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A Rose by another Name: The Tokyo Rose Story

By Edited Apr 8, 2016 5 10

The Zero Hour

Iva Ikuko Toguri d'Aquino

“There is no ‘Tokyo Rose’; the name is strictly a G.I. invention.  The name has been applied to at least two lilting Japanese voices on the Japanese radio . . . Government monitors listening in 24 hours a day have never heard the words ‘Tokyo Rose’ over any Japanese-controlled Far Eastern radio.”

-          U.S. Office of War Information, August 1945

 

Tokyo Rose: the name evokes a response even from those who have no idea who or what the name represents.

Propaganda is used by governments to sway not only public opinion on the home front, but is also a tool used historically to undermine the morale of a perceived enemy.  It comes in many forms: rumors, lies, well-placed (but deceptive) advertisements and political announcements, or in printed pamphlets. 

The likes of conservative radio “personalities” (such as Rush Limbaugh or anybody associated with the Fox “News” Network) use right-wing propaganda and lies to subvert or negatively influence public opinion about political and cultural issues.  The net of such efforts is nil—they have no influence on anyone except those already predisposed (and brain-damaged enough) to receive their messages and buy into them.  A thinking person is immune.

In the last worthwhile military action involving the United States, World War II, propaganda was used by all of its participants to a greater or lesser degree of effectiveness.  [And America’s involvement against the Nazis in that war was incidental—the only real enemy America faced in that conflict, the only reason for its involvement, was Japan.  Japan had aggressively launched an assault on the United States on December 7, 1941.]  While some propaganda programs were more effective than others, it was radio that was most widely successful.

A British milquetoast, William Joyce, defected to Germany from his homeland believing in the Nazi cause and broadcast anti-British, pro-Nazi propaganda under the silly name “Lord Haw-Haw” during WWII.  [“Haw-Haw” was an onomotopeiac sound making fun of upper-British class speech patterns.  His last broadcast from Hamburg was a drunken ramble, made as British soldiers advanced on a defeated Germany.  He was captured, tried for treason by the British, and hanged on January 3, 1946.] 

Naiveté plays a huge role in the effectiveness of propaganda.  In Japan, playing on the sexual ignorance and vestigial Victorian morality of American G.I.s, a propaganda machine, using radio as the medium, was devised.  This was Japan’s “The Zero Hour” radio broadcast.  It was wildly successful.  It used innocent sounding female broadcasters, under equally innocent sounding noms de guerre (such as “Little Margie”), to demoralize insecure American male troops in the Pacific. 

The broadcasters played music and offered news feeds; during breaks, they might ask loaded questions such as, “Hey, American Joe—do you know where your wife is tonight?”

There were several of these women, some from different places (one was Canadian).  They all had their on-air nicknames.  The most famous one, though, was an educated American

Iva Ikuko Toguri d'Aquino (a/k/a/
woman of Japanese descent who went by the broadcast name “Orphan Ann”.  Though there were many of them, this one woman came to generically personify a reviled, traitorous propagandist.  The name assigned to her by the American press (one coined by the Allies earlier in the war, but never heard on-air before then) was “Tokyo Rose”.

Later in life her name was Iva d’Aquino.  But she was born with the culturally specific Japanese name, Ikuko Toguri.

Rose Bud
The woman whose name would (like World War I-era exotic dancer and courtesan, Mata Hari) become synonymous with treachery, treason, and deceit, was born to Japanese parents in Los Angeles, California, ostensibly on July 4, 1916.  [The date of her birth is not clear; the Independence Day annotation is probably a paean by her newly-minted American citizen parents to their adopted country.  It is unknown if she was actually born on that day, but 1916 is the accepted year].  The American name “Iva” was given to the girl in addition to her traditional sounding Japanese name, Ikuko.

Her father, Jun Toguri, was an immigrant from Japan, arriving in California in 1899.  Her mother, Fumi, immigrated to the US in 1913.  Jun and Fumi embraced all things perceived as American; he owned an import shop and was able to provide well for his family as a result of his work.

Iva, while perhaps not a spoiled child, did not grow up lacking in many things, including the regular activities of any American girl.  She was raised in the Protestant Methodist faith.  She was a Girl Scout.  Her father sent her to school in Mexico; upon returning she finished out her grammar schooling at an institute in San Diego.  Afterward, she went back to live with her parents, and completed high school in LA.

The young woman decided she would like a career in medicine, but what kind just yet she hadn’t settled upon.  She enrolled in the University of California, Los Angeles.  Reflecting her family’s conservative politics, she registered as a Republican.  She voted for Wendell Willkie (though he was far more liberal than the average Republican in his day) in the 1940 US Presidential election (he lost to Franklin Delano Roosevelt).  Iva graduated from UCLA in 1941 with an undergrad degree in zoölogy.  Familial expectations being what they are in the Japanese culture, Iva went to work in her father’s shop after receiving her degree.

Stranger in a Strange Land
Iva, sometimes at odds with her parents’ traditional values, realized she was wasting her education merely working in her father’s shop.  But, as a dutiful daughter, she complied.  Fate played a direct role in the outcome of not only her career path but of her entire life.

