The reemergence of Jane Fonda is causing a bit of angst, especially among some of the 2.4 million Americans who served in Vietnam. The liberal actress is selling a biographical book and stars in an upcoming movie with Jennifer Lopez. CNN has given Ms. Fonda almost as much air time as the Pope, and there is anger in the air.
In July 1972, Jane Fonda arrived in Hanoi and began a two-week tour that was used as propaganda by the North Vietnamese. Fonda made ten radio broadcasts denouncing some Americans as “war criminals.” Of course, no North Vietnamese or Viet Cong were cited as such by her.
She also tried to convince some American POW’s to deny they had been tortured. Captured airman and present Senator John McCain has called her actions “reprehensible.”
Facing an unpopular war, the Nixon administration declined to prosecute Ms. Fonda, who went on to achieve great wealth and fame in the movies and by selling exercise videos to women. She remains a liberal icon.
In July 1941, Iva Toguri arrived in Tokyo from Los Angeles. An American citizen, she wanted to study medicine in Japan where she had family. When war broke out with America five months later, Iva voluntarily stayed in Japan and soon began a new job: broadcasting propaganda on Japanese radio.
She was called “Tokyo Rose,” and she was some piece of work. Most of her vile words were aimed at American military personnel in the Pacific. A 1944 broadcast went this way: “Hello, boneheads. This is your favorite enemy. How are all you orphans of the Pacific? Are you enjoying yourselves while your wives and sweethearts are running around with 4F’s in the States?”
After Japan was defeated in 1945, Iva Toguri was jailed in Tokyo, unrepentant. She even signed autographs as “Tokyo Rose.” Four years later she was convicted of treason and spent seven years in a West Virginia federal prison.
Interestingly, Toguri was pardoned by President Ford in 1977. She is believed to be still alive in Chicago.
So is there a difference between Iva Toguri and Jane Fonda? Certainly, the scale of Toguri’s crimes was much greater. Fonda gave aid and comfort to the enemy for two weeks, Toguri for nearly four years. Also, the necessity of World War II was far different from the controversial Vietnam experience.
Yet many Americans still believe Jane Fonda’s actions were treasonous, and only the politics of the time saved her. President Nixon had huge problems in Vietnam and on the homefront. To prosecute an anti-war star like Fonda would have caused a major uproar.
My take on the situation is this. Jane Fonda was and remains a naïve, easily led person who is desperate to please those who accept her. If you believe her own words, she has led a very unhappy life, and, watching her on television, I almost felt sorry for her. Even in softball interviews, the woman was strident and on edge. Her inner turmoil is clearly printed on her surgically smooth face.
That said, I understand the bitterness that many people have toward Ms. Fonda. But what goes around, comes around. Her actions did hurt brave Americans trying to survive on the brutal killing fields of Southeast Asia. Fonda says all she wanted was peace, and that’s why she did it. But, ironically, Jane, herself, has known little peace since that time. Her life has been a series of marital disasters, self-inflicted diseases and estrangement from her daughter.
So, when you think about it, Jane Fonda has served a life sentence of sorts. Compared to her, Tokyo Rose might have gotten off easily.