Beckenbaugh on Kawashima, 'The Tokyo Rose Case: Treason on Trial'

Yasuhide Kawashima
Lisa Beckenbaugh

Yasuhide Kawashima. The Tokyo Rose Case: Treason on Trial. Landmark Law Cases and American Society Series. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2013. xiv + 189 pp. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7006-1904-7; $17.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-7006-1905-4.

Reviewed by Lisa Beckenbaugh (Military Analyst, Trideum Corp) Published on H-War (September, 2014) Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

Tokyo Rose was a familiar figure to most Americans during World War II. An English-speaking female who taunted or, if you ask some servicemen, amused Allied soldiers in the Pacific theater with her tales of home front infidelity and battlefield failures. Fewer people are familiar with who Tokyo Rose actually was and her fate after the war. Yasuhide Kawashima, in his book, The Tokyo Rose Case: Treason on Trial, lays out in detail the identity and fate of one of the women identified as Tokyo Rose. 

The book goes into great detail about how Iva Ikuko Toguri d'Aquino, an American citizen who spoke no Japanese, was stranded in Japan when the war broke out. The author discusses how d'Aquino was able to survive in wartime Japan while being under constant surveillance by the Japanese Thought Control Police. As fate would have it, d'Aquino landed a job at Radio Tokyo and met three prisoners of war (POWs) broadcasting a show titled Zero Hour. They convinced their Japanese captors to let d'Aquino join their show and "Orphan Ann" debuted in May 1944. The POWs taught d'Aquino how to sabotage the show and she in turn brought them food and medicine.

The author meticulously focuses on d'Aquino's postwar treatment to lay out his case. D'Aquino was wrongly arrested and tried for treason based on completely fabricated evidence and witnesses who openly lied. This was the 1950s, a time the author calls the "treason season," and it seems that D'Aquino's fate was sealed before she ever took the stand in her own defense (p. 84). Paroled in 1961, d'Aquino tried hard to escape the wrongful conviction. Finally, in 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned d'Aquino, the "first-ever pardon in a case of treason" (p. 158). For Kawashima, this pardon was not good enough. It was a "forgiveness of guilt, not an acknowledgment of innocence" (p. 159). Throughout these chapters, Kawashima's stance is clear. He is, at times, heavy-handed in his opinions of some of the players in the case.

Adhering to the format for all books in the Landmark Law Cases and American Society series, there are no formal citations in the text, making the work less accessible to a wider audience. The bibliographical essay of major primary works is exhaustive, although the editors point out in the preface that the author also used many Japanese-language sources, but these are not cited. The Tokyo Rose Case is an engaging, thought-provoking work, which would be a good addition to any library.

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Citation: Lisa Beckenbaugh. Review of Kawashima, Yasuhide, The Tokyo Rose Case: Treason on Trial. H-War, H-Net Reviews. September, 2014. URL:

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