July 5 ,1941
Seagulls wheeled in the sparkling California sky as the Japanese cargo liner Arabia Maru glided out of the San Pedro harbor. Its destination was Yokohama, Japan. Dressed in a white sharkskin suit a slim 25 year old woman leaned against the ship's railing. Right hand shielding her eyes, Iva Toguri squinted against the harsh glare of sun and sea. She caught one last glimpse of her parents waving from the pier. How suddenly her life had changed! Instead of preparing for medical school, she was on her way to Tokyo to minister to her sick aunt Shizu. The young woman waved one more time then she turned to survey the mammoth vessel. It would be her home for the next two months.
This was Toguri's first time at sea. She felt a pang of anxiety as she contemplated the dangers of a 5,000 mile journey across the vast Pacific Ocean. Her intuition wrestled with her rational mind as she thought about floating on a body of water three miles deep on a big chunk of iron. Like thousands of novice sea going voyagers before her she might have stamped her foot down on the gray metal deck. It was an irrational movement intended to reassure a nervous imagination that the ship was indeed seaworthy. Looking around it was clear that The Arabia Maru was no luxury liner. It was a hard working cargo ship more suited to transporting freight than passengers. She watched as crew members scurried about stowing lines while they shouted directions to each other in Japanese.
As it passed out of the harbor and into the open sea the ship began to rock gently side to side. Slowly Toguri walked forward towards the ship's bow. Her gait adopted a sway of its own as she tried to keep in rhythm with the ship's movement. She skirted two cargo hatches and passed under a complex arrangement of thick cables and towering booms. A dozen or so other passengers milled around the deck as they too sought to get their bearings. The clanging of a winch pulley attracted her attention to the top of the main mast. A stark white flag emblazoned with a crimson circle and rays snapped in the breeze. It was the "Rising Sun". The iconic emblem was recognized throughout the world as the symbol of the mighty Japanese Empire.