Unless we develop appetites for sadistic torture, we won't see any historical re-enactments of the Kamloops Kid. While trainloads of tourists may be amused by staged hold-ups by "gentleman" Billy Miner, the adventures of the Kamloops Kid would definitely not be family fare.
Growing up in Kamloops, there was no indication that Kanao Inouye would turn out to be a cruel and brutal war criminal. At his trial, he recalled his boyhood in Kamloops as happy. And why not? His father was a decorated Canadian soldier in the First World War. Asians were well respected in Kamloops. Peter Wing was a member of the Kamloops Board of Trade and later became the mayor of Kamloops, the first mayor of Chinese descent in North America.
At his family's urging, Inouye left Kamloops to attend Vancouver Technical College and in 1938, he travelled to Japan to further his education. However, it was not the kind of education his family would have hoped for. Inouye was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1942 and due to his flawless English became an interpreter. As a sergeant, he was posted to the Hong Kong prison that housed Canadian soldiers. It was there that Inouye gained notoriety as the Kamloops Kid and made his reputation for brutality against his former countrymen.
Prisoners feared his unusual cruelty. He randomly beat them, now claiming it was in retaliation for abuse in Canada. He told prisoners, "When I was in Canada I took all kinds abuse. They called me a little yellow bastard. Now where is your so-called superiority, you dirty scum?" Inouye tortured Grenadier Jim Murray by tying him to a pole, taping his mouth shut, and shoving burning cigarettes up his nose, according to Canada's History Magazine. He warned prisoners that, "Your wives and sisters will be raped by our soldiers and anyone resisting will be shot."
The rookie Canadian soldiers had no idea what they were getting into when they were sent to defend Hong Kong. It was a last minute, ill-conceived plan. Britain originally had little interest in defending Hong Kong. But to assure China that it was prepared to defend its colony, a largely symbolic guard was placed at the garrison. To augment the sparse guard, Canada offered two infantry battalions.
When the Japanese attacked Hong Kong on Dec. 8, 1941, just eight hours after their attack on Pearl Harbor, their victory was inevitable. Although Canadians bravely defended the garrison and there were many heroic acts, they were outnumbered and outgunned. It was a slaughter. Those who didn't die in battle succumbed to malnutrition and torture as prisoners — at least eight of them at the hands of Inouye. After the war, the Kamloops Kid was charged with war crimes and sentenced to hang. His dying words were an unrepentant military cheer — "Banzai."
When the Canadians were finally rescued, they arrived home undistinguished and forgotten. Many suffered from malnutrition and tropical diseases but were denied disability pensions. It took 30 years before they would receive the pensions they deserved. Canadians would rather forget the miseries of the Battle of Hong Kong, but as Nov. 11 approaches, remember we must.