Wednesday, May 29, 2013

V-J Day

Times Square Celebration

August 14, 1945

Iva Toguri d'Aquino

      Secretly, Toguri took instruction in Catholicism. On a sunny spring day, April 19,1945, Iva Toguri married Felipe d’Aquino. The only hitch in the festivities was a bombing raid that forced the wedding party to take refuge in a shelter. Toguri and d’Aquino had little time for romance.  Death rained from the sky as B-29s unmercifully hammered Tokyo. Thousands perished.  Survivors prayed they would live one more day.

     On August 6, a single B-29 Superfortress, the Enola Gay, dropped an atom bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” on the industrial city of Hiroshima. Three days later “Fat Man,” a second atom bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki. Anybody within a mile radius of the each explosion was vaporized. Others burned to death, and still others succumbed to radiation sickness. In all, an estimated 300,000 Japanese, mostly civilians, were killed. Release of the most destructive weapon ever conceived had the desired effect. Emperor Hirohito declared that Japan must “endure the endurable” and surrender.  On September 2, 1945 Japanese officials signed a formal surrender document on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.  World War II was over. 
     Toguri was elated. Finally, she could return to America with her husband. The troubles of the last four years receded into the background as she and d”Aquino made plans for their future together.  In the weeks following the Japanese  surrender Tokyo swarmed with American correspondents looking for a scoop. There were three stories everybody wanted to get—an interview with General Hideki Tojo, a description of the Tokyo destruction, and an interview with Tokyo Rose. On August 31, a friend showed Toguri a newspaper story stating that two American correspondents were willing to pay $2,000 to interview “Tokyo Rose.” In war-ravaged Tokyo this was a small fortune, equivalent to over $24,000 in today’s currency.

     Toguri had first heard the name “Tokyo Rose” in the spring of 1944.  Around Radio Tokyo opinions differed about which of several female broadcasters matched the GI nickname. Various descriptions of Tokyo Rose didn’t fit one person.  ‘She had a sultry voice’; ‘she broadcast on Sunday evening’; ‘she called herself Orphan Ann’. The Orphan Ann moniker fit Iva Toguri, but she did not broadcast on Sunday evenings; that was Ruth Hayakawa’s time slot. As for the voice, Toguri’s was decidedly not sultry. June Suyama, the Nightingale of Nanking, had a sultry voice, but she did news rather than music. No one at Radio Tokyo fully understood the heavy baggage that went with the name Tokyo Rose—least of all Toguri.  She considered her broadcasts an entertaining diversion for GIs.

     The cash-for-interview offer was stunning, but Felipe was dubious. He thought there was was something fishy about the offer. Why, he asked, were correspondents offering such a huge sum of money to interview a female radio broadcaster? He told his wife that the money might be a lure to snare a propaganda broadcaster. Maybe the American military did not view "Tokyo Rose" in the same favorable way Toguri thought of herself. Tokyo Rose was a melded personality made up of several different individuals, how could Toguri be sure that the reporters would accept her rather than June Suyama or Ruth Hayakawa? Despite Felipe’s concerns, she was determined to do the interview and collect the money.  There were other female announcers who could claim the title “Tokyo Rose”.  As far as Toguri was concerned, there was no risk. She and Major Cousens had labored over scripts and her on-air delivery to mold Orphan Ann into a non-threatening buddy, who at worst teased GIs and at best boosted their morale.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Rain of Fire

B-29 "Superfortress"

On November 1, 1944, a mammoth silver plane appeared high in the sky above Tokyo. Emblazoned in large red letters on the fuselage was the name “Tokyo Rose.” The newest addition to the Allied war arsenal the B-29 "Superfortress" cruised majestically over the Japanese landscape. Four 2,200-horsepower Wright Double Cyclone engines powered the 100 foot long aircraft. It’s airspeed of 350 miles per hour outpaced any other plane in the sky, including the deadly Japanese Zero. The B-29’s ability to fly up to 30,000 feet kept it out of range of surface anti-aircraft fire. Protected by four turrets, each equipped with two fifty-caliber machine guns, and a 20,000-pound bomb load the B-29 "Superfortress" was invulnerable.  The first over-flight by the “Tokyo Rose” on November 1 was a reconnaissance; the following flights were lethal. On November 24, 1944, sixty B-29's destroyed the Nakajima airplane works at Kichijoji. The next attack obliterated the Yokohama-Tokyo industrial area. From that point on, Tokyo was subjected to the most destructive siege in the history of warfare. On November 29 alone, 15,000 bombs rained down on the defenseless city. The raid reduced twenty-five hundred homes to rubble.

