Thursday, July 4, 2013

Born on the 4th of July: Kawashima, "The Tokyo Rose Case"

The University Press of Kansas has added a new volume to its Landmark Law Cases & American Society series: Yasuhide Kawashima, The Tokyo Rose Case: Treason on Trial (2013). Here's a description:
Iva Toguri (credit: Harry S. Truman Library)
Iva Ikuku Toguri (1916–2006) was an American citizen, born on the 4th of July. Her parents, first-generation Japanese Americans, embraced their new nation and raised Iva to think, talk, and act like a patriotic American. But, despite her allegiance to the United States, she was forced to spend most of her adult life denying that she was a traitor or that she was World War II’s infamous Tokyo Rose.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Iva was nursing an ailing aunt in Japan. Prevented from returning to home, she was viewed with suspicion by the Japanese authorities. They hounded her to renounce her American citizenship, which she adamantly refused to do. Pressured to find employment, she joined Radio Tokyo. Known as Orphan Ann, she did nothing more than emcee brief music segments on “The Zero Hour” during the war’s last two years. She was never called “Tokyo Rose” by anyone and was but one of only a dozen or so English-speaking females heard on Japanese airwaves.

In need of money to return home after the war, she made the mistake of allowing herself to be interviewed by two ambitious journalists who were certain that she was the Tokyo Rose, even though she denied it. The published story brought Iva to the attention of American authorities who tried and convicted Iva for treason, despite the lack of evidence and a reluctant jury. She was then stripped of her citizenship and sent to prison.
Yasuhide Kawashima’s account of Toguri’s trials are deeply rooted in Japanese language sources, American legal archives, and the cultures of both nations. He identifies heroes and villains in both the United States and Japan and also highlights broader concerns: the internment of thousands of loyal Japanese Americans, the meaning of citizenship, the nation’s commitment to the idea of fair trial, the impact of tabloid journalism, and the very concept of treason.

Iva was eventually pardoned in 1977 by President Gerald Ford—she was the first person in U.S. history to be pardoned for treason—and had her citizenship restored. Yet when she died in 2006, obituaries continued to identify her as Tokyo Rose. Kafkaesque in its telling, Kawashima’s tale provides a harsh reminder that the law does not always render justice.