Try LALAPALOOZA on them -- it's a panic!
July 6, 2006 4:29 PM   Subscribe

How to Spot a Jap... scan of a 1942 US military educational comic strip, illustrated by Milton Canniff.
posted by crunchland (61 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've never been so amused, shocked, and horrified at the same time. My face didn't know what to do.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:38 PM on July 6, 2006

They're all over LI, NY... not hard to spot at all. Oh wait, you mean......
posted by GoodJob! at 4:42 PM on July 6, 2006

How to spot a Jew would be more helpful, since they control everything.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:46 PM on July 6, 2006

I didn't know 'lalapalooza' was a real word. I thought they made it up for the festive.

And really, if they've fooled even the Chinese, how does whitey have a chance?
posted by smackfu at 4:48 PM on July 6, 2006

mr_crash_davis ahh, but we can pronounce S and L perfectly. A better test would be to make one of us go into a store and pay retail.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:50 PM on July 6, 2006

At least they don't assume with typical prejudicial furor that all japs wear socks and shoes.
posted by shownomercy at 4:53 PM on July 6, 2006

Remember, Americans have oddly pointed chins--and no nose whatsoever!
posted by arto at 4:54 PM on July 6, 2006

It's all about the lemon-yellow skin!
posted by languagehat at 4:55 PM on July 6, 2006

"The Chinese smiles easily-- the jap usually expects to be shot... and is very unhappy about the whole thing."
posted by 517 at 4:56 PM on July 6, 2006

Good work capturing that jap, soldiers. G-string, stocky build, slanted eyes, concealed gadgets ... wait... You idiots! You've capture batman!
posted by justkevin at 5:17 PM on July 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

It's easier to fight an enemy after you demonize him.
posted by caddis at 5:19 PM on July 6, 2006

A little respect for Mr Caniff, creator of Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon, and the unforgettable Miss Lace. You whippersnappers would be nowhere without the likes of him, I tells you, nowhere.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:21 PM on July 6, 2006

Although we were not enthusiastic warriors, there was a true hatred of the enemy. We were convinced that the "Japs" were subhuman; and our atrocities against them pretty much matched theirs against us. I was in the Pacific Theater of Operations, where the war was not only imperial but racial: the white race was fighting the yellow race, and the crown would go to us as we were the earth's supreme race, or so we had been taught. One of the ugliest aspects of that war was the racial stereotyping on both sides. In Europe we were respectful-even fearful-of the Germans. Since blacks and women were pretty much segregated in our military forces, World War II was, for us, literally, the white man's burden.

So while the Golden Age had its moment in the sun up on deck, down in the engine room the management was inventing the "Defense" Department and the National Security Council with its secret, unconstitutional decrees, and the equally unconstitutional CIA, modeled, Allen Dulles remarked blithely, on the Soviets' NKVD. We were then, without public debate, committed to a never-ending war, even though the management knew that the enemy was no match for us, economically or militarily. But, through relentless CIA "disinformation," they managed to convince us that what was weak was strong, and that the Russians were definitely coming. "Build backyard shelters against the coming atomic war!" A generation was well and truly traumatized.
Gore Vidal
posted by matteo at 5:24 PM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Well, this gives a clearer view of why my grandfather had such irrational feelings about the Japanese.

That's a pretty horrifying book there.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 5:35 PM on July 6, 2006

Lalapalooza is an example of a shibolleth

"The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivour of Ephraim said, "Let me go over," the men of Gilead asked him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" If he replied, "No," they said, "All right, say 'Shibboleth'." If he said, "Sibboleth," because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time."
posted by empath at 5:38 PM on July 6, 2006

It's an interesting problem: we had allied with one asiatic country and were fighting another. Since most american soldiers would see both the Japanese and Chinese as simply "Asian," what to do? So I can see the rationale for this. The bit about the shoes might actually have been useful, due to the custom of wearing that particular sandal. All the stuff about "he won't be happy about being captured" seems beyond stupid and downright dangerous. Would anyone reasonable want soldiers picking their enemies based on the level of fear they showed? Not that we're doing a great job now.