Back in Japan, Iva’s aunt (her mother’s sister) developed an illness that required some in-home care.  In a gesture of both practicality and largesse Iva’s parents “gifted” her a trip to Japan (as a graduation present) with the understanding she would stay with the aunt and tend to her during her health problems.

International travel in those days, dependent upon the reason for traveling, did not always require a government-issued passport.  Because Iva’s trip to Japan was not a residence change and she was going merely to help out a relative, she obtained only a Certificate of Identification from the US State Department.  This document would see her clear once she arrived in Japan.

On July 5, 1941 (the day after her 25th birthday), Iva sailed from the port of San Pedro in the Los Angeles area.  She harbored some hope of possibly starting the study of medicine in Japan (for however long she might be there) while she tended to her aunt.  Perhaps she could get a class or two of medical learning in while she was in the Land of the Rising Sun.

She was in for a major culture shock, though.  Iva, who could speak fluent Japanese, was technically a “full-blood” Japanese (both her parents were first-generation Americans of Japanese descent).  Japan, though, even as late as 1941, adhered to many archaic rituals and cultural norms. 

Women were generally to be seen and not heard.  Iva had been born and raised in America; she had enjoyed a relative degree of independence without male patronage or chaperoning.  Japan’s Geisha culture of servile catering to men still existed (though not as great or influential as it had been in previous decades). 

Iva also found the most mundane things, such as the native foods, to be difficult in adapting toward.  Of course, she had eaten traditional Japanese foods at home, prepared by her mother, but in America that was for special occasions, not a daily occurrence. A simple hamburger in Japan might be nearly impossible to find.

In the meantime, diplomatic and cultural relations between the US and Japan were very strained (and had been for several years).  Japan was suspicious of America’s seemingly boundless growth, its alleged eye toward global imperialism (and its perceived interference with Japan’s plans for empire expansion), and its influence overseas on not only Japan but its neighbors.

Iva felt the hostility in the air every time she, a “foreigner”, interacted with the natives. Finally, in September 1941, having been in Japan for about two months and sensing the changes to come, she applied to the US Consulate in Japan to get a passport (her simple Certificate of Identity was of little value) to go back home.  This request was sent on to the US State Department for review and approval.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, a surprise Japanese air fleet bombed the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  This act ensured the United States’ entry into what was then considered a war between European concerns, World War II.

Iva’s passport request had not been answered by the time of the assault on Pearl Harbor. A hasty evacuation effort was assembled; Iva, though, could not get passage on any of the ships—it can only be presumed that, with her 100% Japanese features and lack of proper traveling documents (i.e., the passport she so desperately needed) no American personnel would dare take her on board on faith.

And it didn’t matter that her English was inflected by the jargon and California slang of her day and was flawless—Americans traveling abroad and the Allied soldiers fighting in Europe since 1939, had heard broadcasters in the Pacific and on Japan’s radio programs who spoke flawless English, too, and many of these were Japanese women.  These women, merely voices in the air heard by destitute, desperate, unloved, or lonely Allied soldiers in the field, were given a name by their listeners: “Tokyo Rose”.

Iva Ikuko Toguri, US citizen, was not able to get out of Japan.  The last ship bound for America left without her.  To worsen matters—knowing of her presence, her recent request for a passport, and her attempts to gain passage on one of the American evacuation ships—members of Japan’s secret police arm visited her. It was demanded that she renounce her US citizenship and swear an oath of allegiance to Japan’s emperor, Hirohito.

She refused.  She was left unharmed, but her position was very bad.  As Japan’s economy rocketed into that of a wartime economy, Iva was denied a food ration card.  This meant she could not legally purchase certain food items, mostly staples to stay alive. She was also classified by the Japanese government as an enemy alien in residence. 

To at least help her aunt avoid government harassment Iva moved out of her aunt’s house and into a boarding house.  She was friendless and stranded in Japan.

The Zeroth Degree
As the war effort in Japan became a part of daily life, the populace adapted to certain things.  Radio Tokyo, under the ideological aegis of not only Japan’s sense of cultural “right” but of Prime Minister (and Imperial Army general) Hideki Tojo, became a major propaganda tool. 

With only a very few countries having experimented with television broadcasting (the UK had regularly scheduled televised programming as early as 1936; the US started around 1940) radio was still the most powerful medium of information dispersal on the planet.

Radio Tokyo devised a simple concept as part of its war effort: use Allied prisoners of war to go on-air and read news to their fellow soldiers in the field interspersed with pro-Japanese, anti-Allies’ sentiments.  The POWs either read the scripts they were given or they would be put to death. The idea was the creation of a member of the Imperial Army’s Psychological Warfare group. The first of these broadcasts went out on August 1, 1942.  That was when an Australian major, Charles Cousens, was forced on-air at 6:00 that evening to read a propagandist message—or be executed.  Later, Cousens was forced to write his own material as well as broadcast it as an on-air “personality”.

