This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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Some Things Never Change
by Jack French © 2016
(From Radio Recall, December, 2016)
Published reports on the death of Trinh Thi Ngo appearing in mainstream media the first week of October 2016 usually termed her "Hanoi Hannah." This Vietnamese lady died September 30, 2016 at the age of 87. She was one of several North Vietnamese broadcasters who used charm and guile to push Communist propaganda on the air to American service personnel.
Throughout the 1960's Ngo played American music on her radio show to attract U.S. listeners and then preached defeat to them. "Defect, G.I., it is a very good thing to leave a sinking ship." She aired statements from anti-war activist J_ane Fonda and praised sons of American families who had avoided military service. After playing a sad song, she would read the names of American casualties.
How much success she had with her radio propaganda in hurting U.S. morale is still debated. Senator John McCain said in 2006 that he heard her almost every day while he was in a North Vietnamese prison and called her a "marvelous entertainer." Many accounts termed her voice as silky and sexy but the Chicago Daily News in 1967 said she sounded more like a nagging wife than the sultry female she tried to be.
Of course, Ngo was the more modern equivalent of the lady propagandists of World War II, which included Axis Sally, Tokyo Rose, and Rita Zucca, who broadcast for the Fascist Italian military. Their programs, aimed at the advancing American troops, were quite similar: play U.S. songs and talk of defeat and hopelessness.
Axis Sally, an American who broadcast from Nazi studios, was Mildred Gillars; she was tried for treason, convicted in 1948, and was in federal prison until 1961. Zucca, although an American by birth, had renounced her U.S. citizenship in 1941 and thus escaped prosecution.
Tokyo Rose was the nickname given to the host of Zero Hour, a English language program of the Imperial Japanese Army. Several English-speaking women voiced Tokyo Rose including Ruth Hayakawa, Mieko Furuya, Mary Ishii and Iva Toguri d'Aquino. The latter was one of the few performers who was an American citizen and was eventually also brought to trial and convicted, despite her clear innocence. In Japan, she had risked her life smuggling food to American prisoners of war. She refused to give up her native American citizenship, despite all the pressures of the Japanese military. Working in concert with the Allied officers on Zero Hour, she never said anything to hurt U.S. morale.
After her conviction she suffered without complaint in federal prison until 1956 when she returned to her family in Chicago. Eventually the truth came out; the facts of the case were aired on Sixty Minutes in 1976 and a year later, President Gerald Ford granted her a full pardon. (For the full story, read 'Tokyo Rose" in the June 2006 issue of RADIO RECALL on our website.)