Toguri, Iva (1916—)

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Toguri, Iva (1916—)

American-born woman of Japanese descent, known as Tokyo Rose, who broadcast over Tokyo Radio during World War II and later was wrongly convicted of treason to America. Name variations: Tokyo Rose; Ann; Orphan Annie; Iva Ikuko Toguri d'Aquino. Born Iva Ikuko Toguri in Los Angeles, California, on July 4, 1916; daughter of Jun Toguri (a shopkeeper and importer) and Fumi (Iimuro) Toguri; graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, 1940; married Felipe d'Aquino, in Tokyo, in 1945; children: one (stillborn).

Worked as a translator and typist at Japanese news agency (1942–43); broadcast for Tokyo Radio (1943–45); was a prisoner of the U.S. government (1949–56); was a shopkeeper in Chicago (1956—).

During the Pacific War against Japan in the years 1941–45, American soldiers heard regular broadcasts by English-speaking women over Japanese short-wave radio stations. They nicknamed these broadcasters "Tokyo Rose" and imagined wily seductresses trying to sow discouragement in their ranks. When the war ended in August 1945, American journalists rushed to find "Tokyo Rose" and singled out Iva Ikuko Toguri, although she was only one among the 20 or more female English-speaking broadcasters. She was an American-born Nisei (second-generation immigrant) of Japanese descent and, after a long period of investigation, she was convicted in 1949 of treason against the United States.

Born on the 4th of July 1916, to Japanese immigrant parents, Toguri had been raised in Los Angeles. Her parents and her older, Japanese-born brother were issei, first-generation Japanese, who were denied American citizen-ship. They ran a small general store and import business and lived in neighborhoods where most of their neighbors were white rather than clustering with other Japanese immigrants. The children went to public school, the whole family attended a Methodist church, and the English language dominated conversation in their home. In a later interview, Toguri denied that she had ever been the victim of anti-Asian prejudice, although it was widespread at that time and had led to a ban on Japanese immigration in 1924. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in the summer of 1940, being one of the less than ten percent of Japanese-American women to attend college in the depression decade of the 1930s. She hoped to become a doctor and took some pre-medical courses at UCLA the next year. Friends from her student days remembered her as a thoroughly assimilated woman, with an American rather than Japanese outlook and attitudes.

In the summer of 1941, Toguri responded to a Japanese aunt's invitation to visit the old country. Though she sailed when America and Japan were at peace, she was still there when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that December began hostilities. Toguri had left America without a passport (it was legal to do so at that time) and found that she could only be evacuated via India at what was then the considerable sum of $425, which she could not afford. Instead, she was obliged to register as a foreign citizen. When the authorities refused her request to be imprisoned with other American nationals, she had to find work for the duration of the war. With news channels broken off, she was unaware that her parents, along with all other West-Coast Japanese-Americans, had been forcibly deported from Los Angeles to an internment camp in Arizona.

Toguri found it difficult to adjust to Japan. She disliked the food, which war and rationing had made scanty. Her command of Japanese was still so uncertain that she could not easily follow news broadcasts or newspaper stories, although she had signed on at a Japanese-language school early in her visit in an attempt to improve her fluency.

With the two countries at war, Toguri was pressured by the Japanese authorities to declare herself a Japanese citizen. She refused to do so (unlike many of the roughly 10,000 Nisei then in Japan) and had to suffer taunts from her aunt's neighbors that she was a spy. Policemen periodically visited the house and searched her possessions. To avoid embarrassing her relatives, she moved out and began to seek employment. She worked first at the Domei news agency as a translator of news stories picked up over the air on short-wave radio, a very ill-paying job. Poor diet and lack of vitamins led to her contracting scurvy and beriberi, and she was hospitalized for six weeks in the summer of 1943.

Later that year, she was recruited by Major Wallace Ince, an American, Lieutenant Norman Reyes, a Filipino, and Major Charles Cousens, an Australian, all of whom were prisoners of war, to work on a propaganda radio show with Tokyo Radio, where she had found an additional job as an English-language typist. Cousens, Reyes, and Ince insisted later that they were trying to impede the Japanese propaganda effort and offer news and solace to American troops in the Pacific. They claimed that they had deceived the Japanese into thinking that they were helping the Japanese war effort while actually hindering it. Toguri's job, they added, was to introduce music as a disc jockey, and her contributions had no anti-American propaganda content. Her voice was harsh rather than seductive: unlikely to fulfil the Japanese government's aim of inducing homesickness among the American troops. Cousens testified later:

With the idea that I had in mind of making a complete burlesque of the program [her voice] was just what I wanted—rough. I hope I can say this without offense—a voice that I have described as a gin fog voice. It was rough, almost masculine, anything but a femininely seductive voice. It was a comedy voice that I needed for this particular job.

Her radio name was "Ann," later expanded to "Orphan Annie," and she told soldiers during her nightly broadcasts on a show named "Zero Hour" that she was their "favorite enemy."

In April 1945, Toguri converted from her original Methodism to Roman Catholicism, and married Felipe d'Aquino at the Jesuit mission church in Tokyo—the wedding reception was interrupted by an American bomber raid. D'Aquino was a linotype operator who also worked part time for Radio Tokyo and was half Japanese-half Portuguese. By virtue of the marriage, she gained Portuguese citizenship, although her husband, fluent in Japanese and English, could not speak any Portuguese. Like Toguri, he had been dismayed by the outbreak of the war and hoped for an Allied victory. They had both left the Domei news agency over this issue, and Toguri had found another temporary job as a typist at the Danish legation. Three months after their marriage, the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the war to an end, and American occupation forces moved into the shattered ruins of Tokyo.

Contacted first by two journalists, Harry Brundidge and Clark Lee, who hid her in a hotel to protect their "scoop" and promised her $2,000 for her story, Toguri later spoke also to reporters from Yank magazine. It did not occur to her, apparently, that she might be in danger of prosecution. Instead, she enjoyed being in the company of Americans once more, and the offer of money in exchange for her story promised an end to the material privation she had suffered for the last four years. She admitted straight away that she was only one of several "Tokyo Roses." Following up on the news stories, the FBI sent an investigator to consider pressing treason charges against her, and imprisoned her in Tokyo's Sugamo Prison. The FBI and the Counter-Intelligence Corps, each of which investigated her, decided that a charge of treason could not be proved in court because her broadcast materials consisted of introductory remarks to light entertainment shows, all of which had been written by Major Cousens. Even so, she spent a full year at Sugamo.

Although the war was now over, Toguri decided to stay with her husband in Japan for the moment, and he urged her to avoid all possible press exposure in future. In 1947, when she was

pregnant, she applied for an American passport and declared her intention to return to the United States, perhaps because she wanted her child to be born on American ground. Her application set off a renewed flurry of interest in the American press, and she again, unwisely, spoke with reporters to declare her innocence. Harry Brundidge, whom she had earlier cheated of a scoop, and the inflammatory columnist and broadcaster Walter Winchell protested against letting her back into America, while the American Legion, a powerful veterans' organization, argued that she should be brought to justice as a traitor. The State and Justice departments were doubtful that a trial would lead to conviction, especially since Cousens and Ince, the prisoners of war who had hired Toguri, had been exonerated of possible treason charges.

Some said she was the wife of Saburo Kurusu, the last Japanese ambassador to Washington; others said she was General Tojo's mistress; or a hula dancer born in Maui; or a nisei woman born in Ottawa…. The most fascinating rumor of all was that Tokyo Rose might be Amelia Earhart, the famous woman pilot who disappeared in midflight over the Pacific in 1937.

—Masayo Duus

Toguri's child was stillborn. Under pressure from journalists and the American Legion, the attorney general's office decided to repatriate Toguri and prosecute her. It was an election year in 1948 and the Cold War was heating up. The Democratic administration of President Harry Truman was facing sharp Republican attacks for being "soft" on Communists and other "un-American" groups. Prosecuting Toguri must have seemed a tempting opportunity to Truman and his attorney general Tom Clark, especially once they found that FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover also favored pressing the case. Toguri was shipped to San Francisco in the fall of 1948 where a grand jury decided that there was sufficient evidence against her to warrant a trial. To help secure a conviction, the government transported 19 witnesses from Japan and paid them lavish expenses for the duration of their stay. Ironically, several of these witnesses were Nisei who had taken the easier wartime option of renouncing their American citizen-ship and had worked as Japanese loyalists at Tokyo Radio alongside the pro-American Toguri. The trial opened with great media fanfare. It was the first ever treason trial in San Francisco and it ran at the same time as the notorious Alger Hiss Communism and perjury trial back East in New York.

