Gertrude Koch wasn’t like other 17 year old girls. What with her living under Nazi rule in Cologne, Germany, during WW2, that’s not exactly surprising; after all, her days were spent recovering from the latest air raid and picking her way through bombed out streets.
But that wasn’t what made Gertrude stand out.
See, at night night Gertrude would risk her life to shelter allied soldiers and escaped prisoners. Yeah… not so normal.
Together with other rebel teens, Gertrude rained anti-Hitler leaflets down from the roof of Colognes Train Station, helped break into food warehouses to feed the imprisoned and daubed anti-Nazi slogans on every building she could.
Gertrude was an Edelweiss Pirate and she and thousands of teenagers like her risked everything to tear down the Nazi regime in any way they could.
Yet the Edelweiss Pirates remained largely forgotten by history – until now…
Lets do this thing!
In the late 1930s bands of teenage resistence groups sprang up throughout Germany.
Created by teenagers who wanted nothing to do with the Hitler Youth or League of German Girls; they called themselves, The Edelweiss Pirates (which btw is a way better name than Hitler Youth!)
Almost all were working class. These teens worked in factories and mills in the day, then as soon as their shift was over they’d don their metal Edelweiss pins and head to the hills to frolic with their mates.
Now this may sound super wholesome… but it was also super illegal.
You see outside of the state sanctioned youth groups, it was illegal for teens to go outside set zones within their regions.
It was a ridiculous law and the pirates happily stuck two fingers up to it, proudly heading off on hikes, carrying guitars so they could sing anti-Nazi songs round the campfire.
As the Nazi regime grew, so did the law breaking pursuits of the Edelweiss Pirates.
They were soon painting buildings with anti-Nazi slogans, jokes and messages. One official reported:
‘These youths who have been inscribing the walls with the slogans “Down with Hitler”, “The OKW (Oberkommande des Wehrmacht) is lying”, “Down with Nazi brutality”.
Unsurprisingly the Nazis (not known as history’s fun-sters) wanted to crush the troublemaking teens.
Edelweiss Pirates were quickly rounded up by police; then they had their heads shaved and were thrown in prison.
But of course… that didn’t stop them.
As the war ramped up so did the Pirates.
They were now giving shelter to escaped prisoners of war, Jewish people, and even allied troops.
They didn’t stop there.
The Edelweiss Pirates started to militarise themselves and within months they were running armed raids on Nazi bases for the supplies needed to distribute food and aid.
Soon they were planning missions to destroy Nazi weapons and attack Gestapo bases.
You can imagine how happy the Nazis were about this…
In one night in 1942, over 1000 Edelweiss Pirates were arrested by the Gestapo.
Gertrude Kloch was one of them. Aged just 17 she was roughly interrogated and thrown into prison.
She was lucky.
The Pirates has proven themselves to be an unceasing thorn in the regimes side and the Nazis weren’t shitting around anymore.
In 1944, 12 teens and young men were publicly hung in Cologne; at least 6 were Edelweiss Pirates.
Anecdotal evidence from former pirates suggest that many more were executed without trial, their deaths never recorded.
Yet, despite the deaths in their ranks, the Edelweiss Pirates never stopped.
They steadfastly remained a constant pain in Hitlers arse, right until the end of the war.
After the war, the Pirates refused to take the allied side. The only thing they wanted to do with their new occupying authority was to work out a patrolling rota so they could go back to keeping their local streets safe.
See, the pirates weren’t interested in backing one allied authority over another.
They warned against making things about politics again; understandable since last time Germany had done that… you know… Hitler happened.
Sadly, however reasonable the Pirates argument, the allies were not having it.
They shunned the pirates and as such, didn’t remove their previous criminal records (from the Nazi regime) which meant any pirates with criminal records from this period remained ‘war criminals’
It would be literal decades until the Edelweiss Pirates had their criminal records wiped and were officially (AND FINALLY) recognised as resistance fighters (this happened in 2005 for you date lovers)
Sadly many Pirates weren’t there to see their names cleared.
but 81 year old Gertrude Koch was.
