Monday, August 16, 2004

Tokyo Rose

A throwaway joke on last night’s “Simpsons” sent me searching online for information about Tokyo Rose. According to my mom, Tokyo Rose was a woman whose English-language radio broadcasts during World War II were meant to demoralize American troops. But I found she was a lot more interesting than that. “Tokyo Rose” was actually an American born woman named Iva Toguri. Iva, who graduated from UCLA with a zoology degree, went to see her parent’s homeland when she was twenty-five. Unfortunately, visa difficulties and the beginning of the war trapped Iva in Japan.

An American citizen, Ida was regarded by the Japanese government as a dangerous interloper. They requested that she renounce her citizenship, but Ida refused. Eventually, Ida ended up broadcasting for Radio Tokyo on a show called the Zero Hour, in which captured Allied troops were forced to broadcast pro-Japan, anti-Allied Forces propaganda throughout the South Pacific. However, the deejays would sneak in subtle pro-American messages and hints at Japanese war plans. Iva Toguri’s broadcast personality was Orphan Ann.

When emperor surrendered, American reporters swarmed to Japan in search of Tokyo Rose, a radio persona who they believed sent out demoralizing messages to American soldiers — “What are you doing here, out in the middle of the ocean? Do you think your wife really misses you? Do you think she’s really waiting for you?” But nobody knew who Tokyo Rose was. Somehow, the reporters sniffed their way to Iva.

The link between Iva Toguri and the “Tokyo Rose” name became so strong that she was eventually extradited to San Francisco, where she was tried on seven counts of treason. Her trial was the longest and most expensive in American history. Though the jury initially was unable to reach a verdict, the judge demanded that the jurors deliberate until they reached one.

Eventually, Iva was convicted as being the infamous Tokyo Rose, though she maintained her innocence, claiming that the person American authorities identified as Tokyo Rose was actually a composite of several Radio Tokyo personalities crossbred with homespun urban legends. The judge, who later admitted to being prejudiced against Iva, sentenced her to ten years in jail and a fine of $10,000. (The maximum fine for treason, incidentally, was death.) Jail chiefs deemed Iva a model prisoner. Her craftwork earned her a first palce in the state fair. And she played bridge with Mildred Sisk, a woman convicted of broadcasting anti-American propaganda in radio Berlin as “Axis Sally.” She earned only one demerit — for removing a fellow inmate’s decayed tooth without proper authorization.

The moment of Iva’s release — which came four years early — the government demanded that she be deported back to Japan. For years Iva and her friends fought and eventually those wanting her out of the country relented. She never again left the U.S. and she lives here today. As one of his last presidential actions, Gerald Ford granted Iva a full presidential pardon — the treason scar on her record was effectively erased, though her time in prison could never really be returned.

(Most of this I just gleaned from this site, but I made it more easy to absorb.)

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