Iva Toguri D'Aquino did not betray her country, her country betrayed her --- grievously so.
Mislabeled by Americans as the mythical "Tokyo Rose" --- the voice of Japan's propaganda machine during WWII --- D'Aquino, an American citizen, had every reason to disown the country that betrayed her. But she remained loyal nevertheless.
Before working on the “Tokyo Rose” episode of Glenn’s hiSTORY series as a producer for the show, I regrettably knew very little about D'Aquino's remarkable story. After researching her life story, I found her story very moving. The losses she endured --- her mother, her only baby, her husband, her citizenship and her freedom --- coupled with the injustices against her perpetrated by the United States government are staggering.
American history is frequently grayer than the black-and-white clarity we often assign to it. We learn so much of it in black-and-white fashion, I suppose, because it’s easier to package and communicate that way. It takes more effort to teach the complexities, the subtleties, the gray reality.
As this pertains to the World War II era, we can get caught up in the rah-rah aspects of America saving the world, and that should be emphasized, of course, because it’s true. But we weren’t always squeaky clean in the process. In fact, in some ways, America's leaders utterly failed many of her own people. Japanese-American internment, for example, is brushed past too often in the teaching of World War II. A more appropriate name might be "American internment," since they were American citizens being interned. Our history books seem to justify this move, perhaps in an effort to maintain Franklin D. Roosevelt’s veneer as the sage savior of the free world.
There are so many lessons to glean from D'Aquino's story. It is at once an inspirational tale of perseverance and unwavering allegiance to one’s country. It is also a cautionary tale about our members of the press acting irresponsibly with their Constitutional freedom --- their willingness to sacrifice an innocent life to appease popular sentiment and to abuse of the power of the microphone. These are areas we still wrestle with today.
If anyone in American history had just cause for jettisoning their American citizenship, it was D'Aquino, yet she did not. Remarkably, she had easy opportunity to do just that, and was even pressured to do so by the Japanese government, and later by her Portuguese husband who urged her to become a Portuguese citizen. But D'Aquino remained an American even when her loyalty was rewarded with eight years of jail time.
In our current “selfie,” celebrity-obsessed culture, we would do well to remember D'Aquino, who didn’t sue anyone when she was finally released from prison, or write a tell-all book, or cash in on movie rights to her story. She didn’t burn American flags or go on the lecture circuit to slam her government. She didn’t make a cottage industry out of her victimhood. In fact, she quietly and gradually paid off the $10,000 fine levied on her by the federal government as part of her treason conviction, finally making the last payment in 1973.
She just wanted to go home. She just wanted to be an American. She continued that desire even after being stamped with a criminal legacy by her fellow Americans under the ironic guise of patriotism.
Glenn’s hiSTORY episode about Tokyo Rose airs tonight at 5pm ET on TheBlaze.