Sure, Gertrude was happy to finally have the recognition the Edelweiss Pirates deserved… but she hadn’t lost her fighting spirit. So she stood up and declared to the awaiting press:
‘We were from the working classes. That is the main reason why we have only now been recognised’
which ya know … true
Gertrude then picked up a guitar and headed off to join Colognes surviving Edelweiss Pirates as they proudly sang their anti-Nazi anthems once more.
Hedy Lamarr is a goddess, she was a sultry screen siren who was famous for being one of the first to portray a woman having an ORGASM on-screen! Before the sodding film censorship boards nixed all the fun stuff in the 30’s…
Eat it bitches! Via Giphy
Hedy wasn’t just a Hollywood starlet though, she was also a badass inventor who gave the world frequency hopping which gave us the how-did-we-live-without-itWi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth. Honestly I think I’d be dead without them by now, having been eaten by bears after getting lost in IKEA.
Some people (they’re mostly dudes) claim she didn’t really have much of a hand in it and they put her name on the invention patent as she was a well-known celeb. To these people I say;
‘BOLLOCKS YOU CHUFFING BUM BAGS!’
She ain’t bothered. Via Giphy
Hedy was born in Austria in 1914. In the 1920s she was discovered as an actress and worked in the European film industry.
One of her most famous early roles was in Ecstasy (1933) where she portrayed a bored young housewife who gets it on with a big-buff-sexy-worker-man. She appeared nude in the film, but was tricked into doing this by the director (What a fucking surprise). This is also the film where she’s shown having a delightful orgasm on screen.
During her time making these European films, Hedy was trapped in a shitty marriage to an Austrian Arms dealer 15 years her senior.
He was a gross, controlling asshat and you know, A FUCKING NAZI ARMS DEALER, so Hedy decided to ditch the git. Hedy disguised herself as a maid and fled the country running off to Paris where she met Louis B. Meyer, of MGM studios. Louis then whisked her off to become a Hollywood film star.
BYE BITCH! Via Giphy
Hedy lamented only being given roles where she was a sexy, almost mute figure in most of her films; she was getting really really bored. So she decided she’d invent cool stuff on the side.
Hedy was totally self-taught, she’d had no formal training but she did have a brilliant mind and an eye for detail.
She dated the rather eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes for a while and he’d ask her advice when he was building planes. Hedy (being a fucking smart cookie) gave Howard a whole heap of drawings and research which she’d gathered using techniques from birds and told him he should start to go about making his planes more aerodynamic. SMART!
POW! Hitting you with knowledge… and cheekbones! Via Giphy
Her biggest breakthrough idea was based on a torpedo guidance system. You see, during WW2, torpedoes were radio controlled and this created huge problems because the signal could be easily jammed making the torpedo fly off course faster than your drunk Aunty Irene at your cousins wedding.
Hedy (having been married to an arms dealer) had knowledge of how these torpedoes worked AND how they were jammed. So she came up with the idea of frequency hopping to make the signal harder to jam.
This meant that the torpedoes could hit shit more accurately and thus blow up more Nazi’s. HUZZAH!
Hedy then asked her good mate, composer and fellow genius, George Antheil, to help her come up with a machine that could hop between frequencies.
She’s smug because she KNOWS she’s smarter than you. Via Giphy
George made a neat gadget from a tiny self-playing piano mechanism that synched up with radio waves. Each new note = a new radio frequency. Undoubtedly genius! BUT, this nifty gadget is why some argue Hedy gets too much credit for frequency hopping.
I’d disagree. After all Hedy came up with the idea and understood the musicality behind the theory of frequency hopping.
Anyway, Hedy and George both patented the idea in 1942 and gave it to the US navy as part of the war effort. The idea wasn’t immediately picked up by the Navy (dumbasses) and it was left in a pile marked TO DO until 1962 when they finally utilised the system in their fleets.
That’s morse code for ‘ABOUT FUCKING TIME!’ Via Giphy
I cannot express how incredible and important this invention was.
