January 12, 1942 – Radio Tokyo English Service – News broadcasts – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
January 12, 1942 – News from Radio Tokyo. Chances are, if you were around and at home during the war years you may have missed hearing these broadcasts completely, unless you had a shortwave radio with the ability to pick up distant signals. You probably heard about them and such names as Axis Sally and Tokyo Rose would become notorious tools in the propaganda campaign waged against Allied troops.
But aside from the notable names, what were the daily English language broadcasts like? In these broadcasts, the toll on Allied forces was emphasized and the news regarding the goings-on in Washington were exaggerated, but not so outrageous that a casual listener could believe what was going on.
In this set of broadcasts, the news is about Japanese gains throughout the South Pacific as well as the growing potential over the loss of Singapore and Hong Kong. The Pan-American Conference and a roundup of the war on European fronts as viewed by Tokyo and the Nazi press.
But since Japan was a considerable distance from North America, unless you were able to pick up these broadcasts, most of these efforts were aimed at Allied troops who were busy defending outposts and bases from Japanese attack. Most propaganda broadcasts against the American troops were aimed at morale. Tokyo Rose gave sentimental broadcasts, designed to arouse homesickness. She would also taunt the troops as suckers, with the prospect of their wives and sweethearts taking up with new men while they fought. There were also broadcasts of prisoners of war speaking on the radio, to assure that they were being treated well; these were sandwiched between news reports of varying lengths, so that the entire broadcast had to be heard to be sure of hearing the prisoner.
These programs were not well designed, as they assumed that the Americans did not want to fight, underestimating the psychological effect of Pearl Harbor, and that hostility to Roosevelt’s domestic policies translated into hostility to his foreign policy. Indeed, they believed that the Pearl Harbor attack would be regarded as a defensive act, forced on them by “Roosevelt and his clique”. American forces were less wed to the notion of “decisive battle” than Japanese were, and so the opening string of victories had less impact on them than expected.
To get some idea of what these day-to-day broadcasts were about and sounded like, here are three newscasts as delivered from Radio Tokyo on January 12, 1942.