Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Day to day existence became more difficult for Toguri.  She supplemented her meager salary from Domei with part-time jobs in the typing pool, but it still was not enough money pay rent and buy food.  Meanwhile tensions between her and the Domei employees continued to escalate. The April 18th, 1942 bombing raid of Tokyo by 16 B-25s led by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle convinced Toguri that the war would soon end with an America victory. She watched from a rooftop as the low flying planes dropped 500 pound bombs on an unsuspecting Tokyo. Damage was minimal but the thirty second raid bludgeoned Japanese pride and boosted American morale.  About the raid Toguri later said, "People might think that I'm relating to you my feelings after the fact, but I was never so happy to see anything in my life. I felt like it's a baseball game when its 8 to 1 and you think, what hope is there? Then all of a sudden, the home team loads the bases, someone hits a home run, and you wake up and think, 'There's life in this ball game yet.'" On an evening in late February she returned to her boarding house from work and found that the Tokko had ransacked her room. They were searching for evidence that she was an American spy.

Meanwhile an Allied food embargo was creating near famine conditions throughout Tokyo. On  the black market rice cost 44 times the normal price.  One Sunday afternoon ten thousand Tokyo residents scoured the countryside looking for farmers who would sell them sweet potatoes. Those who were unable to procure ration cards were vulnerable to deficiency diseases such as pellagra and beriberi.  By summer 1943 thousands of Japanese were incapacitated with beriberi. Prisoners of war in Japanese concentration camps suffered the most. Beriberi literally means "I can't, I can't". Weight loss, fatigue and lethargy are early symptoms. As the disease progresses, it causes heart failure and neurological damage. Limbs swell and turn translucent. Fingers pressed against skin sink to the bone. Untreated beriberi leads to a slow and painful death.

In June of 1943 Toguri contracted beriberi. Ironically it was a steady diet of polished white rice, the food she detested the most, that triggered the thiamine deficiency condition. When her symptoms worsened a desperate Toguri checked herself into a hospital. She swallowed her pride and borrowed money from her landlady and a young man she had recently befriended, Felipe D'Aquino, to pay her medical bills.  After she returned to work Tokko agents continued to hound her. During each interrogation they reminded her that if she would surrender her American citizenship her life would improve immediately - she could find a good job; she would be eligible for improved rationing; she could would be an accepted member of the community. Toguri was steadfast.  She was an American citizen and she would remain an American citizen.

One day as she scanned the newspapers searching for more work she saw an ad for a part-time typist at Radio Tokyo. Toguri calculated that working at Radio Tokyo for two or three hours, six days a week, along with her Domei job, would double her income. She applied and she was offered the position.  Finally it seemed her luck had improved.  She couldn't have been more wrong.  The stubborn and forlorn American patriot was about to be thrust into the unimaginable role of the infamous "Tokyo Rose"

Quote p.89 Close Tokyo Rose/An American Patriot

To be continued

Monday, March 25, 2013

Anthony Lewis  

1927 - 2013


To My Readers


Iva Toguri (aka Tokyo Rose) never lost faith in her country even though her country lost faith in her.  Hers is a captivating story of how momentous events and individual temperament can converge to make a scoundrel and a hero in one and the same person.

Anthony Lewis, who died March 25th at age 85 understood that little people can become big heroes.  In "Gideon's Trumpet" the two time Pulitzer prize winner described how a small time crook, Clarence Gideon, changed the law of the land. Gideon's successful appeal to the Supreme Court insured that any American who could not afford an attorney would have a public defender appointed by the court.  Lewis loved his country. He revered the Constitution, and he wrote passionately about the power of the Supreme Court to transform our lives. Anthony Lewis earned many accolades during his illustrious career but the epitaph that fits him best is - "Patriot".

Tuesday, March 19, 2013



In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor Japan was a dangerous place for Americans.  Fearing for their lives many Nisei renounced their American citizenship, and applied for Japanese citizenship. Tokko keisatsu agents demanded that Toguri do the same.  Life would be easier for her.  She would not have to register as an alien at the police station. She could apply for a travel visa and a ration card.  Most important as a Japanese citizen she would be able to find a job. Toguri refused and the tokko increased the pressure. Mr. Fujiwara, a tokko agent, told her "If you keep your American citizenship there will be all kinds of trouble for you from now on, so it would be smart for you to enter your name on your family register and become a Japanese citizen."  Toguri was steadfast.  She said, "A person born and raised in the United States does not give up his citizenship for a piece of paper."

