Why It Took Tokyo Rose 30 Years To Clear Her Name

During World War II, American servicemen regularly huddled around radios to listen to the “Zero Hour” — an English-language news and music program that was beamed out over the Pacific. The Japanese intended for the show to serve as morale-sapping propaganda, but most G.I.s considered it a welcome distraction. The show’s host was a woman dubbed “Tokyo Rose.” Her real name was Iva Toguri, but rather than being an enemy agent, she was an American citizen who found her way onto the radio by accident when she was working as a typist at Radio Tokyo. While she was initially hesitant to get behind the microphone, Toguri eventually grew adept at reading scripts in a joking manner, sometimes even warning her listeners that the show was propaganda. Japanese military police tried to persuade her to renounce her U.S. citizenship and swear allegiance to Japan — a route many other Americans in Japan took — but she refused. Once her identity became public, Toguri was made into the poster child for Japan’s wartime propaganda and was arrested on suspicion of treason. She remained in custody for over a year until a government investigation concluded that her broadcasts had been nothing more than "innocuous entertainment." Legendary radio commentator Walter Winchell began lobbying the government to reopen the case against Toguri, and his campaign worked. In 1948, Toguri was rearrested and charged with eight counts of treason. A jury found her guilty of only one count of treason. She was stripped of her American citizenship, issued a $10,000 fine, and sentenced to 10 years behind bars. She spent six years in a women’s prison in West Virginia before being released in early 1956. She was reunited with her family, settled in Chicago, and worked for another two decades to clear her name. In 1976, two of the key witnesses in her trial admitted that they had been threatened into testifying against Toguri, and the foreman of her jury said that the judge in the case had pressed for a guilty verdict. On Jan. 19, 1977, in one of his last acts in office, President Gerald R. Ford granted the former Tokyo Rose a presidential pardon. Toguri, who was then 60 years old, was exonerated of treason and her American citizenship was restored. She returned to Chicago and went on to live a private life until she died in 2006.