1928 - Alderson High School - 1968

 

 Iva D’Aquino (Tokyo Rose)
 John McCurdy  ‘06

          In the past year I have thought several times about Iva D’Aquino, probably because of the furor in the media about Martha Stewart and her incarceration in Alderson. I won’t spend much time on Miss Steward since I know she is still too fresh in my mind, and probably yours, to warrant the effort. I think it sufficient to say, for what ever it’s worth, that in my opinion, neither she or Iva D’Aquino was of sufficient import to warrant the time and money spent on their trials, convictions and subsequent prison time. Both were guilty of monumentally poor judgment and dumb behavior at times, but most of us are, especially those in Washington! 

          Iva D’Aquino was a victim, a victim of the radio and print media. In particular Walter Winchell, who, in the forties, was a very powerful radio personality who called himself a reporter! He launched a campaign to have a part in the events of 1941-1946.  Iva D’Aquino, who was an American Citizen visiting the Orient at the beginning of WW2, and who, despite her best efforts, was unable to be repatriated to the USA, was branded a traitor by Winchell. 

          After the war she had been investigated by the American Forces in Japan and found innocent of any sort of collaboration with the enemy. She was getting ready to return with her husband to the USA when she, somehow, came to the attention of Winchell. He launched an attack against her, and what he called, “her  treason’!     

Harry Truman, who I admire greatly, did a less than admirable thing, when he, caving in to the pressure of Winchell, ordered Attorney General Tom Clark, (who was the father of the much less than admired, Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who, in my opinion, was likely guilty of much more treasonable conduct than D’Aquino), to launch an investigation into the case. 

          I knew Iva D’Aquino when she was incarcerated in the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson. She worked in the prison hospital and during the 3 or 4 years that I knew her, was a lovely person to be around. She was quite and well-spoken, kind and cooperative to everyone, well-liked by staff and inmate alike! 

          I went to the Prisons Record Office and over several visits I read her file and the transcript of her trial. That was when I began to have doubts about the validity of the charges against her. The jury was very reluctant to find her guilty and only after much pressure was exerted did they find her guilty. It is interesting, that at her trial, none of the transcriptions of radio broadcast that sat so prominently on the evidence table and that were referred to so often, as ‘those records sitting there,” were ever played. The reason, admitted later, was that they did not contain even one broadcast by Iva D’Aquino! 

I was on duty the morning of her release from Prison. We thought it was a media circus at the time, but it was nothing compared to several in later years.  Compared to the Stewart craziness it was a mere blip in the history of the FRW. I think that was the first time the prison had experienced so much publicity. The media ranging from the New York Times and NBC to the Monroe Watchman and WOAY was represented Alderson’s own Duncan Johnson represented the Watchman!  

When I came to the Front Gate at 4:00AM the photographers had unscrewed the bulbs in the Gates flood-lights, and had screwed in their own lights. Shortly thereafter her brothers arrived to pick her up, two short, stout, somber men in black suits, the first time I saw “Oddjob” in the James Bond movie, I was reminded of them. Both were cooperative and mannerly, but also, obviously unaccustomed to the attention shown them. 

On this occasion, accompanied by prison staff, the brothers, in their car, were allowed to drive to the Administration Building for their reunion and their sister’s Release. In a few minutes they returned to the Front Entrance with their sister Iva and Mrs. Carter, the prisons Record Clerk, Iva and Mrs. Carter embraced and she wished them a safe journey. Iva rolled her window down and thanked me for the kindness I had shown her and said, “God Bless You, Mr. McCurdy. I said the same to her and opened the gate; the car rolled through, stopped, allowed the Media a few moments, and then, quite sedately, drove off into the approaching dawn. 

          Iva D’Aquino returned to Chicago, she never saw her husband again, the child they had wanted so much had been still-born, and she spent the rest of her days there in that City. 

          Iva Togura D’Aquino was pardoned by President Gerald Ford on his last day in office. Later, I heard that she, as an old woman, was running the oriental import store her father had started in Chicago. 

Note added in 2007:

         Iva D’Aquino died in 2007; her death got little mention in the national news. The TV commentator called her, in the final insult in a lifetime of insults, “Ava Quino! 

                    No one ever tried to return her life!

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