Toguri asked the agents to inter her in a POW camp with other Americans. The supercilious agents told her she was no security risk. I would cost more to feed her than she was worth.  A more apt punishment was to make her fend for herself.  Finally, out of concern for the safety of her relatives and with her financial resources dwindling Toguri moved out.  Stranded in an enemy country and hounded by tokko keisatsu agents, she was now truly alone.

For three months she searched for a job. Her best opportunity would be as an English translator, but she barely understood Japanese.  At last she found a position as a typist in the monitoring division of the Domei News Agency.  Her job required that she listen to short-wave radio broadcasts from San Francisco and to transcribe items of interest. The pay was five dollars a month, not enough to live on, but she could follow the course of the war.  The dramatic American victory at Midway in June, 1942 lifted her spirits and she believed a U.S. victory was imminent. Unable to suppress her excitement she argued with fellow employees about who was winning the war. Each heated discussion alienated her more and made her new enemies.

To be continued

Quotes: Duus Tokyo Rose, Orphan of the Pacific p. 55

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pearl Harbor


Pearl Harbor

On December 1st, Toguri's father called back and instructed her to book passage on the Tatsuta Maru. The freighter was departing for the United States the next day. Toguri rushed to the consulate and once again pleaded with officials to issue her a passport. They told her it would be weeks or maybe months before her application to Washington would be approved. The next day, December 2, the ship sailed without her. When Toguri returned to her aunt and uncle's house that evening she was devastated and frightened.  The Japanese propaganda machine was feeding its citizens a steady diet of anti-American misinformation - Nisei were American spies; America was preparing an invasion of  Japan; President Roosevelt was a simple minded cripple.  On the other side of the Pacific American propaganda demonized Japanese - women were insidious and soldiers were subhuman.

Five days later on Sunday morning December 7, the Japanese navy under the command of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto launched a sneak attack on military bases in Oahu, Hawaii.  Three hundred fifty three aircraft pummeled military airfields and the Pearl Harbor naval base. American airmen and sailors never had a chance. In three hours they suffered 2,403 casualties. The battleship Arizona took an armor piercing bomb in the ship's forward ammunition magazine. The explosion and fire killed 1,777 sailors. Twenty-one ships were sunk or damaged and 188 aircraft were destroyed. 

Immediately after the attack the Tatsura Maru turned around and returned to Japan. Toguri was one of 10,000 Nisei stranded in Japan.  Pearl Harbor changed her status from foreigner to enemy.  Neighborhood children taunted her and neighbors called her "horyo". The phrase means "prisoner of war" but among the Japanese the implication was that she was a coward - one who surrendered rather than dying honorably.  Aunt Shizo warned her to avoid doing or saying anything that would draw attention. "I went around in a daze," Toguri later recalled. "I could not believe war had broken out."
A few days after Pearl Harbor, Tokko agents interrogated Toguri

photo -

To be continued

Friday, March 8, 2013


Iva Toguri's difficulties were accentuated by the austerity of daily life.  Japan and China were locked in a brutal four year war. Japan's economy depended on imports, but its militarism isolated it from other industrial nations.  Such consumer goods as cotton and wool could only be obtained on the black market. Food was rationed. The absence of fresh fruits and vegetables contributed to a rising incidence of beriberi and pellagra. Civilians were expected to make whatever sacrifices necessary to enhance wartime production of arms. Soldiers were billeted in private homes.  Foreigners, particularly westerners, were treated with suspicion. On several occasions Toguri saw neighbors whispering and pointing at her.  Aunt Shizo cautioned her about speaking English or reading English language newspapers in public.

Japanese authorities closely monitored civilian political activity.  Most feared was the Tokko - the Japanese secret police.  Intimidated citizens called the Tokko the "thought police". Like the Gestapo in Germany, the Tokko were infamous for indiscriminate arrests and brutal interrogations. Before Toguri arrived in Japan more than 36,000 Japanese civilians were arrested and never seen again.  Toko spies infiltrated all levels of society.  One never knew if a colleague or a neighbor would report an conversation or activity to the Tokko.

Reports of Japanese troops torturing and executing Chinese civilians swelled a rising tide of American animosity towards the Japanese. The day after Toguri arrived in Japan, President Roosevelt froze Japanese bank accounts in the United States.  As the tension between the United States and Japan increased Toguri's situation became more perilous.  Fearing a visit from the Tokko, she made plans to return home.  She went to the American consulate for a passport. Consulate officials told her that her application would have to be forwarded to Washington for validation. Her certificate of identification was a worthless scrap of paper.  On November 25th, Toguri placed a desperate international call to her father Jun.  She begged him to figure out a way to get her home.