At that point, the government discovered that one of its principal witnesses, Hiromu Yagi, had lied about seeing Toguri broadcasting, and had done so at the urging of the journalist Brundidge. Nevertheless, the case went forward, beginning in July 1949 and featuring two other Nisei witnesses who had renounced their American citizenship. They said they had seen Toguri broadcasting news stories about American shipping losses, whose intent had been to discourage American soldiers. Her defense attorney, Wayne Collins, who had volunteered to work without payment, produced evidence that she had avoided giving "aid and comfort" to the enemy, and he managed to include in the court record evidence that some of the government's witnesses were involved in perjury and a cover-up. Collins, who already had a distinguished legal record on behalf of persecuted Japanese-Americans, also confirmed that she had tried to help American prisoners of war, and had cooperated with Cousens and Ince in their efforts to damage, rather than boost, Japanese propaganda.

The trial lasted three months and cost the government more than a half million dollars. Despite all the ambiguities of the case, an all-white jury, after four days of argument and frequent deadlock, convicted Toguri on one count of treason. Jury foreman John Mann admitted later that at first most jurors had wanted to find her not guilty but felt constrained by the judge's instructions. They reasoned that by finding her guilty on just one minor count they would satisfy the judge and that, since she had already been in custody for a total of two years, she would now be set free. To their horrified dismay the judge, Michael Roche, far from setting her free, sentenced her to ten years' imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.

An appeal failed and the Supreme Court refused to review the case. Accordingly, Toguri served a total of almost seven years in a women's prison in West Virginia. After her release in 1956, she went to live with her father, who, following the war, had built up a successful business in Chicago. To add to her burdens, she found on release that the government planned to deport her. But how could she be deported if she were a United States citizen, and how could she be a traitor if she had not been American to begin with? Bowing to this straightforward logic, the government never carried out the threat but continued to treat her as a stateless person and deny her the right to travel, in violation of the United Nations charter. A further hardship was that, during her trial, the government had permanently barred her husband d'Aquino from returning to America. This meant in effect that they were forcibly separated for their entire lives. As Catholics, they opposed divorce but under the circumstances agreed to a separation and never again met.

Toguri's friends and her attorney remained convinced that she had been wrongly accused and convicted. Most of her Japanese-American contemporaries had refused to concern themselves with her case because they were proud of their loyalty to the United States, even in the face of persecution, and saw her as an ugly exception to their otherwise spotless record. But a later generation of Japanese-Americans was more demanding. Not only did they pursue reparations for the injustice of internment; they also reopened the Toguri case and assembled overpowering evidence of her innocence. After years of efforts, they were finally able to get for Toguri a full pardon from President Gerald Ford on his last day in the White House, in January 1977. By then her lawyer was Wayne Collins, Jr., the son of her original defense attorney—she herself was 62 years old.

Historian Stanley Kutler sees Toguri as a scapegoat, who suffered in an atmosphere of Cold War paranoia. "Her acknowledged acts of broadcasting for the enemy took on a legendary mystique that heightened her importance far beyond the innocuous substance of her activities." Her biographer Masayo Duus, who saw the case as "one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in American legal history," noted that other "political" trials of the era, notably those of Alger Hiss and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg , became hotly contested public issues, whereas Toguri's did not. She "never became a cause celebre for anyone, not even for the Japanese American community, which regarded her indictment as a shameful blot on its otherwise unblemished record of wartime loyalty." In later life, she was, understandably, extremely reticent about meeting reporters or historians to discuss the events of her life. Instead, she devoted herself to running the Chicago business which her father had bequeathed to her at his death in 1973.

sources and suggested reading:

Duus, Masayo. Tokyo Rose: Orphan of the Pacific. Translated from Japanese by Peter Duus. NY: Harper and Row, 1979.

Howe, Russell Warren. The Hunt for Tokyo Rose. Lanham, MD: Madison, 1990.

Kutler, Stanley I. The American Inquisition: Justice and Injustice in the Cold War. NY: Hill and Wang, 1982.


Federal Bureau of Investigation "Tokyo Rose" files, and Counter Intelligence Corps of U.S. government "Tokyo Rose" files.

Patrick Allitt , Professor of History, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia