Iva Toguri D'Aquino (1916-2006) was an American who was wrongly convicted of treason. She would eventually be pardoned after her accusers admitted that the government bribed them to witness against her.
Iva was born in Los Angeles to native Japanese parents. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in zoology, and she hoped to enter medical school to become a doctor.
In 1941, Iva’s family experienced a loss in Japan. Her mother’s only living sister died, and someone had to go to Japan to represent the American side of the family. Iva’s mother was diabetic and too ill to travel, so she sent her daughter to Japan on her behalf. But on this trip to visit her family, Iva found herself in the middle of a war breakout (WWII). She was stranded for two years and unable to go back to America.
Trapped in Japan, Iva refused to give up her US citizenship and was harassed for doing so. To support herself, she found work as a transcriber for a Japanese radio station.
At the station, there was a government-ran, English-speaking radio show titled The Zero Hour. The show disseminated propaganda that was intended to lower the morale of allied forces, and prisoners of war (POW’s) were forced to be the broadcasters. When the government wanted the POW’s to add a woman broadcaster, the POW’s persuaded Iva to join the radio crew. They trusted her because she had smuggled food and medicine for them, and she was the only Japanese-American woman who had not renounced her American citizenship.
Together, Iva and the POW’s fooled the Japanese government by subtly using sarcasm, innuendos, and double entendres to boost the morale of allied soldiers instead of lowering it. They featured more entertainment and music to undermine Japanese propaganda efforts. Iva and her radio crew even dropped hints to warn allied soldiers of surprise attacks, and revealed weather conditions in Tokyo—all of which could have gotten them killed by the Japanese government.
When wartime was over, Iva was free to return home to America. But trouble would find her again; Iva was arrested for treason because of her broadcasting activities in Japan.
In court, American soldiers testified that she was innocent and that her broadcasts warned them of important Japanese schemes, but the jury believed in two witnesses who testified against her and said that she helped the Japanese damage the morale of allied soldiers.
Iva was sentenced to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine. She was released from prison after six years, but it would be 27 years later that the two witnesses who testified against her would admit that they lied in court, and were coached by the US government to share their false testimonies.
In the following year, Iva was pardoned by the US president.
Does Iva inspire you?