After being issued a certificate of identification by the US State Department, Iva Ikuko Toguri travelled to Japan on July 5, 1941, to meet her ailing aunt there. Her mother could not go owing to her own frail health.
As the tensions between US and Japan heightened, her inability to read Japanese kept her in the dark about these developments. When the Pearl Harbour incident occurred, she found herself stranded in Tokyo with thousands of fellow Japanese Americans.
Her pro-American sentiments only worsened the situation. Forced to survive on her own, she moved into a boarding house and finally found work at the Domei News Agency in 1942 as an English language typist.
She took up a second job as a typist at Radio Tokyo. There, she made friends with Major Charles Cousens, an Australian POW, and later Captain Wallace Ince, an American POW. She was persuaded by Cousens to lend her voice for ‘The Zero Hour’ show, a Japanese propaganda piece aimed at Allied troops fighting in the Pacific.
In 1943, she joined ‘The Zero Hour’ broadcasting line-up, where she performed in comedy skits and did pre music introductions, but never participated in any newscasts.
However, unbeknownst to her, she and the other women who lent their voices to Japanese propaganda radio had become famous as ‘Tokyo Rose’ among Allied troops fighting in the Pacific.
After Japan’s surrender in 1945, war correspondents and reporters soon followed the army into the defeated country hoping to get an exclusive with Tokyo Rose over a circulating myth about an English-speaking female who taunted American troops through her shows.
Reporters Clark Lee of International News Service and Harry Brundidge of Cosmopolitan magazine, having identified Iva as a possible match for Tokyo Rose, met her on September 1, 1945, and offered her $2,000 for an exclusive interview. Unaware of the stigma attached to the name, she accepted the lucrative offer.
Soon, the army began investigating Iva Toguri and her treasonous role as Tokyo Rose. She was arrested and taken to Yokohama prison to be questioned by the army’s counterintelligence corps and was later transferred to Sugamo prison.
After her release on October 26, 1946, due to lack of evidence, she remained in Japan with her husband until she got pregnant the following year. Wanting her child to be born in the United States, she applied for re-entry but was denied clearance.
News of her return to America sparked protests, and calls for her prosecution by influential right-wing broadcaster Walter Winchell. The Tokyo Rose case was reopened, and she was arrested and brought to America on August 28, 1948.
She was held in a county jail in San Francisco for a year. She stood trial on July 5, 1949, on eight counts of treason. Three months later, the jury came out with a guilty verdict. She was given a ten-year prison sentence and fined $10,000.
She was released on parole on January 28, 1956, and moved back to Chicago, Illinois, to live with her family.
Based on the investigative reporting of Ron Yates and later Morley Safer in her favour, Iva Toguri received a full and unconditional pardon from US President Gerald Ford in 1977. With the pardon, her US citizenship was restored too.
Family & Personal Life
Iva Toguri was married to Felipe d'Aquino, a Portuguese man of Japanese heritage, whom she met during her time in Tokyo. The couple had a baby boy who died in infancy. Felipe was banned from entering the United States after his testimony in her trial. The two divorced in 1980.
During the war, her parents were sent to an internment camp along with thousands of other Americans of Japanese origin. Her mother died while at the camp. Sadly, Iva got to know of her mother’s death much later when she was in Sugamo prison.
She passed away on September 26th, 2006, from natural causes at the Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.