Iva Ikuko Toguri, born in California in 1916, was an American girl of Japanese descent. Her family sent her to Japan in mid-1941 to take care of her aunt, who was seriously ill. After her aunt recovered, Iva tried to return to the US, but the US State Department then (after Pearl Harbor) refused to authorize her return. The Japanese authorities insisted that she “get a job” in order to support herself. She was regarded as a “no good American.” Stranded in Japan, Iva worked hard to learn Japanese since English was her only language. She got a job as an English-language typist. In time, the Japanese authorities forced her to become one of about twenty women making pro-Japanese propaganda radio broadcasts aimed at undermining the morale of American troops fighting in the Pacific. American troops came to speak of this collection of voices as a single woman. Iva was just one of them.
The broadcasts were actually produced by American POWs, who had been forced by the Japanese authorities to put on an American-style DJ radio show. The POWs wrote the scripts and tried to sneak in pro-American messages whenever possible. Iva, whose radio name was “Orphan Ann,” gave the POWs a lot of support, and risked her life to provide the GIs with black-market food, medicine, and supplies. The POWs viewed her as a friend and fellow anti-Japanese conspirator. In her broadcasts, she tried to use humor and various tones of voice to flag to her listeners the absurdity of her messages.
Even though threatened by the Japanese military police, Iva never gave up her US citizenship. After the war, she was able to return to the US. However, eventually (because of the strong anti-Japanese sentiment of the time) she was brought to trial on charges of treason. The charges were completely trumped up, and the two main witnesses against her have now admitted that, under intense US government pressure, they committed perjury in testifying against her. The jury tried to “hang” itself several times, but the judge (who has admitted to anti-Japanese bias) insisted that the jury come in with a verdict. Finally, Iva was found guilty on one of eight counts of treason and sentenced to ten years in federal prison and fined $10,000. Her American citizenship was cancelled. A model prisoner, she was released after about six years. After many years, she was able to complete payment of the $10,000 fine. In time, the true story about her surfaced, and she received a pardon from President Gerald Ford in 1977, thus regaining her citizenship.
By the way, had she renounced her American citizenship in return for Japanese citizenship, she could not have been prosecuted, as none of the other women in this matter were. There would have been no jurisdiction in her case.
For many years, Iva ran a family business in Chicago. On Tuesday, September 26, 2006, Iva Ikuko Toguri, at the age of 90, passed away.
“Tokyo Rose” is dead.
A few more items about “Tokyo Rose” (Iva Toguri):
- She was born on the 4th of July in 1916 in Los Angeles.
- As a middle-class American girl who knew no Japanese, she also hated Japanese food.
- She was a Girl Scout, a Methodist, and a Republican.
- Her favorite pop culture character was “Orphan Annie.”
- She graduated from UCLA and planned to be a doctor.
- While she was stranded in Japan during WW II, Iva’s mother died in a Japanese-American internment camp.
In January 2006, the World War II Veterans Committee bestowed on “Tokyo Rose” the prestigious Edward J. Herlihy Citizenship Award.
Iva Toguri was only one of about 20 women making “Zero Hour” broadcasts. The troops called any one of them “Tokyo Rose.” It was only after WW II that the US government singled Ms. Toguri out as if she alone was “TR.”
When Iva made her “Orphan Ann” broadcasts, she would often warn American forces of imminent Japanese military attacks. Here’s what one American airman has reported:
I remember many happy nights in our tent in New Guinea listening to the “Zero Hour”. Tokyo Rose would start by saying, “Hi, boys, this is your old friend, Orphan Annie. I’ve got some swell records just in from the states. You’d better listen to them while you can, because late tonight our flyers are coming over to bomb the 43rd group when you are all asleep. So listen while you are still alive. Almost without fail, the Jap bombers would come over. She was a better air raid system than our own. (Robert W. “Bob” White, 65th SQ)
Somehow, she got away with this without ever being detected by the Japanese authorities.