Treason By Radio

The article now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on radiodx.com for a period of five years from October 1st 2001.

The Story of Tokyo Rose and Manila Rose

History itself is the best judge of the importance that was attached by adversaries of World War II to propaganda broadcasting as a weapon of psychological warfare. Perhaps the supreme example is supplied by the way the Allied victors sought out those who had been guilty of working as program presenters, tried them for treason and passed sentences that can only be described as barbaric.

The US State Department investigated several cases and put on trial some of its citizens. Governments in general have a fondness for the word ‘traitor’. By the process of seeking out, trying and punishing those found guilty, a nation elevates its moral status in the eyes of its citizens – or at least that is what governments believe.

There are times in a nation’s history when it is politically expedient to take such actions in the name of unity. McCarthyism in America was a means of unifying the nation against the threat of Communism. The years that followed the end of the war with Japan were another such period. Memories of the war were still vivid in many American citizens, and it was convenient to have a few treason investigations.

The US Government indicted five people alleged to have co-operated with the enemy by broadcasting over enemy radio transmitters: Robert Best, Douglas Chandler, Martin Monti, Herbert Burman and Mildred Gillars were accused of working for the enemy. In some cases the evidence against the accused was overwhelming. However, in at least one case, there was a miscarriage of justice. This occurred in the trial of Iva Togura, convicted of having been the elusive, enigmatic, Tokyo Rose.

Togura was a US national of Japanese extraction, who had gone to Japan some time before 1941. She was one of many US citizens trapped in Japan, where eventually she got a job as a typist working for NHK. On account of her clear American accent, she was eventually persuaded to work in the scripting department of NHK overseas broadcast service.

After the Japanese surrender in September 1945, the city of Tokyo became a Mecca for the media. Journalists and cameramen sought permission from the Allied military government to visit the city in the hope of finding exclusive stories. Among these were two freelance journalists who had come with the intention of finding the elusive Tokyo Rose.

Eventually, after gaining access to NHK files, the name of Iva Togura was pulled out, along with some others. With the promise of a handsome payment for a story, Togura agreed to co-operate. The outcome was predictable: stories appeared in American newspapers claiming to know the identity of Tokyo Rose.

In 1946 the Allied military government in Tokyo brought Iva Togura in for questioning over alleged co-operation with the enemy; subsequently she was released, it being agreed there was insufficient evidence against her. But the press did not give up so easily. Further articles appeared about Tokyo Rose, and it was even claimed that Togura had given away autographed pictures of herself – she was learning to be a star, and soon she would learn to know what it was like to be a traitor.

Over the next three years the memory of Tokyo Rose was kept alive by the American press. Whether it was due to this, or because the State Department wanted to impress the people, we shall never know, but in 1949 Iva Togura was taken into custody and formally charged with treason.

The case for the defence was that there was no such person as Tokyo Rose, and it produced evidence to that effect. It would seem that the name Tokyo Rose had been dubbed to any female announcer in the employ of NHK. The Japanese authorities had no employees by that name, and the first the Japanese broadcasting authorities knew of her name came from a news report in a Swedish newspaper during the war. Iva Togura did not deny that she had worked for NHK, but that she had always acted under orders from her superiors, who included Allied officer POW’s, some of whom testified in her defence.

Nevertheless, Iva Togura was found guilty in October 1949 and was sentenced to 10 year’s imprisonment. The trial had lasted 13 weeks. Iva Togura served the 10 years for a crime she was not guilty of, and in 1976 was granted a full and unconditional pardon. In retrospect, it seems likely that it was politically prudent and convenient to find and punish those alleged to have co-operated with the enemy, in the same way that 20 years on it was politically expedient to bury the hatchet with Japan, which had become America’s strongest bulwark against communism in the Far East.

Another famous propaganda broadcaster was ‘Manila Rose’. This was the name given to a female announcer who broadcast for the Japanese over a SW circuit beamed from Manila (occupied by the Japanese) to American forces in the New Guinea area. There is no doubt that Manila Rose was popular with the GI’s; as with Tokyo Rose, the name engendered a feeling of love and tenderness rather than hatred and loathing.

The credit for the affection shown and expressed by American forces towards these female announcers of NHK must go to the Japanese broadcasting authorities, who, in the face of huge language and cultural barriers, succeeded in putting together some very high quality entertainment programs that any American radio station would have been proud of. Although it cannot be denied the underlying motive was to make American soldiers sick and tired of senseless and bloody war, it was skilfully done. And, although not recognized at the time, it was an example of the Japanese dedication to quality that would later enable Japan to dominate the West.

Manila Rose’s real name was Myrtle Lipton. Her program, called ‘Melody Lane’ was broadcast between 5.30 and 6.30pm Manila Time. By all accounts, it had a certain endearing charm about it, modelled perhaps on ‘Zero Hour’. Myrtle Lipton was never brought to face a trial for treason in the American law courts; nor indeed was she ever taken into custody as were the others. It was said that she was irresistably charming to men, and it is rumoured that she disappeared with the US colonel who had gone to question her. Nothing has been heard since.

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