The program’s format varied little.  In the beginning, it was very short, but by 1943 there was a change in the air waves.  Cousens (and other POWs) were reaching some US armed forces personnel but not with the degree of intimacy needed to demoralize the troops.  In that year Japan founded listening stations to pick up domestic broadcasts from the US.  This let Japanese intelligence know what casual news was happening in the US in a timely manner (natural disasters, such as tornadoes or forest fires) and problems related to the modern world—train wrecks and car crashes. 

The propaganda show was changed.  It was christened “The Zero Hour” (presumably wordplay on the Japanese fighter plane, the “Zero”).  It debuted in its new format at 5:15 PM on March 31, 1943. 

The idea was to intersperse a 15- to 20-minute radio show of music with the “bad” news from America (and other Allied countries) read by Philippine Army Lieutenant and prisoner of war, Norman Reyes.  This show was beamed out on shortwave where it was picked up by US (and other) forces in the South Pacific. The program later expanded to an actual hour of air time and then later to 75 minutes. The news items specifically focused on things that, while true (floods at home, etc.), had been censored for distribution to Allied troops for fear of lowering their morale. The deejay’s talking portion of “The Zero Hour” was similarly expanded to accommodate the new format—15 minutes of talking air time (aimed at bringing only the worst news from home to Allied service men) became the norm.  Tailoring, dependent upon the listening audience, might happen, but most broadcasts focused on the Western Allies and their home-front problems.

Thanks to their naiveté it was US service men who seemed most vulnerable to the psychological ploys used by Radio Tokyo’s “The Zero Hour” (as well as the roughly dozen or so similar propaganda broadcasts coming from Japan).  It was in these 15 minutes that the legend of Tokyo Rose was born. 

Radio Tokyo’s operators came to the wise and healthy conclusion that a sexy female voice would garner more attention and thus, paid attention, to the messages being broadcast.  With that model in mind the station began “recruiting” (coercing in many cases) female on-air talent to read the “news”.

And once these static-y female voices began to be heard over radios on American ships in the Pacific the lonesome sailors, dogfaces, and jarheads on these ships (either serving aboard or in transit elsewhere) gave her a name: “Tokyo Rose”.

Not Men: Boys
As it had been during World War I, the United States was a mostly agrarian society in the early 1940s.  Statistically speaking, the majority of enlisted in the US Armed Forces during WWII (as in WWI) were young, sexually inexperienced farm boys.

Of those enlisted men, who might have engaged in sexual intercourse or were married before getting drafted or volunteering, their sexual sophistication was at the most basic level.  Most sex during that time was of a clandestine nature (except for the married men), hastily done in fields, barns, woods, car back seats, or in the back rows of the “picture show”.  These boys did not know what the word “foreplay” meant.  They had no idea of the true workings of a woman’s sexual anatomy.  Their take on sex meant intercourse, preferably (or almost exclusively) missionary position intercourse, quickly executed.

When the Americans (and some other young Allied soldiers) got away from their rural communities and came into contact with foreign prostitutes for the first time it was a whole other vista that awaited them.  For a price the virgin American G.I. could “have” a woman.  She was compliant and submissive, doing whatever he wanted (and that was to be expected considering he was paying her).  Foreplay was not part of the act—the American john was too ignorant to know what it was, the prostitute (while perhaps knowing about her own sexual needs) didn’t care and merely wanted “Junior” to hurry up and toddle on so she could move on to her next customer.  For the average Europeans and Asians this model of human sexuality was not the norm.  These other cultures recognized women as sexual beings and as having sexual needs of their own. 

In the United States during the early part of World War II a particular “entertainment” flourished that allowed men and women casually, but with purpose, to meet each other.  This

WWII-era Taxi Dancer sign
was the realm of the Taxi Dancer, a woman who would dance with a man for the price of a cheap ticket in a club (to which she owed part of her earnings).  The practice started as early as 1913, but by the 1920s it was an established (and lucrative) American institution. Usually, men bought tickets at the door (generally a dime each, with some places charging a few cents more or less). For the ticket, the lonely man got a chance to spend a couple of minutes on a dance floor shuffling along to the sounds of records or a live band, talking to the woman of his choosing, getting to hold her close.

Men were in short supply in the US during World War II, and many women were either left destitute or forced to work low-paying jobs to help make ends meet (and this was true in almost every other country affected by the war during that time). The Taxi Dancer racket allowed many single (and married women with husbands overseas) to make extra money.  [And a dime went much further in those days than today—it was the equivalent of $1.54 in 2012.  Thus, a woman who maybe danced 10 dances in a night—about 30 minutes’ worth of actual “work” less the conversation either before or after—earned the buying power of about $15 in today’s money, or about $30 per hour.]  Drinks were on the “joes”, so a Taxi Dancer might get a few watered-down mimosas or some beers or colas. Regardless, for many lonely married women, or engaged women, or otherwise single (but still lonely) women the Taxi Dancer racket was a good way to make a few honest dollars, have a good time, and not think so much about the outside world.

Better still, for the women (and the men who patronized them) the Taxi Dancer racket could be a gateway to the more lucrative money of prostitution: if some goober would pay 10¢ for a lousy dance and a chance to talk to or touch a woman what would he pay to actually have sex with her?  Many women in America (and in the UK as well as other Allied countries) engaged in part-time prostitution to help put food on the table.

