How a misunderstood 'villain' from WWII inspired a hit song for Idle Eyes

Published Jan. 13, 2017

We've all heard the name Tokyo Rose, but do we know the whole story behind the name? One of America's darkest secrets is the treatment of Asian-Americans during the 1940s. In the '80s, movies like The Karate Kid touched on the subject while the name Tokyo Rose became the inspiration for a hit by Canadian band Idle Eyes. While listening to a lost hit of the '80s, take a moment and read about the rest of the story concerning Tokyo Rose.

Idle Eyes is the band led by Tad Campbell and 1985 was their breakout year in Canada as Tokyo Rose was a Top 20 hit and they won the Juno Award for Most Promising Band. Just like the Grammy for Best New Artist was sometimes the kiss of death in the U.S., Idle Eyes suffered the same fate with their award.

The video for the grooving Tokyo Rose is studio performance combined with footage of classic cinema femme fatales. Tokyo Rose was the generic name given by Allied soldiers in WWII for the female DJs who tried to shake the morale of soldiers on Japanese radio stations in the Pacific.

Soldiers stationed in the Pacific would listen to English-speaking Japanese radio stations for The Zero Hour music show that played popular American music, but would also contain war announcements by the female DJ's and comments on the American war effort. While many voices were used, the most popular woman identified was Los Angeles native Iva Toguri, who went by the DJ name of Orphan Ann. Allied soldiers shunned individual DJ names and referred to all female announcers as Tokyo Rose.

Toguri was visiting a sick relative in Japan but got stuck in Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The U.S. did nothing to try to bring Toguri back home as anti-Japanese sentiment was at an all-time high. More or less a POW, Toguri was forced to work the Japanese radio stations on The Zero Hour because she could speak English.

After the war, Toguri was brought back to America and upon social and government pressure was prosecuted for treason. In 1977, President Gerald Ford issued her a pardon after it was discovered that the testimony used to convict her was fabricated. While many considered her comments as a DJ were thin-veiled verbal attacks on the U.S., the evidence showed all comments made by Toguri were "innocuous." In 2006, the WWII Veteran committee gave Toguri the ultimate apology and honor from the country that turned their back on her when they awarded her The Citizenship Award for love of country and courage. She died at age 90 the same year.