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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 September 2006, 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK
Death ends the myth of Tokyo Rose
By Adam Blenford
BBC News

Iva Toguri D'Aquino's police mugshot
Iva Toguri's trial was one of the most expensive of its time
Iva Toguri D'Aquino, widely known as Tokyo Rose, who has died in Chicago aged 90, remains the only US citizen convicted of treason and pardoned by her country.

When she was convicted by a court in San Francisco in 1949, few worried that the case against her rested almost entirely on the word of two US-born men who worked on a Japanese propaganda radio station during World War II.

A US citizen of Japanese descent trapped in Japan when war broke out, Toguri had worked under their supervision, allegedly broadcasting fictitious propaganda to US troops in an effort to undermine their morale.

Even the FBI would later admit that the station's broadcasts did little harm, and may in fact have raised US spirits.

But according to Ronald Yates, a journalist who would later reveal that the trial witnesses lied under oath, by the time the case came to trial many in the US had been convinced of her guilt.

"There was a lot of racism in America in those days, racism against anybody," he told the BBC News website.

When journalist Walter Winchell told the nation in 1948 that Tokyo Rose was coming home and denounced her as a traitor, a clamour grew for Toguri to be tried, Mr Yates said, despite US officials in Japan having already cleared her of any crime.

"It was an election year, and President Harry Truman was getting a lot of letters from angry voters accusing him of being soft on traitors.

"So he decided to get her."

Golf course revelations

In San Francisco, seven of eight counts of treason were dismissed by the court.

But the testimony of Kenkichi Oki and George Mitsushio was strong enough to win a conviction on the one remaining charge.

The FBI told us we would have to testify against Iva or else
Kenkichi Oki
Trial witness

They told the court she broadcast messages to the US fleet rejoicing in its apparent defeat in battle.

"Now you fellows have lost all your ships. Now you really are orphans of the Pacific.

"How do you think you will ever get home," Toguri was alleged to have said, even though the US had just won a major victory at Leyte Gulf.

She was jailed for 10 years and fined $10,000, but was released after six years for good behaviour.

After her release she settled in Chicago, opened a business and sought to clear her name.

The breakthrough would not come until 1974, when Mr Yates, now a professor of journalism, was posted to Tokyo for the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

Iva Toguri in her younger days
Iva Toguri never saw her husband, Felipe D'Aquino, after her trial
Mr Yates already knew of Iva Toguri from Chicago, and took a file on her out to Japan.

"One day I was playing golf with someone and just mentioned her. My golf partner said he knew Tokyo Rose, and he knew she was not guilty," he said.

He was put in touch with Oki and Mitsushio, who eventually disclosed their secret: "One day they just decided to come clean, and told me that they 'didn't exactly' tell the truth in 1948."

Oki said they had little choice. Japanese-Americans living voluntarily in Japan during the war years were seen by some as easy targets once the US won the conflict.

"The FBI and US occupation police told us we would have to testify against Iva or else Uncle Sam might arrange a trial for us too - or worse," Oki told Mr Yates in 1976.

"We were flown to San Francisco from Tokyo... we was told what to say and what not to say two hours every morning for a month before the trial started."

Memorable story

Ronald Yates' reporting in the Chicago Tribune fatally undermined the government case against Iva Toguri.

Other investigations followed, and a year later President Gerald Ford formally pardoned her on his last day in office.

Today, Hollywood producers own the rights to her story and a film adaptation of her life is in the pipeline.

Mr Yates, who has plans for a book recounting the entire story, retains a deep affection for the woman who never quite shook off the myth of Tokyo Rose.

The pair remained close until her death, and Mr Yates was with her when she received an award from the World War II Veterans Committee on her 90th birthday.

According to Mr Yates, Toguri viewed the ceremony as the most memorable day of her life.

"She risked her life in Tokyo in the war, taking medicines and food to prisoners of war. She never wavered in her support for the US," he said.

"And that's the sad thing."

Pardoned 'Tokyo Rose' dies at 90
28 Sep 06 |  Americas
Country profile: Japan
26 Sep 06 |  Country profiles


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