The American G.I.s in the South Pacific knew all of this because in many cases known married women in other countries were prostituting themselves for the same reasons (even though many found Westerners loathsome), and these sexually inexperienced G.I.s were frequenting them. It caused them great anxiety to think their wives or girlfriends might be enjoying the attentions of other men (either with or without money changing hands).

“The Zero Hour” and its 15 minutes of deejay banter preyed upon the sexual inexperience and insecurities of the average American grunt in the South Pacific.  The idea was to demoralize these young soldiers, telling them any women they had attachments to back in their home countries were probably out with other men (either as Taxi Dancers being pawed and manhandled nightly or outright prostituting themselves).

The first time American media picked up on the idea of “The Zero Hour” it was completely misunderstood.  A major magazine reported in 1943 that the deejays were sympathetic with the American G.I.s who comprised the listening audience:

“The fellows like it very much because it cries over them and feels so sorry for them.  It talks about the food that they miss by not being home and tells how the war workers are stealing their jobs and their girls.”

The naïve American rag failed to understand the context—any lonely G.I. hearing about the foods he was missing by not being at home or how his girl was being courted by another man did not feel “cried over”—he was incensed and demoralized.  

And that was “The Zero Hour”, an audio propaganda tool designed to rip open the heart of the average, unsophisticated American service man in the South Pacific who couldn’t get past the fact that while he was having sex with other women his girlfriend or wife might have been having sex with other men.  And that ate at him.

Another Rose in a Large Bouquet
Iva Toguri, meanwhile, was having some major problems.  She had been allowed to write to her parents; her letters got out of Japan, and she had received some responses from her mother and father.  Knowing of her plight they had appealed to the State Department for help as soon as they could but they soon developed their own woes.

The United States government, in one of its more heinous and disgusting acts of human rights abuses, created a series of concentration camps in the Western US.  These were used to house anyone of Japanese ancestry (regardless of place of birth) or who might harbor pro-Japanese sentiments.

Despite the fact that Iva’s father, Jun Toguri, had been in the US since 1899, was a citizen, and a successful small business owner with no history of incorrigibility or anti-US government expressions he and his wife, Fumi, were rounded up and dumped in one of the Japanese-American internment camps. [Actors George Takei (Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu) and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita (TV’s “Arnold” from Happy Days and Mr. Miyagi of the Karate Kid movies), though both born in America, were imprisoned with their families when they were children in such camps.]  Iva knew none of this, only that she had stopped receiving letters from her parents.  She assumed this had to do with communications services being disrupted thanks to the war.

She was forced to stay in Japan; without a food ration card she needed a steady source of income to stay alive.  As a fluent Japanese speaker who also was fluent in English she found a job at an English-language newspaper, transcribing short-wave radio broadcasts into English there.  Iva then managed to take on a second job with Radio Tokyo as a typist; she typed out scripts for the propaganda programs broadcast for the G.I.s in and around Southeast Asia.

Her income from Radio Tokyo and her other job was minimal, but she bought some foodstuffs and smuggled them into a local POW camp that housed not only Australian Major Charles Cousens (before he was tapped for the nascent “Zero Hour”) but also an American US Army captain, Wallace Ince (who would also later be forced into working for “The Zero Hour”).

Cousens, with previous broadcast experience, had been tortured by the Japanese before submitting to being used as an on-air stooge for “The Zero Hour”.  When he later learned that Iva Toguri was working as a typist with his “employer”, he clumsily tried to repay her earlier life-risking kindnesses by getting her a better-paying job at Radio Tokyo—as a propaganda broadcaster for “The Zero Hour”.  This was in November of 1943.

Certainly needing the money, and definitely wanting to stay on her involuntary host country’s good side, she accepted the position.  When the subject was brought to her attention Iva flatly refused to engage in any on-air anti-American diatribes.  Cousens, forced into writing scripts for the show, assured her he would not put such words in her mouth, but that she would have to indulge in some of the “demoralizing” banter.  [And a review much later of all 340 broadcasts in which she participated revealed no anti-American sentiments coming from her mouth.]

Among the (preferred) female propaganda broadcasters (not only at Radio Tokyo but at other stations) were several foreigners.  At Radio Tokyo another American, Ruth Hayakawa, filled in for Iva on weekends.  The station also employed a Canadian named June Suyama (who used the on-air name “The Nightingale of Nanking”).  Another station, the Japanese-controlled Radio Manila, employed Myrtle Lipton (using the nom de guerre, “Little Margie” as well as some other names).

Iva had taken the pseudonym “Orphan Ann” as her moniker.  While it is most likely this name referred to the hugely popular comic-strip character, “Little Orphan Annie”, there are other

Iva Toguri (1943 @ Radio Tokyo)
theories as well about the name choice.  Iva first used the simpler name, “Ann” (allegedly a truncation of the word “announcer”, abbreviated “ANN” in her scripts).  More likely, she took the later “orphan” part of the name from conversations with the Aussie major who “recruited” her, Cousens.  In the slang of the Australian army, “orphans” were those soldiers separated in battle from their main division.  Thus, Iva Toguri, separated from her American homeland by circumstance, may have considered herself a “battle orphan” as well.  Her first broadcast under the moniker was on August 14, 1944 (though she had appeared as an announcer anonymously before that time).

