Summers, Robbins: Tokyo Rose, propagandist in the Pacific

Japanese-American Iva Toguri D'Aquino is pictured in Tokyo following her release from custody in this 1946 U.S. Army photo. She was convicted of treason in 1949 for broadcasting propaganda from Japan to U.S. servicemen in World War II as the seductive but sinister Tokyo Rose.

Iva Toguri, an American citizen, was criticized after World War II for being propagandist Tokyo Rose. Two local World War II Navy veterans serving in the Pacific theatre, Garnett Walker, 88, retired general manager of American General Insurance Co., and Noah Oliver, also 88, retired staff member of the Mountain City Club, remember Tokyo Rose in less than flattering terms but enjoyed her American music while away from home.

Toguri was born in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1916 to Japanese immigrants who ran a grocery store. She graduated in 1940 from UCLA with a degree in zoology; she hoped to become a physician. In the summer of 1941, she visited an ailing aunt in Tokyo. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, she was stranded in Tokyo, knowing virtually no Japanese, deprived of a food ration card after refusing to become a Japanese citizen and hard-pressed to find work.

In 1942, Toguri obtained a job with Japan's Domei news agency, monitoring American military broadcasts. In 1943, she joined several reluctant U.S. POWs and became an announcer and disc jockey for Radio Tokyo's "Zero Hour." She helped turn the program into a mockery the Japanese could not comprehend: "Greetings everybody. This is your No. 1 enemy, your favorite playmate, Orphan Ann (her broadcast name on Radio Tokyo) - the little sunbeam whose throat you'd like to cut! Get ready again for a vicious assault on your morale, 75 minutes of music and news for our friends - I mean our enemies - in the south Pacific."

Toguri's soft, feminine American voice told soldiers, sailors and Marines in the Pacific theater that their cause was lost and that their sweethearts back home were betraying them. The propaganda broadcasts did little to dim American morale. The servicemen enjoyed the recordings of American popular music. The Navy bestowed a satirical citation for entertainment on Tokyo Rose at war's end.

The motion picture industry inserted her broadcasts in two post-war films. The 1957 "The Bridge on the River Kwai," featuring William Holden and Sir Alec Guinness, contained a segment of a Tokyo Rose broadcast heard over the portable radio as a group of Holden's saboteurs prepare to blow up a bridge constructed by American and British POWs. "Run Silent, Run Deep" starred Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster in a 1958 film about the U.S. Navy submarine service. Tokyo Rose gave news that was obtained from submarine sea garbage about Allied ships and sailors.

After Japan surrendered in 1945, two reporters from the Hearst newspaper empire flew to Tokyo and offered her $2,000 for an exclusive interview. In need of money and trying to get home, she agreed to being Tokyo Rose. (She subsequently denied even calling herself Tokyo Rose. She never received the $2,000.)

One of the reporters, Harry Brundidge, who worked for the Nashville Tennessean by 1948, had been paid by the Department of Justice to obtain the confession. She spent a year in custody and was released when neither the FBI nor Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur's staff found any evidence of her aiding the Axis forces.

She rejoined her husband, Felipe D'Aquino, a Portuguese citizen of Japanese ancestry, whom she married toward the war's end. She attempted to return to the U.S. to have her child born on American soil. Powerful newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell and the American Legion lobbied against her return. Her baby was born in Japan but died shortly thereafter.

J. Edgar Hoover responded with an FBI probe. Following a year in a San Francisco county jail, Toguri was charged in September 1949 with several counts of treason. She was convicted on a single count - speaking "into a microphone concerning the loss of ships." She served six years of a 10-year sentence at the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, W.Va. Her husband was forced out of the country. They never saw each other again.

In 1956, Toguri moved to Chicago to run an Asian grocery store and gift shop that her family had opened after their release from a wartime internment camp in Arizona.

The Chicago Tribune investigated her case in 1976 and described how two major witnesses at Toguri's trial had been extensively coached and threatened with treason trials. Several government witnesses recanted their testimony.

President Gerald Ford granted her an executive pardon on his last day in office in January 1977. The California legislature unanimously supported the decision. She died in 2006 in Chicago at age 90.

Jerry Summers is a partner with Summers, Rufolo & Rodgers. Mickey Robbins is an investment adviser with Patten and Patten. For more visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org.