Iva Toguri was a Japanese-American, raised in California with parents who instilled in their child a sense of patriotism. They even refused to speak Japanese in the house so as to help her assimilate. And when she grew old enough she graduated from UCLA and considered a career in medicine. By all accounts Iva was quickly working her way toward living the American dream.
In July 1941, Toguri went to visit her ailing Aunt in Japan. Five months later, Pearl Harbor was attacked, drawing America into the war and stranding Toguri in Japan for seven long years.
Her life during these years in Japan was incredibly trying: she was constantly subjected to interrogation by Japanese military officials, who would often wake her at all hours, prod her to jog in-between their bicycles on the way to their interrogation quarters, and attempt to force her to renounce her U.S. citizenship. But she refused. She was an American through and through.
|Heathen or Hero?|
During the war years, the Japanese Imperial Army had been working to propagandize American troops through the use of radio. Iva Toguri, seeking to assist various Allied prisoners of war who were being used by the Japanese to produce demoralizing radio shows, ended up striking up a relationship with the POW crew who worked on a show called the “Zero Hour.” This crew, led by Australian Major Charles Cousens, American Captain Ted Ince and Filipino Lieutenant Norman Reyes, decided to have Toguri host the show. They hoped to fool the Japanese into believing she was reciting propaganda when, in reality, she was sabotaging it and raising the morale of Allied troops. Iva considered the broadcasts, along with her frequent deliveries of supplies and food to the POWs as the most effective means of contributing to the war effort against the Japanese, and serving her country.
When the war ended, Toguri granted an interview to two journalists, Clark Lee and Harry Brundidge, who she thought would portray her story in a positive light. Lee and Brundidge also offered her $2,000, money she desperately needed after surviving through the war on a meager $6.60 per month. But Lee and Brundidge had no interest in portraying Toguri’s story positively. They were far more interested in furthering their careers by portraying Toguri as the infamous “Tokyo Rose,” a monster who’d betrayed her country.
n October 1945, Toguri was arrested by the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps. She was released a year later due to lack of evidence.
In 1948, the U.S. press, led by influential media personality Walter Winchell, began slamming the U.S. government for going soft on Iva Toguri and letting the “traitor” off softly. The Truman administration had been portrayed as being soft on Communists and other subversives. Given that it was an election year, a head had to roll.
It was to be Iva Toguri’s.
Iva Toguri’s life was ruined. She lost a son, a husband, her citizenship and the potential for a fulfilling career, along with over six years of freedom—all because of election-year politics and the need for the government to find a scapegoat.
Two journalists had helped ruined a woman’s life for their own personal gain. They were aided by two accusers with whom Toguri had worked with in Japan; two men who were former U.S. citizens themselves, who succumbed to U.S. government pressure to produce perjured evidence against her.
This woman, who had attempted to serve her country as honorably as possible and who, despite constant interrogation and abuse by the Japanese government, never renounced her citizenship, was destroyed by her own country. It was not until 1977 when she finally received some measure of vindication by being pardoned by President Gerald Ford.
Ron Yates, a Chicago Tribune journalist who played an instrumental role in helping Toguri gain her pardon, argues that Toguri, who died in 2006, deserved more than a pardon, she deserved a full exoneration.
Instead, the story of Iva Toguri proves George Washington’s aphorism that “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”