Monday, December 6, 2010

The Myth of Tokyo Rose

Challenged, during a debate about Jesus, to name a historical figure who never existed, vorjack comes up with Tokyo Rose:

During the WWII, GIs in the Pacific theater sent letters back home carrying stories of a woman they called “Tokyo Rose.” She was the siren of the Pacific, calling out to the lonely American servicemen in a sultry voice, carried by Japanese radio waves. She taunted them, insulted them and foretold their eventual demise.

Despite that, most GI’s seemed to find her more amusing than anything else. While she was part of the Japanese propaganda machine, her broadcasts carried news and music from back in the States. But some of her threats hit home:

Each by was quiet now, lost in his private thoughts. Their confidence must have been shaken when, that night, Tokyo Rose named many of their ships and a number of the marine units. She assured the Americans that while huge ships were needed to transport them to Iwo Jima, the survivors could later fit in a phone booth. (Flags of Our Fathers p.227)

But was any of this true?

The stories of Tokyo Rose were examined by the Office of Warfare Information (OWI), looking for the how she got her supposed intelligence. In the end, the OWI categorically rejected the stories as urban legends:
There is no Tokyo Rose; the name is strictly a GI invention … Government monitors listening in twenty-four hours a day have never heard the words Tokyo Rose over a Japanese-controlled Far Eastern Radio. (quoted in The Hunt for Tokyo Rose, p, xvii)
I find this fascinating. As a youth I read at least a dozen popular works about the Pacific War, and I came away with the firm impression that Tokyo Rose was, if not a real person, at least a real radio show. The relationship between what we remember and what actually happened is complex and uncertain.

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