Tokyo Rose

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JOAK microphone and Iva Toguri D'Aquino (dubbed "Tokyo Rose" by some), National Museum of American History

Tokyo Rose (alternative spelling Tokio Rose) was a name given by Allied troops in the South Pacific during World War II to all female English-speaking radio broadcasters of Japanese propaganda.[1] The programs were broadcast in the South Pacific and North America to demoralize Allied forces abroad and their families at home by emphasizing troops' wartime difficulties and military losses.[1][2] Several female broadcasters operated using different aliases and in different cities throughout the territories occupied by the Japanese Empire, including Tokyo, Manila, and Shanghai.[3] The name "Tokyo Rose" was never actually used by any Japanese broadcaster,[2][4] but it first appeared in U.S. newspapers in the context of these radio programs during 1943.[5]

During the war, Tokyo Rose was not any one individual, but rather a group of largely unassociated women working for the same propagandist effort throughout the Japanese Empire.[3] In the years soon after the war, the character "Tokyo Rose" – whom the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) now avers to be "mythical" – became an important symbol of Japanese villainy for the United States.[1] American cartoons,[6][7] movies,[8][9][10] and propaganda videos[11] between 1945 and 1960 tend to portray her as sexualized, manipulative, and deadly to American interests in the South Pacific, particularly by revealing intelligence of American losses in radio broadcasts. Similar accusations concern the propaganda broadcasts of Lord Haw-Haw[12] and Axis Sally,[13] and in 1949 the San Francisco Chronicle described Tokyo Rose as the "Mata Hari of radio".[14]

Tokyo Rose ceased to be merely a symbol during September 1945 when Iva Toguri D'Aquino, a Japanese-American disc jockey for a propagandist radio program, attempted to return to the United States.[1] Toguri was accused of being the "real" Tokyo Rose, arrested, tried, and became the seventh person in U.S. history to be convicted of treason.[1] Toguri was eventually paroled from prison in 1956, but it was more than 20 years later that she received an official presidential pardon for her role in the war.[1]

Iva Toguri and The Zero Hour[edit]

Iva Toguri D'Aquino, mug shot taken at Sugamo Prison on March 7, 1946

Although she broadcast using the name "Orphan Ann", Iva Toguri has been known as "Tokyo Rose" since her return to the United States in 1945. An American citizen and the daughter of Japanese immigrants, Toguri traveled to Japan to tend to a sick aunt just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.[15] Unable to leave the country when war began with the United States, unable to stay with her aunt's family as an American citizen, and unable to receive any aid from her parents who were placed in internment camps in Arizona, Toguri eventually accepted a job as a part-time typist at Radio Tokyo (NHK).[3] She was quickly recruited as a broadcaster for the 75-minute propagandist program The Zero Hour, which consisted of skits, news reports, and popular American music.[2]

According to studies conducted during 1968, of the 94 men who were interviewed and who recalled listening to The Zero Hour while serving in the Pacific, 89% recognized it as "propaganda", and less than 10% felt "demoralized" by it.[2] 84% of the men listened because the program had "good entertainment," and one G.I. remarked, "[l]ots of us thought she was on our side all along."[2]

After World War II ended in 1945, the U.S. military detained Toguri for a year before releasing her due to lack of evidence. Department of Justice officials agreed that her broadcasts were "innocuous".[16] But when Toguri tried to return to the United States, an uproar ensued because Walter Winchell (a powerful broadcasting personality) and the American Legion lobbied relentlessly for a trial, prompting the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to renew its investigation[17] 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 important witnesses had asserted that they were forced to lie during testimony. They stated that FBI and U.S. occupation police had coached them for more than two months about what they should say on the stand, and that they had been threatened with treason trials themselves if they did not cooperate.[18] U.S. President Gerald Ford pardoned Toguri in 1977 based on these revelations and earlier issues with the indictment.[19]: 47 

Tokyo Mose[edit]

