Tokyo Rose

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For other uses, see Tokyo Rose (disambiguation).
Iva Toguri D'Aquino mug shot, Sugamo Prison - March 7, 1946

Tokyo Rose (alternative spelling Tokio Rose) was a generic name given by Allied troops in the South Pacific during World War II to what they believed were multiple English-speaking female broadcasters of Japanese propaganda. The broadcasts were aimed at Allied forces in the Pacific, with the intention of demoralization.[1] "American servicemen in the Pacific often listened to the propaganda broadcasts to get a sense, by reading between the lines, of the effect of their military actions."[2] "She often undermined the anti-American scripts by reading them in a playful, tongue-in-cheek fashion, even going as far as to warn her listeners to expect a “subtle attack” on their morale."[3]

"Farther from the action, stories circulated that Tokyo Rose could be unnervingly accurate, naming units and even individual servicemen".[2] Such stories have never been substantiated by documents such as scripts and recorded broadcasts, but they have been reflected in popular books and films such as Flags of Our Fathers.[4] Similar rumors surround the propaganda broadcasts of Lord Haw-Haw and Axis Sally.[5][6]

Iva Toguri is the most famous name linked to the Tokyo Rose persona. Toguri was a native of Los Angeles. She was stranded in Japan when she was visiting her family at the onset of war.[1] Toguri’s prominence saw her branded as one of the war’s most notorious propagandists, but evidence showed she was not a Japanese sympathizer. Toguri’s program became conflated with more vicious propaganda.[3] She was arrested and convicted of treason after Japan's surrender. She was released from prison in 1956. It was more than 20 years before she received an official presidential pardon for her role in the war.

The Zero Hour[edit]

More than a dozen female Japanese broadcasters were dubbed “Tokyo Rose,” but the name is most strongly associated with Iva Toguri, an American citizen born to Japanese immigrants. Toguri broadcast during the 15-20 minute D.J. segment of the 75-minute program The Zero Hour on Radio Tokyo (NHK). The program consisted of propaganda-tinged skits and slanted news reports as well as of popular American music. Using the handle “Orphan Ann,”[1] the smoky-voiced Toguri soon became a legend of the Pacific Theater. By late 1943, thousands of GIs regularly tuned in to “The Zero Hour,” a radio show where she played pop music in between slanted battle reports and put-downs aimed at U.S. troops.[3]

After World War II ended in 1945, the U.S. military detained Toguri for a year before releasing her for lack of evidence. Department of Justice officials agreed that her broadcasts were "innocuous".[7] But when Toguri tried to return to the US, a popular uproar ensued because Walter Winchell (a powerful broadcasting personality) and the American Legion lobbied relentlessly for a trial, prompting the Federal Bureau of Investigation to renew its investigation of Toguri's wartime activities. Her 1949 trial resulted in a conviction on one of eight counts of treason. In 1974, investigative journalists found that key witnesses claimed that they were forced to lie during testimony. U.S. President Gerald Ford pardoned Toguri in 1977.[1]

The name "Tokyo Rose" in the context of these broadcasts first appeared in U.S. newspapers in 1943.[8]

Tokyo Mose[edit]

Walter Kaner (May 5, 1920 - June 27, 2005) was a journalist and radio personality who broadcast under the name Tokyo Mose during and after World War II. Kaner aired on US Army Radio, at first to offer comic rejoinders to the propaganda broadcasts of Tokyo Rose and then as a parody to entertain U.S. troops abroad. In U.S.-occupied Japan, his “Moshi, Moshi Ano-ne” jingle was sung to the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down" and became so popular with Japanese children and GIs that the army paper called it “the Japanese occupation theme song.” In 1946, Elsa Maxwell referred to Kaner as “the breath of home to unknown thousands of our young men when they were lonely.”[9]

Popular culture[edit]

Tokyo Rose has been the subject of songs, movies, and documentaries:

