TODAY in HISTORY: The Pardon of Tokyo Rose

by William “Doc” Halliday 

Do you ever wonder how circumstances change your life?  Do you feel that you can’t get a break or that luck is with you always?  I could not become a fighter pilot in the Air Force because I was too tall and entered the Army instead.  I met my wife at a small gathering of friends at my cousin’s home.  I became disabled due to the Hepatitis C virus that I contracted in the Army.  Life is sometimes different than we imagined and we must react to, and make the best of, the various circumstances. 

Iva Ikuko Toguri was born in Los Angeles in 1916.  This made her a citizen of the United States.  Coincidentally she was born on Independence Day.  She was a typical American girl.  Her parents were Japanese-Americans who believed in assimilation.  They only allowed English to be spoken in their home, and Iva spoke English like any other American.    She attended church, took piano and tennis lessons, and enjoyed the popular music of the time; swing music.  She was even a girl scout.  She registered to vote as a member of the Republican Party in 1940. 

Forty years ago on January 19, 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino.  

In 1941, she obtained a degree in zoology from UCLA, though she aspired to become a doctor.  That same year, her aunt in Japan became ill.  She traveled to Japan as a graduation gift, to comfort this relative.  Iva felt she was a foreigner in Japan.  She didn’t even care for the food.  While she was in Japan, that country attacked the United States forces at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  Iva became stranded in Japan, unable to return to the United States. 

tokyorose
Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino, aka Tokyo Rose, while she was imprisoned for treason. – nabnyc.blogspot.com

Iva refused to renounce her American citizenship and pledge loyalty to the Japanese emperor.  She was denied a food ration card because she was considered an enemy alien.  Iva’s extended family banished her from their home because of her pro-American sentiments.  Eventually she was able to obtain work at an English speaking newspaper.  Her job was to listen to short-wave radio newscasts and transcribe them.  Then she obtained another position as a typist at Radio Tokyo. 

Because of her feminine American voice, she was asked to host a program called the “Zero Hour.”  During her broadcasts she used the names Ann, and Orphan Ann.  She never used any other name.  As the war progressed, American soldiers and sailors gave the name Tokyo Rose to the more than a dozen Japanese female broadcasters; not distinguishing between them.  The first mention of this moniker in U. S. newspapers occurred in 1943.  She would continue working as a radio personality for three years until the war ended in 1945. 

In 1945, prior to the end of the war she married a Japanese-Puerto Rican man.  Her only child died shortly after birth.  When the war ended, the Army investigated her as a traitor.  She allegedly committed treason by broadcasting Japanese propaganda. She was imprisoned for about one year but in due course was released because of a lack of evidence.  Officials with the Department of Justice had agreed that her broadcasts had been harmless.  She divorced her husband who was never allowed to enter this country. 

In 1948, President Truman ordered her returned to this country as a prisoner.  The American Legion lobbied tirelessly for a trial.  That trial lasted from July through September of 1949.  The actual transcriptions of her radio broadcasts were never given to the jury.  The jury had no way to accurately determine her words.  While the jury was divided, Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino was convicted of one of the eight counts of treason she had been charged with.  She was sentenced to 10 years in prison and served six of those years.  She lived for 20 years in Chicago as a state-less individual.

In 1974, investigative journalists discovered that the witnesses who offered the most damaging testimony against Iva were pressured to lie under oath.  Forty years ago on January 19, 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino.  She died in September of 2006, as an undeniable citizen of the United States. 

William “Doc” Halliday, historian and political commentator, can be contacted at w_halliday@yahoo.com .

William "Doc" Halliday

Historian, Political Commentator

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