Oral History Interview with
Attorney, U.S. Treasury Dept., 1934-41; Asst. to the Attorney
General of the United States, 1937-38; Special Asst. to the Gen. Counsel,
Treasury Dept., 1941-42; Comdg. Officer, 5th Army Counter Intelligence
Corps, 1943-45; Asst. Gen. Counsel, Treasury Dept., 1946-49; Alternate
Member, President's Temp. Comm. on Employee Loyalty, 1946-47; Dep. Dir.,
Office of Contract Settlement, 1947-49; Asst. to the Special Counsel of
the President, 1949-50; Administrative Asst. to the President, 1950; and
Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission, 1950-53.
Stephen J. Spingarn
March 24, 1967 (Eighth Oral History)
March 24, 1967 (Ninth Oral History)
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Spingarn Oral History
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry
S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee
but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember
that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript
indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced
for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission
of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened April, 1972
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Spingarn Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
Stephen J. Spingarn
March 24, 1967 (Eighth Oral History)
By Jerry N. Hess
Eighth Oral History Interview with Stephen J. Spingarn, Washington,
D.C., March 24, 1967. By Jerry N. Hess, Harry S. Truman Library.
SPINGARN: First of all this is going to be in the nature of a memorandum
or letter to Dr. Brooks, Director of the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence,
Missouri. However, I would like this to be part of the Spingarn files,
too, the archival records because at least the second part of this letter
I think will be of general interest to historians.
The first part of my letter to you, Phil, is specific, and the second
part will be general. First, the specific. This is Friday morning, March
24th, 1967, and I am in my fifth day of tape recording my memories of
the Truman administration and related matters as well as more up-to-date
memories of political affairs that I have been involved in.
I am doing this at the invitation and the instigation of your Library.
I have turned over to your able oral historian, Mr. Jerry Hess, a substantial
number of papers which I have asked him to Xerox and return to me. In
addition, yesterday, I turned over to him four boxes which I would estimate
contain four or five
cubic feet of my files which I understand will be shipped out to the
Now, with respect to the stuff that is going direct to the Library; that
is, the four boxes or however many there are when they are shipped, I
have no record or inventory of what is in those. I simply shoveled files
from my White House and Federal Trade Commission periods into boxes and
I couldn't even tell you what the titles of those files are.
I would, therefore, like you to do the following: I would like a detailed
listing of each file by the name that I placed on it with some description
of what is in it and particularly a description of how much of it is printed
or mimeographed material and how much is in the form of copies of my own
letters and memoranda or letters or memoranda to me or other typewritten
documents or copies of typewritten documents.
In principle, I would like to get a Xerox copy of every typewritten document
or carbon thereof in those files sent back to me in files under the same
tabs or the same listing -- as I sent them to you. It is also
possible that I may want copies of some of the ephemeral printed or mimeographed
material which I am sending you and which I could not possibly reproduce,
there would be no way of getting it now -- I don't even know what is there
and even if I did it would be a terrible task and probably impossible
to duplicate that material, so I am asking you, in effect, first, to give
me an inventory -- a listing -- showing the name of each file as I named
it, but not merely that, giving me some idea of what is in each file;
and, second, I would like you to begin to Xerox the copy of all the typewritten
material in those files and place them in the same file covers and after
I have examined your inventory I will advise you to what extent I want
other than typewritten material Xeroxed and returned to me. If there are
any questions on this would you write me or tell Jerry Hess and let me
know so that we can have a meeting of minds.
So much for the specific. Now to the general which I think may be of
interest to some historians.
Under your direction, as I understand it, Jerry Hess has tried vigorously
to keep me confined to the
events of the Truman administration, whether actually White House events
or Federal Trade Commission or whatever, and a lot of my recording has
been on that.
On the other hand, like any other man, I am naturally somewhat more interested
in current events that I am engaged in even more than I am in reminiscing
about my past days in the Truman administration. Moreover, I think that
Mr. Truman himself, and many historians, would be interested in things
which I have discussed because all of them are political in character.
I have never engaged really in any activity that wasn't in one term or
another political, in the broadest sense of the word.
Some of my work has been to try to beef up the Democratic National Committee
in one way or another, for example. Other items that I have touched on
are an attempt to defend President Lyndon Johnson who is a good friend
of President Truman and who I see as a man rather similar to President
Truman because, as I see them both, each is a regional politician, who
started as a rather parochial local politician, and who grew to national
stature and became a great national
politician, but who did not shed, as no man really does, all of his parochialism
and who therefore encountered the distrust in some cases, and the animosity
or the contempt if you like, of some people, especially a certain ivory
tower type of intellectual who found that these parochialisms or regionalisms
grated, or who don't like Lyndon Johnson, for example, because he didn't
go to Harvard and his wife can't speak French to Andre Malraux, and who
would not have liked Lincoln for very similar reasons.
And who didn't like Harry Truman when he was President because he had
been a haberdasher, and he didn't have a Harvard education either, or
even a degree from Southwest Texas Teachers College.
It therefore seems to me that my activities on behalf of Lyndon Johnson,
my -- shall I say -- unauthorized and self-starting activities on behalf
of Lyndon Johnson and his administration might be of interest to Mr. Truman
and to historians who are interested in the Truman administration, because
there is a very real link, both personal, because there is a deep friendship
between the two men and in character and style between the two men.
The main difference between them, as I see it, is that Lyndon Johnson,
by nature, is a very hard-driving type of man, who drives himself hard
and drives people under him. And while Mr. Truman was a hard worker, he
was not that driving kind of man. He worked hard himself, but he did it
in what seemed to be a sort of relaxed way. He got up early in the morning,
he did his homework, he took papers back at night and read them, but as
I have pointed out, he never really beat his staff over the ears as Lyndon
Johnson is reported to do, and as Winston Churchill was reported to do,
and as Dwight Eisenhower from time to time was reported to do, and as
many other top executives have done. As I have said before it has been
my experience that the hard-driving executive, is usually difficult with
his staff from time to time -- he's hard on himself and he's hard on them.
I remember, for example, I served eleven years in the Treasury, from
'34 to '49 with the exception of four war years, during most of which
I was overseas in the Army, and eight of those eleven years were under
Henry Morgenthau who died last month. I wrote a letter
to the New York Times at that time which appeared in the New
York Times on February 18th, 1967.
And I said that I had great satisfaction remembering my years in the
Treasury under Henry Morgenthau. I said that he was a hard-driving man.
He drove himself hard and he drove his staff hard. He was not an easy
man to work for, and I said he probably wasn't always right in all of
his decisions and I don't know any man who is. But looking back on that
period from the vantage point of a generation, almost, it seemed to me
that I felt then and I still feel now, that the men who worked in the
Treasury in those days (and they worked nights and weekends, too, a lot),
felt that they were making some contribution to the freedom and security
and welfare of their country, and the free world for that matter, and
that gives a man a good deal of psychic income. I said that might be Henry
Morgenthau's best memorial and let us not say that this memorial perished
I got two letters as a result of that; one was from a fearless and courageous
patriot who, however, refrained from signing his name. Two days later
on the 20th, I received a letter from him, he had evidently
written it -- the 20th was a Monday -- he had evidently written it the
same day my letter appeared in the New York Times, and he said
that Henry Morgenthau was a dirty Jew Communist, a traitor to his country,
worse than Benedict Arnold, and obviously I was cut out of the same cloth,
or words to that effect. It made my day. I could see this poor sick man
sitting in his garret somewhere, thinking of ugly, anonymous letters he
could write to people who, unlike him, were not afraid to sign their names
to documents, in which they expressed their views.
I sent a copy of that letter to Bob Morgenthau, Secretary Morgenthau's
son, who is United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York
and who was the unsuccessful candidate for governor of New York back in
1962 on the Democratic side, and Bob wrote me back a few days ago saying
he had enjoyed my letter and appreciated it in the New York Times
and said he also enjoyed my "fan" letter -- the "fan" letter I sent him
-- he felt the same way about it I did. We feel sorry for this poor fellow,
this patriot, this fearless, courageous, anonymous, faceless patriot.
Among the things that have interested me, as I say, has been the Democratic
National Committee, and within the last month I succeeded in persuading
them to launch, and they are going to do it they tell me within the next
two or three months, a program which I call KOED to attempt to harness
the energies and expertise of the activist Democratic professors on the
2,000 campuses of the United States, not just the prestige colleges, to
the Democratic Party, with a home base in the committee run by a hard-hitting,
extroverted, politically savvy political scientist, with actual experience
in politics, the purpose being to run this around the year and not just
in campaigns, and to give those who wish to an opportunity to work for
our officeholders at every level, members of Congress and at lower levels,
our candidates, our party organizations at all levels, write speeches,
fact sheets, position papers, do political intelligence, political market
research, surveys on politics, on issues, make their own speeches to local
groups that are interested, and many other things. The name KOED
is an acronym for Knock On Every Door, a rather
mainly for promotional purposes.
Mr. Truman expressed favorable sentiments about this program way back
in 1956 when I first originated it. I have a letter from him which I referred
to on that and, so did Mrs. Roosevelt at that time. I've put in the Archives
a letter of January '57 from her and she wrote several letters to Paul
Butler, who was then the chairman of the Democratic National Committee
in support of KOED, and Speaker John McCormack has written innumerable
letters over the years and has been a major factor in getting this program
At my request, only last month in a long telephone conversation I had
with him, he called John Criswell who is the staff man who is really running
the Democratic National Committee to urge him to put this KOED program
So did many others call or write Criswell at my request. Senator Claiborne
Pell, Dean Stephen Bailey of the Maxwell Graduate School of Public Affairs
at Syracuse, Evron Kirkpatrick the executive director of the American
Political Science Association, James MacGregor Burns of Williams College,
the Roosevelt and
Kennedy biographer, and many other professional politicians, as well
as these hard-boiled eggheads, as I call them, not the ivory tower type
but the pragmatic type.
Well, it would seem to me that program ties in with Mr. Truman and it
should be of interest. He once spoke well of it and I am sure he would
now if I were to submit it to him again, but it didn't need it this time.
Similarly I have talked about my activities in attempting to get launched
an organization to counteract the lunacies of the extreme right and left.
Again, this was a field that Mr. Truman was very much interested in and
I don't see why bringing that up to date is not strictly within the purview
of the Truman Library. It is a continuation of his sort of thing, I mean,
actually, such as his proposal for the Nimitz commission which aborted
because Senator Pat McCarran, the then chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee would not give the lawyer members of that commission the exemption
from conflict of interest laws that they needed to take on this thankless,
unpaid job. But the Nimitz commission
was exactly in the same context -- I mean, it wasn't the same operation,
but it was in the same context. I am sure that Mr. Truman would think
well of the new Institute for American Democracy which I have talked about.
By the way, I want to report a victory yesterday in a matter in which
I have already tape recorded the story, and it was in the paper this morning.
I have told this tape that I am speaking to now about the Carl Siler case
here in Washington. Briefly it involved a Negro police private who while
off duty last September 15th on a date with his girl was arrested and
beaten up -- in a ruckus arising out of a minor traffic violation -- by
two white police officers. And then to add insult to injury after being
cleared by the courts of anything but a $5 fine for driving without lights,
the police department brought dismissal charges against him and after
a six day hearing recommended his dismissal on nine counts.
A hearing on an appeal from that decision to the three District of Columbia
Commissioners was held on February 10th, and yesterday the Commissioners,
effect, reversed the police trial board. They threw out seven of the
charges; they restored Siler to full duty with back pay to September 15th
-- he was suspended without pay then -- and they only sustained two minor
charges which involved a fine of $75 for him, so in any fair examination
of the case, it was a tremendous victory for Carl Siler and the people
who supported him.
And I want to say this, I don't pretend that my part was determinative
at all. Aside from Carl Siler, who displayed both courage and good judgment
in the way he handled himself after this episode, the two people who deserve
the most credit are Mrs. Willie Hardy, who was his sponsor you might say
and the sparkplug of the whole operation, and who is a remarkable woman
-- I've talked about her. But one thing I failed to mention -- last fall,
I think it was October -- Scotty Lanahan who is the daughter of F. Scott
Fitzgerald and who was my colleague on the Reeves-Lanahan slate in the
Democratic primary in 1964 and who now runs an excellent column in the
women's section of the Washington Post about three times a week,
it's too good for the women's section. I would like to
see it get out in the broad pampas of the general news section.
In any event, she had a column on Willie Hardy, a whole column, and she
called Willie Hardy one of the most important people in this city, and
I wrote Scotty congratulating her on the fine column and saying that I
fully agreed with her -- Willie Hardy is that kind of a person.
And the other person who deserves the main credit is John Karr, a Washington
lawyer and a very able one who handled the main part of the legal case
for Carl Siler and who did an effective job.
And, by the way, I called Carl Siler at 7:20 a. m. this morning, woke
him up to congratulate him, and I said, "Carl, for whatever it's worth,
I'm going to give you a piece of advice which you may have already thought
of, but think it over anyway." I said, "If I were you, when I go back
to the police department, as you are going to do, I wouldn't go back with
a chip on my shoulder, I wouldn't blame you for feeling bitter about what's
happened to you, but don't act that way. Go back with the spirit that
that's water over the dam,
it's behind me, I'm here and I'm going to do my best to be a good police
officer from this day forward if people will let me. I think you will
be happier, it would be better for you, it would be better for all concerned."
He indicated that that made sense to him and since he is a sensible fellow,
I am pretty sure that that is the way he will behave himself. And, if
people will let him, on the other side, I am sure he will be a good, competent,
efficient and effective police officer.
All I am trying to say to you, Phil Brooks, and to anyone else who hears
or reads this, is that I would think that since history is a stream, not
a series of isolated compartments, that what has happened to Mr. Truman
since 1953 is of interest to the Truman Library, what has happened to
the men who served him, and the country, particularly where it deals with
public affairs, and all of my activities have been dealing with public
affairs, though admittedly I have been dealing with them on a self-priming
basis as a Democratic politician without portfolio, and perhaps spinning
my wheels a lot, but as an enthusiastic citizen, and not loafing. I get
up between four and
six o'clock every morning seven days a week, almost without exception.