  • 1945: Tokyo Woes, propaganda cartoon directed by Bob Clampett featuring Seaman Hook. The cartoon's titular character (voiced by an uncredited Sara Berner) is portrayed as an overly enthusiastic, crooked-toothed Japanese woman speaking on a propaganda broadcast with a loud voice and an American accent.[10]
  • 1945: Tokyo Rose "Voice of Truth", five-minute film short produced by the U.S. Treasury Department to promote public support of the 7th war loan.[11]
  • 1946: Tokyo Rose, film drama directed by Lew Landers.[12] Lotus Long played "Tokyo Rose", a "seductive jap traitress";[13] Byron Barr played the G.I. protagonist sent to kidnap her.
  • 1949: In the musical "South Pacific", sailors "get advice from Tokyo Rose" in the song, "There is Nothin' Like a Dame".
  • 1957: In the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, a Tokyo Rose broadcast is briefly heard on the demolition team's portable radio.
  • 1958: In the film Run Silent, Run Deep a Tokyo Rose broadcast detailed ships and sailors lost at sea based on information gained from trash jettisoned by U.S. submarines.[14]
  • 1959: In the film Operation Petticoat a Tokyo Rose broadcast warns the crew of a U.S. submarine to surrender.
  • 1969: The Story of "Tokyo Rose", CBS-TV and WGN radio documentary written and produced by Bill Kurtis.
  • 1976: Tokyo Rose, CBS-TV documentary segment on 60 Minutes.
  • 1976: "Harbor Lights", a hit song by Boz Scaggs on his album Silk Degrees, begins with the line "Son of a Tokyo Rose, I was bound to wander from home".
  • 1985: Canadian rock band Idle Eyes had a #1 hit in their homeland with the song "Tokyo Rose" from their self-titled debut album. The song's narrator addresses his lover, saying she "tells a story like Tokyo Rose".
  • 1987: American heavy metal band Shok Paris released the song "Tokyo Rose" on their 1987 album Steel and Starlight. It's about a lonely GI who fell in love with the propaganda broadcaster during the war, and remembers her voice many years later.[15][not in citation given]
  • 1988: Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell mentions "Tokyo Rose on the radio" in her song "The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms)" on the album Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm.
  • 1989: American composer and musician Van Dyke Parks released a concept album titled Tokyo Rose, on the subject of American and Japanese relations.
  • 1992: In season 7 episode 5 ("Where's Charlie?") of the American TV sitcom The Golden Girls: terminally naive Rose Nylund mistakenly believes her roommate Blanche Devereaux's beau has left Blanche for Tokyo Rose...
  • 1995: Tokyo Rose: Victim of Propaganda, A&E Biography documentary, hosted by Peter Graves, available on VHS (AAE-14023).
  • 2011: American country-rockabilly band Whiskey Kill, released the song "Tokyo Rose", the opening track for their debut album Pissed Off Betty.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Iva Toguri d'Aquino and "Tokyo Rose"". Famous Cases & Criminals. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Retrieved February 4, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Tokyo Rose (1944)". The Public Domain Review. Open Knowledge Foundation. Retrieved December 2, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Andrews, Evan (August 13, 2013). "6 World War II Propaganda Broadcasters". Retrieved December 2, 2014. 
  4. ^ Pfau, Ann Elizabeth (2008). "The Legend of Tokyo Rose". Miss Yourlovin: GIs, Gender, and Domesticity during World War II. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231509565. 
  5. ^ Pfau, Ann; Hochfelder, David (April 24, 2008). "World War II Radio Propaganda: Real and Imaginary". Talking History. 
  6. ^ Pfau, Ann Elizabeth; Householder, David (2009). "'Her Voice a Bullet': Imaginary Propaganda and the Legendary Broadcasters of World War II". In Strasser, Susan; Suisman, David. Sound in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. University of Pennsylvania Press. 
  7. ^ Pierce, J. Kingston (October 2002). "Tokyo Rose: They Called Her a Traitor". American History. 
  8. ^ Arnot, Charles P. (June 22, 1943). "American Submarines Have Sunk 230 Japanese Ships in Pacific". Brainerd Daily Dispatch. p. 6. We were tuned in on Radio Tokyo when Tokyo Rose, the woman who broadcasts in English, came on the air with "Hello America ... You build 'em, we sink 'em..." 
  9. ^ "Walter Kaner, Gazette Columnist, Foundation Head". Queens Gazette. June 29, 2005. Retrieved April 17, 2015. 
  10. ^ Tokyo Woes (1945) at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ Tokyo Rose "Voice of Truth" on YouTube
  12. ^ Tokyo Rose (1946) at the Internet Movie Database
  13. ^ Tokyo Rose (Movie poster). Cleveland, Ohio: Morgan Litho. Corp. 1945. 
  14. ^ Beach, Edward Latimer (1955). Run Silent, Run Deep. Henry Holt and Company. pp. 245–7. Retrieved April 17, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Shok Paris: Steel And Starlight Lyrics". 
  16. ^ "Whiskey Kill "Tokyo Rose" Live on Stay Tuned". Stay Tuned. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: WSCA 106.1FM. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  17. ^ Stone, Judy (March 18, 2007). "An unlikely heroine of World War II". SFGate. Hearst Communications Inc. 


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