, who in 2010 pleaded guilty to war crimes in Afghanistan while on trial by the Guantanamo military commission).
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- Americas Quarterly "Canadian Omar Khadr Sentenced for War Crimes" November 2, 2010.