A Stranger in a Strange Land

“Orphan Ann” Home Page: I. A Stranger in a Strange Land


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Sayonara, “Tokyo Rose” … Hello Again, “Orphan Ann”!

(4 Jul 1916 – 26 Sep 2006)


I. A Stranger in a Strange Land

“I have gotten used to many of the things over here and I think that in a few more months that I will be able to say that I don’t mind living in Japan. It has been very hard and discouraging at times but from now on it will be all right I’m sure. … but for the rest of you, no matter how bad things get and how much you have to take in the form of racial criticisms and no matter how hard you have to work, by all means remain in the country you learn to appreciate more after you leave it.” —Iva Toguri, in a letter to her family, 13 October 1941


Iva Ikuko Toguri was born on 4 July 1916 in south central Los Angeles, the daughter of a Japanese immigrant and his diabetes-crippled wife. She was raised Methodist, listened to The Shadow and Radio Orphan Annie on the radio, joined the local Girl Scouts, played on the varsity tennis team, took piano lessons and had a crush on Jimmy Stewart. At home, she took care of her mother and dreamed of becoming a medical doctor. To this end, she went to UCLA, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology in 1941. She had registered to vote as a Republican and voted for Wendell Wilke in 1940. When her aunt Shizu took ill and Iva was chosen to go to Japan to represent the Toguri family, she listed her occupation as “pre-med student”—her dream was still alive.

On 5 July 1941, the day after her 25th birthday, Iva set off to Japan aboard the Arabia Maru without a passport; the State Department wouldn’t issue one on such short notice and had instead given her a Certificate of Identification which it said was sufficient to get her to and from Japan. This was to prove not to be the case. When she applied to return to the U.S. in November, she was refused on the grounds that there was no evidence that she was an American citizen. She was stranded in Japan when war broke out in December.

Iva was regarded as an enemy alien by the Japanese authorities, who told her that she should renounce her American citizenship and register as a Japanese citizen. She refused and requested that she be interned with other foreign nationals, but was refused in turn due to her gender and the fact that she was of Japanese extraction. When Doolittle’s Raiders bombed Tokyo, Iva was overjoyed to see the American planes—even as she rushed to take shelter from them!

When her pro-American attitudes caused the neighbors to complain to her uncle about his harboring an enemy under his roof, Iva struck out on her own. Illiterate and almost totally ignorant in Japanese, she taught piano lessons to pay for her Japanese language lessons and eventually found work as a typist, transcribing English-language news broadcasts for the Domei News Agency. Here she saw the names of her family on a list of Japanese Americans interned at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona.

Here she also met her first real friend in Japan, a Portuguese national named Felipe d’Aquino. He shared her pro-American views and provided her with much needed moral support. Returning home one night, she found all of her belongings in the street and her boardinghouse room being ransacked by the Kempeitai Secret Police. She again requested to be interned with other Allied nationals, but was told that it cost too much for them to feed her when she could earn a living for herself.

Poor diet took its toll and Iva was hospitalized for six weeks with malnutrition, pellagra and beriberi. She had to borrow money from Felipe and her landlady to pay the bill and began seeking a second job to pay them back. She found it at Radio Tokyo, as a typist again, typing up English-language scripts drafted by Japanese authorities for broadcast to the Allied troops in the Pacific. Here she met Australian Major Charles Cousens, a former Radio Sydney celebrity captured in Singapore, and his associates American Captain Wallace Ince and Filipino Lieutenant Normando Reyes, who had been captured at Corregidor.

Iva was delighted to meet soldiers who had been fighting for her side and touched by their underfed and overworked haggardness. She took Cousens by the hand and told him to keep his chin up, that she would try to see them as often as she could. Put off by her overt friendliness and pro-Americanism, the POWs initially suspected her of being a Kempeitai spy, but over the next few months, as she smuggled food and medicine to them, they eventually came to trust her. When Radio Tokyo directed Cousens to write a woman DJ into his Zero Hour program, he asked for Iva Toguri by name. The moment of truth had arrived.

Link Next Chapter: “Orphan of the Pacific”

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Last Update: 01 January 2020

Copyright © 1995–present by Dafydd Neal Dyar


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