Iva Toguri D’Aquino died this week at age 90. She’s seen here in a file photo being escorted out of federal court after her conviction for treason in 1949. She was later pardoned. AP, via NPR National Archives photo (2-24-2007 blog update)
Scott Simon at NPR’s “Weekend Edition” had a remembrance of a woman from his old neighborhood in Chicago who died this week. It’s an audio report (transcripts are available for a fee from NPR).
As a Japanese American student stuck in Tokyo on December 11, 1941, Toguri was tossed out by her cousins. In order to live, she took a job with Japanese radio, and ultimately was one of a dozen women who read material between songs broadcast to American soldiers, known collectively as “Tokyo Rose.” Toguri refused to renounce her U.S. citizenship, ever. Assigned to work with Allied POWs in Tokyo, she read propaganda notices she said later were so silly that no GI could have believed them, written by an Australian POW for humor.
But at the end of the war, trying to get back to the U.S., Toguri was the only one of the woman broadcasters known. She was detained as a suspect Tokyo Rose for a year, then released — there was no evidence against her.
In the heat of the 1948 presidential campaign, however, President Truman ordered the case re-investigated. She was charged with treason, convicted, and served six years before the only two witnesses against her recanted their testimony, saying they had been coached to lie. President Ford pardoned her in 1977.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Toguri was awarded a medal from a veterans’ organization in January:
In January, the World War II Veterans Committee presented Toguri with the Edward J. Herlihy citizen award, which is named after the World War II newsreels announcer. The committee had earlier printed Toguri’s story in its newsletter, drawing an outpouring of support from veterans, said its president, James Roberts.
“Not one said they were demoralized in any way by the broadcasts,” Roberts said. “She remained loyal to the U.S., when many others may have turned on it, or given up.”
She accepted her medal during a quiet luncheon ceremony at Yoshi’s, having declined an invitation to a larger gala three months earlier in Washington, D.C.
“She was tearful and overcome with emotion,” Roberts said. “As I understood it, it was part of a long process of vindication.”
Toguri requested that there be no memorial or funeral, Trembley said.
Through the war, living in the heart of the enemy empire, she kept her citizenship, at constant risk to her job and life. Meanwhile, in the U.S., her own family was incarcerated in the Japanese internment; her mother died in a camp.
You may remember a movie, “Tokyo Rose.” It was instrumental in raising the ire of the American public after the war — but it was not based on Toguri’s life.
Sherman told us that war is hell. This is just one more story that shows how wars ruin the lives of so many involved, the vanquished, the victors, peripheral players and innocent bystanders.
- All Things Considered on NPR, September 27 (another audio story), featuring an interview with Ron Yates, a former reporter with the Chicago Tribune whose stories helped Toguri win her pardon
- From the NichiBei Times, California
- Human Events, with the headline that she was “vindicated” before her death.
- New York Daily News from July 2006, on how Toguri was framed by the FBI.
- On the Media, September 29, 2006, “A Rose is Not a Rose”