Thursday, January 19, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 19

On this day in 1807, Confederate General Robert E. Lee was born in Virginia.  Lee was admired for his brilliant leadership on the battlefield during the Civil War.  He holds a place in history as one of the greatest military leaders for consistently defeating larger Union armies.

Sharing a birthday with General Lee is one of America’s most legendary poets and authors, Edgar Allen Poe, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts two years after Lee, in 1809.  Poe is best known for his dark works such as “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and his poem, “The Raven.”

And in 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned Iva Toguri, a Japanese-American woman and American citizen also known as Tokyo Rose.  In July, 1941, Toguri left her hometown of Los Angeles to visit Japan to care for a sick aunt.  She was in Japan during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and she decided to stay for the duration of the war. 

In August 1943, she got a job working for Radio Tokyo and in November, she began broadcasting as “Orphan Ann” on a radio program referred to as “Zero Hour” .  Under pressure from the Japanese government, Toguri was forced to participate in propaganda broadcast transmissions of psychological warfare against U.S. troops in Japan intended to lower their morale.  While the term Tokyo Rose applied to about 12 English-speaking women who participated in the taunting broadcasts, Toguri became the most famous after the war ended, as the FBI and Army Counterintelligence Corps began extensive reviews of her broadcasts.

Following much accusation and false testimony against Toguri,  she was indicted in September of 1948 and escorted back to the U.S. for trial.  She was found guilty of treason and sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.  In 1976, after a journalist named Ron Yates discovered that her accusers had committed perjury, her name was cleared, prompting President Ford to pardon her.

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