The programming was beamed out to make sure and hit the ears of American G.I. listeners as far away as the South Pacific’s Solomon Islands chain (which includes the Russell Islands group and Guadalcanal, both bases for the Allied Pacific Theater of Operations).  All of the foreign female broadcasters of Japanese propaganda radio, heard by the Allied soldiers, came to be called collectively “Tokyo Rose” by servicemen.  However, over time, the distinctive voice of “Orphan Ann”—Iva Toguri—was the one that came to most readily be associated with the fictitious “Rose”.

She had about 20 minutes per broadcast (when she was scheduled) for ad-libbing and for doing her scripted routines.  Unlike Cousens and the Filipino, Norman Reyes, she did not ever read the “bad” news on the air.  She did, however, have opportunities to dig at the Allies (gently) with statements in which she called them “boneheads”.  [The term is an Australian one she learned from Cousens.  The slang is the equivalent of the Americanism “dogface” for its G.I.s.]

Tokyo Rose (in full bloom)
In at least one known instance (documented in a surviving recording) she called herself “your ‘Number One’ enemy”, directed at her listeners.  She also struck at their male insecurities about their women back home by innocently insinuating that perhaps their wives or girlfriends might not be sitting home alone and pining for their soldier boys.  Mostly, though, Iva was given some comedic routines in which to participate as part of her broadcast, and she also did the deejay work of introducing songs she played (mostly classical tracks or semi-classical with a few pop tunes or dance records thrown in the mix occasionally). 

She was paid by Radio Tokyo for her broadcast work; in Japanese yen her income was about $7.00 US per month (the equivalent of about $97 US in 2012).  She still managed to squeeze out some cash to buy food to smuggle to the POWs as she had done when working only as a typist and transcriber.

The Show Must Go On . . . And On . . . And On
Iva not then or ever called herself “Tokyo Rose”, nor did any other female broadcasters (the number reached 13 “Roses” by the end of the war).  She stayed with Radio Tokyo for the balance of the war starting in November 1943 (a total tenure of about 21 months).  The bulk of what she did on-air, unlike that of the other “Roses”, rarely strayed into the territory of anti-Allies’ propaganda or attempted to demoralize the troops (with a few rare exceptions).  Her function was truly that of an on-air entertainer and personality.

As “The Zero Hour” gained in popularity, Iva was allowed to write some of her own material, some of which she used to cleverly send out pro-Allies’ sentiments. Later, as Iva felt more comfortable she began thinking that perhaps Radio Tokyo and the Japanese Army were interfering too much with “her” show’s content.  She began skipping out on work, sometimes spending weeks incommunicado.  This infuriated her supervisors, but they did nothing to discipline her. 

While doing what her employers (Radio Tokyo and the Japanese Army) generally told her to do on-air, when she was off-mic Iva was a very outspoken supporter of the Allies.  She spent

Iva Ikuko Toguri (Dec. 5 1944)
time visiting POWs in their cells, smuggling food, medicines, and some clothing (had she been caught doing this, it is likely she would have been summarily executed).  In the fall of 1944 when US bombers began appearing in the skies over Tokyo, Iva cheered aloud in the streets.  [In an interesting footnote the advance aircraft was a reconnaissance plane, named “Tokyo Rose”.]  Her barely-contained support for the Allies caused much dissent at Radio Tokyo, and she was involved in frequent arguments at work.  In December 1944, “The Zero Hour” was scaled back to a more streamlined, and solid, 60 minutes. 

Iva met a man in Japan of mixed Japanese-Portuguese ancestry named Felipe d’Aquino.  She and he married on April 19, 1945.  [Iva converted to Catholicism, the religion of her fiancé, just before marrying.  She took a month off work to take training in Catholicism at a Church college without telling “The Zero Hour” where she was.]  Though their marriage was registered with Portugal’s consulate office in Tokyo and she was offered Portuguese citizenship (because of her husband) Iva refused—she wanted to remain American, even though she could not yet get home.

Going home was a closer dream than she imagined at the time of her marriage to d’Aquino.  Nearly four months later, on August 6, 1945, the US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.  On August 9, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. 

“The Zero Hour” aired its final broadcast on August 12.  Three days later, on August 15, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allied forces (though the official surrender document was not signed until September 2, 1945).  Radio Tokyo was shut down immediately after Hirohito’s surrender speech.

Iva Ikuko Toguri d’Aquino and her husband wanted to leave Japan, but they had not enough money to do it.  And an offer of quick cash would change every plan she had for getting home.

All is not Quiet on the Eastern Front
In the wake of Japan’s surrender two American reporters teamed up; from their respective publications the pair offered a $2,000 fee to get an exclusive interview with “Tokyo Rose”.

Technically, there was no such person as “Tokyo Rose”.  However, the $2,000 fee offered equaled what an average person in the now-Allied Occupied Japan could earn in a year (over $25,000 US today).  Although almost any of the 13 known female broadcasters of Radio Tokyo or other Japanese stations could have claimed to be “Tokyo Rose”, it was Iva who stepped forward.