I got up at 4:30 this morning -- that's how I find time to do all these
tape recordings, because I do my other chores before I come over here
at ten o'clock and I work right through usually until six or seven o'clock
in the evening when I go out and have two or three drinks and relax, and
I find that I need only four or five hours of sleep and I wake up refreshed.
Some people say that I am spinning my wheels, and perhaps that is true.
One man said to me a few months ago, "You know, I think you are the last
of the gadflies," and possibly that is true too. But my theory of the
case is this: That there is a certain value in having an outsider with
some experience in Government but without any commitments or investments
in existing people or policies other than his own instincts and judgment,
commenting on how things are running, because the people inside are sometimes
too close to the woods to see the forest. All they can see are the trees
and the bark on them. I try never to make merely critical remarks, I try
always to present
constructive alternatives of how I think things ought to be done. I certainly
don't claim I'm always right, but I don't think I'm always wrong either.
So with that somewhat prolix statement of my view, I will terminate this
letter to you, Phil, and go on to other matters.
HESS: What would you like to take up first, this morning, Sir?
SPINGARN: I'm now going to talk about Oscar Cox., who died in early October,
1966. Oscar Cox was a Treasury lawyer when I first knew him in the middle
thirties. He was assistant to the General Counsel of the Treasury who
was Herman Oliphant, a brilliant and very able law professor who died
in early '39. Oscar Cox was brilliant, imaginative, and an able lawyer.
And he accomplished many worthwhile things. I think that in some ways,
although no one can make that judgment for someone else, it's unfortunate
that he left Government in '45 to go into private practice where he was
very successful but never returned to Government. I think the Government
could have used his many talents.
But in any event, when Oscar died the Washington
Post of October 6, 1966 on page B-4 had a lengthy obituary, and
the headline was OSCAR S. COX DIES AT SIXTY: DRAFTED LEND-LEASE ACT. And
the New York Times of the same day in the story describing his
Mr. Cox was the author of the Lend-Lease Act approved before the
entry of the United States into World War II.
And it proceeds to quote Winston Churchill and others in this matter.
Mr. Cox"s lend-lease work was mentioned by Sir Winston in his book,
The Second World War:
'The idea had originated in the Treasury Department,' the former
British Prime Minister wrote. 'The departmental lawyers, especially
Oscar S. Cox of Maine had been stirred by Secretary Henry Morgenthau.
It appeared that by a statute of 1892 the Secretary for War "when
in his discretion it will be for the public good," could lease Army
property if not required for public use for a period of not longer
than five years.'
That's the end of the Churchill quote.
Mr. Cox's discovery of this statute according to a New York Times
editorial in 1945 praising his service, permitted the United States
to lease munitions of war to other countries and was the basis of
the Lend-Lease Act.
And in an editorial of October 7, the Washington Post
(on Oscar Cox), said:
The lend-lease concept, the idea of making American industrial might
available to the allies in the period prior to direct American involvement
in World War II, originated in Oscar Cox's resourceful mind, and the
drafting of the Lend-Lease Act in which he played a principal role
exemplified his sure handed legal craftsmanship.
Now, here is an interesting historical myth: (A) Oscar Cox did not draft
the Lend-Lease bill; (B) the concept did not originate in his fertile
mind, although it was a fertile and imaginative mind; (C) the drafting
of the Lend-Lease bill was a routine legal chore which took about two
hours one evening at the end of December, 1940, or early January, 1941.
The 1892 statute had nothing to do with it, and yet this myth has arisen.
There was no credit really in writing this thing, because the bill had
already been written about seven or eight months before and passed by
Congress in the form of a bill to provide help to the Latin American republics,
and that was written, presumably, by War Department and Navy Department
lawyers, unknown to me. And they may have borrowed that from somewhere
But my understanding of the situation, and I speak
with firsthand assurance, because I was there, is that the lend-lease
concept originated really in Franklin Roosevelt's fertile mind, and the
putting of this concept into legislative phraseology it's true was done
at the Treasury. It was done one night around the turn of the year, from
'40 to '41, I think, perhaps right after the first of January. And the
two lawyers who did it, did it in two hours or so, as soon as they found
the earlier statute of 1940 that I spoke of, the Latin American statute;
they knew their work was done for them. It was simply a matter of taking
that out and making it applicable to this new situation, and blowing out
whatever restrictions were in that statute so that you had more flexibility
and more power.
It never occurred to them that they had done an historic task, and in
fact, they hadn't because, as I say, the work had been done by other lawyers
in the War Department or the Navy Department or both, and very likely
they had plagiarized earlier lawyers, because no one ever knows. I have
been a legislative lawyer most of my government career, and you're always
looking for someone to plagiarize from.
And as for the 1892 statute, I've had that looked up and that had nothing
whatever to do with the case, although the mythology has grown. And the
funny thing is, Oscar Cox has many great achievements to his name, but
he'll go down probably in history as the man who wrote the Lend-Lease
Act, and he didn't do it. After the bill was drafted that night only relatively
minor changes were made in it, and then it was taken up to the Hill and
put through. I am going to lend the Library, One: a Photostat of the obituaries
of Oscar Cox, which give the record of what history now is saying happened:
a memorandum of October 29, 1966, which I wrote, and which is headed:
"Question: Who wrote the Lend-Lease Act of 1941? Answer: It was not Oscar
S. Cox," which discusses that situation.
And a memorandum of November 2, 1966, written by Admiral Ernest R. Feidler,
who is now the top man at the national Gallery of Art, he's the secretary-treasurer
and general counsel, that is the equivalent of the secretary of the Smithsonian,
titulary the top man, although John Walker, the Director of the gallery,
is the man who you usually see in the newspapers.
Ernie Feidler, like myself, was a young lawyer in the Treasury in 1940
and '41, and he later became a captain in the Coast Guard and then a reserve
rear admiral, and the only rear admiral in the Coast Guard Reserve. And.
he deals with the question as to the relationship of that famous 1892
statute which Oscar is supposed to have discovered and used as the basis,
and I think, disposes of that. And I have here also a press release of
January 10, 1941, 12 noon. There's no heading as to who issued the press
release. It's for immediate release. It may have been the White House,
I'm not sure. It says:
The attached bill giving effect to President Roosevelt's lend-lease
proposals will be introduced simultaneously when Congress meets at
noon today by Senator Barkley and Representative McCormack., the two
And it then describes what the bill does and it attaches a copy of the
bill. And it states, I read in the third paragraph on page one:
It follows the precedent established by Congress last June [that
is, June 1940] when the President was empowered to authorize the Secretaries
of War and Navy to manufacture, purchase and repair war materials
for the American Republics. Under the present bill, this country is
furnish war materials of every kind to any country whose defense
the President considers to be vital to the defense of the United States.
You see, it pins the precedent on the 1940 act that I referred to. There's
no reference to any 1892 statute, nor should there have been. I am going
to lend you these documents which I would like Xeroxed and returned to
me without fail.
HESS: All right, Xeroxed and returned.
SPINGARN: Right. And I might note that if any historians are interested
in further discussion of this matter, and further investigation, I would
be glad to talk to them and give investigative leads. It seems to me that
this might make rather an interesting article for a historical journal,
since the history books all say, or most of them say, that Oscar Cox drafted
the Lend-Lease bill. So much for that.
First of all I'm going to start off with a general statement about this
whole business of tape recording oral history, on the basis of my experience
of doing this over the last five days.
Actually, in order to do a real job, the man who is doing the talking
needs to do a lot of homework.
I have done some, but I haven't done nearly enough. It would take at
least as much time, and I think more, probably double the amount of time
that he spends actually talking to get ready for the talking, to examine
his notes and files and papers, to arrange them in an orderly and systematic
fashion, and to make notes to himself on the way in which he's going to
develop each subject, the main points he's going to talk about. If he
doesn't do that, and frankly, I haven't had the time to do that, just
to scratch the surface, there's obviously going to be a good deal of digression
and wandering and rambling.
And moreover, he's going to miss important things and hit minor things
and so forth and so on. I don't know what the experience of you, Mr. Hess,
has been, with other people you've talked to, but have you had the feeling
that they've done a lot of homework before they went to the tape recorder;
ordinarily, I would suppose not, I haven't. And I would suppose that they
are too busy to do that, that they approach it fairly cold.
HESS: This is the general situation.
SPINGARN: Yes, that they have really done very little digging in their
files before they meet that tape recorder. And so they're talking largely
from memory. I have done some, but I admit I haven't done nearly enough,
and the more I talk the more I realize that you have to do your homework
on a thing like this. Otherwise, the historical tape recording becomes
less valuable than it would be with a man who spent several days going
over and arranging his papers and organizing what he's going to say. But
you can't expect busy men to do that for you. You're lucky if you can
get them to talk to the tape, much less do all the preliminary work.
HESS: That's very true.
SPINGARN: Well, I think this is something that historians who examine
these oral tapes should understand. They're interesting, they throw insight,
I think, on things that probably don't go into the papers, but .that they
should always be checked against the records in the files because men's
memories years later are not as good as contemporary records.
I did a little homework this morning, not much,
because I have just done a very superficial skimming of a file I have,
much of it marked "secret and confidential," on "Internal Security in
the Truman Administration," espionage and communism and things like that.
Throughout my Government career I was involved in loyalty and security
As far back as 1939, I was the legal member of a three-man Treasury Un-American
Activities Committee, which was then chairmanned by Martin Dies of Texas,
who I don't think will rank in history as one of the greater members of
Congress, had found, one way or another, lists of persons who supposedly
belonged to Communist front organizations. As I recall, there were two
or three thousand names.
It later turned out, if my memory serves me right, that these lists were,
in some cases, mailing lists, and in other cases, they were the names
of people who might have contributed two dollars; they represented in
many cases, the most peripheral, or even no connection with the organization,
because a man is not responsible for the mailing lists he's
on. I get mail from some very subversive organizations, including far
rightwing outfits and far leftwing outfits and far middle wing outfits.
I enjoy getting all kinds of mail. I don't mind getting anybody's mail
no matter how subversive he is. I would be glad to read anything that
George Lincoln Rockwell wants to send me, and as a matter of fact, I have
bought material of the John Birch Society, because if there's one thing
they teach an intelligence officer, it's know your enemy and the only
way to do it is to see what he's doing and to read his stuff.
Well, in early 1942, just before the war, I was responsible for the Treasury
firing a man who had been the chairman, and head man of a Communist front
organization, but who disclaimed any membership or Communist sympathy.
It was a rather interesting case because this gentleman was a friend of
Eleanor Roosevelt's, and on one occasion when he was called before the
House Un-American Activities Committee and she went with him and publicly
showed her support for him.
Mrs. Roosevelt was a wonderful woman, but in those days (she became tougher
in these matters later), but in those days she was a little gullible about
matters. She liked young people and she was sympathetic to their tales
of woe. I can recall when she invited the American Youth Congress, I believe
it was, over to the White House, in 1940 or '41, and this was during the
period of the non aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet
Union, and the Communist Party line at that time was that this was an
imperialistic war and that they were against the war and we should stay
out of it and we shouldn't help the British and all that. So when President
Roosevelt made a speech urging aid to the Western allies, they hissed
him, they booed him and hissed him, Mrs. Roosevelt's own guests. It was
in all the newspapers at the time. It was rather an ironical situation.
Well, the gentleman I'm referring to, had been hired by the Treasury
subject to a favorable investigation, and of course he was on the payroll.
We had to do that in those days, the pressure was so great to get things
moving, and when the investigation came in, it revealed that he had been
the chairman for several years of this front organization. He denied that
he was a Communist, or had any sympathies.
I was asked to investigate the matter and make a recommendation and I
did, and talked to a lot of people and looked up his records and eventually
recommended that he be dismissed. But there was a difference of opinion.
I remember my good friend, Herbert Gaston, who was Assistant Secretary
of the Treasury, and who was the top man on internal security and loyalty
matters, felt differently. He's now dead, and I admire Herbert Gaston,
but I thought he was wrong on that. But anyway, the man involved was dismissed.
And years later, after the war, I read Elizabeth Bentley's book and she
said that this fellow inducted her into the Communist Party at Columbia
back in the early thirties, that he was the fellow who signed her card.
And he also was dismissed in the early fifties as a Communist by some
local school system in an adjoining state. And so I suspect that we were
not too far wrong when we dropped him back in 1940 or '41.
I interrogated him myself at the time and he was a likeable fellow. Whenever
you talk to a man who is
pleasant and likeable you must try not to feel too sympathetic for him,
but the fact remains, I thought that he didn't belong with us and we fired
During the war, I was a counterespionage officer; I served three years
overseas, I was in the invasion of North Africa on November 8, 1942, I
was in the invasion of Italy, September '43, I was on the Salerno and
Anzio beachheads and at Cassino and so forth. The three years I was overseas
I was a counterintelligence corps officer, and for two of those years
I commanded the Fifth Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC), from the
end of the North African campaign, throughout the Italian campaign, July
'43 to July '45.
And during that period Fifth Army caught 525, approximately, German spies
and saboteurs, Abwehr and SD agents, and we interned perhaps 2000 people
as security risks, Nazi collaborators, ardent fascists and so forth. And
we always modestly said that we were the greatest combat counterintelligence
outfit in the history of warfare, which might have been a slight exaggeration,
but we did a pretty good job, I think.
And we also always said that in two years we had caught more spies than
the FBI had in its entire forty years, or whatever was its history at
that point. I think that was true.
Of course, the pickings were better. The last two hundred days of the
war we caught 300 spies, if my memory serves me right. They were coming
through the lines, they were dropping in by parachute, they were coming
in by boat, they were stay-behind agents -- we were going crazy.
But higher headquarters estimated that we were catching about eighty-five
percent of the agents that were coming in, which was considered a very
high percentage, an excellent batting average.
