In chapter 9 of Miracles and Massacres, Glenn Beck’s latest book, we learn the story of Iva Toguri, aka Tokyo Rose, an American citizen whose life was ruined during World War II after she was prosecuted as a traitor in a political decision made by the U.S. government. One aspect of the story that was left out of the book was how Toguri’s pardoning in 1977 – the last act of President Gerald Ford’s administration, almost three decades after initially being charged as a traitor – came to pass.
In a Blaze Books exclusive, we spoke with Ronald Yates, a former Chicago Tribune journalist, who was responsible for publishing the exposés in 1976 that ultimately helped Iva Toguri gain her pardon, and one of only a handful of people who became a close personal acquaintance with Toguri in her later years. This is our final story in a series based on our interview with him. If you missed it, be sure to check out parts I, II and III.
The last part of our interview with Ronald Yates focused on the takeaways from Iva Toguri’s story. Given that these terrible events transpired decades ago, I asked Yates in his view what the lessons of the story were, and why they should be relevant to Americans today. His answer is reproduced in full below:
“One of the major lessons I always felt is, governments are very powerful entities and when they come after an individual like they did her, I don’t think there’s very much that an individual can do to withstand that kind of force. I think what it says is that not everything a government does is always correct. Not everything that government does is always in the best interests of its people. And of course that’s why we have the Constitution that we have, so you have this redress.
I never understood exactly why, and I think there had been an appeal process in the works, but it never got very far, because I think they were terrified that she would lose the appeal and they would deport her even though she was an American citizen. How can you deport an American citizen?
Government is a…powerful entity…when it decides to come after you, it’s going to come after you
But you know once again, the government is a very powerful entity. And you know, when it decides to come after you, it’s going to come after you. Now not always, you might survive it once in awhile, but in this particular case, she didn’t have a whole lot going for her. She didn’t have any money. She was almost destitute. The man that worked with her, Wayne Mortimer Collins, did it really pro bono to help her, to defend her, and it didn’t work because she was convicted anyway.
So I think it’s a frightening thing to think that a government could be so vicious, and that a prosecutor like [Tom] DeWolfe could be so callous as to know that she was not guilty but to pursue her anyway and to get her convicted any way he possibly could because it was the political thing to do. That is a frightening thing and I think people need to understand that you can’t roll over, you have to fight it, you have to fight against these kinds of things, and Iva did her best, but it wasn’t enough. And the people around her did their best but it wasn’t enough.
And I think it tells you something about the machinations and the motivations of a government when it’s actually motivated only by politics. And that was the case in this case because it was an election year in 1948 and Truman wanted to make sure that people were not seeing him as being soft on traitors, etc., and so they went after her. Politics, whenever you have politics involved in a criminal case, anything can happen.
The people who were on that jury, even the foreman of course was very contrite about it after it was over. Of course Wayne Mortimer Collins yelled at him. “Why are you apologizing? You convicted her.” He called him a bunch of names. And I don’t think the foremen of the jury ever got over that. He had to live with it. And of course we know DeWolfe committed suicide after, though we don’t know why.
I think a lot of people realized what they had done wrong. I know Mitsushio and Oki [the two men who perjured themselves in testifying against Iva Toguri] did. It ate them alive. I mean they were really…it bothered them. How could it not bother you? We all have a conscience you know. They knew what they had done to her. They ruined her life. She could never see her husband again. Her husband was there in Tokyo. He could never come back to the states, they told him he could never come back to the states, which was ridiculous because he had never done anything wrong.
It’s just a horrible thing to have happened to somebody like that who did nothing wrong and yet suffered in this horrible way. I mean just think about her life, the way it was dismantled. Losing her citizenship. She could never do anything now in life that would require any kind of certification because she was not an American citizen anymore. You can’t get certified even to be a dentist or something like that.
If it’s not used properly and if people misuse the power of government, this is what can happen.
She had learned dentistry while she was at Alderson at West Virginia in the women’s penitentiary because she was very good. She was an assistant to the dentist who came to work on the women’s teeth. And the dentist once said, “She was better than I was, that’s how smart she was, she was so good at it.” She said she thought she might become a dentist when she got out of prison. But she couldn’t because you couldn’t get any kind of board certification if you were not an American citizen.
So her entire life was just destroyed by this monolithic thing called the U.S. government.
It’s a very powerful thing to have the government on top of you, not just ours, it’s all over the world, any kind of a government, if they want to come after you, they will do it, and of course we have more rights in our country than most countries do, but still it didn’t help…
If it’s not used properly and if people misuse the power of government, this is what can happen. The one takeaway I would say is that. If you have people in government who want to misuse their power and misuse the power of government, it’s a frightening thing, and she is an example of what can happen when that does occur.”