It's still a sad and scary little piece of history, though.
posted by ®@ at 5:55 PM on July 6, 2006

This one's been around and around, but is probably worth mentioning here: All Look Same.
posted by emelenjr at 6:07 PM on July 6, 2006

I love that there's a warning to look out for 'comic strip gadgets' in a comic strip. Other than that, not much to love.
posted by jack_mo at 6:10 PM on July 6, 2006

Lalapalooza is an example of a shibolleth

A sheath of wheat suspended near a waterford?
posted by yhbc at 6:19 PM on July 6, 2006

It's cute that 'shibboleth' is often a shibboleth to detect watchers of the West Wing.
posted by smackfu at 6:28 PM on July 6, 2006

Huh, so they're calling Nips Japs now. Thanks for posting this; I'm printing it out for my next trip to SF. I have no doubt that my troubles will be over when I pull this baby out in public places to help me conduct my business according to the quaint, foreign customs of the natives out there.
posted by Eideteker at 6:32 PM on July 6, 2006

I knew I'd seen this before---then I remembered: This was my Physical Anthropolgy textbook!

Effin' midwest state college...
posted by sourwookie at 6:32 PM on July 6, 2006


Ok, I'm done.
posted by Eideteker at 6:36 PM on July 6, 2006

This was pretty awesome, crunchland, thanks.
posted by jonson at 6:39 PM on July 6, 2006

This reminds me of P.J. O'Rourke's "Brief Survey of the Various Foreigners." Unfortunately, he item in question seems to no longer be on National Lampoon's website. If someone could find it, that would be great.
posted by neuron at 6:44 PM on July 6, 2006

I have a hard copy of that.
posted by sourwookie at 6:48 PM on July 6, 2006

neuron, Internet Archive is your friend.
posted by yhbc at 6:49 PM on July 6, 2006

Dangit, I actually meant to break that last comment into two links. Here's the main Internet Archive site.
posted by yhbc at 6:51 PM on July 6, 2006

Scanned by Terry and the Intellectual Property Pirates.
posted by yerfatma at 6:56 PM on July 6, 2006

Sourwookie, really? Are you serious?
posted by phyrewerx at 6:56 PM on July 6, 2006

I love how they didn't even think of the simplest solution. Get a Chinese guy, and have him tell you if the dudes are chinese or Japanese.
posted by Megafly at 6:57 PM on July 6, 2006

Yep. The midterm was brutal, man.
posted by sourwookie at 6:59 PM on July 6, 2006

I'm less concerned about the racism and more concerned about the accuracy of the information. How much of it would actually be useful for telling a Japanese man from a Chineese man?
posted by I Foody at 7:00 PM on July 6, 2006

How much truth is there to the sections on physical characteristics? Did Japanese people really tend to have a shuffling gait as compared to the "Chinese stride"? What about the space between the toes?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:06 PM on July 6, 2006

Actually, the "shuffling" was a subject of some comedy in the Japanese film The Hidden Blade, when an expert in Western military technique attempts to teach a group of samurai to run, western style, and they all do a sort of "legs trapped in kimono" high speed shuffle.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:13 PM on July 6, 2006

yhcb : Your archive of that national lampoon thing craps out about 5 pages in. Now I'll never be able to identify a frenchman.
posted by crunchland at 7:41 PM on July 6, 2006

Terrific link! Though the racism is pretty mild stuff compared to some of the other WW2 propaganda we have linked to in the past.
posted by LarryC at 7:41 PM on July 6, 2006

sumbitch. This one gets up to the Israelis, but craps out on them. If you'd like, I'll keep looking.
posted by yhbc at 7:51 PM on July 6, 2006

eh. probably not worth the trouble.
posted by crunchland at 8:53 PM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Shibboleth, lalapalooza, this identifying the enemy by mispronunciation has been going on a loooong time. I'm told the Dutch used "Scheveningen", the name of one of their seaside resort towns, to determine whether they had a German or not...

And yeah, LarryC, I'd agree, the comic is far less egregious than many other publications and films from the period. In the case of this comic book they were actually trying to make something that could be useful in the field, that is, in reality, as opposed to the outlandishly exaggerated characteristics that were the norm in he kind of propaganda designed to simply make the soldier hate the enemy.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:27 PM on July 6, 2006

yhbc: PDF, HTML
posted by Eideteker at 9:38 PM on July 6, 2006

crunchland: The whole thing, in PDF. Get it while it lasts.