Despite the success of the B-29 raids, Army Air Force General Curtis Lemay was dissatisfied. Precision bombing was difficult from an altitude of 30,000 feet.  He decided to change tactics from high to low-altitude attacks. Additionally he ordered the five-hundred-pound bombs to be replaced with M-69 gasoline-jelly incendiary bombs. In order to inflict optimal devastation, the incendiary attacks required dry air and a good wind. With the proper conditions the M-69s, dubbed “Molotov fire baskets” by American flyers, created a firestorm. Upon impact the M-69s released 100-foot streams of fire accompanied by gale force winds. Walls of fire sucked the oxygen out of the air.

The evenings of March 9 and 10 provided ideal conditions for a "Superfortress" assault. In two nights, 300 B-29s dropped half a million M-69s on Tokyo. The main target was a patchwork of industrial buildings and workers’ homes adjacent to the harbor. Fragile wooden buildings provided kindling, and the Tokyo harbor area was set ablaze. Robert Guillain, a French reporter, described the scene he witnessed the evening of March 9:
"They set to work at once sowing the sky with fire. Bursts of light
flashed everywhere in the darkness like Christmas trees lifting their decorations of flame high into the night, then fell back to earth in whistling bouquets of jagged flame. Barely a quarter of an hour after the raid started, the fire ,whipped by the wind, began to scythe its way through the density of that wooden city." 

Like tornadoes, fire spouts jumped from one neighborhood to another. The most severe destruction took place in the Asakusa-Ku residential section of Tokyo. The densely populated area of 140,000 ldisappeared in a rain of fire. Some victims suffocated. Others died from seared lungs and smoke inhalation.  Many were instantly incinerated.  In all, sixteen square miles of Tokyo was leveled. Over 100,000 men, women, and children perished. More people died during the March 8th and 9th American B-29 raids over Tokyo than those immediately killed in the atom bomb attack on Hiroshima.

The firebombs did not leave behind the rubble typical of bomb-blasted European cities. Rather, the city resembled the aftermath of a massive forest fire. Like giant sequoias, industrial buildings stood intact on the outside, but inside only charred refuse remained. Residential areas were burned to the ground.  Chimneys, like forlorn sentinels, stood alone among the rubble. All animal life—dogs, cats, squirrels, and even birds—disappeared. Residents steeled themselves for the inevitable Allied invasion. Women and children fashioned bamboo spears to defend their homes.

Fearful of being buried alive in a bomb shelter, Toguri sat out the attacks in her small boarding house room. During each attack she prayed the fragile building would be spared. The bomb blasts cascaded around her like the footfalls of a malevolent giant. Peering out her small window it looked as if the world was on fire.

www.eyewitness to, retrieved 11/2/10

To be continued

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Orphan Ann" Loses Her Fellow Conspirators

Allies Invade Saipan

In early 1944 Toguri’s situation improved. She quit her part-time job at Domei and accepted a better paying full-time position as a secretary at the Danish legation. Her new job enabled her to add diplomatic rations of soap, sugar, and other scarce items to the supplies she smuggled to the Bunka POWs. Her friendship with Felipe d’Aquino evolved into a romance, and in May 1944 she moved to Felipe’s mother’s home. It was a two-and-half-hour commute to Tokyo, but Toguri was grateful for the opportunity to spend time in the countryside.

 In the spring a Bunka guard beat Ince merclessly.  His injuries were so severe that Tsuneishi removed him from broadcast. In late June Major Cousens suffered a heart attack. He was forty-one years old. He was hospitalized and never returned to the Zero Hour. With Cousens and Ince gone, Toguri faced a new challenge. The staff was now completely pro-Japanese, leaving her with no friends in the studio. She began skipping broadcasts. Although her absences provoked Major Tsuneishi, "Orphan Ann" had become so popular with Allied soldiers that he was reluctant to replace her.

