19 January 1977

Tokyo Rose is pardoned by President Gerald Ford.

On this day in 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned “Tokyo Rose,” who had broadcast pop tunes during World War II. Although the nickname was a catchall for propaganda broadcasts, it became synonymous with Iva Toguri, an American-born citizen of Japanese descent.

Toguri graduated from UCLA in 1940. When an elderly aunt fell ill, she went to Japan to help care for her, leaving Los Angeles with only an identification card. When war threatened, Toguri sought a passport from the U.S. vice counsel in Japan, but the State Department had not acted on her request by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack.
After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, Toguri asserted that she was forced into her role by the authorities. She said she broadcast only light musical fare even as she smuggled food and medicine to the Allied prisoners of war. Nevertheless, Toguri was branded as a traitor for having aired such songs as “My Resistance Is Low.”

Toguri was detained for a year by the U.S. military occupiers before being released for lack of evidence. In 1948, however, she was charged by federal prosecutors with having committed treason for “adhering to, and giving aid and comfort to, the Imperial Government of Japan.” After a long trial, a San Francisco jury found her guilty of “speak into a microphone concerning the loss of ships.” She was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and fined $10,000.
She was released early in 1956 for good behavior.