And I remember at the end of the war, we picked up a German intelligence
officer, a warrant officer I think he was, who had worked in one of the
Abwehr truppes, which was a small spy organization, which trained or directed
agents against us from the other side. And he said they had a commanding
officer of this little intelligence espionage unit, called, I think, Lieutenant
Trink, or something like that. And
Lieutenant Trink was very dramatic. He had evidently read E. Phillips
Oppenheim and all those spy stories and he liked to dramatize things.
He used to go through wonderful secret ceremonies in which he clothed
himself in knightly or regal robes and it was all dark and they took oaths
in blood and things like that, with skulls and candles and all sorts of
drama. Sometimes, he used to give his spies harmless injections and tell
them that this was deadly poison and unless they returned within thirty
days for the antidote they would die. And most of all he used to brag
to his men about the exploits of Abwehr Truppe, let us say 190 or 150,
I think it was, I'm not sure of the number. He used to say that the exploits
of this remarkable little espionage outfit were going back all the way
to the Fuhrer in Germany in Berlin, and everybody was very proud of them,
they were doing such a great, terrific job.
But late in the war, toward the end, he got drunk one night with the
man who we had caught at the end and he started crying and sobbing, our
man told us. And he sobbed out that for six months he had been
sending spies across against those verdammt Amerikanisch
and that not one goddamned spy had come back. That was the real story,
you see. He really sobbed his heart out, and the truth.
Then there was the story of Carla Costa. She was the best woman agent
the Germans had in Italy. She had conducted several successful espionage
missions coming across and going back, and a month before we caught her,
she had personally been received by Mussolini at Lake Garda, at his headquarters
there. He had given her a forty minute audience, private. He had given
her a picture of himself and told her, "Young woman, if all Italian women
were like you, we'd win this damnable war." This was September '44 and
by this time it was obvious that they weren't going to win. But she was
very brave, and a dedicated Fascist. A child of fascism, she believed
implicitly in it.
She told me once, this is the way she talked, "When you lead me before
that firing squad I hope you will look deep into my eyes and see if one
of you representatives of the decadent democracies could die as bravely
for your country as I will die for mine." Well, you couldn't help admiring
a young woman like that.
She had a teammate named Mario Martinelli. We caught him first, and he
gave us information that helped us catch her, and then of course he identified
her. But she refused to identify him; she pretended that she'd never seen
him before. But he told us that she had an identification handkerchief
on her. This was a handkerchief device that the Germans used for their
spies coming back across the line, so that they could identify themselves
to the German troops they met. The point was that when you heated it for
twenty or thirty minutes over a candle, writing in German came out, and
in her case the handkerchief read something like the German words: "Angehöriger
der Armee. Luftflotte zu leiten." "Member of the Army. Take to Air Force
Headquarters." She worked for an Air Force espionage group.
So, obviously, when we found that on her, that was the clincher. But
she still refused to talk. Oh, she'd tell us what we already knew. She
admitted she was a spy by this time, but she wouldn't give any details
about her work or other people and that's what we wanted. We spent five
days interrogating that
young lady, night and day, in teams. I brought in Major Faccio who was
commanding officer of the Fifth Army CS. That was the Italian counterespionage
outfit that worked under me, under my operational direction. Faccio was
a professional, a lifelong counterespionage officer. He didn't care whether
he was catching Americans or British or Germans. It was all in the game.
I liked him. He was a competent, hard-working guy, and very, very loyal
to us. He may have been equally loyal to the Germans when he worked for
them, but there was no question about it, he was with us at this time.
He told me how he had caught a British spy in Sardenia, and he had done
it because in the dark he smelled the aroma of a foreign cigarette, and
he knew that wasn't Italian, and he followed his nose to that cigarette
and it was a British spy.
These are the little things that give men away, of course. The Germans
were supposed to be great espionage people, but we found that their own
methodicalness betrayed them. For one thing, that handkerchief trick.
After you caught one handkerchief, you're naturally
going to test every handkerchief you've found on a suspect. And we caught
twenty or twenty-five people with handkerchiefs. They kept using it, you
see, after it was blown.
Then there was the question of outfitting their spies. Some of them dropped
from planes, and some came in by boat, or submarine, but most came through
the lines. And they came through the relatively lightly defended area
where most of the fighting was not taking place, in the western
part of our zone. Naturally, where the troops are thinnest is the best
place for spies. And there was one place I remember, a seven miles gap,
where it was only patrolled by us once or twice a day. That was the only
defense there you see, because the main fighting was somewhere else. It
was very mountainous rugged country, so they came through the mountains.
It was cold in the winter, and they had to be warmly dressed, and they
had to have good marching shoes too, you bet. So the SD quartermaster
up in Verona used to provide them with stout walking boots. Well, it simplified
his work, and it simplified ours. We could recognize those boots at a
yards, you see, after a while.
And there was a question of the other equipment they carried. They tended
to carry the same kind of concentrated foods, the same kind of gadgets
like cigarette lighters, compasses, and things. They tended to tell the
same cover stories. They tended to come from somewhat the same background,
I mean, educationally, and politically. They tended to carry money in
series. When they were given money at the beginning it was given to them
in new currency which ran in consecutive numbers. They were always told
to go out in the town and break it up, but it was a lot of trouble and
most of them never did. So when you found a man with new currency in consecutive
series, he was either a black marketer or a spy, one or the other, or
So these are the things which made our job much easier. And it was stupidity
on the part of the Germans, their excessive methodicalness, you see, that
did this sort of thing. I don't say we were always bright, but they weren't
either. So Carla Costa was captured.
I remember Mario Martinelli. He was an interesting
figure, a handsome chap, but he had had a very squalid career, including
pimping and other things like that in civilian life, black marketing and
pimping, and after we caught him and broke him he was delighted to confess.
He talked and talked and talked.
We had a brilliant linguist named Gordon Messing in our outfit, he had
gone to Harvard, where he got a Ph.D. in linguistics, he spoke seven or
eight languages, and read twenty. It used to be jokingly said, and it
was almost true, that Gordon Messing's idea of fun was to translate Flemish
into Sanskrit, and vice versa.
He was taking this fellow's confession, and then he'd have to translate
it, you see. He was writing it in Italian, I mean, Martinelli was writing
his confession. He wrote a page, and three pages and five pages and ten
pages and Messing knew he was going to have to translate it. He said,
"Keep it short." Usually we asked them to tell everything they knew, you
see, but still -- "Keep it short." He wrote fifteen pages, twenty pages,
"Can't you keep it a little shorter?" Twenty-five pages, thirty pages,
forty pages, and
finally he ran up to sixty-three pages as I recall, with Messing pulling
his hair out because he had to translate every word of it.
After we caught Carla and she wouldn't confess, Mario Martinelli said
to me, "Give me a little time with her; I'll make her confess."
I said, "So, how would you do that?"
He said, "Easy. Red hot needles through her breasts and pubic parts."
A nice fellow.
I said, "Interesting." Naturally, we didn't do that sort of thing. Carla
Costa was subjected to nothing but psychological pressure. Once for two
days I did restrict her diet to coffee and toast on the theory that if
she tired a little and got hungry she would talk. But I had two army nurses
chaperoning her and I said, "Whenever you say I ought to start feeding
her again, I will," and after two days of coffee and toast they said,
"You better start feeding her again." And we did. But we tried all kinds
of psychological pressure. My theory was no violence, but psychological
pressure is o.k., and I'll admit I put a pretty liberal interpretation
on what constitutes psychological pressure.
By the way, Martinelli was tried, convicted and shot, which he richly
deserved. And if I'm not mistaken, as he faced the firing squad his last
words were, "Viva la Alleate," "Hurray for the Allies."
There was an Italian-American officer in my outfit, then a lieutenant,
a nice fellow, became a major. He spoke fluent Italian. Oh, my goodness,
the name escapes me at the moment -- oh, Tonini was his name, Melio Tonini.
Anyway, he was then a lieutenant, and he was the fellow who had interrogated
and handled this case. And as the agent faced the firing squad he shouted
to my lieutenant: "You're shooting an innocent man, lieutenant." It shook
up poor Tonini for days. The dead man wasn't innocent however.
Sometimes they shouted defiance as they died, and sometimes they shouted
approbation of the allies, you never could tell. In any event, Carla Costa
got twenty years but she was soon released. We turned our captured spies
and internees over to the Italians, naturally, after the war. And they
very properly released them.
Personally, I would never shoot a spy, never.
The reason is not any softness of heart, but the reason is you can never
know when you may need that spy for information about some subsequent
suspect you receive and he may fill in a valuable piece of information
for you that may identify a subsequent agent. We had a case like that,
there was a fellow, I think his name was Lancelotti, whom we shot. And
a year later I would have given my right arm, almost, to have had that
fellow to interrogate him against another man who I thought had worked
with him, you see. That sort of thing.
It's all right to pretend you're shooting them. We used to discourage
the Germans from recruiting Italians, and of course, naturally, being
Italy, they used almost entirely Italian agents. I mean, who would you
use in a country except natives of the country who speak the language?
We tried to discourage Italians from enlisting in the German espionage
service. We used to drop posters on the German side of the lines with
pictures of the spies we'd captured and whom we said we had condemned,
and some of them had been executed, but most of them hadn't been. This
was designed to deter other Italians. "Do not engage
yourself," we said, "in the German Intelligence Service, or you too will
suffer this fate." And there was a good chance they would because we caught
an awful lot.
But I wouldn't shoot spies. I'd line them up like books in a reference
library and hold them. And the fact of the matter was, it was rather hit-or-miss
whom we shot, too. You know, there was not much justice in that. They
were fairly tried, I mean, we could have shot them all, because they were
all guilty. But the point was, in the beginning we weren't catching so
many so there was time to try them. But in the end we were capturing so
many, that just the business of martialing witnesses and holding trials
was beyond the capacity of the Fifth Army. So a lot of these people just
as a matter of convenience were simply interned. It was too much trouble
and was not worth it to try them. If they'd been caught earlier, they
would have been tried and shot probably.
In any event, Carla told me that on a previous trip to Rome she had stayed
with her parents who were anti-Fascist, and that her mother had locked
her in the
bathroom, but she'd escaped from the bathroom and gotten out and jumped
in a car and gotten back to the German side eventually. I told her that
her parents had technically been guilty of harboring a spy. They knew
her to be a spy, you see. They hadn't turned her in and there were death
charges for that. I showed her a telegram that I was sending to Count
Sforza, who was a friend of mine, Carlo Sforza, who was later foreign
minister of Italy, and who at that time was the high commissioner of the
Eputaziore, the purge of Fascists, in which I was requesting them
to arrest her parents and bring death charges against them. This was a
lot of nonsense, of course, I wasn't sending any such telegram. But I
showed one to her. This is psychological pressure, and we did a lot of
other things. It didn't shake her a bit.
Finally, the way we broke her was this: She gave certain information
about Rome, her parents and so forth there, which were leads down in Rome.
We put that all in writing. I put a man into a jeep and he drove to Rome
125 or 150 miles back and turned it over to the Air Force CIC in Rome,
a fellow named Frank
Looney (there was a Rome base section of the CIC and there was an Air
Force CIC in Rome. The Rome base section of the CIC should have handled
it but I knew they would take their time, but I knew the Air Force would
act fast for various reasons), and I said, would he investigate all the
leads down there and shoot it back to me, and he made a very fast investigation
and sent me back a 20 page report within a matter of three or four days.
This is fast work, you know, the whole transaction. And it turned out
they had caught a colleague of my girl, Carla, a fellow agent, and she
had talked a lot about her and told about their work on the other side
and how they had been trained and all that. So I trotted this into Carla
and I read it to her, and I said, "Now, Carla, you have become very unimportant.
We know practically all we need to know about you from this other gal
we have captured. Now if you don't want to talk, I don't care, but it
will be in your own interest, it will make a difference in your trial,
you know, when you come up for trial, whether you do."
So, at that point she saw the light. And she
talked freely and she gave us information which led to the capture of
other agents although she bitterly denied this later.
I wrote three spy articles after the war for the Saturday Evening
Post and I featured Carla Costa in the last article. This is late
'48, these articles appeared November 27, December 4, December 11, 1948.
In January, I believe, '49, I got a letter from Carla Costa in English.
She didn't speak English, but someone had translated it for her evidently.
Dear Major Spingarn: (I was a Lieutenant Colonel later, but I was a Major
when she knew me).
To make a long story short, she had read the articles in the Saturday
Evening Post. Between the lines you could see that she loved the publicity
that she was getting, but there was one thing that she did not like. I
had called her a "stool pigeon," in effect. I had said she gave information
finally which led to the capture of others. She said that she had never
done any such thing, never. Let me give her the evidence that said she
had. And I wrote her back and I said, "Oh, you did, all right, I'm
not going to give you evidence, that's not for you, but you did. We have
it in our files," and so forth and so on.
And she wrote me another letter and the correspondence languished there.
But years later in the fifties, my mother was going to Rome. Now, my
mother speaks some Italian, lived a lot in Europe as a girl, speaks several
languages, so I gave her a mission.
I said, "Mother, I want you to look up Carla Costa." I had her family's
address in Rome, and I knew she had been released from prison. So mother
was a little frightened by this, you know, this terrible German spy, but
she went through with her assignment bravely. She called up Carla Costa
and she invites her over to her hotel, and the two ladies spent the afternoon
having tea together. And the funny thing was as I learned the story later
from mother, mother was very apologetic about me. They talked about me
and Carla was very generous and very considerate. Mother told her how
much our family loved Italy. She said my father was a lifelong literary
friend of Benedetto
Croce, the great Italian philosopher, which was true. My father's first
book was translated into Italian. He was twenty-four, it was his Ph.D.
thesis, and it was made into a book in 1899 and was translated into Italian
with a preface by Benedetto Croce, the greatest, probably, European philosopher
of the twentieth century. And mother visited the Croces in Italy in the
twenties and I visited Croce in September '43. His home was in Sorrento,
on the Sorrento Peninsula, and that was right between the lines. There
were German patrols in one day and American the other. We were afraid
that the Germans would snatch him because though he was not an activist,
he was a symbolic figure of freedom, and so some British officers, some
British SOE officers, these were the intelligence operation guys, sort
of intelligence commandos, picked him up and took him off to the Isle
of Capri, just off the peninsula, which we now held safely. And I went
out to Capri., oh, about two weeks after the invasion, and I spent a night
with Croce. And he refers to it in a book later; he wrote a book called
Croce, the King and the Allies, and tells how a high allied officer
(I was a major),
came to him, the son of his dear old friend, Joel Spingarn, and how we
talked, and what he told me about the politics of the situation and so
Anyway, mother told Carla Costa how we loved Italy, and so forth and
so on, and Carla was very, very generous, if she'd known that, she said,
she might have felt differently about me. Mother said that she was about
28 then, in '53 I think, quite handsome, she had been a little chubby
when I knew her, squat and chubby, but she was quite handsome and rather
trim and well dressed and she was going to the University of Rome, and
she was just as good a Fascist as ever.
