The Story Of ‘Tokyo Rose’ And How She Became Known As A Traitor

Iva Ikuko Toguri d’Aquino, or “Tokyo Rose” as most people knew her was an American-born Japanese woman who famously hosted a Japanese radio program aimed at U.S. troops during World War II that was designed to broadcast propaganda.

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She was born in Los Angeles on July 4, 1916, the daughter of Japanese immigrants. After college, she visited Japan to care for a sick aunt. Shortly after a paperwork issue prevented her from returning home, she found herself stranded there after the attack on Pearl Harbor. With the war intensifying, she found herself alone in a strange country.

She was often harassed and classified as an enemy alien. The harassment eventually caused her to move to Tokyo. There she found work as a secretary and in August 1943, found herself working at the broadcasting organization Radio Tokyo as a typist. There she met Australian military officer, Major Charles Cousens, who had been captured in Singapore.

Cousens had been in radio prior to the war and was forced to produce the propaganda show the “Zero Hour” for the Japanese. She was eventually coaxed into participating in the show and soon became a hit. She read the scripts in a joking fashion and even warned her listeners that the show was propaganda.

“So be on your guard, and mind the children don’t hear!” she started one show “All set? Okay! Here’s the first blow at your morale—the Boston Pops playing ‘Strike Up the Band!'” Another time, Toguri called her listeners “my favorite family of boneheads, the fighting G.I.s in the blue Pacific

She always insisted she remained a loyal American and had been forced onto the radio by circumstance. When the war ended she returned to the U.S. and was convicted of treason. She was sentenced and served six years in prison. Almost three decades later she received a presidential pardon from Gerald Ford in 1976. She died in 2006.

While the radio show was supposed to be propaganda, it was a popular distraction for the G.I.s in the Pacific. In another show she started with “Greetings, everybody!” she said during one broadcast in 1944. “This is your little playmate—I mean your bitter enemy—Ann, with a program of dangerous and wicked propaganda for my victims in Australia and the South Pacific. Stand by, you unlucky creatures, here I go!”

After her release, she joined her family in Chicago and worked in her father’s business.