Iva Toguri D’Aquino: ‘Tokyo Rose’

Iva Toguri D’Aquino

Iva Toguri D’Aquino, also called Tokyo Rose, was a radio broadcaster during World War Two. She became an enemy of war when trapped in Japan. Later, the US would find her guilty of treason for her broadcasts, which they alleged demoralised American troops.

Some historians call Tokyo Rose an expert propagandist; however, others describe her case as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in the 20th Century.

Iva Toguri D’Aquino
(Img; Iva Toguri D’Aquino, dubbed by Western Media as “Tokyo Rose”; via UCLA)

Iva Toguri D’Aquino: Why ‘Tokyo Rose’?

Iva used the names ‘Ann’ or ‘Orphan Ann’ in her broadcasts. Nonetheless, Western investigators dubbed Iva Toguri D’Aquino ’Tokyo Rose’. Many of the documents associated with the original FBI Investigation of Toguri D’Aquino repeatedly refer to her as ‘Tokyo Rose’.

However, ‘Tokyo Rose’ is a catch-all term for all female broadcasters in the Pacific region during the Second World War. As the only woman who was ever convicted in conjunction with ‘Tokyo Rose’ charges, Iva inadvertently became synonymous with ‘Tokyo Rose`. In actuality, she was only one of around a dozen women undertaking similar, if not more nefarious, activities.


Tokyo Rose
(Img; Tokyo Rose, Iva Tongui D’Aquino, on her arrest in 1946; via Yank Magazine)

Iva Toguri D’Aquino was born as the daughter of two Japanese immigrants in Los Angeles, US. She graduated from UCLA in 1940 with a degree in Zoology. In 1941, Toguri D’Aquino went to Japan to visit a sick relative. However, this became a more permanent move when World War Two commenced.

As a US Citizen in Japan, she refused to renounce her US citizenship in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbour. As a result, she was branded an enemy alien by Japanese authorities and could not leave the city. Eventually, after repeatedly failing to find work due to a lack of Japanese language skills, she started work at Radio Tokyo in 1943. This initially began as a typing job; however, Toguri’s native English quickly put her in consideration for English-language radio programming.

Orphan Annie

Starting in 1943, Iva Toguri D’Aquino hosted “The Zero Hour” at Radio Tokyo. The show was a mixture of music, news, and political commentary,. The show ran over 75 to 90 minutes, most of which Toguri D’Aquino hosted. Toguri would name herself as ‘Ann’ or ‘Orphan Ann,’ and introduce music and news segments with a famously satirical tone.

(Img; Extract of a Tokyo Rose radio programme, transcript compiled by the FBI as part of Iva’s trial; via FBI Vault)

The radio programme was interesting in that it Toguri D`Aquino conceptualised and wrote it together with other Prisoners of War trapped in Japan. These staff members were former patriotic US citizens, and therefore, they aimed to undermine the Japanese propaganda efforts.

Reports vary about the original intent of the programme. The Japanese radio station did indeed intend The Zero Hour to demoralise enemy soldiers. However, other studies have found that the rogramme is ‘innocuous.’ Some listeners even reported the programme to have uplifted their spirits and provided a distraction from the harsh reality of war.

Although Toguri D’Aquino refused to give up her US citizenship during her time in Japan, making her a Prisoner of War and seeing her broadcasts as patriotic work for the US, the US did not view it that way.

US authorities ultimately accused Iva of being Tokyo Rose, as well as falsely perpetuating a pro-Japanese narrative. They argued that this was with the ultimate spreading propaganda associated with Allied Forces’ failures. Toguri D’Aquino was arrested under multiple treason charges in the US, and in September of 1949, she was found guilty of one count. The authortities sentenced her to ten years in prison.


After serving six of her ten-year sentence, authorities released Toguri D’Aquino in January 1956.

Spark Matsunaga, the then US Senator for Hawaii, described Toguri as a victim of the ‘Tokyo Rose’ legend in an open letter to the president in 1976. He was one of many that believed that authorities falsely accused Toguri D’Aquino or at least her actions had been exaggerated heavily by prosecutors. In 1976, several witnesses from her trial came forward to the media to assert that law enforcement coerced them into testifying against Toguri D’Aquino, leading to further public outcry.

Following extensive lobbying from congress and the public, President Ford granted D’Aquino a presidential pardon in 1977, which fully restored her US citizenship.

(Img; Letter from Spark Matsunaga, the Senator for Hawaii, to the President. Matsunaga rallied for Tokyo Rose’s pardon; via Ford Library Museum)

Iva Toguri D’Aquino died on the 27th of September 2006 at age 90, with a very controversial legacy.

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