Tokyo Rose: American Scapegoat

On October 6, 1949, an American woman named Iva Toguri d’Aquino was the seventh person to be convicted of treason in the United States. She was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and fined $10,000 for her crimes. What exactly was her crime? Broadcasting a radio show to American troops during WWII.

Iva Ikuko Toguri was born in Los Angeles in 1916. Her parents were immigrants from Japan who had settled in California. Toguri attended school, earned her degree from UCLA, and worked with her father in his shop. A normal American girl, Toguri soon found herself living a nightmare when, in 1941, she traveled to Japan to visit her aunt. Before she could return home to the US, Japanese troops attacked Pearl Harbor, and Toguri found herself stuck in Japan, far from her family, who had been forced into an internment camp.

As she waited out the war, Toguri got a job as a typist at Radio Tokyo where she met Australian POW Major Charles Cousens. He and several other captured Allied soldiers had been brought to Radio Tokyo to be the voices of a Japanese propaganda show intended to discourage US troops posted in the Asia Pacific area. Cousens asked Toguri to be an announcer on the show, Zero Hour. She and dozens of other women who announced on the show became collectively known as “Tokyo Rose” by US troops who listened to it. However, the announcers of the show claimed to be trying to sabotage the propaganda program. Toguri repeatedly joked with her listeners that the show was Japanese propaganda, saying, “Be on your guard, and mind the children don’t hear!”

As the war ended, the US media set its sights on now-married Iva Toguri d’Aquino. Two reporters traveled to Japan, promising d’Aquino money for an exclusive interview. Desperately in need of funds, she agreed to the interview. Once her name was published by the American media, the government moved in to investigate. d’Aquino’s name became synonymous with treason, and years of American upset and aggression were heaped upon her. A year’s investigation yielded no evidence that her show was anything other than “innocuous entertainment.”

It was unfortunate then, that famous radio host, Walter Winchell, was unwilling to let it go. He continued to insist that charges of treason be brought against her. In 1949, the government capitulated to pressure from the media and American public and brought her case to trial. Despite people who testified on her behalf, she was declared guilty, sentenced to a decade in federal prison, and stripped of her American citizenship.

d’Aquino served about six years in prison before being released on good behavior. She fought the government’s deportation efforts and moved to Chicago. In 1976, two of the key witnesses from her 1949 trial came forward to say they were pressured into giving false testimony against d’Aquino. Shortly after, the jury foreman from d’Aquino’s trial said that the jury was pressured by the judge to deliver a guilty verdict. In 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned Iva d’Aquino and restored her citizenship.

In the decades since the Tokyo Rose debacle, many reasons have been given for the obvious scapegoating of d’Aquino. There were certainly politics, racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, and media bias at play. Iva herself said, “I supposed they found someone and got the job done; they were all satisfied. It was eeny, meeny, miney, and I was moe.”

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On This Day: The Invasion of Poland

On September 1, 1939, Hitler commanded German forces to invade Poland, effectively starting World War II. It was this invasion that prompted Britain and France to declare war and realize that Hitler’s plan involved the domination of Europe. This war lead to the death of approximately 70 million soldiers and civilians, including 6 million Jewish citizens who were killed in concentration camps.

When Hitler first came to power, he campaigned under the auspices of returning Germany to its pre-WWI glory. He wanted to reclaim land and power that he believed was taken from Germany during the war. In response to his demands, British and French officials allowed Germany to rebuild its military and annex Austria. The last effort at appeasement was the Munich Agreement, which allowed Germany to occupy an area of Czechoslovakia so long as they promised to resolve any future conflicts peacefully.

On September 1, 1939, Hitler broke the agreements of the Munich Agreement by invading Poland. German forces used the blitzkrieg strategy, which involved the strategic bombing of sites such as railroads, communication lines, and ammunition storage. Invasion by troops on foot and in tanks followed. Once the troops had moved through, German security forces rounded up anyone who Hitler saw as an enemy of the state, generally those who he deemed racially or religiously inferior, and used them as slave laborers.

Poland’s outdated army stood little chance against the Germans especially when the Soviet Union attacked from the opposite border just a few weeks later in accordance with a plan set by Hitler and Stalin. On September 3, 1939, Britain and France declared war against Germany. Six years of brutal, world-wide war followed during which the world witnessed the pitfalls of hate and revenge.

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On This Day: The Last Entry

To date, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, has sold over 30 million copies in 67 languages and is believed to be one of the most widely read books. Anne Frank’s diary gives readers an intimate look into what life was like for a young Jewish girl at the peak of the Nazi reign of terror. Heart-wrenching and inspiring, Frank’s diary should be required reading for everyone.    

Many of us are familiar with the story of Anne Frank. The Nazis were on a crusade against Jewish people, and they didn’t intend to stop in Germany. In 1940, they invaded Poland and the Netherlands, where Anne and her family lived. By 1942, the persecution was so great, Anne’s parents feared for their family, and they went into hiding. Anne was only 13 years old.  