Well, that covers my war experiences.
Now, getting back, when I came. back to the United States, I was appointed
Assistant General Counsel of the Treasury by Fred Vinson, who was then
the Secretary of the Treasury, and later became Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court. Joe [Joseph J., Jr.] O'Connell was my immediate boss, the General
Counsel of the Treasury, and a very fine chap, later Chairman of the Civil
And immediately I got involved in this internal
security and loyalty stuff again. I was legal counsel of the Secret Service
and of the Coordinated Treasury Enforcement Agencies and I also became
immediately pivot man on all loyalty-security cases. Every case was referred
to me first for decision as to what its further processing should be,
whether charges should be brought against the man or what. Don Hansen,
and I (he was my assistant), wrote the regulations setting up the Treasury
Loyalty Board, and I was the legal member of this three-man board.
And in late '46, the President set up the President's Temporary Commission
on Employee Loyalty. This, if my memory serves me right, stemmed first
from the famous Canadian case of Igor Gouzenko, who had defected, he was
a cipher clerk, from the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, and he defected and
brought with him files which proved a large Soviet spy network existed
in Canada, some links I think reached into the United States, but anyway,
mostly in Canada.
This and other disclosures of the period produced a lot of disturbance
in the country and in the Congress about how good our security was. And
a congressional committee,
I think it was, yes, it was the House Civil Service Committee, held hearings
on this matter. They made a recommendation. I've forgotten exactly what
the nature of it was, but I think they recommended a presidential -- they
made recommendations that looked to some action by the Executive, by the
President in this field. Their report speaks for itself.
The President then set up this commission, the President's Temporary
Commission on Employee Loyalty, six agencies were represented on it: Justice
chaired it, and the Attorney General, was technically the Justice member,
but his deputy was A. Devitt Vanech, who was always known as "Gus" Vanech,
who was then at the beginning, the special assistant to the Attorney General,
but in the course of the Commission's life, became Assistant Attorney
General. I will get to him in a moment. And the Treasury, the State Department,
the Army and the Navy (this was before they merged), and the Civil Service
Commission were the other representatives.
In the case of the Treasury it was Assistant Secretary (later Under Secretary),
[Edward H., Jr.]
Foley and I was his alternate; and in the case of State, it was at first
Assistant Secretary [John E.] Peurifoy, as I recall. I've forgotten there
were several men, but Peurifoy was one of them. Then Donald Russell was
there for a while. He later became Senator and Governor of South Carolina
and president of the University; and there was another fellow too, for
a while, State had several; and for Navy, it was John Sullivan, who was
a friend of mine from Treasury days, because he had been Assistant Secretary
of the Treasury. He was Under Secretary of the Navy then, and later became
Secretary; for Army it was Kenneth Royall, who was Under Secretary and
later became Secretary; for Civil Service Commission it was old Harry
Mitchell, who was then the chairman. And each man had an alternate or
The Commission met, oh, I would say, once or twice a week, as I recall,
and the working committee met every day. And the alternates attended the
Commission meetings with one exception, one we didn't, it was sort of
classified, but of course, our principals immediately told us afterwards
what had happened, so it
really didn't make much difference. I, being the kind of fellow who records
everything, sort of like a squirrel, maybe that's not the right simile,
but I'm a great recorder. In any event, I wrote a memorandum every day
when there was a Commission meeting or a working committee meeting and
I kept a file. Nobody else did this as far as I'm aware, and the result
was that I think that my files are by far the most complete, and I have
given them to the Truman Library, two big volumes of file covers, one
containing memoranda and the other clippings, mostly, and formal stuff.
Well, then, also when I went over to the White House, I worked on Loyalty-Security
there, many aspects of it, I think perhaps I was the principal proponent
of a Nimitz type commission thing. I wrote any number of memoranda on
that sort of thing, and George Elsey and Charlie Murphy were also strong
supporters of that concept. And I was briefly vice-chairman of the White
House Loyalty Board, and so forth.
I also feel equally strongly about rightwing lunacy as I do about leftwing.
I have worked since '52, I've discussed that, to launch an operation which
do something about counteracting these lunacies which are poisoning slowly
the minds, or trying to, of the American people, and to try to produce
some rational dialogue in this field.
An outfit named the Institute for American Democracy (IAD) which was
launched last November, represents that concept and I hope they'll be
successful. They won't be unless they get enough money and staff to do
the job. The last time it was tried was in '64, and that failed for lack
of financial support, and if IAD fails, it will not be tried again in
our time, obviously, because two strikes and you're out in most leagues
outside of baseball. It would be a long time before anybody had the gumption
to try it again.
I want to refer any historians who hear or read this material that I'm
giving now to a useful reference work which will give you the background
of this next situation, it's the U.S. News and World Report for
November 20, 1953. And it contains excerpts from the statements by Brownell
and President Truman and others about this situation, President Eisenhower
and all the principals.
The main article on this point is on page 110, and it says, "All About
the White Case," that's Harry Dexter White, or Harry White as he was known
to those who knew him, and I knew him somewhat. He was first director
of Monetary Research, as I recall, and later Assistant Secretary of the
Treasury, while I was there. A very brilliant guy, but not to me an attractive
personality. He always impressed me as a fellow who was delightful to
the point of obsequiousness to his superiors, and very rude, mean and
curt to his subordinates, or those below him in rank. Not a particularly
delightful trait; but he was brilliant.
In any event, on November 6, 1953, Attorney General [Herbert] Brownell
made a speech before the Executive Club of Chicago in which he denounced
Truman's handling of the White case. I haven't really read this recently,
but I've given the reference. I'm not going to try to analyze exactly
what was said. I'll leave that to people that want to work on it. But
the gist of it is, that he denounced Truman's handling of the White case,
and, in fact, virtually imputed disloyalty to Truman, because the gist
of it was that Truman had been
advised that White was a spy and a traitor and then he appoints him as
U.S. Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund.
Truman made a denial the same day. Among other things he said, "I want
to make it perfectly clear that I inherited White from the Roosevelt administration.
He was not an appointee of mine, he was working for Henry Morgenthau,
then Secretary of the Treasury, when he left. As far as I know I never
met White personally or talked to him. Apparently the Republicans have
adopted the tactics of Senator McCarthy as a desperation move. It doesn't
matter what they do, they can't breathe life into a corpse and they know
Harry White was dead. And it did seem a little peculiar, to say the least.
Whether Harry White was guilty or not, he had never been convicted or
indicted, he had denied the charges under oath and yet here was the Attorney
General of the United States saying about a dead man that the charges
were true and that the President had not done his duty to his country
in connection with the handling of the White matter. It was in the best
traditions of Senator McCarthy, there's
no question about it.
And President Eisenhower was typically ambivalent when he was questioned
at a press conference, this is the press conference of November 11, 1953.
I note that Tony Leviero, now dead (Anthony Leviero of the New York
Times, a fine reporter, and a good guy, who covered the White House
and whom I knew pretty well and had social contacts with), asked Eisenhower
the jugular question:
Mr. President, I think this case is at best a pretty squalid one,
but if the grand jury under our system has found a man, has in effect
cleared that man or at least decided it was insufficient evidence
to convict him or prosecute him, then is it proper for the Attorney
General to characterize that accused man, who is now dead, as a spy,
and in effect accuse a former President of harboring that man?
That was quite plain in the statement of the Attorney General.
Here is the Eisenhower answer. At that time, apparently, they had to
be paraphrased still. They weren't direct quotes.
All people were trying to get now is his personal opinion about certain
Mr. Eisenhower answered:
He is not a judge nor is he an accomplished lawyer. He has his own
ideas of what is right
and wrong but he would assume this. Reporters were asking him questions
where with all of this in the. public mind the attorney general is
here to answer it himself. Let him answer it.
QUESTION: Mr. Leviero: He has refused to answer the questions, you see.
QUESTION: Andrew Tully, Scripps-Howard: It is true that Mr. Brownell
is here, but he won't see reporters. I wonder if we could ask you to exert
your influence to get him to see us? [Laughter]
Of course, after all, he felt that reporters were probably getting
a little more impatient than Mr. Brownell thinks they should be. He
doesn't know exactly what the attorney general has in mind. He is
certainly ready to talk to Mr. Brownell more about this when he returns
to town, but he is not going to give them orders as to methods in
which he handles responsibilities of his own office. The President
said he wanted to say that he had found Mr. Brownell interested in
justice and decency, and cleaning up what he has got to clean up.
We have gone ahead in many lower echelons, he added. He pointed out
that there was a report published that we've got some fourteen hundred
people that we thought were security risks. Mr. Brownell now has published
a particular case and has aroused tremendous interest. Now, we will
see how he handles it, and Mr. Eisenhower is not going to color his
case or to prejudice his case in advance by talking about it.
QUESTION: Mr. Tully: Mr. President, can you give us any indication of
what the proof of these charges is that are going to be offered by Mr.
EISENHOWER: Of course, he can't. Mr. Eisenhower said that he would repeat
that Mr. Brownell has got to handle this case in his own way. The President
not suppose and he does not intend to be one that is a party to what
looks like rank injustice to anybody. That is all he can say on this.
QUESTION: Mr. Leviero: One more question. Insofar as we have been allowed
to know the facts, the case rests on the testimony of two confessed traitors
Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley. I wonder if the FBI independently
has developed any evidence to sustain the charge of espionage.
[Good question, say I.]
Mr. Eisenhower said that reporters would have to ask Mr. Brownell.
[The President didn't know.]
QUESTION: Robert Riggs, Louisville Courier-Journal: There has
been some question as to whether the FBI report said Mr. White was a spy,
or whether it said he associated with Communists. Did Mr. Brownell say
that the FBI report he used called him a spy?
The President said he was going to answer his last question on the
subject that morning and leave. He had told them, Mr. Eisenhower said,
that Mr. Brownell came and reported to him that there was evidence
that there had been subversive action and that high Government officials
were aware of it. He gave the name as Mr. White. He said the evidence
was so clear that he considered his duty to lay it out, because, Mr.
Brownell said, "Certainly, I am not going to be a party to concealing
The President told him, "You have to follow your own conscience as
to your duty."
Now, that was exactly what he knew about it. That's the end of the excerpt
from the press conference that I have, and that sort of presents the context
Well, immediately the House Un-American Activities wanted to get into
the act, and in November, a subpoena, dated November 9, was served on
President Truman, who was then in New York City, directing his appearance
before the House Un-American Activities Committee on Friday, November
13, in Washington. The chairman of the House Un-American Activities then
was Harold H. Velde. Velde was a former FBI man, and he too will not go
down in history as one of the greater Congressmen, in my opinion. It's
a funny thing. I've known quite a few ex-FBI men, many of them good guys.
But the ones that go into politics all seem to be right wingers or become
that way, and you could almost go down the row on that. There may be exceptions
that I can't think of at the moment, but the ones I think of are pretty
rightwing and Velde was like that.
In any event, this letter was read by President Truman to reporters at
a press conference on November 11, in New York City. At that time, I was
in New York City too, and Charlie Murphy called me up and asked me to
come down to whatever the hotel the President was at,
my impression is it was the Waldorf, but I may be wrong. In any event,
I remember Charlie was there, and Sam Rosenman was there, and there were
others there, I've forgotten who all, the President, of course.
We discussed this subpoena at some length and how the President should
respond to it, I remember I think there was general unanimity, I mean,
this is a long time ago, and I don't really remember with great detail
the discussions, but my general impression is that there was general unanimity
(maybe I'm just searching my own mind on this from what I thought), but
my impression is that the general feeling was that they couldn't constitutionally
require a former President to testify, but the chief question might be
whether he should simply refuse entirely to come, or he should appear
and refuse to testify on the grounds that he was exerting the constitutional
rights of the President's office. I remember ruminating out loud: "It
would be nice if we could get Professor [Edward S.] Corwin's -- of Princeton
-- opinion on the subject." Corwin was a great constitutional authority
who every couple of years wrote a new book interpreting the Constitution.
startled to find that one of the senior lawyers present not a Government
man, not Charlie Murphy, had never heard of Corwin. You never know where
gaps in people's knowledge are. It was Sam Rosenman, actually.
But a reply of some sort was knocked out and Charlie Murphy was the principal
drafter of that reply, as I recall. And I got in a few licks on it, others
got in a few licks on it, but Charlie did the bulk of it. And, as usual,
Charlie was the "take charge" guy when it came to getting something done.
Everybody was there to talk, but we had to get something down on papers,
you see. Charlie was the fellow who got something moving in that direction,
getting things down on paper. The text of the President's letter is here
(in this issue of U.S. News and World Report which I referred to),
to Velde, saying he was simply asserting the constitutional rights of
Presidents in declining to comply with the subpoena.
In spite of personal willingness to cooperate with your committee,
I feel constrained by my duty to the people of the United States to
decline to comply with the subpoena. In doing so, I am carrying out
the provisions of the Constitution of the United States and following
a long line of precedents commending with George Washington himself
And so this is November 1953. I'm not absolutely
certain how the next step took place, but I'll describe what happened.
