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War on the radio: Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally, and Hanoi Hannah broadcast propaganda aimed at turning the hearts of lonely U.S. soldiers. (times past).

MOST PROPAGANDA IS DESIGNED TO psyche out an enemy. But to do that, you first have to get the enemy's attention. During past wars, propagandists targeted scared, lonely soldiers with what they were often desperate to hear: a female voice. They turned fears of cheating girlfriends into weapons of war.

These weapons were delivered via radio. In World War II, servicemen from the U.S. and other Allied forces found these sexually charged programs of their Axis opponents alluring. "Axis Sally" in Germany and "Tokyo Rose" in Japan used popular songs and cooing femininity to try to talk Allied soldiers out of fighting.

Neither made a perceptible dent in Allied morale. But they did get soldiers to listen. So in 1965, when the U.S. entered the Vietnam War in force, North Vietnam's Communist government revived the radio-siren formula with "Hanoi Hannah."

These are some of their greatest hits.


Axis Sally was the Allied soldiers' name for Mildred Gillars, a pro-Nazi American actress with a sultry voice. In 1935, she moved to Germany and worked as an English instructor before taking a job with Radio Berlin, where she polished her drama skills throughout the war. Her Home Sweet Home program was a mix of music and chat aimed at demoralizing GIs in Europe. Gillars' favorite tactic was to talk about unfaithful girlfriends and wives back home.

And what are your girls doing tonight, fellows? You really can't blame them for going out to have some fun, could you? ... You may dislike my repeating this to you, but it's the truth, especially if you boys get all mutilated and do not return in one piece.

Gillars gave her most prescient performance on May 11, 1944, less than a month before D-Day, the date when the Allies invaded German-occupied France. She starred in a Nazi radio play called Vision of Invasion as the mother of a GI. In the play, the mother dreams that her son is killed during an Allied landing in France. Realistic sound effects of guns firing and men screaming left listeners' blood running cold.

After the war, Gillars was convicted of treason by a U.S. court. Prosecutor John Kelley said of her relationship with the Nazis, "She sold out to them. She thought she was on the winning side, and all she cared about was her selfish fame." Gillars served 12 years in prison.


Amid battles in the Pacific, most GIs heard one woman spouting Japanese propaganda and dubbed her Tokyo Rose. There were actually several Tokyo Roses--most of them Japanese-Americans who were back in Japan during the war. They would taunt Americans about facing certain death. The New York Times reported that "American fighting men are pretty impervious to propaganda," and that they found the programs entertaining.

One woman, Iva Toguri, who called herself Orphan Ann, had an especially memorable bouncy delivery.

Greetings, everybody! This is your No. 1 enemy, your favorite playmate, Orphan Ann on Radio Tokyo--the little sunbeam whose throat you'd like to cut! Get ready again for a vicious assault on your morale, 75 minutes of music and news for our friends--I mean, our enemies!--in the South Pacific.

Toguri returned to America after the war and was convicted of treason in 1949 for being "the" Tokyo Rose. She was imprisoned for six years. In fact, it was later revealed, Toguri was loyal to the United States. She had been stranded in Japan when the war broke out and had sabotaged her own broadcasts, trying to make them parodies of propaganda. She had also smuggled food and medicine to Allied prisoners of war. In 1977, she was pardoned by President Gerald Ford.


As with Tokyo Rose, several women shared the title of Hanoi Hannah, broadcasting for the Voice of Vietnam. But one in particular, Trinh Thi Ngo, served as Hannah's main voice. Ngo was a Vietnamese who learned English as part of her well-to-do upbringing. "I wanted to join the Voice of Vietnam because it was a good opportunity to help my country," she said later. "I was not political; I was patriotic."

Americans listened to her program in part because she played rock songs like "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," which were banned on U.S. Armed Forces Radio.

Hanoi Hannah seemed to magically know where U.S. units were--and the names of U.S. dead. Though most Americans hooted at her scare tactics, they couldn't help feeling that North Vietnamese spies must be everywhere. Ironically, most of Hannah's "intelligence" reports came from publications such as the U.S. military newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

Hanoi Hannah was better than either Axis Sally or Tokyo Rose at upsetting U.S. soldiers. In a turbulent American era of war protests and political assassinations, she had more uncertainty to exploit. She played up news of race riots back home, for instance, to set blacks against whites. Mostly, though, she harped on the mixed feelings that many soldiers had about fighting in Vietnam, as in a 1967 broadcast:

How are you, GI Joe? It seems to me that most of you are poorly informed about the going of the war, to say nothing about a correct explanation of your presence over here. Nothing is more confusing than to be ordered into a war to die or to be maimed for life without the faintest idea of what's going on.

Ngo continued to work in broadcasting in Vietnam after the war, the only one of these three women who spoke for the winning side.

FOCUS: Enemy Radio Personalities Beam Propaganda to American Soldiers


To help students understand how Germany, Japan, and Vietnam used female radio personalities to try to demoralize American troops--and why, at least in the case of the German and Japanese broadcasts, the strategy didn't work.

Discussion Questions:

* Do you think the punishments meted out to Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally were just?

* Why do you think Japanese authorities did not catch on to the fact that Iva Toguri was broadcasting parodies of propaganda?


Critical Thinking/Broadcast Goals: Discuss the broadcasters' goal of demoralizing U.S. troops. What was the likelihood that the broadcasts would cause troops to stop fighting? Was the strategy more subtle? How might forcing soldiers to think about their wives and girlfriends or getting wounded affect their combat efficiency?

Critical Thinking/Censorship: Note that U.S. troops listened to Hanoi Hannah because she played controversial songs banned by Armed Forces Radio. Remind students that U.S. policy in Vietnam was to nurture democracy in the South and prevent the North Vietnamese Communists from seizing power there. Is the goal of promoting democracy compatible with radio censorship?

Radio Writing: Discuss Hanoi Hannah's effort to set whites against blacks. Ask students to create the nickname of a female U.S. radio personality whose job would be to counter Hanoi Hannah's effort to undermine relations between black and white soldiers. Next, have students write 50-word messages that their radio personality might broadcast to promote good relations between black and white soldiers.

Web Watch: For facts on Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally, see and /articles/1195_text.htm. For a postwar interview with Hanoi Hannah, see _docs/Texts/Scholarly/North_Hanoi _Hannah_01.html.
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Article Details
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Author:Price, Sean
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 10, 2001
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