When it comes to World War 2, there were a lot of funny things going on with Japanese Americans. Land and property were stolen from Japanese Americans, they were put into internment camps (though, not the 157,000 Japanese Americans in Hawaii, including my great great grandmother, who was sending aluminum to Japan to make bombs before the America-Japan conflict started), and now, apparently, there were dogs being trained to sniff out Japanese people. Ironically, they were being trained on Cat Island, a crappy little island just south of Mississippi (and a part of Mississippi too).
Dogs And World War Two
When the US entered the War, it started taking dog donations from civilians. Dogs were used to be sentries, to detect and sniff out mines, and so much more. There was, however, a much more secret dog training mission taking place on Cat Island, where William Prestre (Swiss Refuguee) said he could train dogs to target people of Japanese ancestry based off their smell. According to Prestre, he could train 30,000 dogs that would be released on the beaches of Japanese islands and Zerg rush their inhabitants. Greyhounds would streak across beaches to take out machine gunners (since they’re so speedy), then slower but more terrifying dogs (like Great Danes and Wolfhounds) would wipe the floor with everyone else. Obviously, none of this happened. Thank goodness for the dogs, anyways.
Getting To Cat Island
Cat Island is a little island off of Mississippi that had similar weather and temperature to the Pacific Islands. Apparently, it was also really sulfury, barren, full of alligators and mosquitoes, and a big pain all around. Around 25 people of Japanese ancestry (who were in the U.S. Army) were notified that they would be going on a super secret mission, so secret they couldn’t even tell their friends they were going on it. One of these people, Ray Nosaka, says:
So that morning, they said, “Don’t say anything to your own buddies and don’t goodbye, don’t say anything.” Seven o’clock, we rode the big truck and took us to Wheeler Field [Fort Williams]. And all of us went on a plane.They didn’t tell us where we’re going to go, what we’re going to do.
They got on their plane, stopped off in Tennessee (where they couldn’t get off the plane, because the higher ups didn’t want anyone to see them), then flew to Mississippi where they boarded some coast guard ships which took them to another island near Cat Island called “Ship Island” (seriously, someone should have been commissioned to come up with better island names). At Ship Island, they waited for a while, fished, and didn’t do much. Then, after two weeks, their Major came and told them they would be “training dogs” on Cat Island. I suppose that’s where the fun starts.
Every day, they’d go by boat from Ship Island to Cat Island, help train the dogs for four hours, then go back home to Ship Island. Besides being attacked by dogs all the time, that’s a pretty sweet gig. Hang out on a tropical island, work 4 hours a day, and drink tons of beer because the water tasted terrible.
We only worked half a day. Half a day, you go back to Ship Island. You go fishing, play guitar and sing a song, things like that, drinking beer. Half a day you work, half a day you’re off. So the hours are very good. That’s why all of us was catching fish. So many fish over there. And now ducks come, shoot the ducks like that. So the life after the four hours we worked is very good.
In fact, at one time we ran out of beer because we cannot drink the water. That thing is so – like rotten eggs. The thing is sulfur, so we cannot drink the water, so we drink up the beer. And, you know, the beer. The thing gone in one week. All gone because we cannot drink the water, we just drink that beer.
So, that begs the question. What were all the secret things they did while they were on the clock, over in Cat Island?
How They (Tried) To Train Dogs To Hunt The Japanese
There were a couple of steps involved in order to try and train dogs to take down Japanese people. The first step was training them to go up to the right people, the second was to learn how to attack, and the third was to play hide and seek.
In the first step, the Japanese Americans would stand there, and the dogs would go up to them. When the dogs went up to them, they’d give the dog some meat and fire a pistol into the air. They did this over and over for four months. I’m guessing the dogs just got good at finding people who had meat on them… yum.
The second step wasn’t as pleasant, unfortunately for the dogs (and the humans involved, too).
And they told us they put a guard over here and we stay like this. And then when the sergeant tell him, “Kill ‘em,” the dog come right up and bite us here, see. And then finally, the dog got a little more friendly with us. They tied the dog on the fence and they gave me like a whip to hit the dog. I go like this.
Oh, I feel so bad. That’s why I hit like this. I get scolding, tell, “Hit it hard, some more hit” until the thing bleed. That’s why the dog gets mad with you. And they tell ‘em, “Kill him.” I’m like this and, whoa, he bite me all over the place. So I hit the dog until he bled, see. Then he tell me, “Okay, walk ten yards back, turn around and go this way.” The dog was so mad at me because I hit him. Ho, he bite me, bite me like this. And then the sergeant comes, takes him away. And that’s the attack dog.
Lastly, they played hide and seek. They’d go someplace, wait for the dog to come find them, then wait for the dog to go away, then go hide somewhere else. They did all this while batting mosquitoes and avoiding alligators. At least it was only a four hour work day, I guess.
I think you know – the dogs couldn’t tell the difference between Japanese people and other people, and since they were mostly donated dogs from loving families, they’d often just lose interest and become friendly. Our Swiss dog training friend Prestre was fired in Feburary 1943 after a couple of dog shows for the big boys, and the island was converted over to a more traditional dog training island (i.e. no more sniffing out the blood of Japanese people). This went on for a while, but then was eventually closed down in July, 1944 after training approximately 400 dogs.
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Dog trainers of Cat Island
Ship Island is where they’d stay in between trips to Cat Island
Image of Cat Island
Want to read about a more pleasant “Cat Island?” Here’s an island in Japan, populated by cats.