By Henry Sakaida  

If you are a baby boomer, then you may not know his name, but his face is certainly familiar! I grew up watching God Is My Co-Pilot, China’s Little Devils, Back to Bataan, First Yank In Tokyo, Destination Gobi, etc. I still love seeing this guy on TV! 

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Richard Loo in the 1945 movie “God is my Co-Pilot”

Richard Loo was a Chinese-Hawaiian, born in Maui, Hawaii in October 1903. He attended UC Berkeley, hoping to major in business. Unfortunately, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression forced him to withdraw, and he eventually took interest in theater. His first film debut was in 1931. From then until his death in 1983, he was in more than 120 movies. He was a character actor and became well recognized for playing evil Japanese villains in WWII themed movies. Although I am of Japanese descent, I simply loved this guy. My only complaint is that Hollywood didn’t make him evil enough! 

 In the classic WWII propaganda film God Is My Co-Pilot (1945), Loo played “Tokyo Joe,” a Japanese Zero ace fighting against the Flying Tigers. The movie was based on the life of a real AVG ace Robert L. Scott Jr. Instead of Zeroes, they used modified AT-6 trainers. In his cockpit, the dastardly villain carried his Samurai sword mounted behind his seat (!!). In addition, he traded barbs over the radio with “Scott” (Dennis Morgan), in perfect English. In one scene, he taunts his opponents with: “Where are you gangsters?! Why don’t you come on up and get a load of the scrap metal you sold us!” 

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American Volunteer Group (AVG) P-40’s in flight

Tokyo Joe’s “Japanese” is hilarious! When Scott goes after his wingmen, Joe yells into his  radio: “Hanonaya! Shinani noho, yaremasho!” This is total jibberish! To irritate my wife with my flawless Japanese, I would utter Tokyo Joe’s  jibberish in a crowd of Japanese people to secretly gauge their reaction! She always responds with: “Ah, shut up!” Joe yelled “Bakatarei!” a few times (stupid or idiot) correctly, with an American accent! I wonder who was the Japanese language coach on the set? 

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AVG and Army Air Force Pilot and Author, Robert L. Scott shown here in a 1943 photo.

Richard Loo later appeared in the James Bond flick The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) and various TV series such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Incredible Hulk, Kung-Fu, Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Police Story, etc. 

 Richard Loo died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 20 November 1983. He is buried in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery (Mission Hills), Los Angeles County. Section F, T-8, grave 28.  

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Author and Historian Henry Sakaida at the grave of Richard Loo

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