Setting the Record Straight
World War II Veterans Committee Presents the 2005 Edward J. Herlihy Citizenship Award to Iva Toguri
In a ceremony on January 15, 2006 in Chicago, the World War II Veterans Committee presented its Edward J. Herlihy Citizenship Award to Iva Toguri, the patriotic American woman who was wrongfully dubbed the infamous “Tokyo Rose.”
It seemed the defining moments of Ms. Toguri’s life have revolved around citizenship. Born on the 4th of July in 1916, Iva was the first in her family to be an American citizen. Her parents were immigrants to the country, and insisted that Iva and her siblings assimilate into the local culture. In a twist of fate, Iva, who was visiting relatives in Japan, became trapped in the country at the outbreak of World War II. Though pressured to renounce her American citizenship by the Japanese secret police, Iva refused. She worked odd jobs to support herself, all the while trying to find a way out of the country, and back home.
One of these jobs was as an English-language typist for Radio Tokyo. While working at the station, she was chosen to appear on a Japanese radio propaganda broadcast entitled Zero Hour, intended to be aired for American servicemen in the Pacific. Iva protested, claiming that she knew nothing of radio. However, as a stranger in a strange land, she really had no choice, and was assured that she would say nothing derogatory about her native country. In fact, the Australian prisoner of war who was put in charge of the program, Major Charles Cousens, secretly planned on sabotaging the program, making it useless to the Japanese as propaganda. It was for this reason that he lobbied for the pro-American Iva Toguri to be on the show.
Zero Hour became the farce of a program that Cousens envisioned, and Iva’s appearances were limited to mainly introducing records and making jokes. She adopted the nickname “Orphan Ann,” partly intended to be a subtle reference to the fact that, like the American servicemen in the Pacific, she too was stuck far from home.
Meanwhile, however, the legend of “Tokyo Rose” was growing throughout the Pacific. An all-knowing reporter of American troop movements, Tokyo Rose was said to taunt the soldiers, sailors, and Marines at every turn. In fact, there was no Tokyo Rose. Rather, she was a composite of about a dozen women broadcasting over Japanese radio. At least one of these women was a former American, who, unlike Iva, had given up her citizenship. Still, the legend grew, and following the war, a witch-hunt for the real Tokyo Rose ensued. Incredibly, Iva Toguri was fingered by the Japanese, due to her pro-American sentiments. In turn, she was prosecuted for treason, a charge only made possible because she had refused to ever give up her American citizenship. She was convicted, based largely on the testimony of two former Radio Tokyo employees, Kenkichi Oki and George Mitsushio, both of whom were Americans who had renounced their own citizenship. She was sentenced to a decade in prison, and in a sad twist of irony, Iva was stripped of the citizenship she had fought so hard to keep.
Almost immediately, questions arose about the trial. The case against Iva was weak, and due to the hysteria surrounding the ordeal, it appeared that the government was more interested in convicting the myth of Tokyo Rose than the actual person of Iva Toguri. Over the years, the truth gradually came to light, due to the efforts of a few dedicated journalists. Bill Kurtis, now host of A&E’s Investigative Reports, was news anchor for WBBM-TV in Chicago during the 1960s. He took a keen interest in the story after learning that the woman dubbed “Tokyo Rose” had moved to Chicago following her release from prison. Kurtis approached Iva with the idea of a documentary on her ordeal, and though she wanted an opportunity to clear her name, she was understandably wary of media attention. In time, Kurtis earned her trust, and the result was the 1969 documentary The Story of Tokyo Rose, the first time Iva had been able to tell her story the way it really happened.