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Thursday, September 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Broadcaster made "Tokyo Rose" role infamous in war

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Iva Toguri, an American woman who was branded "Tokyo Rose" during World War II and imprisoned for making treasonous radio broadcasts, then exonerated decades later with a presidential pardon, died Tuesday at her Chicago home. She was 90. No cause of death was reported.

Although nearly a dozen female broadcasters were given the moniker during World War II, Toguri became most tarred with the name, which along with "Hideki Tojo" came to personify Axis infamy in the Pacific.

Taunting millions of servicemen with stories of infidelity on the homefront, false reports of battle outcomes meant to demoralize them, and frequent spins of pop songs to keep them listening, the broadcasts of Radio Tokyo were notorious instruments in the propaganda war. Many American sailors and soldiers found them cartoonishly unbelievable, exactly what Toguri said she intended.

The Navy Department mockingly cited her for "contributing greatly to the morale" of the armed services.

The name Tokyo Rose was an American invention. On the air, Toguri called herself "Orphan Ann," a reference both to her favorite radio program as a child and her lonely status as an American trapped in enemy territory. Refusing to renounce her U.S. citizenship during the war, she was described by many as a victim of her own courage — and naiveté.

She had been forced through circumstance to broadcast propaganda for the Japanese, having landed in her ancestral homeland to care for a sick aunt at precisely the worst moment. She and other captive Allies decided to turn their ordeal on its head, deliberately making a hash of the propaganda.

With anti-Japanese fervor still peaking after the war, media and political pressure was applied to find "Tokyo Rose." Other treason trials had commenced for Mildred Gillars, the American known as "Axis Sally" for her pro-Nazi broadcasts from Berlin, and American-born William Joyce, known as "Lord Haw-Haw" for his radio propaganda messages beamed to England from Germany during the war.

Gillars was imprisoned, Joyce hanged.

Toguri's case seemed different. Reports from Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the Army's Counterintelligence Corps indicated she had done nothing treasonable in her broadcasts. But Walter Winchell, the powerful and vitriolic broadcast personality, and the American Legion lobbied hard for a trial. They were relentless and successful in seeking a trial for Toguri.

Toguri was the only one of the Tokyo Roses arrested by U.S. authorities after the Japanese surrendered. She was found guilty of treason by a judge who pressured a deadlocked jury to render a verdict.

"I supposed they found someone and got the job done; they were all satisfied," she later told the CBS News program "60 Minutes." "It was eeny, meeny, miney and I was 'moe.' "

She served part of her prison term, lived quietly in Chicago and gradually saw people take up her case for a pardon. After testimony against her was discredited, President Ford made her pardon one of his last acts in office in January 1977.

"It would be more or less general feelings of freedom that I want," she told reporters. "You don't realize the importance or significance of such a thing until you lose it."

Born to Japanese immigrants on July 4, 1916, in Los Angeles, Iva Ikuko Toguri led a comfortable, middle-class life in a predominantly white enclave of Los Angeles, graduating from UCLA with a zoology degree in 1941.

In July of that year, when her aunt became gravely ill, Toguri was asked by the family to visit and care for her. She did not have time to apply for a passport, but the State Department gave her a certificate of identification that allowed her to travel.

After the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that December, she could not leave the country. The Japanese authorities labeled her an enemy alien, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans in the country at the time.

During the next two years, she found herself under constant surveillance and harassment by the secret police. She was hospitalized for malnutrition and had to borrow money from friends, including a sympathetic Portuguese national named Filipe d'Aquino, whom she later married. Eventually, she became a typist at Radio Tokyo.

She went on air in November 1943 but tried to make a farce of the broadcasts.

In one broadcast, she introduced a song this way: "So be on guard, and mind the children don't hear! All set? OK! Here's the first blow to your morale — the Boston Pops playing 'Strike Up the Band!' "

After the war ended, Army officials arrested her and held her for a year in a 6- by 9-foot cell at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo. However, no charges were brought against her, and she was released.

Meanwhile, the political atmosphere in America had turned ugly. Winchell's constant broadcasts magnifying Toguri's role during the war led to her re-arrest in 1948. Brought back to the United States on a troop ship, she faced trial in San Francisco the next year.

Charged with eight counts, she was convicted on one, for having spoken "into a microphone concerning the loss of ships."

She was stripped of her citizenship and sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $10,000. But she was released after six years for good behavior.

Petitions began circulating for Toguri's exoneration, but little was done at the executive level until news reports began to question the testimony that had convicted her.

After Toguri was pardoned, her citizenship was restored. She said she regretted the pardon came about four years after her father's death.

She described his reaction over the years: " 'You were like a tiger, you never changed your stripes, you stayed American through and through.' "

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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