“Watch RWISA Write Showcase Tour” — Day 9

RWISA TOUR (1)

THE LEGEND OF TOKYO ROSE

By Ronald E. Yates

INTRODUCTION

During a 27-year career with the Chicago Tribune, much of it as a foreign correspondent in Asia and Latin America, I encountered my share of remarkable and unforgettable stories.

Some came out of the horrendous suffering I witnessed while covering the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Afghanistan. Others were generated by the bloody revolutions in Guatemala and El Salvador. Still others sprang from the wrenching political upheavals I reported on in places like The Philippines, Brazil, China and South Korea.

Ron Yates

Ron Yates

But there is one story in my journalistic career that I treasure above all the others. That is the story of a Japanese-American woman named Iva Toguri. You probably don’t recognize the name and if you don’t, that is perfectly understandable.

You and millions of other Americans know her by another name: “Tokyo Rose.”

That’s right, “Tokyo Rose.” The so-called “Siren of the Pacific” who sat before a microphone in Tokyo and told GIs on a 25-minute show called “The Zero Hour” that their homes, their girl-friends and even apple pie weren’t worth fighting for. Tokyo Rose, the legendary “seductress of the short wave,” whose broadcasts between 1943 and 1945 for Radio Tokyo were meant to demoralize the American fighting man and undermine his will to fight.

Remember all those World War II era movies with GIs gathered around short wave radios listening to a sultry “Tokyo Rose” intone such phrases as: “Come on boys, give up. You haven’t got a chance against the Imperial Japanese Army. Why throw your lives away?”

There’s just one problem. There was no “Tokyo Rose.” Nor were there ever any treasonous broadcasts like the ones described above. At least not by Iva Toguri.

Following is her remarkable and poignant story and my involvement in it.


It was the summer of 1941 and for a young California woman named Iva Toguri it was a time filled with promise and endless possibilities.

The previous June Iva had graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in zoology, she had a shiny Chrysler, and she was planning on attending graduate school in the fall so she could begin a career as a medical researcher or perhaps even a doctor.

The daughter of hardworking Japanese immigrants, Iva had been brought up to be a confident, optimistic American. And why not? After all, she was born in Los Angeles on the 4th of July–and you can’t get more American than that.

But in the summer of 1941 the world was not a place that could easily match the hopes and expectations of a 25-year-old UCLA graduate.

In Europe, a war was raging and the forces of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich occupied or controlled most of the continent. In Asia, Imperial Japan, under the leadership of a clique of hardcore militarists, was in control of China, the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan and a segment of the South Seas ceded to it after World War I.

Conflict and discord were the prevailing truths of the day, and as Iva Toguri stood on the brink of her future an ominous cloud of world war hung in the warm summer air.

Thus it was not without some trepidation that Toguri’s ailing mother asked Iva to represent the American side of the Toguri family at the bedside of a dying aunt in Tokyo. It was a bit risky, but someone had to go; and on July 5, 1941, one day after her 25th birthday, Iva was on a slow boat to Japan. She spoke no Japanese, had never been to Japan and had never met her aunt.

It would be a fateful journey, one that would alter Iva Toguri’s life forever and eventually introduce to the world one of its most enduring and erroneous myths: The Legend of “Tokyo Rose.”

Less than five months after arriving in Japan and not long after her sick aunt had recovered, Japanese warplanes swooped down on a place called Pearl Harbor. For Iva Toguri and millions of others, the future went from bright to black in a matter of moments. And the lights would not come back on until August 1945, when Japan surrendered.

But for Iva Toguri, the war did not end in 1945 as it did for so many others. Four years later Iva Toguri would stand in a San Francisco courtroom, one of only a few American women ever convicted of treason. In the minds of millions of Americans Iva Toguri was the one and only “Tokyo Rose,” the name American GIs in the Pacific had given to several women radio announcers who played scratchy Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman records during propaganda radio shows broadcast in English from Tokyo and elsewhere in Asia.

Iva’s conviction on just one of eight counts of treason came despite the testimony of G.I.s who called the Radio Tokyo “Zero Hour” broadcasts she made morale boosters and despite evidence which showed she was just one of 13 English-speaking women announcers broadcasting from Tokyo at the time. Another 14 women had broadcast from cities throughout Asia and the Pacific that were occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army.  Interestingly, not one of them called herself “Tokyo Rose.”  (The only radio alias Iva Toguri ever used during her 15-minute segment of popular music was the name “Orphan Ann” because, as she often said during her broadcasts, she was an announcer who had been orphaned in Tokyo by the war.)