I learned from Ed Foley, who had been Under Secretary of the Treasury,
and my longtime friend and boss at the Treasury, that John Snyder, who
was Secretary of the Treasury, he replaced Fred Vinson about a month of
two after I came back to the Treasury in '46, and he was Secretary until
Mr. Truman left office. He was a great friend, of course, of President
Truman's -- also from Missouri. And John Snyder and Ed Foley, one or the
other or both, had gotten some intimation that either the House Un-American
Activities Committee or the Senate Internal Security Committee, I think
the latter, planned to hold hearings on this matter and call the Treasury
officials, because Harry White, of course, was a longtime official of
the Treasury. He had gone to the International Monetary Fund, presumably
on John Snyder's recommendation that he be made U.S. Executive Director
of the Fund. And there were other names in the Treasury that had been
in the public prints in connection with allegations of communism and espionage.
Well, it then developed that Snyder had talked to, I suppose it was the
first Secretary of the Treasury
under Eisenhower -- George Humphrey -- that Snyder had talked to.
There was one link in the Treasury with the old administration, and that
was "Chappy" Rose, Chapman Rose, who was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury
under Humphrey. "Chappy" Rose is a Republican, he is a Cleveland lawyer
and a good one, and he had served in part of the Roosevelt and Truman
administration in the capacity as Deputy Director of Contract Settlement.
And in my last year or two years at the Treasury I was Deputy Director
of Contract Settlement, in addition to my other duties, you see it was
a liquidating operation, and it only took a little of my time, but still
there had to be someone to handle it. The Secretary was the Director,
so the Deputy Director was the fellow who had to actually do the spade
work, whatever was to be done, but there wasn't much by that time.
"Chappy" Rose was in private life, counsel with George Humphrey, or his
firm was, and he brought him into the Treasury as first, Assistant Secretary
and then as Under Secretary, he was Assistant Secretary at this time,
and I guess the contact was made through him.
But in any event, John Snyder and Ed Foley had gotten permission from
the Eisenhower Treasury to have access to the files on the loyalty cases
which then might be an issue, the cases in the Truman administration,
you see. Obviously, if you're going to testify on how you handled the
case, how the hell are you going to do it unless you have the files before
you. Nobody can remember things that happened years before, nobody, I
mean, unless you have absolutely a photographic, photoelectric cell for
a brain. You have to be able to refresh your recollections from files,
men who handled a million things, and this is just one of them.
So they had gotten that permission and I immediately saw that I needed
that permission, because I was the man who did the spade work. These were
the top level men and they might have to justify it, but I was the man
they were going to look for at the staff level as the fellow who had done
all the memoranda and things, they were mine you see. If they looked through
the files they'd see Spingarn's name all over everything, and they'd say,
"This fellow we've got to talk to." That was
obvious. So, with that background I'm going to read you these notes which
I saw this morning for the first time in years. This is called "Notes
for SJS Special Internal Security File." It's in longhand, my longhand.
Here I have "Wednesday, December 2, 1953."
Late this afternoon I saw Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Chapman
Rose, with Captain Ernest Feidler.
Now, Ernie Feidler was a Coast Guard captain, then. He .had been Ed Foley's
assistant when he was Under Secretary, and at Chapman Rose's request he
remained there to be his assistant for a while, for six months or so,
when Rose was Assistant Secretary.
At my request Rose said I could have access to Treasury Loyalty files
on which I worked while in Treasury, and copies of papers therein,
on the same basis, as Treasury had already accorded to Messrs. Snyder
and Foley ....
That's Secretary Snyder and Under Secretary Foley.
So, thereafter, I spent several days in December and I think possibly
in January, December '53 and January '54, several whole days in the Treasury
going through these files and copying excerpts from the files that I thought
I might need in case I had to discuss any case which I had handled while
I was in the Treasury. And
I was given full access to the files and permission to copy them and
take excerpts out and I did.
This morning I got up at four thirty. I was running through this file
and I came across a memorandum I totally had forgotten I ever wrote. It's
in my longhand and is the only copy. It's dated Sunday, June 27, 1954,
Now, this is, as you see, about six months later. It shows that my labors
were not altogether -- it turned out that they were unnecessary -- but
it shows that they might very easily have been necessary, I mean, the
several days I spent going through those files in the Treasury in December
'53 or early January '54. This memorandum I have headed "Re: Jenner Internal
Security Committee, Canceled Hearings of June 25, 1954." This is dated
June 27, two days later; I'm reading how from my longhand memo:
On Tuesday morning, June 22, 1954, Robert McManus of the Jenner [Jenner
ISS, I keep saying -- that means, Internal Security Subcommittee of
the Senate Judiciary Committee, of course.] Robert McManus of the
Jenner ISS staff phoned me to request my attendance at an executive
session of the ISS [The Internal Security Subcommittee] on Friday,
June 25, at 10 a.m., in Room 155, the Senate Office Building. I said
I would be there and asked what the hearing was about. He said it
was about the old Treasury Loyalty cases, 'Adler
and so forth.' [The Adler Case was often in the public print so I
have no hesitation in mentioning it.) I inquired whether any other
former Treasury officials had been invited to this hearing, and he
Which is interesting. They didn't start with Snyder or Foley; they started
with me. I thought it might be that way. I was the fellow who had done
the spade work. Now, mind you, they give you three days notice, you see,
of a hearing at which you're supposed to defend your reputation, in a
context -- this was the middle of the McCarthy era, you'll remember that
-- in a very inflammatory and provocative context. A hostile, Republican
committee attacking Democrats. You knew what to expect when you went up
HESS: They gave you three whole days to get ready.
SPINGARN: Three whole days, yes.
HESS: Not very much.
SPINGARN: That afternoon, June 22, I went to the Treasury Department
and conferred with Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, H. Chapman Rose.
[Now, don't forget that H. Chapman Rose was a Republican, Assistant Secretary
of the Republican Treasury Department, headed by a Republican, George
Humphrey, under a Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower.] I told
them of the Friday meeting and told them there was a problem involved
in which I would appreciate the views of the present administration. I
referred to the Truman 1948 directive prohibiting Government
officials from testifying about the handling of loyalty cases without
specific presidential approval. I said it was my understanding that the
Eisenhower administration had continued this directive in effect. Mr.
Rose said that recent events made that pretty clear. I said there were
two questions about the interpretation of that directive.
When he talked about recent events I think he was talking about the famous
letter, I believe it was May 17, 1954, that President Eisenhower wrote
to, I think it was either the Secretary of Defense, or the Secretary of
the Army, Stevens, in connection with the McCarthy hearing. Senator McCarthy
had been trying to get certain information from the Executive Branch,
and if my memory is right, on May 17, 1954, President Eisenhower wrote
a letter, relying, in effect, on the Truman directive, and continuing,
in effect, the directive about not making this type of information available,
without an expressed approval in each case of the President. And that's
what he means, I'm pretty sure, but that, "recent events made that pretty
This is a month later. I said:
There were two questions about the interpretation of that directive
with which I was confronted in connection with any testimony I gave
about the handling of old Treasury loyalty cases. One: Did it apply
to former officials such as myself,
as well as incumbent officials: Two: In connection with the old Treasury
loyalty cases, which the Internal Security Subcommittee was now considering,
had the new administration waived the application of the directive
insofar as former officials as my self were concerned, by virtue of
Attorney General Brownell's testimony of November 17, 1953, before
the same subcommittee, when he discussed these cases and criticized
their handling [that is their handling by the Truman administration].
I told Mr. Rose, that in my opinion, the 1948 directive as continued
in effect applied to former as well as incumbent officials, but
that Mr. Brownell's testimony last November had the effect of waving
the directive, so that I could testify fully and freely about these
However, I said that was only my opinion; that was obviously not
authoritative. I told him I did not want to find myself in the middle
of a constitutional conflict between the Executive and Legislative
branches and I therefore requested that I be given a statement, in
writing, before the Friday hearing, by an appropriate Administration
source, setting out the Administration's views as to where I stood
under the 1948 directive and the question as to its interpretation
in the present situation which I had raised with him.
I said I was anxious to testify before the Internal Security Subcommittee,
because [and I emphasize this] because I believe that the Treasury
had handled its old loyalty cases in a sound and responsible manner,
and my purpose in seeing him was to iron out any possible impediments
that might stand in the way of my testifying fully. I emphasized to
Mr. Rose my feeling that Mr. Brownell [the Attorney General] that
Mr. Brownell's testimony last November had constituted a waiver of
the 'no testimony' directive. I said it would be most unfair for the
Attorney General to, in effect, waive the directive as far as he was
so that he could criticize the previous administration's handling
of certain loyalty cases, and still have the directive to remain in
effect to keep us from answering those criticisms.
Mr. Rose said he would undertake to get me a statement in writing
of the character requested by me before the hearing, June 25. He said
that since the questions involved were of more than Treasury concern,
that is, of Government-wide application, he would consult the Department
of Justice on the matter. I thanked him and left. The next day, Wednesday,
June 23, about noon, Mr. Rose phoned me. He said that because of the
many ramifications of the problem, he would be unable to furnish me
with a written statement desired before the hearing. He said that
on the basis of the checks he had made he was able to tell me that
he had found no objection from any administration quarter to my testifying
fully before the Internal Security Subcommittee about the handling
of the old Treasury loyalty cases.
I thanked him and said that I would tell the subcommittee the advice
which he had given me orally. He said of course that was understood.
The next morning, Thursday, June 24, Miss Humphrey of the Internal
Security Subcommittee staff phoned to tell me that the subcommittee
had canceled the request that I appear at the executive session the
next day. She had no particulars as to why, so I phoned Robert McManus
of the Internal Security Subcommittee staff, Republic 7-7500, Ext.
2666, who had first called me on this matter. I asked why the hearing
had been canceled, and he said the subcommittee was just so busy with
other matters that they had to call off my appearance. He said he
didn't know when or even if they would call me again, but assured
me that I would get ample notice if they did [three days, no doubt]
decide to call me.
I said I was disappointed, that I looked forward
to the hearing, and that I had gone to some trouble to get ready
for it by seeking administration advice on where I stood insofar as
the legal and constitutional questions involved were concerned. I
told him of my talk with Rose and what Rose had told me the previous
day. I told McManus that I was anxious to appear before the Internal
Security Subcommittee now that the impediments seemed to be removed,
particularly because I wanted to straighten out the record resulting
from Harold Glasser's testimony of April 14, 1953, before the Internal
I referred McManus to my April, 1953, correspondence with Robert
Morris, the former chief counsel of the Internal Security Subcommittee
on this matter, which McManus said he hadn't seen, and told him that
I thought the Internal Security Subcommittee had been less than fair
on this matter in failing to print my letter to Morris in the hearings,
with the Glasser testimony.
I asked McManus if Attorney General Brownell had ever asked the Internal
Security Subcommittee for an opportunity to substantially correct
his testimony of November 17, 1953, before the Internal Security Subcommittee
[that was the testimony criticizing the Truman administration and
the Treasury for the handling of those cases]. McManus said not that
he knew of. I said that Brownell had made a substantial misstatement
of fact at the November 17 hearing which was very prejudicial to the
individual involved, that this misstatement had since been called
to the attention of the Department of Justice and that if Mr. Brownell
did not publicly correct his statement it was a clear flat error of
fact [prejudicial to an individual on his loyalty]. It seemed that
he had committed something approximating moral, if not legal, perjury.
He let stand uncorrected sworn statement which he now knew, even if
he didn't originally, was not supported by the facts in the possession
of his department. I intimated to Mr. McManus that in the interests
of truth his subcommittee might care to hear my information on this
matter. He was noncommittal and we ended our conversation. SJS
I never heard another word from that subcommittee to this day.
HESS: That was the end of that.
SPINGARN: That was the end of that. You notice, I made myself freely
available, I had interesting testimony that showed the Attorney General
had made a flat misstatement of fact, publicly prejudicial to an individual's
loyalty, which he never corrected, as far as I know. They didn't want
to hear it. Now, I think that's interesting. This has never before been
made public as far as I know. By the way, I have in here some other correspondence.
I have here correspondence about this Robert Morris episode which I referred
to. Robert Morris, who was, as late as '53 anyway, Chief Counsel of the
Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, I felt behaved unfairly in a matter
in which I was involved vis-a-vis his subcommittee. Remind me after lunch
to give you copies of these papers to be Xeroxed and returned to me.
Ninth Oral History Interview with Stephen J. Spingarn, Washington,
D.C., March 24, 1967. By Jerry N. Hess, Harry S. Truman Library.
SPINGARN: Well, I mentioned this morning, when we broke off, the Robert
Morris episode, and I have my file on this before me -- and I think I
can best describe it by reading excerpts from some papers in this file.
Here is a memorandum from my personal file which is dated April 14, 1953,
and this is the text of it:
Jack Doherty, of the New York Daily News, called early this afternoon
(I was a Federal Trade Commissioner at this time) to say that my name
had been mentioned at a hearing this morning of the Internal Security
Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He said that while Harold Glasser, a former Truman official, was testifying,
the Subcommittee counsel, Robert Morris, asked him if he knew that after
a conference with me (that is me, Stephen Spingarn) at the White House,
Victor Perlo, also a former Treasury official, had been cleared. I told
Doherty that there was no truth to the allegation inferred by this question.
I then called Robert Morris and asked him to send me an excerpt from
the testimony mentioning me as soon as possible. He said that he would
do so. I also told him that there was no truth in the statement referred
to above. He said that they would be glad to have me correct it if I wished.
I told him I would be glad to do so, and, of course, my call to him was
in the nature of a
correction, but that as I understood it, I was limited insofar as disclosure
of details of a loyalty case were concerned by President Truman's directive
precluding the disclosure of such information, which directives, as far
as I was aware, had been continued in effect by President Eisenhower.
I indicated that I would look over the transcript he sent me and let me
know what, if anything, I wanted to do about a correction, (and I initialed
that memorandum for my file).
Well, then I received a letter dated April 16, 1953, from Robert Morris,
chief counsel Internal Security Subcommittee to me:
Dear Mr. Commissioner:
Here is the excerpt from Harold Glasser's testimony before the Internal
Security Subcommittee on April 14, 1953, which I promised to send to you.
And here is the excerpt; I'll read it, it's quite brief.