As Allied forces moved closer to Japan, it became clear even to the most ardent Japanese patriot that losing the war was not a matter of “if” but “when.” In an effort to keep the growing audience tuned in to The Zero Hour, Major Tsuneishi minimized propaganda messages and increased music. Toguri was happy to comply. She encouraged her listeners to sing along with records, and she began referring to her boneheads as “you fighting GIs.” Although still in charge,  Tsuneishi stayed out of day-to-day operations. Overseeing production was left to the second-rate Japanese staffers who replaced Cousens and Ince. Lackadaisical censors didn’t notice when Toguri played “Stars and Stripes Forever” after the American invasion of Saipan.

Quote - Gunn, p. 61

To be continued


Monday, May 6, 2013

Prisoners of War

Some Survived

In mid-November 1943 Major Tsuneishi wanted a central location for POWs with broadcasting experience. He set up a secret prison camp in the Kandu section of Tokyo. He called it Bunka camp. Before the war the nondescript building served as the Japanese cultural center. In the center of the prison yard stood a ramshackle wooden structure that served as the prisoners dormitory. The entire camp was sealed off from the surrounding neighborhood by high walls and barbed wire. Armed guards in military uniforms kept the curious away. A sign over the gate read “Sungadu Technical Research Center.” To the outside world the nondescript compound looked harmless. A passerby would never have identified it as a concentration camp. On December 18, 1943, Major Cousens and Captain Ince were transferred Bunka camp.

 Living conditions in the camp, nicknamed “Bunker Hill” by American POWs, were grim. Twenty-seven prisoners were housed in a forty-by-sixty-foot room. There was no heat and no blankets. Medical supplies were nonexistent.  Camp guards sold Red Cross supplies on the black market. A Dutch POW described the Bunka menu: “We got a ration of three cups of kaoliang (a grain often used as chicken feed) a day and three bowls of soup to get that down with. The bowls of soup were a little larger than the teacups. The soup consisted of daikon (radish)..., a little salt..., a little soy, to which water was added.” Starving prisoners ate buds off tree branches and an occasional stray dog or cat.

Every two weeks after the guards washed their laundry prisoners were allowed to bathe in the filthy water.  Japanese prison guards were infamous for their brutality. It was a dishonor for a Japanese soldier to be assigned prison guard duty; subsequently, only the dregs of the Japanese military were selected. Guards took out their shame and frustration on their prisoners. Sadistic beatings and torture were daily events. At the slightest provocation a guard would knock a prisoner senseless. There was little or no medical attention—sick, wounded, starving, it made no difference. Prisoners toiled for fifteen-hour days in nearby labor camps.

The brutal conditions in Japanese concentration camps took a tremendous toll. Nearly 10 percent of Allied servicemen died in captivity. In the eight concentration camp groups spread throughout Japan a total 3,544 soldiers and sailors perished. In comparison one percent of POWs died in Nazi concentration camps. The average American lost sixty-one pounds during captivity. Men were crippled and disfigured from the constant beatings. Teeth were ruined, and many went blind from malnutrition. Beriberi was endemic, as were tuberculosis and dysentery. The prisoners at  Bunka knew that any given day could be their last. If the guards didn’t kill them, disease and starvation would. Each morning for three months a camp officer, Captain Kimai, ordered the prisoners to stand at attention in the courtyard while they listened to his rants about the impending deaths of those who refused to participate in Radio Tokyo broadcasts.

When he arrived at Bunka, Major Cousens was appalled at the conditions. As the ranking Allied officer, he demanded better treatment for the prisoners. His complaints were rebuffed with beatings. Cousens appealed to Toguri for help. She redoubled her smuggling efforts, using whatever resources she could scrounge up. She no longer was smuggling for three; now it was the entire camp of 27 who depended on her. She bought, bartered, and begged aspirin, quinine, and yeast pills. Friends contributed vegetables and fruits. She hid contraband in a tin mess can. One day she managed to smuggle in a blanket under her clothes.  She hiked further and further into the countryside to scrounge whatever she could.  If she was discovered the penalty was death.

To be continued