Walter Kaner (May 5, 1920 – June 26, 2005) was a journalist and radio personality who broadcast using the name Tokyo Mose during and after World War II. Kaner broadcast on U.S. 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 G.I's that the U.S. military’s Stars and Stripes newspaper 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."[20]

Popular culture[edit]

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

  • 1945: The Mr. Hook propaganda cartoon Tokyo Woes, directed by Bob Clampett and features Seaman Hook. The cartoon's titular character (voiced by an uncredited Sara Berner) is a parody of Tokyo Rose broadcasts. Tokyo Rose is portrayed as an overly enthusiastic, crooked-toothed Japanese woman speaking on a propaganda broadcast with a loud voice and an American accent. When she criticizes war bonds, Seaman Hook fires a projectile from a naval gun to blow up Japan.[6]
  • 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, movie drama directed by Lew Landers.[8] Lotus Long played "Tokyo Rose", a "seductive jap traitress";[21] Byron Barr played the G.I. protagonist sent to kidnap her.
  • 1949: In the musical "South Pacific", sailors mention getting "advice from Tokyo Rose" in the song "There is Nothin' Like a Dame".
  • 1957: The Hollywood service comedy "Joe Butterfly", about U.S. military journalists in Japan just after World War II, includes a fictionalized subplot about the search for the "real" Tokyo Rose.
  • 1957: In the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, a Tokyo Rose broadcast is briefly heard on the demolition team's portable radio.
  • 1958: In the movie 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.[9]
  • 1959: In the movie Operation Petticoat a Tokyo Rose broadcast warns the crew of a U.S. submarine to surrender.
  • 1960: The Andy Griffith Show makes a brief reference to Tokyo Rose in the episode titled, "Stranger in Town". Andy is trying to persuade his deputy, Barney Fife, that he's being unreasonably suspicious of the stranger in town. "Say, do you reckon he could be a foreign spy?" Barney asks. Andy replies, "He don't sound foreign to me." Barney says, "They learn to talk better than any of us! Remember Tokyo Rose?"
  • 1969: The Story of "Tokyo Rose", CBS-TV and WGN radio documentary written and produced by Bill Kurtis.
  • 1974: UK rock band Chapman Whitney Streetwalkers recorded a song named "Tokyo Rose" for their album Chapman Whitney Streetwalkers.
  • 1976: Tokyo Rose, CBS-TV documentary segment on 60 Minutes.
  • 1976: "Harbor Lights", a successful 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".
  • 1977: "Tokyo Rose," title of a song by American metal band Riot (now known as Riot V) as part of their first album, "Rock City." The band would also go on to reference Tokyo Rose in several other songs, such as "Feel the Same," and "The Land of the Rising Sun."
  • 1978: Dutch rock band Focus released a song entitled "Tokyo Rose" on their album Focus con Proby.
  • 1985: Canadian rock band Idle Eyes had a Top 20 success 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 G.I. who fell in love with the propaganda broadcaster during the war, and remembers her voice many years later.[22]
  • 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 television situation comedy 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).
  • 1997: the Vigilantes of Love released the song "Tokyo Rose" on their album Slow Dark Train.
  • 2002: Japanese band Cali Gari released the song "Tokyo Rose au Monde Club" on their album Dai 7 Jikkenshitsu.
  • 2010: In his dissent from Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310, 424 (2010) Justice Stevens remarked: "If taken seriously, our colleagues' assumption that the identity of a speaker has no relevance to the Government's ability to regulate political speech would lead to some remarkable conclusions. Such an assumption would have accorded the propaganda broadcasts to our troops by "Tokyo Rose" during World War II the same protection as speech by Allied commanders".
  • 2011: American country-rockabilly band Whiskey Kill, released the song "Tokyo Rose", the initial track for their debut album Pissed Off Betty.[23]

Other uses[edit]

The first registered rock group using the name Tokyo Rose was formed in the summer of 1980. They are most known for their video which tells the story of the war time Tokyo Rose. Tokyo Rose is also the name of an emo/pop band hailing from New Jersey.

