This Day In History: ‘Tokyo Rose’ Is Pardoned (1977)

On this day in 1977, the US President pardons the woman alleged to have been the notorious Tokyo Rose. There had originally been several Tokyo Rose, these had been women who had taken part in Japanese propaganda, that was broadcast over the radio. ‘Tokyo Rose’ had been part of a rather crude propaganda effort to sap American soldiers will to fight. The Japanese propaganda campaign was a failure and indeed many Americans were amused by the broadcasts.

One woman became synonymous with the name ‘Tokyo Rose’ and she was a Japanese-American woman by the name of Iva Toguri.  She and some other women had been ordered by the Japanese government to make broadcasts when in between popular music they told stories of American defeats or unfaithful girlfriends in an effort to demoralize the men fighting in the Pacific.

Toguri was n American citizen born in Los Angeles, and part of California’s large American-Japanese community.  She had attended UCLA and hoped to study medicine but when an aunt in Japan fell ill she was obliged to go to Tokyo and take care of her. Toguri left the US for Japan and apparently forgot her passport. Soon there were fears of a war in the Pacific and she tried to get home but she was not allowed to return home because she did not have a passport.

President Gerald Ford being sworn into office

Toguri experienced racism in California and yet when she was in Japan she was treated as an American and deemed to be an enemy alien and was interned in a camp. In the camp the Japanese tried to force her to renounce her citizenship. Toguri was an outspoken defender of America and she was respected by some Allied POWs who were imprisoned with her.

The Japanese would often torture Allied POWs for information and this was often broadcast by the Japanese radio.  When this emerged the Americans were very keen to apprehend Tokyo Rose. It seems that Toguri was beaten until she agreed to take part in these Tokyo Rose broadcasts.  At the end of the war, she was arrested and she admitted that she had been forced to make the broadcasts. Technically, as an American citizen, she had committed an act of treason. Despite her, pleas she was convicted by a US military tribunal and was sentenced to prison. Toguri was to serve a year in prison for her crimes and after her release returned to the US. Some 15 years after she left her native land.

Upon her return to the US, she was re-arrested and given a ten-year prison sentence. After she was released she was immediately sent back to Japan. For the next two decades she fought against her sentences and maintained that she had been forced to carry out the broadcasts. Toguri was able to use the eye-witness statements of Allied POWs to prove that she had been forced to take part in the broadcasts. A news program broadcast a show on her story and this touched the nation. After some more lobbying on her behalf, President Gerald Ford granted her a pardon as he was leaving office.

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