Frequency hoping is the Grandmother of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS and without it we could not watch amusing videos of cats all day instead of working!
Hedy and George were recognised by the National inventors Hall of Fame in 2014 when they were posthumously inducted. Took their fucking time with that one…
THANK YOU HEDY, WE LOVE YOU!
A truly smart, sassy & sessy lady. Via Giphy
This was really interesting, where can I find out more? I’m glad you asked babes. Richard Rhodes book: Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World (bit of a fucking mouthful) is a great read if you’re interested in the technical side of things.
Hedy also has a bonkers autobiography called Ecstasy and Me, which is mostly fabricated bollocks from the ghostwriter, but is a great trashy read.
Sara Westrop is passionate about making history accessible (and fun!) for everyone. A disabled, queer writer from just outside London, who loves writing about the unsung chapters of history.
The brain child of Bette Davies and John Garfield, The Hollywood canteen served up wartime escapism with more than a dollop of movie magic.
Opening in 1942, the canteen only served serviceman, but that’s not what made the canteen so special….see it was entirely staffed by Hollywoods entertainment elite. Rita Hayworth dished up pie, Shirley Temple worked behind the bar, Betty Grable waitressed and Marlene Dietrich washed dishes. It was a movie bought to life, players and all.
The incredible impact it made in cheering up the troops can not be denied…but the Hollywood Canteen couldn’t run on star power alone. With 3 million servicemen pouring through it’s doors (and those men getting through at least 30,000 gallons of punch a month!) there just weren’t enough celebrities to both make films and wash mountains of dishes.
So the canteen hired a small army of junior hostesses. Beautiful young women who dreamed of making it big in Hollywood, they jumped at the chance to both help the war effort and potentially get plucked from obscurity.
Now working for the canteen was a big deal! Sure you didn’t get paid, sure most of your work was cleaning up, serving and being made to dance…but you guys…there was a film about The Hollywood Canteen, stars and studio big wigs dotted it’s halls and to work there was a chance to be someone; if just for one night.
But, once hired, The junior hostesses had to play by a whole bunch of rules! They had to maintain their looks, they weren’t to even think about stepping on the floor with a hair out of place. They must dress appropriately and act appropriately at all times. And most importantly…they had to be good girls – so no going home with the servicemen!
Good food, good girls and good clean all American fun…
What could possibly go wrong?
Oil Heiress, Georgette moved to Hollywood with dreams of becoming an actress. So naturally, like scores of other budding starlets, she snagged a job as a junior hostess at The Hollywood Canteen.
Georgette was immediately a very popular hostess: charismatic and beautiful, her dance card was full. But the good times didn’t last. On the night of 11 October 1944, Georgette finished up another shift as a junior hostess, hopped in her car and headed home.
The next morning, her cleaner found Georgettes body face down in her bath tub. She’d been raped and strangled.
There was no sign of a break in, no sign of a struggle, nothing of value had been stolen; though Georgette did have some bruising, the killer had left no other trace. The last anyone ever heard of Georgette was a scream:
‘You’re killing me’
(Note: By the way, if you ever hear something like this, please be a babe and call the police immediately)
To this day, Georgettes murderer remains unfound….. But don’t worry, that’s not the end, of course not…the internet exists! So there are looooooots of theories
Some arm chair theorists believe Georgette was a victim of the Black Dahlia murderer…but the evidence on that one is pretty shaky (like HH Holmes is Jack the Ripper shaky…) So we’re just gonna discount that right now.
Where does that leave us? Well…it all points back to one place:According to her friends and weirdly also her Dad’s secretary, Georgette dated some of the men she had met whilst at work in The Hollywood Canteen; though she always did so under a shroud of secrecy, keen not to be shown breaking Canteen rules.
When going out with these men, Georgette insisted on footing the bill (after all she was an heiress and they weren’t making the big bucks in the army!) her good will didn’t end there. If she saw a soldier looking lost, she’d offer him a lift. If she saw someone counting their pennies at a sandwich counter, she’d pay for their meal.
