Iva Toguri D'Aquino, 90; 'Tokyo Rose' in WWII

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 28, 2006

Iva Ikuko Toguri D'Aquino, 90, an American woman branded "Tokyo Rose" during World War II, imprisoned for making treasonous radio broadcasts and decades later exonerated with a presidential pardon, died Sept. 26 at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. No cause of death was reported.

Although nearly a dozen female broadcasters were given the moniker during World War II, Mrs. D'Aquino was the one most tarred by the name Tokyo Rose, which, along with the name of Japanese War Minister Hideki Tojo, came to personify Axis infamy in the Pacific.

Taunting millions of servicemen with stories of infidelity on the home front, false reports of battle outcomes meant to demoralize them and frequent spins of pop songs to keep them listening, the broadcasts of Radio Tokyo were notorious instruments in the propaganda war. Many American sailors and soldiers found the broadcasts cartoonishly incredible, which Mrs. D'Aquino said was exactly her intention.

The name Tokyo Rose was an American invention. On air, Mrs. D'Aquino called herself "Orphan Ann," a reference both to her favorite radio program as a child and her lonely status as an American trapped in enemy territory. She refused to renounce her U.S. citizenship during the war, and many described her as a victim of her own courage and naiveté.

Having landed in her ancestral homeland at precisely the worst moment to care for a sick aunt, she had been forced through circumstance to broadcast propaganda for the Japanese.

She and other captive Allied nationals decided to turn their ordeal on its head, deliberately making a hash of the propaganda. Mrs. D'Aquino, who had a gravelly voice and a slight lisp, was not what the enemy wanted: a sultry-voiced villainess to tease American listeners who were away from home.

With anti-Japanese fervor still peaking after the war, great media and political pressure was applied to finding "Tokyo Rose." Treason trials had commenced for Mildred Gillars, the American known as "Axis Sally" for her pro-Nazi broadcasts from Berlin and American-born William Joyce, known as "Lord Haw-Haw" for his radio propaganda messages beamed to England from Germany during the war.

Gillars was imprisoned; Joyce hanged.

Mrs. D'Aquino's case seemed different. Reports from Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the Army's Counterintelligence Corps indicated that she had done nothing treasonable in her broadcasts. But Walter Winchell, the powerful and vitriolic broadcast personality, and the American Legion lobbied relentlessly for a trial.

Mrs. D'Aquino, a raven-haired woman with a tender moon face, was the only one of the Tokyo Roses arrested by U.S. authorities after the Japanese surrender. She was found guilty of treason after a judge pressured a deadlocked jury to render a verdict.

"I supposed they found someone and got the job done, they were all satisfied," she later told the CBS News program "60 Minutes." "It was eeny, meeny, miney and I was 'moe,' " she said.

She served part of her prison term, lived quietly in Chicago and gradually watched as people took up her case for a pardon. After testimony against her was discredited, President Gerald R. Ford pardoned her in January 1977 as one of his last acts in office.

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