Not even the absence of a written record or an electronic recording of the single “treasonous” broadcast she was supposed to have made stopped her conviction. That broadcast came after a crushing U.S. Naval victory in Leyte Gulf of the Philippines in which she allegedly said:

“Orphans of the Pacific, you really are orphans now. How will you get home now that all your ships are sunk?”

Most Americans listening to that would have seen through the facetious tone of those words, no matter who said them, and understood that it was a broadcast meant more for members of the defeated Imperial Japanese Navy than for the victorious U.S. Navy. Even more important, however, was the fact that Iva never said those words.

Nevertheless, in 1949 in a San Francisco Federal courtroom as she, her family and her corps of defense attorneys led by the late Wayne Mortimer Collins looked on, Iva was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. She served six years and two months of her sentence in the Alderson Federal Reformatory in West Virginia which would much later house Martha Stewart. But more importantly her conviction sentenced Iva Toguri to a life of disgrace and deep inner pain that only those falsely accused and convicted can ever understand.

Some vindication came in a series of exclusive stories I reported and wrote in 1976 while serving as the Chicago Tribune’s Tokyo Bureau Chief and Chief Asia Correspondent.

Two key prosecution witnesses, after 27 years of silence, wanted to ease their consciences. They admitted to me that they were forced by U.S. Justice Department and FBI officials to lie, tell half-truths and withhold vital information at the trial. It was on the basis of their coerced and false testimony that the jury had found Iva guilty. (Article 3 of the Constitution states that treason shall consist only in levying war against the United States or in giving aid and comfort to its enemies and that conviction may be had only on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or on confession in open court).

The two witnesses, Kenkichi Oki and George Mitsushio—both California-born Japanese-Americans—were Iva’s superiors on Radio Tokyo’s “Zero Hour” radio program. Oki was the show’s production manager and Mitsushio was program director. Oki and Mitsushio testified they had heard Iva make the so-called “Orphans of the Pacific” broadcast about Leyte Gulf in October 1944 when in fact she never did.

The “Zero Hour” was produced under coercion by Allied prisoners of war, and while the Imperial Japanese government saw it as a way to broadcast propaganda to American GIs fighting in the Pacific, the POWs and Iva saw it as a way to sabotage the Japanese war effort.

That’s the way the occupation forces of Gen. Douglas MacArthur saw it too when on April 17, 1946, following 11 months of Iva’s incarceration in Tokyo’s Sugamo prison along with such Class A Japanese war criminals as former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, the U.S. Army Legal Section issued the following report:

“There is no evidence that Iva Toguri ever broadcast greetings to units by name and location, or predicted military movements or attacks, indicating access to secret military information and plans.”

Then, in October 1946 a U.S. Justice Department investigation of Iva concluded:

“Iva Toguri’s activities, particularly in view of the innocuous nature of her broadcasts, are not sufficient to warrant prosecution for treason.”

It was obvious that the U.S. authorities in Tokyo were willing to let bygones be bygones. And they were willing to accept the reasons for Iva Toguri’s voluntary participation in the Zero Hour show: that like most of the 10,000 Japanese-Americans stranded in Tokyo during the war, she had taken the job to sustain herself while she was basically a hostage in a hostile environment.

Furthermore, she had been assured by the American and Australian POWs who wrote the scripts she read, that she was doing nothing unpatriotic–and indeed that what they were doing might even help the allied war effort.

That was especially important to Iva, because unlike all the other Japanese-Americans who participated in the Zero Hour broadcasts, she had steadfastly refused to give up her American citizenship, despite being threatened and pushed to do so by Imperial Japan’s dreaded “kempeitai” secret police. In fact, her pro-American sentiments often got her into arguments with Japanese members of the Zero Hour staff. On several occasions she risked arrest and even death to smuggle food and medical supplies to Allied POW’s in Tokyo.

In 1948, Iva petitioned to return to the United States and Chicago, where her family had resettled following the war.

When word leaked out that the notorious “Tokyo Rose” was trying to reenter the United States, much of the U.S. press took exception. Radio columnist Walter Winchell unleashed a series of broadcasts attacking then U.S. Atty. Gen. Tom Clark for “laxness” in dealing with “Tokyo Rose.” Pressure steadily built on the Truman administration to “make an example” of somebody. That “somebody” was to be Iva Toguri.