Basically, Georgette was a good egg and through The Hollywood Canteen she soon amassed a whole network of soldiers she helped, dated and befriended.
The night of her death was no different, with Georgette meeting two very different servicemen. The first was an overbearing young solider. He followed Georgette around during her shift at The Hollywood Canteen, insisting she dance with him. Even when she obliged he continued to cut in on her work all night, arguing he needed anouther dance.
By the end of her shift, Georgette managed to shake the arse hole off and hopped in her car. That’s when she met serviceman 2; he seemed lost so Georgette pulled over and offered him a lift.
The man later reported that she seemed skittish and scared during the drive. This guy wasn’t the only one who thought Georgette seemed scared; earlier that night she begged a fellow junior hostess to sleep over, but refused to say why.
So what happened? Well, investigators thought it likely that Georgette knew her killer. With most of the men in her life from The Hollywood Canteen, perhaps someone followed her home? Maybe an ex came back to town or she’d been arranging an after work secret date.
Georgettes case remains open, but with any leads long gone, it’s very unlikely this Hollywood mystery will ever be solved.
Ok, that was all the bleak.
Let’s end things on a more positive note, with the story of one of Georgettes fellow Junior Hostesses:
In 1942, Florida suffered a nasty Jitterbug injury (yes, apparently that was a thing in the 40s). Whilst jitterbugging with a marine, she was thrown across the room, landing on her spine and leaving her bedridden and unable to take on work for a month.
Flordia felt that that the Canteen hadn’t looked out for her wellbeing. The floor had been slippery and during the unfortunate jitterbug she called for help, but nobody came… and so she was going to sue their sorry arses for $17,250!
Flordia took the stand and explained that she was iky (if you’re not hip to jive, that means: ‘I don’t like to do jive dancing’) , saying:
‘Jitterbugging is a very peculiar dance. Personally I don’t like it. It reminds me of the jungle antics of natives.’
Once she’d finished throwing in some casual racism, Florida went on to explain that when the Marine asked her to Jitterbug she had refused, instead standing stock still.
The Marine apparently took this is a firm ‘yes’ and threw Florida around the room, finally propelling her into an almighty (and soon to be catastrophic) spin, from which there was no coming back.
Fellow Hollywood Canteen worker, Luise Walker, backed Florida up and explained that in a spin like that, no dancer could have controlled her landing.
The Hollywood Canteen were having none of this and actually bought in a ‘jive expert’, Connie Roberts, to demonstrate how safe jitterbugging was. Connie had a partner throw her across the court in a dangerous spin to prove how much control a woman had in the landing:Despite dancing evidence, the judge sided with Florida, mainly on the grounds that after everything he had seen, he felt that jitterbugging was a:
‘weird dance of obscure origins’
Florida was awarded $8170 (which in todays money isn’t enough to buy a house –damn you economy! – but is enough to have a lot of fun with…or I don’t know, invest wisely or whatever)
Case finished, Florida went outside the court to meet the press, where she pulled this amazing face:
This was really interesting where can I find out more?Well, theres a great book on The Hollywood Canteen called (get ready for the worlds longest title): ‘The Hollywood Canteen: Where the Greatest Generation Danced With the Most Beautiful Girls in the World’
If you’re after something shorter I suggest checking out amazing podcast, You Must Remember This, it’s all about Hollywood History and is one of my favourite things.
Theres a great episode on the canteen called: ‘Star Wars Episode 1: Bette Davis and The Hollywood Canteen.’ (this is actually part of a series called Star Wars, looking at how Hollywood dealt with WW2, its great, go binge listen!)
For the next 4 days I’m going to try out lipsticks from history. From The 1300s to the 1940’s, I’ll be testing them all. On my lips…
I’ll admit to being something of a lipstick junkie, to the extent I have a small chest of drawers to hold all my lip products (yes it’s an addiction, but it’s not meth-so back off!) But it’s not just me that’s obsessed with lipstick; It’s a trend that’s endured throughout history.
