A wartime broadcaster who transmits propaganda
to the enemy in order to undermine their morale.
"Tokyo Rose" was the nickname given to Japanese female propaganda broadcasters by allied servicemen during the second global unpleasantness
. The broadcasts were in generally excellent English, and appealed to Allied troops to give up their hopeless and unnecessary war against the mighty and invincible empire of Japan. You know, standard propaganda
In spite of the single name, there were multiple Roses, as the voice was not the same each time. At least four women (three Americans and one Canadian) have been identified, three who broadcast from Tokyo and one from Manila. To the best of our knowledge nobody has done voice-analysis to ascertain if there were any others, and it is probable that adequate recordings do not exist. Famously vanished aviator Amelia Earhart was considered a prime candidate during the war, but her husband listened to some recordings and denied they sounded anything like her.
Tokyo Rose was actually pretty popular with Allied servicemen. Either out of the comedy value of the obvious propaganda
, or because it was a female voice to people that might not have heard another for quite some time (and might not live to hear one again). Probably both. The moniker "Tokyo Rose" itself almost certainly orginated with the servicemen themselves, since it does not appear in any of the surviving broadcast scripts or documentation. The surviving scripts also show that rumors that she was remarkably well informed about Allied intentions, units and movements were purely apocryphal.
Only one person was ever prosecuted for these broadcasts: Iva Toguri D'Aquino
, an American daughter of Japanese immigrants who was stranded in Japan while visiting relatives there at the begining of the war, admitted to broadcasting under the name "Orphan Ann". Though neither the occupation authorities nor the FBI could find sufficient evidence to prosecute her in Japan she was prosecuted on multiple counts of treason upon her return to the United States in 1948. Her prosecution was a pet project for politicians seeking to make a name for themselves with help from some particularly unscrupulous journalists. Despite the complete lack of credible evidence against her and considerable evidence that she'd risked her life aiding the allied prisoners forced to write and produce the broadcasts (Japanese society looked down on American-born Nisei like her, and the Kempei-tai
would have taken a dim view
of her smuggling food and medical supplies into POW camps—which she did a lot), she was convicted on only one count in 1949 and served six years of a ten year sentence. Still, she was forcibly separated from her husband, an Italian national who was denied entry to the United States, and was warned that if she left the country she would not be allowed back in (made even worse when you remember that the stress of her wrongful prosecution caused her to miscarry their baby). She received a full pardon in 1977 due to the proven unreliability of her key accusers (who both claimed they'd been coerced into perjuring themselves) and the lack of any proof that she had actually said anything treasonous. An FBI case study found that her effect on Allied morale was, if anything, positive, and in a crowning irony the US World War Two Veteran's Committee gave her their highest award for her bravery and patriotism in aiding Allied POWs at the risk of her own life shortly before she died in 2006.
In the European theater, the Axis
employed two American women as broadcasters who were both given the nickname "Axis Sally" by American troops. Rita Zucca
broadcast from Rome and used the on-air name "Sally," while Mildred Gillars
broadcast from Berlin and usually called herself "Midge." Both served prison terms for treason after the war.
The Germans also employed a male version, "Lord Haw-Haw
," the host of a regular program entitled Germany Calling.
Though the program had several hosts, the name "Lord Haw-Haw" eventually became associated with a single individual: Englishman William Joyce, who held the job beginning in 1940. He had a nasal drawl and so his opening line sounded like "This is Jairmany calling". Joyce was captured in Germany in 1945 and put on trial for treason in Britain, after some legal debate over whether an American citizen (as came out during the trial) could be charged with betraying the Crown. The ruling was that since he'd got a British passport (he'd lied about his citizenship to get it), he was supposed to have loyalty to the King of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He was convicted and hanged in 1946. Incidentally enough, he was the last person imprisoned in the Tower of London. The Japanese equivalent was an Australian named Reggie Hollingsworth, about whom little is known but who has been described as sounding like "Churchill broadcasting from Tokyo". Fascist Italy
partially subverted this trope by foregoing an alias personality all-together and getting noted American poet and mentor to T. S. Eliot
, Ezra Pound, to voluntarily give pro-fascist/anti-semetic/anti-American broadcast until his eventual capture by the Allies following the Italian Campaign
American Robert Henry Best
was a Lord Haw-Haw wanabee
who also worked for the Germans. He had the dubious distinction of being taken off the air
by the Germans in 1942 because his antisemitic propaganda became too strident!
"Tokyo Rose" or "Axis Sally" recordings are occasionally featured in war movies to establish atmosphere. Unfortunately, this is sufficiently obscure these days that it almost qualifies as a Genius Bonus
Note that the Axis powers were not the only users of this trope: A recent search of the BBC archives turned up a series of concerts recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1944 for broadcast to Germany, all hosted by a German speaking woman known only as "Ilsa". Sadly, Ilsa's identity has been lost to time. The most subtle and effective Allied propaganda broadcast was probably Britain's Soldatensender
, which convincingly mimicked an official Wehrmacht
propaganda station but gave out rather more information about the problems plaguing the German war effort than the German high command would have wanted to divulge.
, who made propaganda broadcasts for the North Vietnamese during a visit to Hanoi in 1972
, acquired the nickname "Hanoi Jane" as a reference to Tokyo Rose and Hanoi's own female propaganda broadcaster "Hanoi Hannah".
During both wars
in the Persian Gulf, stories circulated in the American media about a broadcaster nicknamed "Baghdad Betty" whose research was a little shaky ("Remember boys, back home in America movie stars are seducing your wife. Burt Reynolds is seducing your wife. Bart Simpson
is seducing your wife.") These may have been influenced by Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, AKA "Baghdad Bob", the Iraqi information ministry official whose farcically inaccurate statements (culminating in the proclamation that "There are no American troops in Baghdad" while two American tanks were clearly visible maneuvering behind him
) amused and perplexed media observers.
Examples in media:
- In Mockingjay Peeta Mellark is forced to do this when he's captured by the Capitol.
- Tokyo Rose is mentioned by Colonel Potter in M*A*S*H, and with this being the Korean War, they have their own version, "Seoul City Sue", though she is rarely heard from.
- Tour of Duty briefly featured a Vietnamese equivalent, with one GI asking another why he listened to that stuff. He replied that the propaganda was annoying, but that the music they played was actually pretty good.
- The Golden Girls plays with this. Blanche is 'coaching' her baseball playing boyfriend, only for him to tell her he's going to a team in Tokyo. Dorothy later says to Rose that "He's leaving her for Tokyo, Rose". Rose's response? "I can understand that, she IS a big radio personality!"
- During Games' Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 "Eye of Terror" event, a mini-campaign featured the Third Stage Expansion of the Tau, who were clear on the other side of the galaxy from the main action. During the event, one gamer started posting a series of "broadcasts" by a Human collaborator named "Sa'cea Sally". During the post-event articles in White Dwarf Magazine, these messages were codified into actual events during the expansion.
- The Battlefield series: Battlefield Vietnam featured actual broadcasts from Hanoi Hannah in the loading screens for certain maps. Some of them were rather pretty, actually — "Your helicopters will fall like broken butterflies, GIs."
- In Fallout 3, there's a Chinese Propaganda radio station that broadcasts in Arlington Cemetery out of an old cannery that echoes this trope.
- Homefront: During the Crazy Survivalist level two of the survivalist are talking about the resistance fugitives (you) and mention Tokyo Rose by name.