It made no difference that Iva Toguri bore no resemblance in appearance or deed to the fictitious and seductive Oriental woman American G.I.s fantasized about while sitting in their jungle foxholes. Nor did the fact that U.S. Occupation forces already had investigated Iva and cleared her of any activity that could be construed as treasonous.

It was an election year and the administration of President Harry S Truman could not afford to be seen as being soft on alleged wartime spies and turncoats. Atty. Gen. Clark dispatched investigators to Tokyo to look into the Tokyo Rose case. They found that Iva Toguri was the only person associated with the “Zero Hour” show who was still an American citizen and hence, still subject to U.S. law. So Clark began to build a case against Iva and told justice department attorney Tom de Wolfe to “prosecute it vigorously.”

In 1945 Iva had married Filipe J. d’Aquino, who was born in Yokohama of a Portuguese father and a Japanese mother. In 1948 the couple’s child, who Iva desperately wanted to be born in the United States, died at birth. The two remained together until her conviction and then, following decades of forced separation, they divorced in 1980. After Iva’s release from prison, she could not get a U.S. passport to travel and d’Aquino, while in San Francisco for the trial, had been told by the FBI never to return to the United States, “or else.”

The case against Iva Toguri was flimsy at best. Something had to be done to strengthen it. So FBI agents in Tokyo rounded up all of those involved in the “Zero Hour” broadcasts and applied the kind of pressure that most any Japanese-American at the time could understand.

“We had no choice,” Oki told me in 1976 after I had convinced him and Mitsushio to meet me in Tokyo. “The FBI and U.S. Occupation police told us we would have to testify against Iva or else they said Uncle Sam might arrange a trial for us too—or worse.  We were flown to San Francisco from Tokyo and along with other government witnesses, we were told what to say and what not to say two hours every morning for a month before the trial started.

“Even though I was a government witness against her, I can say today that Iva Toguri was innocent: she never did anything treasonable…she never said the words that got her convicted,” Oki said. “It was all a lie. Iva never had a chance. And all I can say now is that I am truly sorry for my part in her conviction. I hope she can find it in her heart to forgive us.”

My stories containing details of Oki and Mitsushio’s confession of perjury, as well as interviews with her former husband Phil d’Aquino and others who had worked with Iva on the Zero Hour, appeared in March 1976 and were carried around the world.

On January 19, 1977, President Gerald Ford, in his last official act in office, granted Iva Toguri a full and unconditional pardon. While the historic pardon was an attempt to correct the injustice done to Iva Toguri, the individual, it also served to raise awareness of the unfair treatment Japanese-Americans received at the time from the federal and some state governments.

The fact Iva Toguri became the first person in American history to be pardoned following a treason conviction, speaks volumes about her own indomitable spirit and the determination of those who supported her crusade for justice, say leaders in the Japanese-American community.

Others say the pardon also says something about the deeply-ingrained sense of fair play that permeates American society and which manifests itself, albeit sometimes belatedly, in the media, the courts and, in Toguri’s case, the White House.

July 4, 2006 marked Iva Toguri’s 90th birthday and for almost 65 of those 90 years she had to live with the myth that she was “Tokyo Rose.”

Some vindication came in January 2006 in a quiet, private ceremony held in a restaurant on Chicago’s north side when Iva received the Edward J. Herlihy Citizenship Award from the World War II Veterans Committee. (Herlihy was a radio broadcaster who was known as the “Voice of WW II” for his narration of Universal Newsreels). It was a twist of irony not lost on those in attendance.

I was privileged to be one of those invited to the ceremony, along with members of Iva’s family and a handful of close friends like former CBS news anchor Bill Kurtis, who has known Iva since the late 1960s, and Hollywood producer Barbara Trembley, who is working to produce a major feature film about Iva and her struggles.

Iva pushed back tears as she accepted the award.

“This is such a great honor,” she said. “For so many years I wanted to be positive about this whole thing. I wanted to honor my father and my family. They believed in me through all the things that happened to me. I thank the World War II Veterans Committee for making this the most memorable day of my life.”

In 1991 Iva and I met in the same restaurant. She had invited me to dinner to thank me for the series of stories I had written that resulted in the Presidential pardon. Incredibly, even though Iva and I were linked by the stories I had written we had never met face to face.

“You know, if it hadn’t been for your stories I never would have received my pardon,” Iva told me. “I would still be a criminal. You started the ball rolling. And now, after all this time, I just want to say thank you. It’s long overdue.”

