Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Dec. 7, 1959
December 7, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Is This Really Tokyo Rose?
Her name is Iva Toguri d'Aquino, but you know her as Tokyo Rose.
And that's why she hides.
She's 43 now. She has a small business and a smaller circle of acquaintances.
This is deliberate. This is her shield against the humiliation which results when somebody finds out and whispers, "That's Tokyo Rose."
Strangers frighten her. So do crowds.
"They shouldn't," she says, "but they do. I still live in terror of being recognized by someone."
Reluctant to Talk
It was just a few days before today's anniversary of Pearl Harbor that I talked with Mrs. D'Aquino. It wasn't easy to find her, and when I did, she was reticent at first.
"What's the use? she said. "What good is it to talk to the press? Everybody's mind is made up about me."
The woman known to the world as Tokyo Rose continued: "Nobody will believe me, but I'm not Tokyo Rose.
"Maybe," she added, "before I leave this earth, I'll find out if such a person really existed."
There are people in the United States today who do believe her. In February, 1957, the St. Louis Post Dispatch carried a story by one of them, Maj. William A. Reuben, a former U.S. Army combat officer. After investigating her case, Reuben indicated that there was more than reasonable doubt of her guilt.
Evidence for Her
There has been a lot of evidence to give some credence to the theory. Among the facts brought out, and not disputed, at her 1949 trial for treason were the following:
-No Radio Tokyo announcer ever identified herself as Tokyo Rose. There were 18 English-speaking women announcers employed by Radio Tokyo during the war.
-Mrs. D'Aquino, born in Los Angeles and educated at UCLA, was stranded in Japan at the outbreak of World War II, and made repeated efforts to get back to the United States.
-Her becoming a Radio Tokyo announcer was the result of a request by Allied officers, who -- as Japanese prisoners of war -- were writing the programs. (One of the officers, an Australian major, testified at her trial that he and an American captain wrote all of her 12-minute, five-times-a-week segments, and that it was a straight disc jockey tape entertainment program.)
-None of the officers were punished for their participation. One, in fact, was promoted to major immediately after the war.
-In both 1945 and 1946, Mrs. D'Aquino's activities were investigated by the Army, and then the FBI. Each time, she was cleared.
Refused at First
"The first time I was asked to do the programs, I refused," Mrs. D'Aquino told me. "Then I was told it was orders of the Army and I learned that the prisoners of war wanted me to do it.
"I was told that we would send messages to the families of prisoners of war. We did this, and we played music. On my segment, there was no propaganda."
Mrs. D'Aquino added that she could have avoided the eventual treason trial if she had been willing to give up her U.S. citizenship.
"Between those investigations after the war and 1948, when I was brought back to the United States for the trial, I had opportunities to become either a Japanese or a Portuguese citizen," she said. "I was offered transportation to any Portuguese possession because my husband was Portuguese."
(By Japanese law, she --as a descendant of a Japanese national -- could have become a citizen of Japan in a procedure which requires about 20 minutes.)
Convicted on One Count
"But I didn't give up my U.S. citizenship," she told me, almost casually. "The jury was out four days before they came back with a 'guilty' verdict."
The jury -- which twice reported that it couldn't reach a decision- finally acquitted her on seven counts and convicted her on one, which charged specifically that she had broadcast the following words in 1944 after the Battle of Leyte Gulf:
"Now you fellows have lost all your ships. You really are orphans of the Pacific. Now, how do you think you will ever get home?"
After serving 6 1/2 years of a 10-year sentence in the federal women's reformatory in West Virginia, Mrs. D'Aquino walked back into the world again in January of 1956.
"I'm lucky to have a family like I've got," she continued. "They have stood by me all the way."
It was at her parents' request that Mrs. D'Aquino made her first and only trip to Japan in the summer of 1941 -- to visit her mother's only sister, who was near death.
"Before that," I asked her, "did you ever belong to any Japanese organizations here in the States?"
"The only organization I ever belonged to, in my whole life, was the Girl Scouts," she said.
'They Had to Find Somebody'
"If you feel you're innocent, why do you think you were convicted?"
Mrs. D'Aquino shrugged. "I guess they had to find somebody who was Tokyo Rose, and I was as close as they could get."
After a moment, she went on: "I'm not bitter about what's happened. I'm not cynical. What good would it do?"
"Then," I said, "you have no intention of leaving the United States -- giving up your citizenship?"
The smile disappeared. "No," Iva Toguri d'Aquino said. "Everybody thinks I'm a traitor. But I fought too long to keep my citizenship. I'll never give it up."