To be continued


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Stranger in a Strange Land

At three o'clock in the afternoon on July 24, 1941 the Arabia Maru docked in Yokohama harbor.   A debilitating mix of homesickness and seasickness made Toguri's first week on board difficult. The rest of the trip was more pleasant. She socialized with the the crew and she learned some  Japanese phrases. Still, after nineteen days at sea, she was eager to get off the ship and plant her feet on solid, dry land. Her joy at ending the voyage was short-lived.  Japanese immigration officials did not accept her certificate of identification as a valid document.  She had to wait another day for a temporary visa to be approved. Disappointed Toguri spent a lonely night a gangplank away from dry land.

The next day, visa in hand, she disembarked.  Waiting for her on the dock was her uncle, Hajime Hattori and her cousin Rinko.  Aunt Shizu was too ill to make the trip. Wanting to make her feel at home Uncle Hajime suggested lunch at a western style hotel. She was thrilled when she surveyed the menu and saw she could order a cheesburger with French fries.

After lunch the trio boarded a train for the seventeen mile trip to Setagaya, a suburb of Tokyo. It was a steamy summer day, and Toguri sweltered in the unfamiliar humidity.  The initial excitement of meeting her relatives dissipated as the reality of her situation began to sink in. Looking around the train, she saw only Japanese faces.  Even though she shared their physical features, she felt out of place. She did not think of herself as Japanese; she was American.

In a 1948 interview she said, "Japan impressed me as very, very strange.  All the customs were strange to me, the food was entirely different, wearing apparel different, houses different, people were stiff and formal to me...I had no idea what the country was going to be like until I hit Yokohoma...I felt like a perfect stranger, and the Japanese considered me very queer."

As she settled into the routine of nursing her sick aunt, Toguri did her best to adapt.  She took her shoes off before entering the house. Instead of sitting in a chair she sat on a mat with her legs folded beneath her and she mastered the trick of eating with chopsticks.  She had a difficult time adjusting to the lack of privacy. The house was small with paper thin walls.The bathroom had no toilet, only a hole in the floor.  Accustomed to rushing around, she had to learn of move carefully from one room to another.  Most troubling was her inability to understand what people were saying. Determined to fit in she enrolled in a conversational Japanese class.

Quote from Duus, M. p.50

To be continued

Friday, March 1, 2013


Born on the Fourth of July

Iva Toguri was born in Los Angeles in 1916 on Independence Day.  She was the second of four children. Her older brother Fred was born in Japan. Her father Jun and her mother Fumi immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1913.  Both of her two younger sisters - June and Inez were born in the United States. The Toguri's were committed to "Americanizing" their children. Her father was delighted when Iva was born on the fourth of July.  According to Iva, "He was so proud of it! He wouldn't let me forget it! You'd think he won the lottery!"  

When Jun's import business failed he moved the family from Los Angeles to the dusty border town of Calexico. He started a new business as a middle man trading cotton. The rural, small town atmosphere was ideal for the active Iva who loved to ride her bike, roller skate and play baseball. Unlike her sisters, she preferred competitive games rather than sewing and cooking. Jun tried to interest his daughter in fishing, but she thought it was boring. She said she would rather be doing something than waiting for a silly fish to jump on her hook.  Her sister June thought she was a tomboy.  In his biography "Tokyo Rose/An American Patriot" Frederick P. Close summarized Iva's restless personality.  "Over and over as a child and as an adult Iva Toguri displayed her love of action. She was not contemplative.  Hers was an exterior rather than an interior life. She preferred doing over thinking or talking, working over sitting or relaxing.  Given a choice between board games and tree climbing, the youthful Toguri picked the tree every time."

Toguri's family attended a Methodist church. She was a Girl Scout, and she played on her high school tennis team.  At home in the evening she loved listening to radio dramas.  One of her favorite shows was the "Shadow" which began every broadcast with the ominous warning "Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men?  The Shadow knows." Another favorite was Little Orphan Annie. The popular broadcast chronicled the adventures of a young crime fighter and her dog Sandy. The twosome was rescued from tight spots by her millionaire guardian, Daddy Warbucks and his mysteterious Sikh Indian companion Punjab.  While she sat cross-legged on her living room floor listening to stories about a lonely girl pitted against evil forces young Iva could never have imagined she was destined one day to have her own radio show - the Zero Hour in which she would be featured as "Ann" orphan of the Pacific.

 To be continued
Quotations from Close, F. P.  p.2;1