Tokyo Rose was the nickname given to the women who broadcast Japanese propaganda over Radio Tokyo to American soldiers stationed in the Pacific during World War II. Although reports indicate that as many as 20 different “Tokyo Rose”s were used, only one gained notoriety. Here’s her story.
Before the War
Born Ikuko Toguri, and later known as Iva Toguri, in Los Angeles on, (ironically), July 4, 1916. By all accounts, she was a good student and graduated from the University of California in 1940 with a degree in zoology. In 1941 she set sail for Japan without an American passport. She later stated that the reason she was leaving was to study medicine and to look after a sick aunt. In September of that same year, she went before the United States Vice Consul in Japan and requested a passport. She indicated that she wished to return to the United States for permanent residence. By the time any action could be taken regarding her status, war had broken out between Japan and America.
During the War
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she applied for repatriation to the United States through the Swiss delegation in Japan. She later withdrew this request and indicated she would remain in Japan voluntarily. She also enrolled in Japanese culture and language schools and in August of 1943 she got a job working for Radio Tokyo.
Later in 1943, she began her broadcasting career on a program known as Zero Hour. The program was such that it was designed to lower the morale of American servicemen in the Pacific Theater, a bit of psychological warfare if you will. The program was broadcast every day except Sunday from 6:00 PM until 7:15 PM. Tokyo time.
Each program started off with some band music and Toguri was introduced as “Orphan Ann”, “Orphan Annie”, “Your favorite enemy, Ann” or “Your favorite playmate and enemy, Ann..” Comments similar to these were a regular part of the programming.
"Hello boneheads. This is your favorite enemy Ann. How are all you orphans of the Pacific? Are you enjoying yourselves while your wives and sweethearts are running around with the 4F’s in the States? How do you feel now when all your ships have been sunk by the Japanese Navy? How will you get home? Here’s another record to remind you of home."
These comments were then followed by popular music of the day intended to demoralize the troops, usually love songs about sweethearts and better times. Her broadcasts on Zero Hour continued until the Japanese surrendered.
After the War
After the Japanese surrender, authorities of the United States Army arrested Toguri as a security risk and she was held in various prisons until her release later in 1945. She was later arrested again in 1948 by Army authorities and brought under military escort back to the United States. Upon arrival in San Francisco, she was immediately arrested by the FBI and charged with treason for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
In the course of the trial, which began on July 5, 1949, over 46 witnesses appeared for the government, sixteen of which were brought in from Japan. The defense listed 26 witnesses. It’s estimated that the Government spent over $500,000 and the trial and the transcripts run to well over a million words. In the end, Toguri was found guilty of treason, the seventh person in the history of the United States to have that distinction, for giving aid and comfort to the enemy. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $100,000 for her actions.
She was eventually released from prison in 1956 and she successfully fought the government and their efforts to deport her. She applied for presidential pardons in 1954 and 1968 and was denied. In 1977 President Gerald Ford granted her a full and unconditional pardon.
Tokyo Rose passed away at the ripe old age of 90 on September 27, 2006.