 Iva Ikuko Toguri D'Aquino (press interview, Sep 1945)
She and her husband were desperate to leave Japan and the money offered was too great a temptation to overlook.  Presenting herself as “Tokyo Rose”, Iva granted the interview.  But it did not lead to the promised interview fee.  Instead, she was arrested in Yokohama on September 5, 1945.  She was allowed to call a press conference to defend her position—the reporter to whom she gave her interview used her “press conference” appearance as an excuse to claim she violated her “exclusivity” clause for the interview he’d been granted, and thus he weaseled out of paying her.  [This same journalist then tried to sell the transcript of his interview with Iva as a “confession”, the kind of thing the gossip rags of the day might buy.]

Iva (mugshots & behind bars)
Iva was jailed in Sugamo Prison.  She stayed behind bars for a year.  An investigation into her activities during the war was conducted by the FBI and members of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s staff (who spent time listening to recorded broadcasts of Iva). Interviews with the American and Australian POWs (Cousens, Ince, and others) who wrote scripts for her led to the conclusion that she had not engaged in any wrongdoing. Nor could any evidence of her aiding the Japanese or any of the Axis forces be found.  Iva was set free in October 1946.

"Tokyo Rose" (1946 movie poster & actress, Lotus Long)
Meanwhile, thanks to the publicity surrounding her arrest and the mystique of the name, the villainess “Tokyo Rose” was truly given life in a 1946 film of the same name.  Wildly fantastic in its melodrama, the movie starred an actress of Japanese-Hawaiian ancestry, Lotus Long (born Lotus Pearl Shibata, in New Jersey) in the title role.  Though Iva d’Aquino was never mentioned, it was clear from the make-up job done on the star that Iva was popularly believed to have been the femme fatale, Tokyo Rose (Long was made up to look as close to Iva as possible in the film).  The movie was absurd in many ways and it did nothing to help Iva d’Aquino restore her reputation of not being complicit in aiding the Japanese.

Though out of jail, Iva still couldn’t get home to America. She spent time trying to get the passport she had desperately needed back in 1941 to no avail.  She and her husband were now expecting a child, one that she sincerely wanted born on American soil. 

Though it is hard to imagine today the gossip columnists of the 1940s wielded much power and influence over popular opinion.  People such as Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons could make or break a celebrity’s career.  Others with more of a social agenda, such as Walter Winchell, could likewise unduly influence public opinion, and more importantly, lawmakers and others in the public eye. [Such “influence” was usually because the columnist had some piece of negative information about a person; the threat of extortion caused fear in many.] 

When Iva made it clear she wanted to go home Walter Winchell (who also hosted an incendiary radio show) took it upon himself to persecute her and sway public sentiment so badly out of favor for her that she was not only denied entry to her own country US military authorities went to Japan and placed her under arrest for treason (based on lingering rumor-mongering and Winchell’s inflammatory lobbying against her).  Shortly before that, though, Iva had given birth in Japan, but the baby died soon afterward. 

In military custody, Iva was taken to San Francisco where she was charged on September 25, 1948, with treason for  “adhering to, and giving aid and comfort to, the Imperial Government of Japan during World War II” (despite the fact that the FBI and MacArthur’s people had already concluded she had done no such thing). 

Prison and Beyond
Her trial started on July 5, 1949, in San Francisco’s federal court.  Iva was charged with eight counts of treason, any one of which could have meant a lengthy prison sentence or even the

page from 1949 FBI file re: Iva Ikuko Toguri d'Aquino
death penalty (treason being one of the few offenses for which the death penalty was routinely applied in convictions). 

Her trial turned out to be, up to that time, the longest and costliest in US history.  The price tag ran to half a million dollars in 1949 money—today, that is the same as several millions of dollars, an extraordinary waste of public funds.

Forty-six prosecution witnesses were called, two of whom were Iva’s supervisors from her time at Radio Tokyo.  Others were soldiers who had heard her broadcasts, but most of whom, thanks to the passage of time and all the negative publicity surrounding Iva since 1946, were unable to sort fact from fiction.  Some admitted they couldn’t recall, from memory, if what they had “heard” had indeed been broadcast or was the product of rumors that had been passed around.

The prosecution had her radio shows’ tapes on hand, but none of these were ever entered into evidence or played in open court.  The only truly damning piece of “evidence” came in the form of testimony from one of her supervisors at Radio Tokyo.  This man claimed on a particular day in October 1944 he had received a report of the loss of several American ships in a sea battle.  This supervisor then claimed he had asked Iva to mention the loss of the American ships in that day’s broadcast (as a demoralizer) and he said she agreed to do this. And another Radio Tokyo worker stated on the stand that Iva had indeed made such a statement: “Now you fellows have lost all your ships. Now you really are orphans of the Pacific.  How do you think you will ever get home?”  [The tape of this broadcast was presumably available for review but it seems this was not done to confirm or refute the testimony.]