Lipstick itself dates back to Queen Schub-ad or Puabi of Ur (if you can pronounce that then you get a gold star!) who was a Sumerian ruler from around 2500 B.C.
This first lipstick was more of a lip stain and was made from pretty much anything as long as it was highly pigmented and could be smeared on your lips. Popular ingredients included lead (this will be a recurring theme), fish scales, crushed rocks and dung.
Now I will do a lot of things for history, but putting lead and literal shit on my face is not one of them. So let’s call Egyptian lippy a write off and move onto the next stage in our tour of historic lippery:
The Middle Ages
Throughout the middle ages several European countries including France and Spain embraced rouge and lip paint; however England was having none of this – and of course by England, I mean the English church.
The church were not fans of make up on women, in fact women who wore makeup were considered ‘reincarnations of Satan’ which seems a tad strong.
Butthere were no actual laws banning makeup, which resulted in a very fine balancing act and the popular look of ‘makeup that wont piss of your priest’. So slightly tinted lips-ok. Full on red lips – your going straight to hell young lady.
One of the most popular methods to get those slightly tinted but not too tinted lips was crushing up flowers petals.
There’s something weirdly romantic about the idea of flowers as lip tint. It feels very Shakespearean, very feminine, very ‘oh don’t mind me just off to go skip through this meadow wearing a daisy crown’…
If you can’t tell, I was excited to try this out.
Making the flower lip stain was really easy, all I did was get some flowers (I got tulips, because for some reason none of the shops near me sold anything but them and because tulips..two lips…get it) and then ground them up and popped them onto my lips.
Now if you are wondering, where the fuck is the flower stain? You are not alone.
If I am being generous I’ll say that it maybe stained my lips a bit. But let’s be honest – its basically one shade up from the shade your lips should probably be if you’re not dying.
Which admittedly in the Middle Ages is a win.
Would I try this again? No. The colour payoff is not worth the taste of ground flowers on your lips (which is not nice FYI); get a tinted lip balm and leave this lipstick in the dark ages where it belongs.
I give this 0.5/5.
By the Elizabethan period English people were onboard the lipstick bandwagon; led by Elizabeth l who loved a bit of lippy.
Now when I say loved, I mean LOVED. Elizabeth pioneered the first known lip liner (made of red dye and plaster of paris) and was never without a slick of red lipstick.
She actually believed it to have healing powers and it is said that when she died she had lipstick an inch thick embedded onto her lips.
This is something I can get behind. As someone who lives for a matte lip, the idea of lip products burrowing into every lip crevice is neither new nor scary. If anything I was pretty pumped to try out Liz’s own lip recipe
Elizabeth I used cochineal, gum arabic, egg whites and vermillion for her statement lip.
For those not up on their deadly beauty ingredients, Vermillion is a red pigment obtained from mercury sulphide – basically its toxic as F and I won’t be putting it on my face.
To make up for this, I used a bit more cochineal than the original recipe would have used (cochineal is a powdered insect used in most red dyes; including food dye, yum!).
So I mixed up my cochineal, gum Arabic and egg whites until I got a bright red lip…mousse…thing.
With that weird mess prepared I moved onto the lip liner, becuase as any self respecting lipstick addict will tell you, liner is the key to a flawless red lip.
I mixed some red dye (a mix of cochineal and beetroot) with plaster of Paris and once it had turned into a liquid… I realised I didn’t know what to do next.
Yeeeah, I hadn’t really thought the lip liner through… but luckily the internet exists! Sadly I couldn’t find any tutorials on making plaster of paris lip pencils.
But fortunately I am a women of many skills, so I macgyvered a plaster of Paris mold using a straw and some tin foil.
Unfortunately after the lip liner had set I tried to remove it and it immediately broke into roughly 5000 pieces.
The finished product!
How did it apply?
I applied the lip liner first and it immediately tore the fuckity out my lips.
Don’t use plaster of Paris as a lip liner guys, just don’t. It didn’t even leave a colour, just pain.
After that ordeal I applied the lipstick/mousse.
Yeah….It looks like I’ve been punched in the mouth.
