Seeking Understanding


Some people in life go unappreciated. Sometimes it’s because of perceptions we make without knowing the person or all the facts. Have you ever sat in a meeting when someone was more assertive than you felt comfortable? Have you ever been around someone and couldn’t stand the attitude they presented? Have you ever been around people that you thought were insensitive to the needs of others or seemed to be overly biased toward one group or individual to others?

World War II has numerous stories of people in extraordinary circumstances. Some are the stories we hear and read about many times; the Doolittle Raid; stories of Pearl Harbor; lessons of bravery at Iwo Jima; Ann Frank; Jake DeShazer, Audie Murphy, and numerous prisoners of war stories. 

One story that many don’t understand is about a young girl named Iva. Iva was a Japanese American visiting relatives in Tokyo on December 7, 1941. Abandoned by the U.S. because of the inability to get people out of Japan after the war started, Iva ended up spending the remainder of the war in Japan. While there, she was a constant help to American soldiers who became prisoners. She would visit the cells daily with food, medicine, and the soldiers’ personal needs. In April 1942, when the Doolittle raid took place over Tokyo, it is said she stood in the streets cheering the American flyers as they bombed the city. Again she cheered as the B-29s appeared over Tokyo in the spring of 1945. Those that knew her personally spoke of how nice of a person she was to everyone.

But she did one thing that Americans misunderstood for years. After the war, she was brought back to the states and tried for treason and sent to prison, humiliated and hated by thousands, all be it unjustly, for people did not know the whole story. It was not until President Ford gave her a full presidential pardon that the truth came out.

So, what did she do that needed to be understood? What could young sweet Iva Ikuko Toguri have done to deserve such harsh treatment? Maybe telling you a name you may recognize would help. On the radio, she was known as “Orphan Ann,” but to many a soldier, she was known as “Tokyo Rose,” although she never referred to herself by that name.  If you are like me, you grew up with a negative attitude toward “Tokyo Rose,” but if we had known the whole story, our impressions might have been different. You see, “The Zero Hour” was a program scripted by prisoners of war, yet she could help sabotage the broadcasts without ever giving up any allied secrets.  While on air, she sounded like a traitor. Off air, she was very pro-American, even in public.

She died in 2006 at the age of 90. The FBI case history states, “As far as its propaganda value, Army analysis suggested that the program had no negative effect on troop morale and might even have raised it a bit.” On January 15, 2006, the “World War II Veterans Committee” awarded Toguri its annual Edward J. Herlihy Citizenship Award, citing “her indomitable spirit, love of country, and the example of courage she has given her fellow Americans.” The New York Times, in her obituary, noted, “The broadcasts did nothing to dim American morale. The servicemen enjoyed the recordings of American popular music, and the United States Navy bestowed a satirical citation on Tokyo Rose at the war’s end for her entertainment value.

A poor young woman’s life was ruined because of “twisting what was said” and “assuming things that weren’t true.” This very easily happens today.

As Christians, we should always learn to be careful what we assume about others both in and outside our church community. Some people come across as angry when they are just passionate, while others come across as not caring when their personality is actually reserved. When someone asks a question, it doesn’t mean they are against something, but in many cases, it’s just that they need more explanation, a listening ear, or a caring heart. When someone seems “pushy,” it doesn’t necessarily mean they have an agenda. Only when we truly get to know each other can we understand one another’s feelings and passions.

In Acts, the Apostles refuse to accept Paul because they don’t understand how he’s changed. Later Paul and Barnabas have a significant misunderstanding over Mark and part ways. Even the most outstanding leaders struggle with conflict and failure to see the other’s viewpoint. But what makes them great is that they are willing to continue to be open to each other because of their love for the Lord.

Christians should learn to look at themselves and others with eyes of understanding and love, not suspicion. When we take time to understand one another, we become enriched with the knowledge to make the world a better place.

Danny Minton is a former Elder and minister at Southern Hills Church of ChristR

One comment

  • What an awful position that young girl was in! I am so sorry for her suffering. Thank you for sharing this story (which I had not heard before).


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