Anne and her family lived in a secret attic space for two years, moving minimally and trying to be as silent as possible. To pass the time, Anne wrote in a small, red-checkered journal. On August 1, 1944, Anne wrote the last entry in her journal. The entry speaks of an internal struggle common to many teenagers: deciding who one wants to be and who they could be. Anne writes:  

As I’ve told you many times, I’m split in two. One side contains my exuberant cheerfulness, my flippancy, my joy in life and, above all, my ability to appreciate the lighter side of things. By that I mean not finding anything wrong with flirtations, a kiss, an embrace, an off-colour joke. This side of me is usually lying in wait to ambush the other one, which is much purer, deeper and finer.  

. . . As I’ve told you, what I say is not what I feel, which is why I have a reputation for being boy-crazy as well as a flirt, a smart aleck and a reader of romances. The happy-go-lucky Anne laughs, gives a flippant reply, shrugs her shoulders and pretends she doesn’t give a darn. The quiet Anne reacts in just the opposite way. If I’m being completely honest, I’ll have to admit that it does matter to me, that I’m trying very hard to change myself, but that I’m always up against a more powerful enemy.

 . . . I just can’t keep it up anymore, because when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my hear inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if… if only there were no other people in the world. 

Three days later, Anne’s family was discovered, arrested, and sent to concentration camps. Anne and her sister Margot were sent to Bergen-Belsen. Months later, both sisters died from typhus. Anne’s father, Otto, was the only member of the family to survive. He was the one who found, edited, and published the contents of his daughter’s diary. Thanks to Anne’s courage and her father’s determination, generations of people around the world have access to Anne’s words and the opportunity to reflect on how to prevent such an atrocity from happening again.

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On This Day: “Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote”

On June 30, 1971, then-President Richard Nixon issued the following statement: “Tonight, Ohio’s Legislature ratified the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment guarantees the right of 18-year-old persons to vote in state and local, as well as federal, elections. It appears that 38 states have now ratified the Amendment that will now become part of the law of the land. The ratification of this amendment has been accomplished in the shortest time of any amendment in American history” (1).

Signed just a few days later, the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution reads: “The right of citizens of the United States who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age” (2).

The push to lower the voting age began during WWII. In 1942, President Roosevelt lowered the draft age of young men from 21 to 18 years old. Americans pointed out that it seemed only right that a young man required to serve in his country’s army should also have the right to vote. The slogan “Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote” became their cry. At the time, the proposal did not gain enough traction in Congress for passage, but when the Vietnam War came around, the idea was renewed. Congress aimed to lower the voting age as part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but after its passage, President Nixon himself suggested that this new law would only be upheld if it was passed as a constitutional amendment. The amendment was quickly drafted and ratified.

On July 5, 1971, President Nixon signed the certified amendment with three 18-year-olds signing as witnesses (2). Upon its enactment, the US gained 11 million additional voters (3).

Mirroring the sentiments of the “Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote” crowd, there is a contingent of Americans today who would like to see the voting age lowered again, this time to 16. Opponents of this proposal suggest that 16 and 17-year-olds are too young to make mature decisions regarding politics. Arguments in favor suggest that as this group is most affected by gun violence in schools, they should have a say in how that violence is addressed by lawmakers. They also point out that in countries where the voting age is at 16, that group’s turnout is much higher than among 18-21-year-olds (4). What do you think? Should the voting age in the United States be lowered to 16 years old?





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January 1972: Japanese Soldier Found in Guam 28 Years after the End of WWII

In our modern minds this might seem like an unbelievable story, that a Japanese soldier hid out in the jungles of Guam rather than face his country’s defeat in WWII.  But Soichi Yokoi, who was discovered in the jungles of Guam on January 24, 1972, was actually not the only one.  Another Japanese soldier, Hiroo Onoda was found in the Phillipine jungles in 1974, after hiding there for 30 years.

投稿者が出典雑誌より取り込み, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

According to a New York Times article about Soichi’s death in September of 1997, “Japanese troops were encouraged to fight to the death and taught that surrender was deeply shameful, and so when American troops seized control of Guam in 1944, Mr. Yokoi and more than 1,000 other Japanese soldiers hid in the jungle rather than give up or commit suicide.”

Soichi spent his time in Guam, according to Wikipedia, hunting and fishing and built himself an underground living space. Soichi had been a tailor in Japan before being drafted in 1941 and arriving Guam in 1943.

Upon his arrival back in Japan, he uttered his now famous statement, “It is with much embarrassment that I return.”  The New York Times interpreted this statement a little differently as, “I am ashamed that I have returned alive.”

Soichi wanted to meet the Emperor to express his regret at not having done more to win the war, but was never given an audience. He did, however, receive a hero’s welcome and quickly settled back into regular life.

He even married six months after his return and spent 25 years with his wife until his death from a heart attack at the age of 82. 

According to the New York Times, “He was the epitome of prewar values of diligence, loyalty to the Emperor and ganbaru, a ubiquitous Japanese word that roughly means to slog on tenaciously through tough times.”

A nephew, who wrote a book about Soichi’s journey said that toward the end of his life, his uncle became very nostalgic about his past and returned to Guam to visit several times with his wife.

It’s nearly impossible to envision a world where hiding in the jungles is preferable to taking your chances in civilization….or maybe it isn’t that hard to imagine.

Here are few resources to help you learn more about Soichi Yokoi: