My Hunt For Tokyo Rose
I can’t really remember the first time I was assigned an actual research paper – probably around ninth grade. However, I quickly learned that I enjoyed the process immensely. My love for writing continued to grow as assignments became more intensive (correct citations, primary/secondary sources, etc.). Eventually, these exercises in writing culminated in a 25-page research thesis on a Jesuit missionary in 16th century China. The caffeine-fueled nights poring over books on ancient Chinese philosophies and diaries of missionaries were some of the happiest in my academic career.
However, now I am faced with a new challenge: researching without being assigned a topic.
My name is Sam, and this summer, I am an intern here at BackStory. Throughout my time here, I will be working as a fact checker, blogger and researcher for the team. In addition, I will be conducting an independent research project on Tokyo Rose. For those who are unfamiliar with the story of Tokyo Rose, she was an American citizen of Japanese heritage. She was wrongly accused of treason for her work in a Japanese propaganda radio show during WWII – a tragic story that perfectly illustrates the importance of getting one’s facts straight. For more information, here is an excellent and concise article on her life. But I digress.
I figured that this would be a relatively easy topic because the extensive government investigation into her life and work would provide me plenty of primary sources. I was directed by my supervisors on the team to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act. This was one of the best decisions of my life.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was passed in 1966 and then went into effect the following year. The idea for FOIA was to cut down on the misuse of “Top Secret” documents. Previously, government agencies – such as the CIA – could classify any document as confidential or top secret and, in doing so, were denying civilian access to important documents. This, Congress concluded, led to extensive leaks by officials to the press and other civilian organizations. So to cut down on these leaks, FOIA mandates that all government documents – unless falling under one of the many exceptions to the Act – be open and free for any civilian use.
I took full advantage of FOIA and after just some basic searches, I was bombarded with literally thousands of pages of documents, reports, letters, and recordings regarding poor Iva Toguri. In truth, I was overwhelmed by the amount of documents I’ve accessed. But I can tell you this: for those conducting private research or wanting to conduct their own government oversight, the Freedom of Information Act – however daunting the results may be – is a fantastic tool to use.
Throughout the summer, I will continue to update our blog readers on Iva Toguri; who she was, her story, and why she is a historical figure we should never forget. If there are any questions or suggestions, please feel free to comment below.