Also, no I didn’t have a fit whilst applying this, it just spreads out like that. It might be because of the egg white – which FYI tightens the bejesus out of the skin around your mouth! That’s why my lips are clamped shut in that picture-I couldn’t move them without cracking the skin of my lips (niiiiiice)
On the upside it’s a good red hue, I bet if you used vermillion it would be stunning and only slightly toxic!
Would you use this again?
Not if you paid me! If beauty is pain, this is straight up bullshit.
I give this -2/5 (yup we’re two in and already on negatives!)
Let’s move on…
After the clusterfuck that was Elizabethan lipstick I’ve moved across the pond to America for my next foray into historic lipstick.
America had a somewhat tempistoous relationship with lipstick during this period. In Pennsylvania it was actually legal to divorce your wife if she had worn lipstick during your courtship, was this was seen as conning a man into marriage.
Yet Americas first First Lady loved lipstick. Martha Washington even had her own unique recipe for the lippy she wore everyday. So naturally I had to check it out.
Spermaceti is a waxy substance found inside a sperm whales head, so for obvious reasons (e.g the law and ethics) I won’t be including this.
So, sans whale head goo, let’s make this lipstick!
I first had to prep the alkanet root, which is a root which naturally produces both red and purple pigments. To get the red dye I had to steep the root in vodka and water for a week. That my friends is dedication.
After this I mixed in all the other ingredients and then, as Martha would have done, ground the shit out of it.
The finished product
It looked super gross, and it smelled a lot like really wet and musky bark. But at least it had a colour and didn’t contain plaster of paris or egg whites, so my lips were hopefully safe!
Colour wise there isn’t a huge payoff, but there is a clear red tint in there. Admittedly not much, but this does work as a red tint for people scared of red lips. Which makes sense. For a statement lip in a climate where half your country hates makeup, I think this is about as bold as Martha could go.
The main issue was the grease.
Now shocker…lard is greasy, but lard mixed with oil and baslm is a whole other level of greasy. The grease did make my lips shiny (win) but it also made them incredibly heavy and about 10 mins in some of the lipstick glooped onto my shirt. That’s just not what you want.
Would you use this again?
Well first, let me share a fun fact:You may have noticed that my skin in the above image is not filtered, whilst the other images are – that is because I tried this historic lipstick out first and the lard and oil immediately broke me out to a point where I couldn’t show my skin to the internet. So to answer the question, no, no I would not use this again.
I give this 1/5
At the start of World War Two British women were urged to keep up appearances and ensure they maintained a glamorous look at all times.
Hitler was not a fan of makeup (or anything fun) so the allies saw brightly made up women as ‘good for the morale of the nation’.
This of course meant lashings of lipstick.
Makeup brands happily played into this, releasing fun compacts in the shape of military paraphernalia and and lipstick packaged in patriotic shades.
But then rationing hit cosmetics like it did everything else. Yet the expectation for women to retain high make up standards remained. Now one tube of lippy needed to last!
So women came up with ingenious ways to get colourd lips when they were between tubes of the good stuff. One such method was rubbing beetroot directly onto the lips for a wartime friendly lip stain.
Now, I was quietly confident about this. After doing a quick Pinterest search, I found tons of women who all swore by beetroot lip stains and had the cherry lips to prove it.
Admittedly these women all also used other ingredients (e.g. coconut oil) and as this isn’t strictly 1940’s, I’d just be rocking raw beetroot- but still Pinterest wouldn’t lie to me…..right?
It turns out that Pinterest is a filthy liar.
Ok, fine. I might be being a tad harsh. It’s been a tough few days.
Did it stain my lips? Yes. But not in the way I was expecting it too. I was expecting a cherry pop pout and what I got was a pinky hue, which was nice… but lets be honest; thus colour is not worth the many many minutes of beetroot based effort I put in.
The stain does last all day, which for a Land Girl on the go is ideal; no touch ups required. And the end product doesn’t look out of place with lip stains you can buy today, win!
However– it is pretty drying (not egg white drying, but still) so like the women of the 40’s you do want to keep some Vaseline on you for moisture and shine.