This is testimony of Harold Glasser on April 14, 1953 before the Internal
MR. MORRIS: (Chief Counsel) In 1946 did you know that Victor Perlo was
MR. GLASSER: I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it may tend
to incriminate me.
MR. MORRIS: Did you try to get Victor Perlo a job with the State Department
in 1947 at a time when you knew he was a Communist?
MR. GLASSER: I refuse to answer that question on the ground it would
tend to incriminate me.
MR. MORRIS: Did you know that Victor Perlo, according
to a security report of which you have knowledge, was a member of the
MR. GLASSER: I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it would
tend to incriminate me.
MR. MORRIS: Did you subsequent to that time recommend Victor Perlo to
a position in the State Department with the Intergovernmental Committee
MR. GLASSER: I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it may tend
to incriminate me.
MR. MORRIS: Do you know whether or not after that information was known,
subsequent to a conversation with one Stephen Spingarn at the White House,
Victor Perlo's Treasury record was cleared?
MR. GLASSER: I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it may tend
to incriminate me.
MR. MORRIS: Did you ever have a conference with or concerning Stephen
Spingarn at the White House?
SENATOR WELKER: Did you ever have anything to do with clearing the record
on Victor Perlo?
MR. GLASSER: I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it would
tend to incriminate me.
MR. MORRIS: Do you know that a Treasury investigation was conducted of
you in 1942?
MR. GLASSER: I did know that there was a Secret Service investigation
of me. (That's the only question he answered.)
MR. MORRIS: Did Harry Dexter White aid in clearing you in that investigation?
MR. GLASSER: I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it would
tend to incriminate me.
So there's the excerpt that Morris sent me. You see
the gist of it is that he asked him a question as to whether or not Glasser
had information that Victor Perlo was a Communist subsequent to a conversation
that one Stephen Spingarn -- I slightly resent that "one" as if I were
an unknown nonentity -- to a conversation with one Stephen Spingarn at
the White House, Victor Perlo's Treasury record was cleared -- Glasser
refused to answer on the grounds of possible incrimination.
Mr. Morris then said, "Did you ever have a conference with or concerning
Stephen Spingarn at the White House?" Senator Welker then interjected
with a question, "Did you ever have anything to do with clearing the record
of Victor Perlo?" and Glasser then refused to answer; presumably he was
making the same refusal to both the Morris and Welker question.
I then wrote Mr. Morris on April 17, 1953, after receiving that letter
from him and the excerpt:
Dear Mr. Morris:
I today received your letter of April 16, 1953, enclosing an excerpt
from the testimony of Harold Glasser before the Internal Security Subcommittee
on Tuesday, April 14, 1953. I requested that you send me this excerpt
on April 14, after learning from the press that my name had been mentioned
by you in the course of your interrogation of Harold Glasser, who was
a former Treasury Department official, about Victor Perlo, a former subordinate
of Harold Glasser's in the Treasury Department.
Both men left the Treasury Department in 1947 at which time I was Assistant
General Counsel to the Treasury acting, among other things, as legal counsel
to the U.S. Secret Service and the other coordinated Treasury enforcement
agencies. I was also the legal member of the Treasury Loyalty Board at
that time and in the latter part of 1946 and the early part of 1947 had
been alternate Treasury member of the President's Temporary Commission
on Employee Loyalty and a member of the working committee of that Commission
which drafted the recommendations which became the present Government
In 1949 I transferred from the Treasury to the White House staff and
in 1950 became Administrative Assistant to the President of the United
States until October of that year when I assumed my present post of Federal
In your questioning of Harold Glasser on April 14, according to the excerpt
which you have sent me, you asked him if he knew, 'That Victor Perlo,
according to a secret report of which you had knowledge, was a member
of the Communist Party.' You then asked him if he knew, 'Whether or not
after that information was known, subsequent to a conversation with one
Stephen Spingarn at the White House, Victor Perlo's Treasury record was
cleared.' Mr. Glasser refused to answer both questions on the grounds
that it might tend to incriminate him.
The purpose of this letter is to state that any intimations which the
questions you addressed to Mr. Glasser (or his refusal to answer them),
may contain that the Treasury record of Victor Perlo was cleared after
or as a result of a conversation with me at the White House (or anywhere
else), is completely untrue.
I was one of the Treasury officials who participated in the handling
of Treasury loyalty matters during the last three or four months of Victor
Perlo's employment by the Treasury Department. The files of the Treasury
Department contain the record of the handling of such matters. It is my
understanding that Government officers and employees are prohibited by
presidential directive dating back to 1948 from discussing details about
Government loyalty cases to congressional committees, that President Eisenhower
has not rescinded these directives, so that, therefore, they are still
in effect. I would like to state, however, that if President Eisenhower
should decide that the national interest would not be prejudiced by making
available to your subcommittee the loyalty files of the Treasury Department
hearing on the Victor Perlo matter and by lifting the prohibition against
oral testimony in this matter by Government officials, I would be available
to testify before your subcommittee about my remembrance of the Treasury's
handling of this matter which, I believe, was both sound and responsible.
Incidentally, in 1951 the Republican Chairman of the Central Loyalty Review
Board praised the Treasury Department in the highest possible terms for
its past handling of loyalty matters [that was Hiram Bingham, former Republican
Senator from Connecticut, a very conservative man].
I might add that during the past twelve years, I've spent from one-third
to one-half of my total time working on counterespionage and security
matters; this has included three years of service overseas in several
countries during World War II as a counterespionage officer. During two
years of that time, I was commanding officer of a counterintelligence
organization -- the Fifth Army Counterintelligence Corps, which captured
over 500 enemy spies and saboteurs. I am proud of the work which I have
done in this field, and I have been honored by receiving a number of
commendations for it from outstanding Americans. While it is difficult
to approach the subject of one's own record with the necessary objectivity,
I believe that my experience has particularly qualified me for trying
to do an honest job of balancing the delicate considerations of security
and individual rights in a free country during a period of great turmoil
and tension, if for nothing else. And, though extremists of both sides
tend to overlook it, that is the job that has to be done in each of these
loyalty or security cases.
I detest all forms of political totalitarianism whether it is the leftwing
or the rightwing variety -- communism or fascism. To the extent of whatever
abilities I have, I have worked and shall continue to work to prevent
the encroachment of any of these forms of totalitarianism or their hateful
methods of operation on our country and its free institutions.
I request that this letter be incorporated in the transcript of your
hearing of April 14 at the point at which the reference is made to my
name. If for any reason this is editorially impossible, I request that
this letter be reprinted in the same volume of your hearing and that there
be a cross-reference at the point at which my name is mentioned to the
place where the letter may be found.
That is the end of my letter.
I then received another letter from Robert Morris, dated April 20, 1953:
Thank you for your letter of April 17, which I could not read until this
As you may know, any variation of sworn testimony should be accomplished
by other sworn testimony.
For that reason the Subcommittee has always taken the position against
receiving a letter when the witness is available. For that reason, I ask
if you will not try to work out an arrangement whereby you could come
here and we would have an Executive Session and get the record straight.
Wish you could give a week's notice on this, and we would arrange it
very quietly here with one of the Senators. I assure you that we will
make every effort to see to it that nothing but the full facts appear
in the Record.
Sincerely yours, Robert Morris, Chief Counsel, Internal Security Subcommittee.
Now, I naturally found that letter highly unsatisfactory; so I wrote
him. His letter was the 20th. On the 21st of April, 1953, I wrote him
Dear Mr. Morris:
Thank you for your letter of April 20 replying to mine of April 17.
You state that, ĎAs you may know, any variation of sworn testimony should
be accomplished by other sworn testimony. For that reason the Subcommittee
has always taken the position against receiving a letter when the witness
is available. For that reason, I ask if you will not try to work out an
arrangement whereby you could come here and we would have an Executive
Session and get the record straight.'
I am not clear as to the relevance of your statement that 'any variation
of sworn testimony should be accomplished by other sworn testimony.'
The excerpt from your hearing of April 14, which you sent me in response
to my request for a transcript of any portion of those hearings containing
[#734 was omitted in numbering the pages]
a reference to me, indicated that the only references to me were in two
questions put by you to Harold Glasser, who refused to answer the questions.
This hardly constitutes sworn testimony. However, if you wish, I shall
be glad to give you my April 17 letter in the form of an affidavit (as
a sworn statement, in other words).
As I told you in my April 17 letter, directives by President Truman which
have been continued in effect by President Eisenhower appear to preclude
me from testifying before your committee in executive session or otherwise,
about the details of an individual loyalty matter in the handling of which
I participated as a Treasury official. It has always been my understanding
that Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, has been one of the strongest
proponents of these presidential directives against the disclosure of
information about individual loyalty matters. I am rather proud of my
own participation in this matter, and I should have no objection to testifying
before your committee in public or in executive session if the presidential
ban were lifted, but I'm certainly not going to violate presidential directives.
As you know, the issues connected with the presidential directives against
the divulgence of loyalty information involve an historic controversy
between the Executive and Legislative branches of our Government which
goes back to George Washington. I suggest for your consideration that
a Republican headed committee of a Republican Congress is in a good deal
better position to reconcile the historic viewpoint of these two great
branches of our Government with a Republican President than is a Democratic
commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission.
At that moment, of course, Republican President Eisenhower was in the
White House, and there was a Republican Congress --
both houses were Republican -- and Robert Morris was a Republican and
Chairman Jenner of his subcommittee was Republican -- in other words how
did they expect me to go to a Republican White House and straighten out
this matter if they couldn't straighten it out as to these directives
barring my testimony on this matter.
I have added an addendum of August 24, 1953; I was writing in April:
I have received no reply to this letter from Mr. Morris. The Glasser
hearings before the Internal Security Subcommittee were not printed until
this month (that's August, 1953) and I did not receive a copy of them
until today. Despite my request, these hearings do not contain my correspondence
of April, 1953, with Mr. Morris about this matter.
So, he didn't put it in as I requested. Now, I note that, among other
people, on June 2, 1953, I wrote to J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation:
Dear Mr. Hoover:
I am sending you herewith self-explanatory copies of correspondence which
I have had with Mr. Robert Morris, Chief Counsel of the Internal Security
Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee (my letter of April 17,
1953, his reply of April 20, 1953, and my further letter to him of April
I request that the attached copies of this
correspondence be placed appropriately in your files.
Sincerely, Stephen J. Spingarn, Commissioner.
Here's another memorandum for the file -- from my file -- which I wrote
August 24, 1953:
On Friday, August 21, to Mal Harney, Chief Coordinator of Treasury Enforcement
Activities (and I will state parenthetically that Mal Harney is one of
the finest Federal law enforcement officers that I have met. He was a
career man and spent his entire adult life in the government; he's either
an Independent or Republican, certainly not a Democrat. He's quite conservative,
but he's very fair-minded, basically, and a savvy and perceptive sort
of fellow. He and I worked closely together for several years, we're still
friends, and, though we often disagree, we can always talk about our disagreements
and we have respect for each other anyway.) He called me (he was Chief
Coordinator of Treasury Enforcement Activities then) to ask if I had seen
the reference to myself in the Washington Star of Thursday, August
20. I had not, but I got a copy of the Star which contained an
excerpt from the testimony of Harold Glasser before the Senate Internal
Security Subcommittee on April 14, 1953, including the reference to me
in two questions asked of Glasser by Robert Morris, Chief Counsel of the
After being advised by a newspaperman in April, After the Glasser testimony
took place, about the reference to me, I had obtained a transcript of
the excerpts pertaining to me from Mr. Morris and had written him concerning
my version of the matter and asking him to place my letter in the record
of the hearings. The Glasser hearings were not printed until a week or
so ago and I first obtained a copy of them today, August 24. The references
to me on page 80 of these hearings were the same as in the excerpted transcript
which Morris had furnished me
in April, but despite my request, my version of the matter was not printed
in the hearing.
This morning, that is Monday, August 24, 1953, I called Mr. Herbert Corn,
Managing Editor of the Washington Star, referred to the Glasser
testimony which the Star printed last Thursday, explained the situation,
and asked if under the circumstances he would be good enough to send a
reporter over to see me and get my story about this matter. He said he
would be glad to do so and this afternoon at 2:30 Mr. Allen Drury (Allen
Drury? That's the fellow who wrote Advice and Consent, I had forgotten
all about this) Mr. Allen Drury a Washington Star reporter, came
in to see me. I gave him copies of my correspondence in April with Mr.
Morris and further details about this matter.
Now, here's a further repercussion -- incidentally, I should say that
on April 20, 1953, now that was six days after the Glasser testimony,
I received a letter from Art Stitt in Cleveland, Ohio. Now, let me explain
for a moment who Art Stitt is, because Art Stitt was then chairman and
he had been the founder and spark plug, really, of an organization known
as -- which is still in existence -- called the National Counter Intelligence
Corps Association. It's an outfit composed mainly of alumni of the Army
Counter Intelligence Corps Ė CIC -- some thousands of them; and it's been
essentially a social organization for the boys to get together and swap
lies about their great achievements in World War II.
We have a convention once a year and we have a publication that comes
out every two months called the Golden Sphinx and so forth.
This was true until 1962 when something happened when a very rightwing
essentially Birchite type of chap became chairman and chief executive
officer of our organization and started using our publication as a sounding
board for his extremist rightwing views.
Art Stitt, who is now dead, was a fine chap; he was the founder and for
fifteen years national chairman and then he resigned to become a Methodist
minister, and if there is a heaven, I'm sure Art is looking down at us
from there because he was a good man. In any event, he wrote me on April
I have a delicate matter that concerns you personally that I wish to
bring to your attention. I have received from Chicago an article from
the Chicago Daily Tribune dated April 15, 1953. This article had
to do with the investigations of one Harold Glasser and a short paragraph
in the article reads, 'The witness refused to discuss an instance in which
he was alleged to have secured from Stephen Spingarn, a White House Administrative
aide, a clearance of the record of Victor Perlo, who had been accused
of being a Communist agent.'
This clipping is not mine and I was requested to return it or I would
forward it to you. Inasmuch as I had been mailed the clipping, I thought
it important that you know about this. This is for your personal information
and should I hear any more about it, I shall advise you.