As for the LALAPALOOZA booklet, I have to say I didn't find it as awful as I remembered. Japanese and Chinese are ethnically distinct, if only because Japan is an island and one of the most homogeneous societies on Earth. Gait isn't that out of place -- I've often read that Americans have a distinct gait compared to Europeans. Anyway, I doubt the booklet came into life-or-death use much -- in practice we probably relied on Chinese informants to tell us who was Japanese.

Now, Pearl Buck's Dragon Seed, with the Chinese portrayed by Walter Huston, Katharine Hepburn, and even Turhan Bey -- that's a laugh riot. We weren't quite over the blackface days (and this was even before Olivier did Othello in blackface), but it's still hard to take.
posted by dhartung at 9:39 PM on July 6, 2006

See also this very similar Life Magazine article from December 1941, How to Tell Japs from the Chinese:
The typical Northern Chinese, represented by Ong Wen-hao, Chungking’s Minister of Economic Affairs (left, above), is relatively tall and slenderly built. His complexion is parchment yellow, his face long and delicately boned, his nose more finely bridged. Representative of the Japanese people as a whole is Premier and General Hideki Tojo (left, below), who betrays aboriginal antecedents in a squat, long-torsoed build, a broader, more massively boned head and face, flat, often pug, nose, yellow-ocher skin and heavier beard. From this average type, aristocratic Japs, who claim kinship to the Imperial Household, diverge sharply. They are proud to approximate the patrician lines of the Northern Chinese.
posted by dgaicun at 9:44 PM on July 6, 2006

Chinese go pee-pee in your coke. Gives 'em away every time.
posted by mazola at 9:54 PM on July 6, 2006

The interesting side story to that article is that Life Magazine founder Henry Luce grew up in China to missionary parents, and had a deep fondness for the Chinese, and equally deep antipathy toward the Japanese aggressors.
posted by dgaicun at 9:58 PM on July 6, 2006

This comic was mentioned in Dan Wakefield's novel Under the Apple Tree--there's a scene where the boys ask the Chinese laundryman whether he prefers chop suey or chow mein; which Midwestern small town 40's America would not have known were created in the states. The man bursts out laughing, and the boys are convinced he's Japanese.
posted by brujita at 10:20 PM on July 6, 2006

This one gets up to the Israelis, but craps out on them. If you'd like, I'll keep looking.

Put at 14 in place of the 13 in foreigners13.html (where it craps out) at the end of the link and you can keep going. You'll have to do the same thing with 18 and 19, and maybe again. I didn't go all the way through.
posted by Cyrano at 11:15 PM on July 6, 2006

That was great. Thanks!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:07 AM on July 7, 2006

Makes me want to go back to the Archives and scan in the OSS manual on Arson that I found. Not interesting for the amazing racist pronouncements, but fun for its war time simplicity. I did make a copy of the cover, tho'.

posted by Atreides at 5:13 AM on July 7, 2006

Astro Zombie : "they all do a sort of 'legs trapped in kimono' high speed shuffle."

You know, I'd never really noticed before, but now that you mention it, people in Japanese movies set in the feudal area all do run in a really peculiar way.
posted by Bugbread at 6:36 AM on July 7, 2006

"Chinese go pee-pee in your coke. Gives 'em away every time."

posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:17 AM on July 7, 2006

There's loads of horrible, nasty pdf format documents available here, including a "So you're going to China eh, Doughboy?" booklet amongst other awesome gems such as the "Private Shitfaced misses the war!" booklet.

Was going to FPP it with a bunch of other stuff, but hey you've been good recently so here you go.

Enjoy the "Welcome to Iraq" booklet here.
posted by longbaugh at 7:25 AM on July 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


...but she was a no-good bitch with VD.

REMEMBER MEN, don't poke the cooze when you've drunk some booze!
posted by longbaugh at 8:33 AM on July 7, 2006

There's loads of horrible, nasty pdf format documents available here, including a "So you're going to China eh, Doughboy?

