Tokyo Rose

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JOAK microphone and Iva Toguri D'Aquino (dubbed "Tokyo Rose" by some), National Museum of American History JOAK microphone & Tokyo Rose, National Museum of American History.jpg
JOAK microphone and Iva Toguri D'Aquino (dubbed "Tokyo Rose" by some), National Museum of American History

Tokyo Rose (alternative spelling Tokio Rose) was a name given by Allied troops in the South Pacific during World War II to all female English-speaking radio broadcasters of Japanese propaganda. [1] The programs were broadcast in the South Pacific and North America to demoralize Allied forces abroad and their families at home by emphasizing troops' wartime difficulties and military losses. [1] [2] Several female broadcasters operated using different aliases and in different cities throughout the territories occupied by the Japanese Empire, including Tokyo, Manila, and Shanghai. [3] The name "Tokyo Rose" was never actually used by any Japanese broadcaster, [2] [4] but it first appeared in U.S. newspapers in the context of these radio programs during 1943. [5]


During the war, Tokyo Rose was not any one individual, but rather a group of largely unassociated women working for the same propagandist effort throughout the Japanese Empire. [3] In the years soon after the war, the character "Tokyo Rose" – whom the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) now avers to be "mythical" – became an important symbol of Japanese villainy for the United States. [1] American cartoons, [6] [7] movies, [8] [9] [10] and propaganda videos [11] between 1945 and 1960 tend to portray her as sexualized, manipulative, and deadly to American interests in the South Pacific, particularly by revealing intelligence of American losses in radio broadcasts. Similar accusations concern the propaganda broadcasts of Lord Haw-Haw [12] and Axis Sally, [13] and in 1949 the San Francisco Chronicle described Tokyo Rose as the "Mata Hari of radio". [14]

Tokyo Rose ceased to be merely a symbol during September 1945 when Iva Toguri D'Aquino, a Japanese-American disc jockey for a propagandist radio program, attempted to return to the United States. [1] Toguri was accused of being the "real" Tokyo Rose, arrested, tried, and became the seventh person in U.S. history to be convicted of treason. [1] Toguri was eventually paroled from prison in 1956, but it was more than twenty years later that she received an official presidential pardon for her role in the war. [1]

Iva Toguri and The Zero Hour

Iva Toguri aka "Tokyo Rose" mugshot Sugamo Prison Tokyo JAPAN March 7, 1946.jpg
Iva Toguri D'Aquino mug shot Sugamo Prison JAPAN March 7, 1946.jpg
Iva Toguri D'Aquino, mug shot taken at Sugamo Prison on March 7, 1946

Although she broadcast using the name "Orphan Ann", Iva Toguri has been known as "Tokyo Rose" since her return to the United States in 1945. An American citizen and the daughter of Japanese immigrants, Toguri traveled to Japan to tend to a sick aunt just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. [15] Unable to leave the country when war began with the United States, unable to stay with her aunt's family as an American citizen, and unable to receive any aid from her parents who were placed in internment camps in Arizona, Toguri eventually accepted a job as a part-time typist at Radio Tokyo (NHK). [3] She was quickly recruited as a broadcaster for the 75-minute propagandist program The Zero Hour , which consisted of skits, news reports, and popular American music. [2]

According to studies conducted during 1968, of the 94 men who were interviewed and who recalled listening to The Zero Hour while serving in the Pacific, 89% recognized it as "propaganda", and less than 10% felt "demoralized" by it. [2] 84% of the men listened because the program had "good entertainment," and one G.I. remarked, "[l]ots of us thought she was on our side all along." [2]

After World War II ended in 1945, the U.S. military detained Toguri for a year before releasing her due to lack of evidence. Department of Justice officials agreed that her broadcasts were "innocuous". [16] But when Toguri tried to return to the United States, an uproar ensued because Walter Winchell (a powerful broadcasting personality) and the American Legion lobbied relentlessly for a trial, prompting the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to renew its investigation [17] of Toguri's wartime activities. Her 1949 trial resulted in a conviction on one of eight counts of treason.

In 1974, investigative journalists found that important witnesses had asserted that they were forced to lie during testimony. They stated that FBI and US occupation police had coached them for more than two months about what they should say on the stand, and that they had been threatened with treason trials themselves if they did not cooperate. [18] U.S. President Gerald Ford pardoned Toguri in 1977 based on these revelations and earlier issues with the indictment. [19] :47

Tokyo Mose

Walter Kaner (May 5, 1920 – June 26, 2005) was a journalist and radio personality who broadcast using the name Tokyo Mose during and after World War II. Kaner broadcast on U.S. Army Radio, at first to offer comic rejoinders to the propaganda broadcasts of Tokyo Rose and then as a parody to entertain U.S. troops abroad. In U.S.-occupied Japan, his "Moshi, Moshi Ano-ne" jingle was sung to the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down" and became so popular with Japanese children and G.I.s that the U.S. military's Stars and Stripes newspaper called it "the Japanese occupation theme song." In 1946, Elsa Maxwell referred to Kaner as "the breath of home to unknown thousands of our young men when they were lonely." [20]

Tokyo Rose has been the subject of songs, movies, and documentaries:

Other uses

The first registered rock group using the name Tokyo Rose was formed in the summer of 1980. They are most known for their video which tells the story of the war time Tokyo Rose. Tokyo Rose is also the name of an emo/pop band hailing from New Jersey.

In 2019, Burnt Lemon Theatre brought the musical theatre production Tokyo Rose [24] to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, [25] and New Diorama Theatre. [26] An extended version toured in 2021 in several UK cities, [27] accompanied by the release of a cast album. [28]

In 2022, Tokyo Rose - Zero Hour (A Graphic Novel): A Japanese American Woman's Persecution and Ultimate Redemption After World War II was published by Tuttle. It was authoredby Andre R. Frattino and illustrated by Kate Kasenow (Illustrator). The Foreword was written by Janice Chiang. [29]

See also

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