Sincerely, Art Stitt.
Well, you see these were McCarthy days and this sort of reference created
little whirlpools of trouble and tensions. The people thought, what about
Steve Spingarn. Is he really a Communist agent or sympathizer. They read
these nasty little items in the newspapers and the lie goes around the
world before the truth can get its pants on. So I wrote Art back April
Thanks for your letter of April 20. You need have no feeling that the
matter you mentioned is a delicate one. I handled loyalty and security
matters for the Government for a number of years, in fact, until I came
to this commission (that's the Federal Trade Commission) in .late 1950.
Anyone who handles such matters inevitably gets his name thrown around.
The implications of the quotation from the Chicago Tribune of April
15 which you sent me are entirely without truth, as the attached letter
of April 17 to the Chief Counsel of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee
(that's Robert Morris) states: 'The witness, who refused to discuss the
matter, was following a pattern of refusing to discuss anything except
his name and the like.
And incidentally, in 1964 Art Stitt wrote a letter
endorsing me -- I think it was to the President but it was to some senior
official of Government -- endorsing me for a place on the National Commission
on Farm Marketing which was a presidential commission to be composed of
five Senators, five Congressmen and five public members to be appointed
by the President, and I was being considered for one of the five public
Art Stitt wrote:
I knew Mr. Spingarn by reputation as far back as 1942. He had an excellent
war record with three years of overseas service.
He served with honor with the CIC in the invasion of North Africa and
Italy and was pinned down like any other GI on the Salerno and Anzio beachheads.
He later was the commanding officer of the Fifth Army Counter Intelligence
Corps, perhaps the outstanding CIC effort of the entire war. I founded
and organized the National Counter Intelligence Corps Association, which
became the alumni association of the CIC.
Mr. Spingarn was a member of the Board of Governors of which I was chairman
until I retired in 1962 to enter into the ministry. In this capacity I
became intimately acquainted with Stephen Spingarn. He is a fighter, aggressive,
articulate and not afraid to work for what he believes in. Spingarn joined
with myself and some others recently to keep extremism out of the National
Counter Intelligence Corps Association, a matter in which we were successful.
I gladly recommend Stephen J. Spingarn, a man should I be in a fight,
I would want on my side. (That's Art Stitt.)
Now, at the same time, I wrote a letter to my friend, Drew Pearson. I
was trying to cover all bases here, J. Edgar Hoover, Drew Pearson. This
is dated August 26, 1953 -- it's after that unpleasant article appeared
in the Washington Star linking me, it also appeared earlier in
the Chicago Tribune:
Attached is some correspondence which I had in April with Robert Morris,
Chief Counsel of the Jenner Internal Security Subcommittee of the Senate.
The correspondence is self-explanatory but briefly the situation is this:
I then go over the situation as I have reaccounted it so far -- what
happened on this thing and the failure of Morris to include my letters
in the hearings although he had thrown my name into them, although Glasser
had said nothing whatever about me he was just following a pattern of
refusing to answer virtually all questions, and the fact that this had
appeared in the Washington Star and so forth -- and then I went
It seems to me that this is an example of unfair play on the part of
Jenner's subcommittee. I suppose there's no point in getting one's blood
pressure up although it's certainly irritating. Since you are a collector
of such items and an exponent of fair play in such matters, I am
reaccounting the incident to you for whatever use you care to make of
it. My position on the whole matter is quite fully set out in. the attached
correspondence with Morris: (Then I go on to recount my own record.) I
said that my work in counterespionage had received the high praise of
General Mark Clark and General Alfred M. Gruenther -- see attached copy
of Gruenther's letter to me.
I have a similar one from Clark. Both these fellows said in a letter
to me in 1953 that under my leadership the Fifth Army Counter Intelligence
Corps had virtually destroyed the German espionage organization in Fifth
Army territory in Italy, and that they had had no serious trouble with
either espionage or sabotage in the course of the combat operations in
the Fifth Army as a result of our good work. I continued to Drew:
I am proud of my record in this field which I would be glad to match
with those of Senator Jenner or Mr. Morris', and since I am leaving the
Government on September 25 when my term is expired, I do not want to see
my record vilified even if only by unsupported incidents without an opportunity
I hope that all goes well with you and Luvie. (That's his wife.)
I think this ends this episode -- no, here's a little kicker to it. On
September 9, 1956, I wrote a longhand memo for this file:
On September 8, 1956, I sat by chance next
to Mrs. Edna R. Fluegsl at the final American Political Science Association
Convention lunch at the Statler. Russell Wiggins of the Washington
Post was the speaker.
There was a rather amusing incident. As I came down the hall into the
luncheon, the receiving committee thought I was Russell Wiggins and greeted
me as the honored guest -- the speaker -- and I had to disabuse them and
later Russell Wiggins when he made his speech made some comic reference
to the fact that he didn't know who was more discredited by this comparison
of him and me -- Wiggins is, of course, the Editor-in-Chief of the Washington
Mrs. Fluegel told me she was a consultant for the Senate Internal Security
Subcommittee and had worked, among other things, on its Institute of Pacific
Relations report. Her main job is teaching at Trinity College here. I
told her about my two experiences with the Internal Security Subcommittee:
(A) The 1953 episode in connection with Harold Glasser's testimony and
my unsatisfactory correspondence with Robert Morris about the matter and
(B) The 1954 contact with the subcommittee and specifically with Robert
McManus of its staff -- I've gone over that earlier today. I told her
the conversations I had at the time with Chapman Rose, the Republican
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury of the Republican administration of
General Eisenhower, and also of my earlier examination, with Rose's permission,
of the Treasury Loyalty files. I said that Robert Morris had a reputation
for fairness which I was sure was deserved but that my own experience
with him in 1953, though a minor matter, had seemed to me less than fair.
Well, Robert Morris was hailed as a refreshing new light in this Internal
Security field, at first. There had been a lot of, well, McCarthy and
Dies and people like that, bulls in china shops, who weren't interested
in fairness they were just interested in making headlines -- fairness
was the last thing on their minds.
Robert Morris had at least been a police court judge and he was supposed
to be a conservative, but fair. Well, this episode didn't seem very fair
to me and his later record seems to indicate that he lost what fairness
Since he has left Government, he has gone increasingly more and more
to the right and now he is one of the rightwing ideologists of the country,
I mean the extremists.
He has written a book which is on the approved list of the John Birch
Society and recommended by them; he has addressed one John Birch Society
meeting that I know of; he's a right winger and he spouts rightwing crap
-- that's the only word I can use for it.
He's run unsuccessfully, repeatedly, as a Republican. He ran against
Clifford Case up in New Jersey, I think twice, and did poorly. He went
down to Texas and became
president of an outfit that calls itself the University of Dallas, but
actually it was my understanding it was brand new and only had about 600
students despite the far reaching name of University. He ran down there
for, I think it was the Senate, anyway, for a major Federal job and did
poorly in the Republican primary, so he's not a person of any consequence
in his own party, politically, but he does a lot of talking and writing.
Now, he was the chief counsel for the subcommittee. Senator Jenner of
Indiana, who I would say was -- if you were ranking the Senators, there
were ninety-six in those days, I would say that McCarthy would be the
ninety-sixth and Jenner the ninety-fifth in order of merit -- that would
be about my rating of him, and I think that historians generally will
agree with me that Senator Jenner was not exactly a shining figure in
the United States Senate.
He was sort of a junior partner of McCarthy, and he was the fellow who
did a bigger hatchet job on General George Marshall than McCarthy did
-- I've forgotten the exact phrase but the gist of it was that General
Marshall was a traitor to his country -- there was no other way
to describe what he said and this is so nonsensical that it hardly needs
any characterization. You can approve or disapprove of things that General
Marshall did he wasn't always right, I'm sure, but he was a dedicated
man who deserves great credit from his country for what he did in a time
of terrible peril and challenge. Here's another tie-in by the way, concerning
Robert Morris. In 1963 I was invited and went to a meeting at Fort Holabird,
which is the Army's intelligence center, at which the Policy Committee
of the National Counter Intelligence Association goes every year in April
-- it's a standing invitation for the Policy Committee to come there to
spend the day with the bigwigs the generals and top people, to be shown
around the intelligence center, lectures, indoctrination, statements and
lunch and so forth, and it's an interesting experience if you don't do
it too often -- I've done it quite often.
I went there and our new chairman of the National Counter Intelligence
Association was there, Herbert Lightner. I'd known him for years only
casually as a pleasant, amiable chap, and had always been on casual friendly
terms with him.
We had a pleasant day there, but I had been reading the Golden Sphinx
the publication of our outfit, and I discovered that it had suddenly become
very rightwing; it hadn't used to be, it had been sort of a social paper
which simply discussed what was happening to old cronies and friends.
Now all of a sudden it was coming out with rightwing political stuff --
very rightwing. I asked Herb Lightner in the presence of Judge Ralph Powers
-- now Ralph Powers is a close friend of mine of more than twenty-five
years standing, and we like to say we soldiered together on three continents,
which we did -- the United States, Africa and Europe, and he's a Judge
in Maryland and a fine fellow. He was the CIC theatre commander in Africa
and then he was the CIC commander in Austria. I was actually a few months
senior, to him in grade, we were both Lieutenant Colonels, but he held
the senior job, and he was a good man and did it well. Well, in the presence
of Ralph and myself I asked Herb Lightner, where he got some of this material
and he said he was getting most of it from Robert Morris' writings, and
so that interested me because I knew
that Morris was very rightwing and I also had this previous contact with
I went back home and a month or two later, a later issue of the Golden
Sphinx came out, the National CIC Association publication, and this
really shocked me, I mean it was so bad.
It contained an article which, quoting from Robert Morris' first, I think,
and then Fulton Lewis then, took off on an attack or used their attack
and then sort of took off on its own against Secretary McNamara and other
Now there's no reason why you can't attack McNamara or anybody but this
was not an attack on their wisdom or intelligence it was an attack on
their integrity and loyalty, and the gist of it was that they were traitors
and Communists and that was the direct, clear implication you see. Now
this is fantastic. It was especially fantastic since the National CIC
Association maintains an official liaison with Army Intelligence and there
is a liaison officer appointed by the Army between us, and as I say we
are invited once a year to come over and visit and spend the day with
The Army Intelligence Chief, ACSI, as he is called, the Assistant Chief
of Staff for Intelligence, annually, almost every year, comes down and
addresses our convention wherever it is -- it's in a difference city each
year, and so forth.
Now how did they think that they were going to attack the integrity and
patriotism of the Secretary of Defense and continue that kind of relationship
-- it was nonsense -- a relationship which our organization valued very
There was another article in the same publication to the effect that
there was some secret organization "X" which was corrupting our school
children and brainwashing them toward communism and this was being done
apparently with the connivance of the U.S. Government and this was more
sinister than the Russian Secret Police -- oh, you know the usual rightwing
crap -- the conspiracy theory, only way up in the clouds.
I then sat down and wrote a memorandum to Herbert Lightner in which I
said this was nonsense, this was absolutely fantastic; first of all I
telephoned him several times and finally talked to him and I wrote a
memorandum and I sent the memorandum to other senior officials of the
outfit, and I said this was fantastic, that this stuff was nonsense, that
he was getting it from rightwing nuts like Robert Morris, and that how
could he expect us to continue a relationship with Army Intelligence if
he was going to publish stuff like this.
Well, I wrote four memorandum like that, each different, you see, and
the discouraging thing was how little response I could get from any of
the other Board of Governors and officers of the outfit. I don't mean
that they disagreed with me necessarily, some may have, but they just
didn't want to get involved, you know, this was a minor activity on their
part and why get involved with this Spingarn crusade.
Several people were with me, Art Stitt was one, and there were others,
Ralph Powers was another, he was our former national president, but most
of them just simply disregarded them; I'd write them personal letters
and they wouldn't answer them, they didn't want to get involved.
In any event, since I wasn't able to make any headway within the organization,
really, because Art
Stitt was out, Ralph Powers was out, I mean these were alumni but they
weren't in the power group. I then turned to the Department of Defense
I called the General, Major General Fitch, and I told him all about this
and I talked to other generals and colonels and I talked to top civilian
people in the Defense Department and I sent them this excerpt from this
thing denouncing McNamara and the other stuff and I said I'm not trying
to hurt this organization, I like it -- it's a fine organization, I'm
trying to put it back on the right road.
Now I said General Fitch -- I talked to him several times on the phone
-- I said you can help, I said you're going down to our convention in
Miami in August, why don't you talk cold turkey to the boys down there,
tell them they can write anything they want to in their publication but
they can't expect to continue a relationship with you if they write stuff
like that -- I mean you're not going to continue a relationship with an
organization that says your boss is a subversive, how can you, you know,
and so on and he said he would do that and he did do that, he told me
later and I'm told by others that he did it, but Lightner denies that
ever done in Miami, but the fact is that although it hasn't been completely
cleared up, the Sphinx has never gotten that bad again, there are
foot faults but it's never been that bad since -- I mean others have seen,
if Lightner hasn't, that they can't be that bad -- you know there's a
little right wingism here and there but not that bad, so we did cool it
off, but Lightner says that I am a traitor to the outfit, and he denounces
me and oh, my goodness.
On January 16, 1967, I had been invited to an all-day conference that
the National Education Association was throwing, it's an annual affair,
on "The Critics and the Schools" and this was the lunatic right in the
schools and their attacks on the schools. A hundred odd people had been
invited and they were all supposed to represent organizations, but I didn't
represent any organization. When they wrote me and asked what organization
I was with, I said I represent only myself, but they invited me anyway
and I went.
I sent them a personal history statement since they wanted dope on me.
When I got there, I discovered to my consternation that they had listed
me as representing
the National Counter Intelligence Corps Association (NCICA), so then
I felt I had to do something. I wrote a letter to the man who ran the
conference, Dr. Edwin Davis, and I explained this whole situation and
I talked to him on the phone and I took some little trouble to make him
understand what it was all about, but he didn't at first, so I wrote him
a second letter, and to make a long story short, I convinced him finally
and he wrote me a letter saying it was all a mistake and I sent all this
I also sent it to Secretary McNamara, I sent it to General Yarborough,
the new chief of intelligence and to others in and out of the National
Counter Intelligence Corps Association. I have given you copies of those
letters of January 17 and January 19 and 21, 1967.