I know, I've never seen so much horrible nastiness!:
If you think of the Chinese as a yellow-skinned people of a totally different race from us , you will probably will never get to know them. What's more, you'll be playing right into the hands of Hitler and the Japs. . . To counteract [their racist] propaganda you have to show the Chinese that Americans treat the Chinese as we treat any of our allies, and that we respect them as human beings on an equality with ourselves. Sure there are differences. So what? (p 2)

Remember, it's Hitler who harps on the superiority of his own color, his own people, his own country. (p 45)
posted by dgaicun at 8:37 AM on July 7, 2006

thank you for a very useful guide. i was afraid i would never be able to effectively spot japs.
posted by nola at 10:28 AM on July 7, 2006

It's all inscrutable to me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:44 AM on July 7, 2006

/makes mental note to check to see if any of the original Why We Fight films -- I think they were animated shorts -- are out on YouTube. Dad, who was forced to watch them at Ft. Sill in 1943, used to describe them with disgust, contempt, and a certain horrified fascination.

Wow, I love Milton Caniff's work -- now I have yet another reason to say, "Trust the art and not the artist."

One richly ironic aspect of the IJN attack on Pearl Harbor was that "the dirty sneaky yellow bastards" pulled off an attack very much in keeping with the classic Japanese combat ethic of a decisive masterstroke that wins the battle even before battle is properly joined. (In addition to which they were emulating the UK Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm's attack on the Italian Navy at Taranto thirteen months earlier -- Europeans against other Europeans.) Unfortunately, it contrasts sharply with American ideas of fair play and and open force-on-force confrontation that seem largely rooted in sports metaphors, romanticized ideas of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War and, I suppose, some vestiges of Old World chivalry.

Modern warfare, successfully prosecuted, is anything but fighting fair; it's about "fire and manuver" -- ovewhelming the enemy with speed, surprise, firepower, and an utter lack of mercy -- "clubbing baby seals," in the parlance of one Marine aviator I've talked to. The US roundly and bitterly condemned Japan for fighting in a typically Japanese way. Yet the US, especially toward the end of the war, showed little compunction against unrestricted submarine warfare, bombing civilian targets or immolating holed-up Japanese troops while they were still alive. (Not that the US was treating the Wehrmacht or the German populace a whole lot better, on average. But at least they were white Europeans and therefore nominally human.)

The Pearl Harbor attack not only fueled the blatant racism evidenced in the FPP link; it led to a general motivation of revenge that arguably helped justify Nisei relocations in the US and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the USS Enterprise entered Pearl Harbor early on 8 Dec 1941 and Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, standing on the flag bridge, viewed the damage the airstrikes had done to the base and especially Battleship Row, he famously said, "When this war is over, the Japanese language will be spoken only in Hell." That seems to have been the prevailing attitude of most of the US military in the PTO and, to whatever degree, plenty of folks on civvy street, so I'm sure it informed Mr. Caniff's work as well.
posted by pax digita at 12:16 PM on July 7, 2006

I've read somewhere that the samurai warriors of the Edo period walked with their arms and legs on the same side moving at the same time (how to explain... right arm and leg forward, then left arm and leg forward), which had something to do with being able to use their swords efficiently. I can't find any links to verify this, but since carrying swords in public was forbidden only about 150 years ago, it would explain "the shuffle," maybe?
posted by misozaki at 6:02 PM on July 7, 2006


Interesting. I'd never heard that before. However, it got me thinking, and for the first time, I've realized why ninjas run (or are depicted as running) like they do: the left arm is flung behind and the right arm is placed in front of the body in order to always be able to quickly draw the sword (the left arm is basically kept completely out of the way). Thanks.
posted by Bugbread at 6:14 AM on July 8, 2006

Honestly, it may just be that I've been living in China for the last few years - mainland Chinese have much stronger anti-Japanese prejudices (and physiognomic stereotypes) than anything the US Army could come up with - but this honestly doesn't seem that bad, compared to, say, superhero comics of the time. You know, the ones that said "SLAP A JAP!" on the front cover and had a picture of Batman punching a bucktooth, squinty-eyed Tojo. 
posted by bokane at 9:40 AM on July 8, 2006

I guess perhaps what gets me about this is that it (presumably) had ramifications in the real world, beyond the mere enforcement of racial bias. That, and the bizarre divisions between Chinese and Japanese, which is a little harder for me to digest than the simple 'bucktooth' stereotypes of US homegrown racist propaganda.

And bokane's point about the Chinese having a much stronger bias against the Japanese puts me in mind of Lo Lieh's performance as the evil Japanese karate expert in Long hu dou, aka "Chinese Boxer" or "Hammer of God". Recommended.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:01 AM on July 8, 2006

« Older gaudy as nature   |   A World Cup without goals? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments