Sunday, January 19, 2014
THE TRAGEDY OF TOKYO ROSE
All this hoo-ha about the National Security Agency, Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden, Bradley "Chelsea" Manning, Julian Assange and Freedom of the Press has not particularly occupied too much of my time, for I have more important things to do with my life. I today saw an innocuous statement in the daily paper about how, on this day 37 years ago, President Gerald Ford pardoned Tokyo Rose. Then I wondered why, but the issue just passed. I've always thought she was a traitor, until today. I'm almost embarrassed that I did not take greater interest, but my attitude probably prevails nationwide because Tokyo Rose still remains as #7 on the list of despicable American traitors of all time. Amazing. Benedict Arnold is #1.
Government was harsh with Japanese-Americans during and soon after World War II. Yes, I'm Japanese-American, and I can almost appreciate why much of this happened. But for the Department of Justice to purposefully lie and connive for political reasons? That is the tragic story of Tokyo Rose. Watch 15 minutes of Glenn Beck for the apparent truth. Incredible! Mind you, I almost never agree with this conservative political commentator, so I found this clip particularly educational. Here is an FBI version, same and shaded and shame.
Tokyo Rose was an English-speaking female broadcaster of Japanese "propaganda" in the South Pacific during World War II. There could have been half a dozen of them, with the same generic name. But the quintessential one was "Iva" Ikuko Toguri. Note the microphone, if you watched the Beck program.
Talk about tough luck. Iva was a Japanese-American from Los Angeles, born on July 4, 1916. Her immigrant parents from Japan wanted her to be American, so her upbringing was similar to mine. She went on to UCLA, earning a degree in zoology. In 1940, while in graduate school, she was sent by her father to take care of her ill aunt in Tokyo. She knew no Japanese and the culture was foreign. Unfortunately, December 7 and Pearl Harbor changed her life forever. She was told to renounced her U.S. citizenship, but refused, and so was interned. Ironically, she learned that her family in California was similarly sent to the Arizona Gila River Relocation Center. During her difficult years in Japan she suffered from dystentery, beri beri and scurvy.
Into this true story comes Australian Major Charles Hughes Cousens, a broadcasting celebrity who was captured in Singapore and sent to Tokyo to launch Zero Hour, a short-wave propaganda radio show to American troops. Without the Japanese realizing it, though, Cousens cleverly (using double-entendres, on-air flubs and sarcasm) conducted a successful effort to undermine the effort. Cousens specifically recruited Iva because he thought he could trust her. The other Tokyo Roses complained that Iva's voice was too raspy and she lisped. Listen to her. Again. Thus, like Cousens, Iva endangered her life by carefully announcing when attacks would be coming to specific areas in the Pacific. Even her air-name, Ann, or Orphan Ann, had meaning, for Australians use this term to describe forces cut-off from their allies.
She specifically played mostly British selections not really known to American troops to reduce the homesickness factor. She did feature "Strike Up the Band," for that was the theme song of UCLA. Eventually her Japanese programmers began to gain the impression that she really was being too pro-American, so she was temporarily dismissed, but she returned now and then for various reasons. However, Cousens had left by then and she was not able to gain the intelligence that the Australian officer had. During this period she married Felippe d'Aquino, a Portuguese-Japanese pacifist who worked with her at the station.
After the war ended, a mistake she made was agreeing to be paid (she never got the $2000--worth $25,000 today) to say she was the original and only Tokyo Rose to the Hearst Empire. Part of why was that she thought she was doing this as an American patriot, plus she certainly could use the money. She was subsequently arrested and put into Sugamo Prison, which housed war criminals.
She was soon cleared, but on hearing she was returning to the USA, Walter Winchell, the American Legion, J. Edgar Hoover and the military, supported by the White House, railroaded her into a 10-year sentence and $10,000 fine. In 1949 that was the most expensive trial ever ($750,000, but worth $7b million today).
What happened to Cousens in Australia is illuminating. He was tried for treason, but his case was dropped when they learned the truth. He became a hero, and subsequently a successful newscaster on Australian television.
In America, President Harry S. Truman was running for re-election, and his campaign team encouraged the conviction of Tokyo Rose to enhance his platform. According to Iva's NHK Japanese colleagues who testified:
U.S. Occupation police came and told me I had no choice but to testify against Iva, or else.
Did the White ever get charged for this frame-up? Nope. President Gerald Ford pardoned her, but the true story never really never quite told in 1977 (here she is below that year, when she regained her American citizenship):
Hear Iva as Tokyo Rose at this web site. There is a new play, "Iva: The Myth of Tokyo Rose," on this social injustice.
She never saw her husband after 1949 for he was not allowed into the U.S. and she did not dare to leave once she returned. They officially divorced in 1980. When the World War II Veterans' Committee gave her the Edward J. Herlihy Citizenship Award for "her indomitable spirit, love of country, and the example of courage she has given her fellow Americans," she said this was the most memorable day of her life. She passed away that year, 7 years ago, at the age of 90, still somewhat tortured.