Would I use this again?
It takes a while to get the colour pay off that picture shows and after about a minute of rubbing a raw beetroot onto your lips you do start to question your life choices. Not to the level of ‘why I am rubbing lard and gum arabic onto my lips’…but an existential crisis none the less.
I give this 3/5 Personally, a mini breakdown everyday is a price too high for slightly stained lips. But if you are crazy mentally strong or on rations this does the job.
So thats the historic lipstick testing done, what did I learn?
Elizabethan lipstick doesn’t beat MAC.
Plaster of Paris is evil incarnate
Egg white is the devils own creation
Petals do fuck all
Lard does actually give you spots
It turns out progress happens for a reason and historic make up sucks.
The myth of the Tokyo Rose can first be traced back to American soldiers stationed in Japan during WW2. Too far from home to be able to tune into US radio, they were at the mercy of Japanese entertainment. The Japanese quickly cottoned onto this and allowed American GI’s to listen to their favourite songs…at a price.
The music was introduced by the voice of a mysterious woman, she spoke English but also predicted Americas fall and the imment deaths of the listening GI’s. Not exactly ideal dinner guest material. This woman became known as Tokyo Rose and soon became a notorious and hated symbol of the war.
When the war ended Tokyo Rose lived on ; her story now told in hushed tones and with an air of bitter resentment to the this war criminal who has alluded justice. Hollywood even turned its attention to this villainess in 1946 with the aptly titled, Tokyo Rose; with the films hero a GI on the hunt to kill the venomous Tokyo Rose.
But heres the thing…Tokyo Rose wasn’t one woman. She was many.
She was mostly American Japanese women who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and were now stuck behind enemy lines and faced with a choice. The most infamous of these women is Iva Toguri D’Aqiino
Ironically born on Independence Day in 1916, Iva Toguri D’aquino would grow up to be one of America’s greatest traitors.
Iva grew up in LA, where she was a popular but average high school student. In 1941, newly graduated from college, Iva’s parents sent the now 25 year old to Japan to care for her sick Aunt.
Though she had never traveled outside of America, Iva hopped on a plane, keen to care for ailing Aunt. But she couldn’t settle in Japan and grew desperately homesick. After a few months Iva packed up and bought a ticket back to US soil. But her plans were scuppered when a paperwork mix up prevented her from boarding the boat back to America. It was a set back but Iva was determined to get another ticket, eager to return to the US.
And then Pearl Harbour happened
Iva Toguri D’Aqiino was now trapped. An American citizen in enemy waters.
But she was tough, when military police asked her to renounce her US citizenship she refused, even following harassment and her relatives pleas she refused. And so Iva was kicked out of her relatives house.
Now homeless, branded an enemy alien and denied rations, Iva was having by all accounts, a shit holiday. But still she didn’t give in.
By 1943 Iva was living in Tokyo, still refusing to renounce her US citizenship. She supported herself working as a secretary for news companies, eventually securing a job at Radio Tokyo. Along with its usual output Radio Tokyo also produced propaganda programming aimed directly at American troops who had nothing better to do but listen in. These shows were created and hosted by Allied Prisoners of War, who were forced to now work against their own side.
One of these programmes, Zero Hour, was produced by a group of POWs from America, Australia and the Philippines, with the team headed up by Australian Army major Charles Cousins. Iva and Cousens already knew each other, with Iva having smuggled food to POWs on several occasions.
Upon arriving at Radio Tokyo, Cousens quickly picked out Iva, thanks to her unique husky voice and he requested that she come and work on Zero Hour.
Now here’s something to know: Zero Hour wasn’t actually propaganda. It was meant to be but….Cousens and his team were instead covertly working to undermine Zero Hour and fill it in jokes mocking its own propaganda.
