Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sugamo Prison

Behind Bars

Brundidge contacted his editor at Cosmopolitan. He told her he was writing a 5,000-word story about Tokyo Rose. Then he asked for the $2,000 to pay Toguri. His editor refused.  She wasn’t interested in the story. Stuck with a deal he couldn’t keep, Brundidge needed a way out.  He contacted Eighth Army intelligence and told the commanding officer that he had the signed confession of the traitor Tokyo Rose. The next day Toguri was arrested. Lacking hard evidence of treason, the army released her, but as the media spread the news of her interview, political pressure to prosecute Tokyo Rose increased. On October 18,1945, the U.S. Justice Department ordered General MacArthur to take Toguri into custody on suspicion of treason. She was arrested and taken to Yokohama Prison. Six weeks later she was transferred to the notorious Sugamo Prison.

Felipe was right. By passing herself off as “Tokyo Rose,” Toguri put herself squarely in the crosshairs of all those who sought retribution for  war crimes real or imagined. She gambled and lost and she never saw a dime of the promised interview payment.

Sugamo Prison was a dreary fortress of barbed wire and barracks, surrounded by concrete walls. It was spread out over twelve acres of center-city Tokyo. Built in the 1920s for political prisoners, it was untouched by Allied bombs. The U.S. Eighth Army took over the prison and incarcerated some 5,000 Japanese war criminals, including General Homma, the Japanese officer who had ordered the Bataan death march. Premier Hideko Tojo was hanged in Sugamo on December 23, 1948. In total 4,400 Sugamo prisoners were convicted of war crimes, 475 were given life sentences and 984 were hanged.
Toguri was kept in Blue Block, a special section designated for women criminals. For a year she lived in a six-by-nine-foot cell equipped with a toilet, a water basin, and a straw mat. She was allowed to bathe every three days. The army considered her a Japanese national; as a result, she could not send letters to her family in the United States. Her only luxury was the steam radiator in her cell that helped ward off the harsh Tokyo winter chill. During her incarceration, she was denied her due process rights as a U.S. citizen - she was denied legal counsel lawyer, there was no indictment, and no bail was set.

Toguri kept telling herself it was all a mistake. She stubbornly clung to the belief that her Orphan Ann version of Tokyo Rose was a popular figure among American GIs. Her inability to grasp the severity of her situation led to some stupid mistakes. She signed autographs for prison guards “Iva Toguri/Tokyo Rose,” and she was flippant with FBI interrogators. Of course, she had no way of knowing how the U.S. media was orchestrating the legend of an insidious Tokyo Rose. In the States political cartoons, movies, and newspaper editorials embellished the myth of “Tokyo Rose” as a malevolent seductress who preyed on the loneliness of American fighting men. Her interview with Lee and Brundidge had sealed Toguri’s fate. As far as the U.S. public was concerned, there was only one Tokyo Rose, and she was Iva Toguri d’Aquino.

To be continued