Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino, who was born in Los Angeles, CA on July 4, 1916, was a very proud American citizen with family and ancestral roots in Japan. Shortly before World War II broke out, she traveled to Japan to care for an ill family member and possibly even study medicine. For her visit, she was not issued a passport, but a Certificate of Identification. In September, she applied for one with the U.S. Vice Consul in Japan. However, her request was not been processed in time, as the attack on Pearl Harbor happened in early December of that year. She was stranded in Japan.
Pressured by the Japanese central government to renounce her United States citizenship, D’Aquino refused and was declared an enemy alien. In November 1943, Allied prisoners of war forced to broadcast propaganda selected D’Aquino to host portions of the one-hour radio show, The Zero Hour. She was assured by her producer, who was an Australian Army officer and a fellow POW, that they would not write scripts having her say anything against the U.S. She hosted a total of 340 broadcasts on the radio show.
Though earning only 150 yen, or about $7 a month, she used some of her earnings to feed POWs. Throughout the war, she used her position on The Zero Hour to help Allied troops in the South Pacific. In fact, D’Aquino gave as much information about the Axis’ (Japanese forces who fought against the U.S.) plans to the Allies as she knew. She referred to herself as “Orphan Annie,” but was unfortunately later known as “Tokyo Rose,” a name Allied soldiers gave to female propagandists on Japanese radio stations.
After the Japanese defeat, D’Aquino was detained by U.S. military before being released a year later when the FBI could not find any evidence that she aided the Japanese Axis forces. When D’Aquino tried returning to the U.S. in 1948, the FBI renewed the investigation and she was arrested for “adhering to and giving aid and comfort to, the Imperial Government of Japan during WWII.” She was tried for eight counts of treason in 1949. D’Aquino was found guilty on a single count but served only six years of her 10-year sentence.
After investigative journalists found that key witnesses claimed they were forced to lie during testimony, President Gerald Ford pardoned D’Aquino of treason in 1977 at the end of his presidency. In 2006, she was awarded the annual Edward J. Herlihy Citizenship Award for “her indomitable spirit, love of country, and the example of courage she has given her fellow Americans.”
D’Aquino is a great example of showing bravery for your country and she proved that just one person could change the world. This should give us hope that each of us can make a positive impact. As renowned Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson said, “keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.”
Tokyo Rose’s microphone used during WWII from the Mercury One historical collection. Photo courtesy of Mercury One.
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Republished with permission from MercuryOne.org.