It was a pretty ballsy move. But Cousens and his team weren’t happy with just mocking their enemy, they also wanted to produce a quality comedy programme! Which is why they were interested in Iva. Cousens felt her trademark husky growl would be the final touch to tip Zero Hour into full on farce (nice guy that Cousens)
After a lotof persuasion Iva joined the Zero Hour team, donning the persona of ‘Orphan Ann’ she directed messages to her ‘fellow Orphans’, took part in skits and regularly introduced propaganda with more than a telling nod: ‘here’s the first blow at your morale!’ (Iva wasn’t known for subtle satire)
All in Iva took part on several hundreds of broadcasts over three years. During her spell as a presenter on Zero Hour she also met her husband, Filipe D’Aquino, who like her was trapped in an enemy land.
The pair tried continuously to get passage back to America, but still branded an enemy alien by the Japanese Government Iva’s financial situation was dire. Sadly things didn’t change for Iva following The Japanese surrender to America in 1945; she remained broke and far from home.
There seemed to be little hope in sight when one day two American reporters from Cosmopolitan turned up at Iva’s doorstep offering her several thousand dollars for an interview with the real Tokyo Rose.
Now Iva had never referred to herself on air as Tokyo Rose, but the considerable cash on offer would help get her the hell out of dodge; what harm could it really do?
You know the answer here. (it’s a lot.)
You see, the reporter from Cosmopolitan hadn’t actually got editorial sign off on Iva’s pretty hefty fee (whoops!) So the magazine did whatever it could to get out of its exclusive contract. Eventually duping Iva into giving a press conference to other journalists – thus making her violate her exclusive Cosmo contract and lose the money.
Not only that but in the finished article the journalist pretty much left out any mention of Iva deliberately undermining the propaganda she delivered – effectively turning the article into Iva’s confession. And so in 1945 Iva was arrested.
And you thought the worst thing Cosmo did was constant dieting tips
Iva was released without any charges a year later in 1946. (thats right a year later) She want back to life with her husband and hoped for normality. The pair tried to settle in Japan but their hopes for starting a family were shattered when still weakened from prison Iva gave birth to a child who died not long after.
Meanwhile America hadn’t forgotten Tokyo Rose. A campaign against Iva was gaining momentum and in 1948 that American citizenship Iva had worked so hard to keep meant that she was dragged back to US soil and under great public pressure she was promptly put on trial for treason.
In 1949 Iva went on trial, the seventh person in American history to be tried for treason, in what – at the time – was the most costly court case in history, the jury was all white and no actual broadcast evidence was to be shown ; it’s safe to say that things weren’t looking good for Iva.
Over the course of 13 weeks Iva was charged with 8 counts of treason. She pled her innocence throughout, with the Zero Hour crew flying out to the trial in San Francisco to give evidence on her behalf. Charles Cousens even flew from Australia to speak in her defence, outlining the farcical undercurrent of the show. But then the prosecution conjured a series of Japanese witnesses and it was game over.
The witnesses testified to Iva voicing strong anti-American sentiments on the show, with the final nail in her coffin being witness evidence that following the Battle of Leyte Gulf (which saw over 2000 allied casualties and 12,000 Japense casualties) Iva went on air and crowed:
“Orphans of the Pacific, you are really orphans now. How will you get home now that your ships are sunk?”
There were of course no transcripts or audio record to back this claim up. Nonetheless in October 1949 Iva was found guilty of treason. She was fined £10,000, sentenced to 10 years in prison and stripped of the American citizenship she had fought so hard for.
Iva was released for good behaviour after 6 years in a Virginia woman’s prison. Once more deportation loomed, but Iva battled to stay in America, working with her husband she successfully argued for her right to stay, citing her fathers valid US citizenship. Her stay was granted. Her husbands was not. This time the distance was too great and the pair amicably split.
Iva went to live with her family in Chicago where she quietly and peacefully lived out much of the rest of her life. Then In 1976 two of the key witnesses in Iva’s trial spoke out and admitted to being forced into giving false testimony.
In 1977 Iva received a presidential pardon. By 2006 the tide had fully turned; That same year was Iva’s 80th birthday and the World War ll Veterans committee awarded her for her bravery, patriotism and spirit-she described it as the most memorable day in her life.