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