As a librarian, I like to tell people that I know a little about a lot with some deep wells of specific knowledge. If I don’t know the answer, I can find the resources to answer your question. As I was shelving graphic novels, I found Tokyo Rose – Zero Hour: A Japanese American Woman’s Persecution and Ultimate Redemption after World War II with story by Andrew Frattino and illustrated by Kate Kasenow. This book immediately caught my eye as propaganda artists of any kind during wars have been an interst of mine for years, but I had never heard of Tokyo Rose. It was time for a dive. This graphic story was the perfect place to start.
The term ‘Tokyo Rose’ was a nickname given to female English-speaking radio broadcasters of Japanese propaganda during World War II. Allied servicemen in the South Pacific coined this name. This book is not a broad look at World War II, but instead is a focused deep dive into the life of one woman who was branded the legendary infamous Tokyo Rose, even though there were actually many Tokyo Roses.
Iva Toguri was a Japanese American woman born in the States who was sent to visit relatives in Tokyo shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the attack, Iva was trapped in Japan, unable to get back to the United States. Visited by officials, Iva was pressured to renounce her American citizenship and fully become a Japanese citizen. She refused this deal whole-heartedly, saying she was an American citizen and would never denounce her country. This caused issues with her family in Tokyo, forcing Iva to move out and forge a new life for herself.
A friend got her a job at Radio Tokyo, where she was eventually forced to become the host of ‘Zero Hour’, a propaganda broadcast that was created to destroy morale of American troops. She became the infamous Tokyo Rose, ‘The Siren of the Pacific’. Her role made her a target of angry Americans. She was arrested, released, and then eventually made her way back to the United States where after public outcry she was arrested again and prosecuted for treason. Her trial was a joke, the prosecrutors were incredibly dishonest, and the judge skewed not in her favor. She spent time in prison, but was eventually pardoned by President Ford in 1977. Iva’s experience is something not discussed much in the history books, but is something that should be taught.
This book was a good introduction to the Tokyo Rose phenomenon, but remember this is only the story of one woman who was targetted as Tokyo Rose in the media. All in all, I enjoyed this graphic novel, but it was a tad uneven for me. The plot and story is necessary to learn however because after all, those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.