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Tokyo Rose

Much to the eventual disappointment of American GIs masturbating all over the Pacific theater, Tokyo Rose never existed. There was nobody named Tokyo Rose, nor was it anybody's nickname. There was never even a fictional character named Tokyo Rose. The name was just a placeholder used by Allied troops to refer to any of the two dozen female voices they heard regularly on Radio Tokyo. Nevertheless, after World War II an American citizen was accused of having been that nonexistent fictional character, and she wound up in a federal penitentiary serving a ten-year sentence for treason.

That woman was named Iva Ikuko Toguri. Iva was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her birthday was the 4th of July. You really can't get any more American than that. She graduated from UCLA in 1941 and had plans to enroll in medical school. But then she wound up going to Japan on a fluke.

When an aunt in Japan fell ill, the family was bound by tradition to send someone. So in July 1941, Iva took a 3-week ocean voyage and landed in a country she had never seen before. Japanese customs were alien to her. She didn't care for Japanese cuisine and actually hated the taste of rice. Then one day, Pearl Harbor got blown to shit in a sneak attack, and Iva was suddenly trapped on enemy soil.

Iva attempted to return to California, but government bureaucrats stalled her paperwork requests and the last ship sailed without her. Iva patently refused when the Special Security Police repeatedly demanded that she renounce her American citizenship. So they rewarded her patriotism by categorizing her an "enemy alien," which left her effectively marooned in Japan.

When the neighbors became hostile toward Iva's relations, she decided she had to find somewhere else to stay. As an enemy alien, she was ineligible for food rations. To feed herself, she found work at NHK transcribing American news broadcasts in English. One day in late 1943 she was involuntarily selected as a disc jockey for an English-language propaganda show called "The Zero Hour." The show was conceived as a weapon to demoralize Allied soldiers, by feeding them (mostly false) information about the state of the war.

More than 20 women served as voice talent for "The Zero Hour." Iva was only one of them. Her on-air personality was called "Orphan Ann." She made 340 broadcasts under that name. Being a patriotic American performing involuntarily for an enemy of her country, Iva constantly strove to subvert the broadcasts in subtle ways. When she read the scripts, she would employ inappropriate pauses and verbal inflections to inject a tone of sarcasm recognizable only to the GIs.

After V-J Day, journalists from America swarmed Japan in search of stories. One especially desirable scoop was landing an interview with Tokyo Rose, vixen of the Japanese airwaves. Unknown to the reporters, no such person existed. In Tokyo, two representatives of the Hearst media empire made inquiries and let it be known that they were offering to pay Rose $10,000 for an interview.

Iva figured that she deserved the money as much as anybody, and certainly could use it. So she agreed to be interviewed by the Hearst men. They asked her a bunch of questions and typed up the interview. She signed the transcript. During the course of the interview, Iva had been asked whether she were the "one and only Tokyo Rose." She had replied affirmatively, knowing that there was no such person and mistakenly assuming that the amalgam had been regarded fondly by the Allied troops. She was horrified to discover how wrong she was.

Walter Winchell (the Rush Limbaugh of the 1940s) declared Toguri to be a traitor and relentlessly urged his listeners to demand that she be tried for treason. Bowing to public pressure, President Truman ordered his attorney general to proceed against her. On July 5, 1949 her trial began in San Francisco. It was the most expensive in American history, costing what would have been $9 million in today's money.

The prosecution's case was a frame-up. When none of the Orphan Ann recordings turned out to contain treasonous statements, individuals were enticed to commit perjury. Former POWs testified that they had personally witnessed Iva make incriminating statements during her radio show. On September 29th she was convicted of one count: that she "spoke into a microphone concerning the loss of ships." For this she was stripped of her U.S. citizenship, fined $10,000, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Iva was sent to the Alderson Reformatory for Women, where Axis Sally was serving time. Although a model prisoner in every way, whenever Iva came up for parole she was denied. On January 28, 1956 prisoner 9380-W was released. She had gotten out three years early with good behavior. But her ordeal was not over. The government soon began deportation hearings against her. Luckily, she prevailed and was allowed to remain in her homeland and not forcibly emigrate back to Japan.

Finally in 1977, President Gerald Ford granted Iva a full pardon after reading her story in a newspaper article. But she has received no restitution for her false imprisonment, nor any apology from the nation which disowned her.


19 Jan 1977 President Gerald Ford pardons Iva Toguri D'Aquino.

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