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