I hadn’t come to dinner in search of any recognition or thanks. I just wanted to meet the woman whose story had fascinated me years before and sent me on a search for the truth. I wanted finally to separate the woman from the myth; to detach Iva Toguri the person from “Tokyo Rose” the World War II caricature. I wanted to meet the woman that fertile G.I. imaginations had turned into some torrid kimono-clad Mata Hari.

The woman sitting across from me was certainly no Mata Hari. Here was a woman with kind eyes, a gracious smile and an admirable ability to put things into perspective.

“I’ve put all that behind me now,” Iva said, speaking of her ordeals in wartime Tokyo, in San Francisco’s federal court, and in prison.

“I’m only sorry that my father never lived to see me pardoned. He died in 1972. But he believed in me until the end.

“‘I’m proud of you Iva,’ he used to tell me. You were like a tiger…you never changed your stripes…you stayed American through and through.’”

“Am I bitter? No, what good does it do to be bitter?” Iva said. Then she thought for a moment. There were exceptions to that blanket forgiveness.

“In your stories Oki and Mitsushio asked for my forgiveness. But how could I ever forgive them for what they did to me?”

Both Oki and Mitsushio are dead now, as is Iva, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 90.

During one of our many meetings, Iva told me that her biggest wish was to have her story told accurately someday in a film or play. There have been a few books written—most of them unauthorized—about Iva’s ordeal, but they have done little to set the record straight.

“People tend to remember a story when it is dramatized and told in a theatrical way,” she said. “As for a book, I would like to tell my story in my own words.”

Iva may finally get her wish. A play about the Legend of Tokyo Rose is currently in the works and I plan to write a book using Iva’s first person narrative based on hundreds of hours of recorded interviews and my personal notes.

Finally, after years of disappointment and heartbreak, Iva’s story will be told the way she wanted it told—truthfully and conscientiously.

But most important, the Legend of Tokyo Rose will finally be put to rest along with other historical myths and deceptions such as Big Foot, the Piltdown man, and the Loch Ness Monster.

My only regret is that Iva will not be here to experience her vindication.


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Interview with Author/Historian, Augustine Kobayashi

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Augustine Kobayashi

What better way to commemorate Memorial Day than with a history lesson?

Tokyo-born Augustine Kobayashi, author of “Japan’s Pacific War”, earned postgraduate degrees in modern international history and Byzantine history at Leeds and London Universities in the U.K. In the following interview he shares insights that convinced me that what’s needed in politics today is more attention to historians and less to lawyers, businessmen and career politicians. Historians possess a perspective that could work through differences in a diplomatic fashion while never forgetting the fact that future generations will be affected by those decisions. Most of what we see today are those seeking only to expand their own wealth and power. The few who know anything about history only use it to further their own agenda, not improve the human condition.

MF: What motivated you to research and subsequently write your book, “Japan’s Pacific War”?

AK: I had been writing some historical articles for Historical Quest ezine, and I got some responses from readers for my article explaining how Japan’s war in China in the 1930s and the Pacific War were linked. Many reacted saying that they had no idea how the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) directly led to WW2 in Asia. I felt that we have a knowledge gap in this area of 20th century history, and thought that I could make some contributions to fill it. As for the American side of the story, there are many excellent books out there, so I decided to tell Japan’s story, from a Japanese perspective. When I was a student back in Leeds University, UK, I did research on Anglo-American relations in the 1920s, including some naval strategic discussions, such as how Japan’s stance in the world stage might affect international politics. In a way, this current book of mine is the fruition of my past historical studies.

MF: What surprised you the most regarding Japan’s decision to attack Pearl Harbor? Do you think they were realistic in their expectations of the outcome?japan_for web

AK: In hindsight, Japan’s decision to attack Pearl Harbor is incredible, but, having gone through Japanese history of the 1930s, I have found that it is not really so surprising. Given the pre-WW2 American isolationism and Eurocentric tendency of the USG(overnment), giving strategic and diplomatic priorities to the solving of European situation, if they didn’t think that the USA would react by mobilizing the whole economy for war to crush Japan no matter what, it is understandable that they miscalculated this way. This is the time before TV or the Internet. People were not well informed and the Japanese public knew nothing about the outside world. The Japanese military basically thought that the US would be too busy fighting Germany or even be defeated and all they had to do was to immobilize the US Fleet a while, pick off Western colonies in the Western Pacific one by one and hold out until the European war was settled in favour of the Berlin-Tokyo Axis. If Germany had won, these expectations would have been deemed as quite realistic. Ironically, they attacked Pearl Harbor just when Germany tasted her first defeat in front of Moscow.