Her two co-writers/producers, the former POWs Charles Cousens and Wallace Ince, appeared in her defense (at their own expense, it should be pointed out).  They reaffirmed that Iva had not read any demoralizing newscasts and was limited to her deejay and comedy sketch duties.

The jury verdict of “guilty” (on one count of her indictment) was brought in on September 29, 1949.  Specifically, the jury believed Iva had indeed mentioned the loss of the American ships on-air during October 1944 (based solely on witness-stand testimony).  She was given a 10-year prison sentence and levied a fine of $10,000.  [The jury foreman, John Mann, later claimed he was dismayed by the “guilty” verdict of his jury peers, and believed he helped send an innocent woman to prison.]

Iva d’Aquino was sent to a women’s federal prison in Alderson, West Virginia. She served her time quietly, and after six years and two months of imprisonment she was released on parole on January 28, 1956.  She moved to Chicago, Illinois, and remained silent on the subject of her involvement with “The Zero Hour” for over a decade.

Her US citizenship, because of the nature of her conviction, had been stripped from her.  Bizarrely, after her release, there were rumblings to have Iva deported from the US! [Though, as she held no citizenship in another country, it is interesting to ponder where, exactly, she was supposed to be deported to.]

Her parents had been released from the Gila River War Relocation Center (read: “Japanese internment camp”) in September 1943.  The Toguris then moved to Chicago where Jun opened a new retail import business, the J. Toguri Mercantile Company.   Iva took a job in her father’s store, living on the premises in quarters designed for occupancy.

Felipe d’Aquino, her husband, had been taken into custody as a defense witness during Iva’s trial.  When her case was over, he was deported to Japan.  He was coerced by agents of the FBI and INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) into signing a document that prohibited his ever returning to the United States.

Though Felipe and Iva were married he could not see her in Chicago after she got out of prison because he was legally barred from the US.  She, in turn, was afraid to leave and visit him for fear she would not be allowed back into the country.

Iva broke her silence about her time with “The Zero Hour” in 1969.  She gave a 30-minute radio interview to Bill Kurtiss (in more recent years the voice and moderator of A&E’s Investigative Reports and American Justice programs).  Her reason for allowing this interview was because Kurtiss was a trusted friend of hers, one of few she had.

In 1976, an investigative reporter from Chicago’s Tribune newspaper found that the two most damaging witnesses at Iva’s 1949 trial had perjured themselves.  They had been coached extensively by the FBI before their appearances, and both had been threatened with treason charges themselves if they didn’t cooperate.  From this, television’s popular news magazine, 60 Minutes, featured a segment about Iva and her case.  Her case was re-examined.  Based on the newer findings, on January 19, 1977, President Gerald R. Ford issued an executive pardon to Iva d’Aquino for her treason conviction.  Her US citizenship—which had been stripped away because of her treason conviction—was restored to her.

Iva d'Aquino at time of pardon by US President Gerald R. Ford
As time wore on, it was plain Iva d’Aquino could never re-unite with her husband.  In 1980 she resumed using her maiden name and to at least allow Felipe to move on with his own life the couple divorced the same year.  Felipe died in 1996.

Enough research had shown, over time, that Iva had not been actively engaging in any anti-American propaganda during the war (and in fact, as time went on her broadcasts were increasingly, albeit subtly, supportive of the Allies).  As a result of this more enlightened view of the woman, on January 15, 2006, the World War II Veterans Committee presented her its annual Edward J. Herlihy Citizenship Award.  The Committee cited Iva’s “indomitable spirit, love of country, and the example of courage she has given her fellow Americans”.    

The woman who was not Tokyo Rose, but who would forever be infamously linked to that icon, died at the age of 90 on September 26, 2006.  She was in a Chicago hospital when the end came.

In popular culture the name Tokyo Rose (not that of Iva d’Aquino) has come to symbolize an intangible evil, a treasonous turncoat who (like the British ex-pat Lord Haw Haw) used words to lower troop morale of a perceived enemy. Fictional representations (and they can only be

Iva Ikuko Toguri (1916-2006) c. 1943
fictional since Tokyo Rose, like Paul Bunyan or Wonder Woman, was not a real person) abound in cartoons, in literature, and in motion pictures, all using roughly the same femme fatale/treacherous woman template.

Iva Ikuko Toguri d’Aquino was a woman caught in a foreign country, unable to leave.  To survive she donned the garb of a collaborator, though she never actually collaborated or conspired or contrived or co-opted anything to help the Axis powers over the Allies that she openly supported.   

Though at one time the US military and other agencies had complete recordings of Iva’s broadcasts these almost all have been lost over time.  Only a handful remains.  The voice that comes forth from almost 70 years ago is of an airy sounding young woman, trying to make the best of a very bad situation.

***

broadcast recreation, Sep 1945 (banter by Iva Ikuko Toguri)

audio is terrible

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Comments

Dec 3, 2013 3:26pm
JeanBakula
What an amazing story. I've heard "Tokyo Rose" but besides knowing it referred to a traitor, I did not know the truth of the matter. Poor Iva suffered so much, and so unfairly. During war times, or bad times, many women in poor parts of the world are forced into prostitution, and it is such a shame for people to judge them for trying to survive. I'm glad she was pardoned by President Ford, but that doesn't make up for all the awful things she was forced into. Thanks for telling her story.
Dec 3, 2013 4:32pm
vicdillinger
My only concern about Ford's pardon was his timing.

While Iva definitely was not responsible for the worst demoralizing propaganda of the "Roses" and she deserved exoneration (and recompense for being falsely imprisoned, which she did NOT get) Ford waited until his last full day in office as President before Jimmy Carter took over. That was smart as it gave knee-jerk reactionaries no chance to beef about his decision (he pardoned Nixon, a TRUE criminal, and took a lot of flak for it).

That tells me that while he believed in her innocence he was unwilling to fight to clear her name (had he granted the pardon earlier than he did, it would have raised a s***storm among some idiots in the US).

Regardless, it is over, she suffered enough, and she does not deserve a place in history as the "face" of the fictional "Tokyo Rose". Thanks for reading!!!
Dec 4, 2013 10:26am
JeanBakula
Now that you mention it, Presidents commonly grant pardons on their last day in office. Remember the outrage when Bill Clinton pardoned so many people that last day? Some people will refuse to believe the truth no matter how much proof they have (the Republicans in our country who still insist Pres. Obama was born in Kenya). At least people like you are willing to dig through the documentation to tell the story--and it was a good one!
Dec 4, 2013 10:31am
vicdillinger
You are correct, I guess it's the whole "I'll fix you" thing. Yeah, the crud about Obama's being born in Kenya (when he was born in Hawaii, a US state at the time of his birth) always cracks me up.
Jan 3, 2014 9:32am
JeffHolmquist
Very ambitiously accomplished, Vic!

I'm sure I'd seen a type of biography on "Rose", but I can't recall much. Fine, systematic storytelling...intriguing and interesting... studiously researched. Do you feel like a "one man track event", after finalizing all this?

It's a real shame about Iva, with all the imprisonment and bad luck she encountered.

Super job!
Jan 4, 2014 6:38am
vicdillinger
One-Man Wrecking Crew is what I feel like most days.

As with most of the subjects I tackle separating fact from fiction is the hardest part. I felt damn good about this one when I was finished with her (as I did equally with Mata Hari). Thanks for reading.
Jun 20, 2014 8:20pm
AstroGremlin
This article obviously took a lot of research and hard work. I had heard that this poor woman was executed. Her real fate was not much better. So much injustice. Curious if those who tortured the Australian chap, Cousens, were ever punished?
Jun 21, 2014 12:06pm
vicdillinger
No, war crimes tribunals were held only for those Nazis captured and tried. The Japanese were never held very responsible for their atrocities (though 2 nuclear bombs dropped on two of their cities might be construed as justice by some), though some did come to justice. I think Australia should recognize Cousens as a hero if they have not already. Thanks for reading.
Jul 26, 2014 11:28am
RoseWrites
Incredible amount of research went into this Vic - I feel so bad for this lady. She was withheld food staples, unfairly labelled, investigated and found innocent of wrongdoing by the FBI and MacArthur's people. She did what she had to in order to survive, but she didn't engage in any treason, etc. Clearly Walter Winchell destroyed any hope this lady had of having love in her life (husband . . sad their child died). And what a waste of millions of dollars! I can only hope that Felipe and her are reunited in "a better place." Thumbing, G+, sharing, etc. Amazing work here.
Jul 26, 2014 2:13pm
vicdillinger
A waste of much money and legal/law enforcement time indeed!! Thanks for reading.
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Bibliography

  1. "Iva Ikuko Toguri d’Aquino." American Peoples Encyclopedia. 1963.
  2. "Tokyo Rose." Britannica Ready Reference 2003. 2002.
  3. A+E Networks "Tokyo Rose." biography.com. 28/05/2013 <Web >
  4. "Tokyo Rose." en.wikipedia.org. 28/05/2013 <Web >
  5. "Iva Toguri D'Aquino." en.wikipedia.org. 28/05/2013 <Web >
  6. "The Zero Hour (World War II)." en.wikipedia.org. 28/05/2013 <Web >
  7. J.C. Kaelin "EarthStation1.com's Radio Propaganda Page: "Orphan Ann" ("Tokyo Rose")." earthstation1.com. 11/02/1997. 28/05/2013 <Web >
  8. Vic Dillinger "How "American" Is This? - E Pluribus Unum." infobarrel.com. 19/08/2012. 6/05/2013 <Web >
  9. Vic Dillinger "John Reginald Halliday Christie & The Serial Murders of 10 Rillington Place." infobarrel.com. 18/05/2013. 25/05/2013 <Web >
  10. Vic Dillinger "Geisha Girl." infobarrel.com/Geisha_Girl. 27/10/2011. 6/05/2013 <Web >
  11. "Japanese American internment." en.wikipedia.org. 29/11/2013 <Web >
  12. "Lotus Long." en.wikipedia.org. 29/11/2013 <Web >
  13. "The Last Broadcast of Lord Haw-Haw, April 30, 1945." eyewitnesstohistory.com. 10/11/2014 <Web >

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