In 2019, Burnt Lemon Theatre brought the musical theatre production Tokyo Rose[24] to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival,[25] and New Diorama Theatre.[26] An extended version toured in 2021 in several UK cities,[27] accompanied by the release of a cast album.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Iva Toguri d'Aquino and "Tokyo Rose"". Famous Cases & Criminals. Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.). Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Berg, Jerome S. The Early Shortwave Stations: A Broadcasting History Through 1945. Jefferson: McFarland, 2013. CREDO Reference. Web. Retrieved 5 March 2017. p.205.
  3. ^ a b c Shibusawa, Naoko (2010). "Femininity, Race, and Treachery: How 'Tokyo Rose' Became a Traitor to the United States after the Second World War". Gender and History. 22 (1): 169–88. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0424.2010.01584.x. S2CID 145688118.
  4. ^ Kushner, Barak. "Tokyo Rose." Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present. Ed. Nicholas John Cull, et al. 2003. Credo Reference. Accessed 05 Mar 2017.
  5. ^ 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..."
  6. ^ a b Tokyo Woes (1945) at IMDb
  7. ^ Leon Schlessinger, Tokyo Woes, retrieved 2017-05-22
  8. ^ a b Tokyo Rose (1946) at IMDb
  9. ^ a b Beach, Edward Latimer (1955). Run Silent, Run Deep. Henry Holt and Company. pp. 245–7. ISBN 9780870215575. Retrieved April 17, 2015.
  10. ^ Pfau, Ann Elizabeth (2008). "The Legend of Tokyo Rose". Miss Yourlovin: GIs, Gender, and Domesticity during World War II. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231509565.
  11. ^ a b Tokyo Rose "Voice of Truth" on YouTube
  12. ^ 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 (eds.). Sound in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  13. ^ Pfau, Ann; Hochfelder, David (April 24, 2008). "World War II Radio Propaganda: Real and Imaginary". Talking History.
  14. ^ Stanton Delaplane, 'Tokyo Rose on Trial: "Bribery" Comes up, but it's Ruled out of Court', San Francisco Chronicle, 16 July 1949, p. 3.
  15. ^ CriticalPast (2014-03-24), Iva Toguri D'Aquino (Iva Ikuko Toguri) reads propaganda from Radio Tokyo and talk...HD Stock Footage, retrieved 2017-03-06
  16. ^ Pierce, J. Kingston (October 2002). "Tokyo Rose: They Called Her a Traitor". American History. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30.
  17. ^ "FBI — Tokyo Rose". 2017-05-03. Archived from the original on 2017-05-03. Retrieved 2017-05-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  18. ^ "Death ends the myth of Tokyo Rose". BBC. September 28, 2006.
  19. ^ Pfau, Ann Elizabeth (2008). "The Legend of Tokyo Rose". Miss Your Lovin: GIs, Gender, and Domesticity during World War II. New York, NY, USA: Columbia University Press.
  20. ^ "Walter Kaner, Gazette Columnist, Foundation Head". Queens Gazette. June 29, 2005. Retrieved April 17, 2015.
  21. ^ Tokyo Rose (Movie poster). Cleveland, Ohio: Morgan Litho. Corp. 1945.
  22. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Tokyo Rose-Shok Paris". YouTube.
  23. ^ "Whiskey Kill "Tokyo Rose" Live on Stay Tuned". Stay Tuned. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: WSCA 106.1FM. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  24. ^ "TOKYO ROSE". Burnt Lemon Theatre. Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  25. ^ "Edinburgh Fringe". Edinburgh Fringe. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
  26. ^ "New Diorama". Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  27. ^ Darvill, Josh (2021-07-20). "Tokyo Rose musical announces cast for upcoming tour". Stage Chat. Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  28. ^ Rabinowitz, Chloe. "Cast Album Released for TOKYO ROSE Featuring Kanako Nakano, Maya Britto, Lucy Park & More". Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  29. ^ Stone, Judy (March 18, 2007). "An unlikely heroine of World War II". SFGate. Hearst Communications Inc.


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