Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Feb. 1, 1960
February 1, 2010 | 4:00 pm
New-Found Evidence Favors Tokyo Rose
Two months ago, On the 18th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I printed what I thought was the first interview by a newsman with a woman known to the world as Tokyo Rose.
Her real name was Iva Toguri D'Aquino. A graduate of UCLA, she told me how she had gone to Japan shortly before Pearl Harbor to visit a dying aunt, how she repeatedly tried and failed to get back to the United States, and how she eventually was ordered to broadcast to U.S. troops for Radio Tokyo.
"There was no propaganda in my broadcasts," she maintained. "All I did was introduce records, play them, and play prisoner-of-war messages to their families.
"The name I used in my broadcasts was Orphan Ann," she added, "I wasn't the notorious Tokyo Rose. There were about 18 women broadcasting on Radio Tokyo, but I never heard of one with that name."
There was a lot of testimony at her post-war trial to back up her claims, but it didn't help her very much. She was found guilty of treason and handed a 10-year prison sentence.
This week, I learned some more concerning the woman and her case. First, I found out that I wasn't the only newsman to have an extensive interview with her. And second, that U.S. servicemen -- at the time of the occupation of Japan -- were themselves very reluctant to identify her as the infamous Tokyo Rose.
I got my information from James Ryan, of Los Angeles, who sent me a copy of the Oct. 19, 1945, edition of the service magazine Yank.
In it was an article by Yank correspondent Sgt. Dale Kramer, entitled "Second-Hand Rose." Remember, this was the issue of Oct. 19, 1945 -- a time when GIs could still smell the smoke of battle, and their hatred of the Japanese hadn't yet faded to a memory.
The article began:
"TOKYO -- Soon after the 'occupation' of this city by American newsmen, the legendary character called Tokyo Rose became the most sought-after woman in Japan.
"In the first few days after our entrance into Tokyo particularly, every story was a rat-race of newspaper correspondents, photographers, magazine writers and assorted trained seals seeking 'exclusives.' But the search for Tokyo Rose had a different novel twist.
"Tokyo Rose simply didn't exist. She had no more reality than Paul Bunyan.
"That made finding a reasonable facsimile a pretty difficult matter. No Jap woman radio commentator had ever called herself Tokyo Rose.
"The origin of the name lies buried somewhere in the mists of the early days of the Pacific War, when it was used by homesick GIs as a label for any feminine Radio Tokyo voice.
"The cumulative effect of all ballyhoo Tokyo Rose received was such that one of the chief objectives of American correspondents landing in Japan was Radio Tokyo.
"There they hoped to find someone to pass off as the one-and-only Rose, and scoop their colleagues.
"When information had been sifted a little, a girl named Iva Toguri emerged as the only candidate who came close to filling the bill. For three years she had played records, interspersed with snappy comments, beamed to Allied soldiers on the Zero Hour . . . Her own name for herself was Orphan Ann . . . "
Sgt. Kramer, in the race for exclusives which he described, found Orphan Ann "bending over a small open-hearth stove, placing green vegetables in a cooking pot.
"We explained Yank's status as the soldiers' magazine (to her)," he wrote. "Since she had directed her program to the troops, we said, we thought it a good idea to interview her . . ."
Iva Toguri D'Aquino was a willing interviewee for the sergeant, and the story he got was much the same one she gave me 14 years later.
And on the subject of whether Mrs. D'Aquino was really Tokyo Rose, the sergeant concluded:
"No one in Japan was in a position to give an answer. Radio Tokyo had burned its files. Miss Toguri and her husband scurried around their house trying to find a few old scripts.
"But ironically, Tokyo Rose was depending chiefly on the U.S. for any defense she might be required to make. She hoped recordings of her program made in San Francisco would, if not actually clear her of the charges of working with the enemy, at least keep her in a lower war-criminal category than that of, say,Hideki Tojo."
Remember, that was Yank magazine in 1945.
Records Lost, Misplaced
As it turned out later to Mrs. D'Aquino's misfortune, most of the San Francisco recordings of her program were destroyed or misplaced by U.S. authorities before her trial.
A few -- a very few -- voices since that time claimed that this trial resulted in an astonishing miscarriage of justice, born in the emotion of the times.
Guilty or not, her conviction gave Iva Toguri D'Aquino the ugly distinction of being officially labeled for history as "Tokyo Rose."