MF: As a student of Byzantine history, what is the most important lesson you believe it holds for those of us living in modern times?

AK: Things change. The secret of longevity of the Byzantine Empire was its ability to reinvent itself every now and then after crises. So much so that, even though it’s real designation should be the ‘Roman’ Empire, modern historians, who are so fond of the Classical image of Imperial Rome, feel uncomfortable with the designation ‘Rome’ and use ‘Byzantine’ instead for the empire after the 4th or 5th centuries. But this is precisely the point: it changed its shape and cultural characteristics so much to cope with the changing political, economical and military environment surrounding the empire, after several centuries, it was almost unrecognizable. So, the lessons for us are: be flexible and accept changes. Rely on your ingenuity rather than muscle power.

MF: A common saying is “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” What is your favorite example of a culture or country failing to learn from previous civilizations?

AK: There are so many, it is difficult to single out a favourite one. As I live in Japan now, I’m concerned with China at the moment, as she seems to be in danger of repeating Japan’s mistakes in the 1930s and the 1940s. Given that China was the chief victim of Japan’s aggression in those decades, it would be so ironic. Hope the Chinese are capable of learning from others’ mistakes.

MF: The world today has a lot of problems. Based on your studies, what do you think is the most important thing world leaders should do to avoid another World War?

AK: Do not let others fear you too much. A cornered beast tends to lash out, which was the case for Japan in 1941; and I suspect that that is what is happening with the Islamic militants right now. The Byzantine Empire fought a devastating war with its rival, the Persian Empire in the 7th century, which in turn led to the Islamic Arab conquests. The Persians started this war as they were so worried over the reviving power of the Byzantine Empire (in 476AD, they had gleefully been watching the fall of the West; but now alarmed by the Byzantine reconquests of North Africa and Italy in the 6th century).

Christianity as soft power of Rome, its spread among small countries and ethnic groups geographically surrounding Persia frightened her leaders. Persia attacked Rome when internal power struggle at the capital Constantinople momentarily paralyzed the Byzantine war machine as a heaven-sent and only opportunity to strike. In modern times, in WW1, both Germany and England were motivated by the need to weaken their rivals before they became too strong. Japan’s war in China in the 1930s was partly due to a resurgent China and thus Japan’s fear of losing their top dog status in Asia. As for solutions to this problem of power imbalance, I don’t really know. Probably we have to find out by working patiently through diplomatic effort.

guscropMF: What are you finding in your current research into Syriac Christianity and its spread into Persia that relates to modern tensions between Christians and Muslims?

AK: Persia’s state religion was Zoroastrianism at the time, but Christianity was gaining ground. It seems that Jesus’ saying that he came to fulfill old religion applied to Persia also! When you realise that Judaism had also been strongly influenced by Persia, which released Jews in captivity and allowed them to return to Jerusalem, you can see that Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians were not that very different. And Persia can be a very tolerant place for different religions.

But inevitably, religion and politics cannot be separated completely; conflicting socio-economic and political forces often clashed along religious lines, causing internal instability and external wars. As in my answer to question No.5, as Rome’s power grew, Christianity was seen as a threat by the Persians. At this stage, Roman Christianity became a political religion, which forced a political response from Rome’s rival(s). I think that today’s problems we have with Christians and Muslims are fundamentally the same: they are not really in conflict in terms of religion, but, whenever communal tensions arise and political conflict develops, they unfurl their respective banners and try to protect themselves by rallying around them. Some hotheaded young men often employ rhetoric of religious mission etc., but they do not really represent what should be the majority view.

MF: Do you think it will ever be possible for those two religions, which actually have similar roots, to make peace with one another?

AK: The answer should be yes. Different religious communities usually live in peace side by side most of the time anyway. It is a time of political tensions when religious communities are pitted against one another. The Coptic Egyptian Christians, for example, had lived in a relative calm for nearly 2,000 years until very recently. They should be able to go back to that, normal state. In Syria, sadly, the Christians appear to be being exterminated or displaced permanently, but, once a politically stable Syria could be achieved, Christians and Muslims should be able to live side by side again. But so long as political forces exploiting religious differences remain too strong, it might be a while before that could happen.

Pick up your electronic copy of “Japan’s Pacific War” on Amazon here.

Paperback: https://www.createspace.com/6222626

Read more about Augustine: http://www.quest-publications.com/authors/kobayashi/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15168533.Augustine_Kobayashi

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/augustine.kobayashi

Publisher’s Book Link: http://www.quest-publications.com/books/japans-pacific-war/