Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tokyo Rose

Born in Los Angeles on the Fourth of July, 1916, Iva Toguri wanted to become a doctor and graduated from UCLA. When her aunt in Japan fell ill, 25-year-old Iva was sent to Japan to care for her on July 5, 1941.
Relations between the US and Japan deteriorated, and Iva made plans to go home. In December, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She was stranded. The Japanese police visited her, demanding she renounce her American citizenship. She refused. As an enemy alien, she was denied a food ration card.
She had no contact with her parents, who were sent to an internment camp. She moved out of her aunt’s home under pressure from neighbors who didn’t want to be accused of harboring an American spy.
Needing a job, she found work transcribing English-language radio broadcasts. Then she got a job with Radio Tokyo, typing scripts for programs broadcast to Allied soldiers. The Zero Hour was run by three prisoners of war: British-born Australian Major Charles Cousens, American Captain Wallace Ince, and Filipino Lieutenant Normando Reyes. Cousens recruited Iva as a broadcaster, believing her deep voice would not create homesickness among their listeners. Iva took the job, assured she would not have to broadcast anti-American propaganda. She called herself Ann or Orphan Ann. The troops called her Tokyo Rose.

She had been one of several women to broadcast in English to Allied servicemen.

The Japanese, of course, wanted the broadcasts to demoralize Allied servicemen. Iva, however, used her air time, like the POWs, to undermine Japanese efforts. She said things like, “We’re just going to begin our regular program of music, news, and the Zero Hour for our friends―I mean our enemies―in Australia and the South Pacific. All set?” She issued warnings that her program contained “wicked and dangerous propaganda, so beware.”
Most servicemen enjoyed listening to her. They did not hear treasonous talk.
In April, 1945, Iva married Felipe D’Aquino, a Portuguese citizen of Portuguese-Japanese descent. Four months later, the war ended. In October, she was arrested. She was held in prison for a year while the FBI and Army investigators examined her case. They found no evidence she had broadcast secret information and that her broadcasts “had little, if any, of the effect intended.”
Soon after, she was pregnant and wanted to go home to give birth on American soil. Gossip reporter Walter Winchell roused a storm of opposition. The American Legion and Department of Justice reopened her case and charged her with treason. In a trial in which the government spent $750,000 to prosecute her, she was found guilty on one count of treason, and sentenced to ten years in prison, loss of her citizenship, and fined $10,000.

Her baby, born in Japan, died shortly after birth. After returning to the States, she never saw her husband again.

She was paroled in January, 1956, after six years, two months in the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, West Virginia. Twenty years later, a Chicago Tribune reporter claimed the FBI and US occupation police in Japan had coerced witnesses to give perjured testimony against her. On January 19, 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned her.
When she died in 2006 at age 90, the New York Times reported that her “broadcasts did nothing to dim American morale. The servicemen enjoyed the recordings of American popular music, and the United States Navy bestowed a satirical citation on Tokyo Rose at war’s end for her entertainment value.”
Do you think the charges against her were prompted by race?


  1. What an interesting story again. How sad that she was arrested when the soldiers looked forward to hearing her on the radio! I don't know if I would say race or stupidity.