There's a rather amusing letter which I have quoted there. Lightner wrote
an attack on me to a friend of mine named John Schwarzwalder. Schwarzwalder
was one of the best CIC officers and we were friends in North Africa and
later in Italy, and after the war he got his Ph.D. in education at the
University of Houston and now
he's the general manager. and executive vice president of the educational
television setup in Milwaukee and St. Paul. By the way, one of his students
at the University of Houston was Jack Valenti. John is a good guy; he
wrote a book about the CIC after the war called We Caught Spies,
it's a good book, an interesting and amusing book.
So. Herbert Lightner, who in private life is the State Auditor of the
Pennsylvania State Liquor Authority or something like that, wrote a vehement
attack on me to Schwarzwalder -- you know one of these somewhat exaggerated
style attacks, and Schwarzwalder wrote him back a Christmas note saying:
Dear Mr: Lightner:
Youíre sick! I suggest you go to your doctor. I suggest you show him
not only the letter you sent me but the many other letters like that you
must have in your files, then follow his direction; do exactly what he
tells you to do. If you do, I am sure you will spare your family a great
suffering because you are a sick man.
Schwarz.walder authorized me to use that letter which I have, and I quoted
it in my letters which I gave you. Well, anyway, Robert Morris, my hero
of 1953, has become my friend Herbert Lightner's real hero but the funny
thing was I forgot to mention this -- Lightner suddenly backed away from
Morris when I called Lightner and said: "You remember telling me that
Robert Morris was the source of your material."
I never told you that, that's a lie.
I said, "Herbert, you not only told me that, Ralph Powers was standing
next to us, he remembers it too," Judge Powers I said. And Ralph Powers
subsequently wrote a letter confirming that, but he called me a liar over
and over again on the phone because I said he told me that Robert Morris
was a principal source of his material on political stuff, communism,
etc. Well, so much for that.
As an addendum to the Robert Morris episode, Mr. Hess, I'm handing you
herewith a letter of mine to the Washington Evening Star which
appeared in the August 26, 1953 issue of the Star under the heading
"Mr. Spingarn Answers." They evidently decided after Mr. Allen Drury had
interviewed me, that my letter was adequate for this purpose rather than
a news story and that's what happened, so I'll give you that to Xerox
and return to me.
In connection with the Robert Morris episode, I want
to add something -- all the papers on this are already in the Truman
Library and have been for several years but I just want to sort of pull
them together with a little statement perhaps. As I have said, I was probably
the pivot man on loyalty and internal security matters at the White House
because I'd had a lot of experience in it and I was interested in it and
I don't mean that a lot of their people didn't get into the act, but I
was the fellow that was looked on as the expert in the field. It doesn't
take very much to be an expert at the White House because there is so
many subject matter areas, that nobody could possibly be an expert on
all of them, so if you had just a smattering of information on something
you suddenly became the expert sometimes.
But in any event, this is something I had a lot more than a smattering
of information on, and, as I pointed out, I always thought that whatever
I might not be able to do this is one thing that I had excellent qualifications
for because, in my judgment, most people who deal in these internal security
and loyalty matters approach it from either the standpoint of the security
man or the civil libertarian and the security man says that all doubt
should be resolved in favor of security and the civil libertarian says
that all doubt should be resolved in favor of civil liberties.
Well, it so happens I've been both a security man, a security officer,
and I have been and am a civil libertarian, and I know that both considerations
have to be brought in focus, that you have to balance the equities of
national security against the equities of individual rights and civil
liberties, and the freedoms that we stand for. In any given situation
you must strike a balance at different points according to the dangers
of the problem or situation or the context or the era that you're in --
I mean in a period of total war you do things which shock you sometimes
from the civil libertarian standpoint and sometimes you're wrong, too.
I mean we did an outrageous thing in interning the Japanese on the west
coast in World War II and we know that now, but on the other hand, everybody
was panicked by the Pearl Harbor attack, it was considered quite likely
that the Japanese might attack the
west coast of the United States and perhaps we hadn't established a good
enough rapport with our Japanese-American citizens and the non-citizens,
too, certainly there was a. widespread belief that one Jap was like another
Jap and whether he was a citizen born here or not you couldn't trust them
and that sort of thing was all too rampant.
Roosevelt went along with it. From my understanding it was based largely
on the judgment and recommendations of General DeWitt who was commanding
the west coast -- that area, and naturally the military mind automatically
leads to this kind of conclusion -- it should have been checked but it
I will say this, I was with the Fifth Army in Italy we had first, a nisei
battalion, the Hundredth Battalion of Japanese-Americans from Hawaii and
some of them, I believe, were men who came out of these concentration
camps in the States, too, but mostly Hawaiins -- I mean these relocation
centers or whatever they were called -- and then later it was a whole
regimental combat team, the 442nd, and in July, 1944, I was commanding
officer of Fifth Army CIC and we went into Leghorn, Livorno the
Italians call it, with the assault troops and we had to handle what was
called at that time, a S-Force, a security force, and the idea was to
arrest any known enemy agents who were in the area whom we had advance
information on, and to seize quickly, before documents could be destroyed,
any intelligence headquarters where we might pick up useful information
or headquarters of any kind, in fact, and we had as our guard battalion
the famous Hundredth Battalion, the Japanese-American battalion.
Well, it turned out that it was an exercise in futility, Leghorn was
a ghost town, there was nobody living there. I will never forget walking
down to the harbor through a sea of mines, they were everywhere -- you
could see them, they weren't concealed, because they expected an attack
from the sea and these were mostly anti-tank mines but there were anti-personnel
mines, too. You could see them; they were like prickly cucumbers all over
the place and believe me you walked carefully because if you stepped on
one of them up you went, of course, and they were all over, every few
feet. The Hundredth Battalion and the 442nd later, had the
finest combat record of any small unit in Fifth Army. They were the apple
of General Mark Clark's eye. Of course, Mark Clark was not unaware of
the value of publicity and this was naturally attracting publicity.
These fellows felt that it was their special responsibility to prove
that Japanese-Americans were good Americans, and they fought like tigers;
they won more decorations than any unit of their size in Fifth Army. Furthermore,
they had one absolute fantastic record they never had a desertion in the
whole Italian campaign; no other outfit could claim that record, you know
there are always desertions, I mean a fellow shacks up with a girl, he
goes over the hill and that's it, you know. Maybe he's just gun shy and
wants to get out of it but whatever, there are desertions in every outfit
in war -- but they never had one.
The only kind of desertion that the Hundredth Battalion and later the
442nd RCT had was the other way; when their men were wounded or sick and
sent back to hospitals, they used to go AWOL or desert the hospital to
rejoin their unit -- that was unusual, you see, most men were glad to
stay in the comfort of the hospital
as long as they could. So they had a great outfit, there's no question
about it -- well, I'm getting away from this civil liberties thing but
I'm trying to exemplify how wrong we were on what we did to the Japanese-Americans
and that's generally admitted by everyone now. But the Supreme Court went
along with it at that time. Now, it is certainly true that -- well, let's
put it this way -- let's not take a combat situation let's suppose there's
a flood, the river is rising, it's going to inundate whole areas, the
dikes are crumbling and there's a question as to how much territory you
can save from total inundation. You will do things immediately like destroy
buildings by demolition to knock them over in the path of the thing to
do other things. You will seize property, you will expropriate, you shoot
people if they are looting, and things like that, because it's a catastrophe
and terrible things will happen, you're working against instant catastrophe
and you do things that you wouldn't do under ordinary circumstances. You
totally forget civil liberties for the moment, don't you, it may be wrong
but the thing is to prevent disaster, everybody is dying or
a whole territory being destroyed; that's the extreme situation but another
extreme situation is when you're being attacked by an active enemy, I
mean actually attacked in war, then you do things that you wouldn't ordinarily
do, though -- even there, there are limits to what you are willing to
do in our kind of a country.
In any situation you have to balance the equities one against the other,
and above all you have to remember that: (a) There is no such thing as
total security, there can't be, there shouldn't be. I discovered that
the security officer always recommends more than he needs or more than
he should have. Total security would bring all operations to a total halt.
I mean for instance, in North Africa we had one railroad that ran up from
the port of Casablanca which was the main supply line, ran all the way
up to Tunisia where the fighting was, eventually, just one railroad. Naturally,
this was a vital link. Well, there were trestles and bridges and tunnels
any one of which could be dynamited, could have been blown up. We were
asked to make a security study of the thing. We made a security study
and, my goodness, we recommended
a squad here and a platoon there and an enormous number of troops guarding
that line; there wouldn't be any troops left to fight the war in Tunisia
but, of course, the security officer doesn't care whether they follow
his recommendations; he sits back and he says well, I've made the recommendations
if they don't follow them, what happens is their affair not mine -- they
are responsible, not me -- he has covered himself, you see. This is something
you have to remember; he will always recommend more than is needed, and
total security will bring any kind of administrative operations to a total
Actually, there are times when you just throw security utterly overboard
if you want to move fast, and the Army found that out; sometimes in rapid
forward operations they didn't use any security at all, they transmitted
orders in the clear instead of in code which would normally be the case,
on the theory they didn't have time to code at one end and decode at the
other and they were moving so fast that even if the enemy was intercepting
them, it wouldn't do any good; these were instant orders and it was more
that they got there fast and understood fast than that they were not
heard by the enemy, that's what it amounted to.
This is the sort of thing you have to remember; don't let your security
officer hamstring you, tie your arms and legs so you can't do anything
and also remember this, that if you turn your country -- now people say
we're in a cold war, we've got to behave that way, well, now, we've been
in a cold war for twenty years and chances are we're going to be in a
cold war for another twenty, thirty, fifty or a hundred years so this
is the lifetime probably of everybody alive today, very likely, and their
The question is, are you going to imitate the enemy, the Communist or
the Fascist, in order to cope with them? Are you going to turn your country
into a totalitarian country? What have you won then? What's the use of
The answer is you have to fight them within the framework of your own
institutions, your free institutions and these are part of the strength
of the country, a large part of the strength of it, so they must not be
On the other hand I find myself sometimes impatient with these extreme
civil libertarians who fail to see any danger whatever in Communist espionage
or penetrations of that sort and who say why shouldn't we hire Communists
in Government, this I am also impatient with. The Government has a right
to protect itself against this thing; on the other hand it shouldn't set
up an army of security to protect against trivial dangers -- I mean a
national park ranger in Mesa Verda National Park, where I once worked,
suppose he was a Communist spy, what the hell could he do, some fellow
like that -- I mean let's assume for purposes of argument that you would
prefer he would not be a Communist, but it's silly to erect an elaborate
security organization to make sure of that. What you really need, I'd
say, is an effective counterespionage organization which penetrates the
enemy espionage organization and would therefore learn where the dangerous
agents are and either arrest them or keep them in place under surveillance
to see what they're doing and who their contacts are. One million dollars
spent on that kind of work, and possibly that million might be spent in
bribing enemy officials to come over to our side -- I mean intelligence
officials, espionage officials -- one million dollars spent on that work
is worth one hundred million dollars in security guys walking around the
pavements ringing doorbells and asking neighbors questions.
Now there's always been a question in my mind, at least there was in
the forties, how effective the FBI really was in this penetration and
real counterespionage work. I have said before that I regard myself
as something of -- I won't say an expert -- but I think I know more than
most people know about counterespionage. After all I ran an outfit that
caught quite a few hundred and I've interrogated them myself, I'm not
talking from the position of a man way up there who had no personal contact
with it, I was down there doing the job, interrogating and that sort of
thing, writing reports on it and I think that the question is how good
is the FBI. Let me put it this way I want to give a balanced picture of
the FBI -- on the one hand I think J. Edgar Hoover deserves great credit
for raising the level of enforcement personnel generally, for requiring
degrees, for establishing good training courses, for establishing excellent
laboratories, for making it available to local and state police, for a
central fingerprinting operation and things like that. On the other hand
Mr. Hoover has been director for forty-three years of the FBI and it's
been a long time since anyone outside took a real searching look -- it's
The President of the United States could fire all his Cabinet officers
more easily than he could fire J. Edgar Hoover, and the first thing that
every new President does is take an oath of loyalty to J. Edgar Hoover
to assure the country that he is going to keep him on -- he's got to.
No Attorney Genera since, I don't remember when, but no Attorney General
for over twenty years has been able to deal with J. Edgar Hoover. He deals
with him as the head of a sovereign state not as a subordinate. Now Mr.
Hoover has been far from the worst security chief for this country. We
could have had, because this job tends to attract, in other countries
at least, it hasn't attracted the noblest of men, and yet I'm not sure
it's good for a
single man to dominate this very sensitive setup for so long, because
after all he has at his disposition the lives and reputations of everybody
in Government or in fact in the country and some people thinks he trades
on that to some extent, at least he trades on the knowledge on the part
of others that he has or perhaps has that information.
Nobody likes to tangle head on with the FBI, nobody important anyway,
who has a career or stakes, certainly not anyone in Government. But the
question is how good is the FBI in the real counterespionage operation?
All I can say is that at least in the forties it seemed to me that they
were very bumbling. I have said before and I'm going to repeat it, that
the Elizabeth Bentley thing struck me as an absolute piece of the most
amateur foul up I have ever seen, because this woman was the mistress
of Jacob Golos a known Soviet agent; he'd been indicted and convicted
as such as an unregistered Soviet agent in 1940. She said herself she
was shacked up with him for years -- he was her lover, and it was a very
clumsy espionage operation that Golos was running, because she came down
from New York every two weeks for three and a half years and she went
out to the Silvermaster home, Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, in the upper
Northwest on the Washington side of Chevy Chase. She had dinner, spent
the evening there, William Ludwig Ullman, Lud Ullman whom I knew, a Treasury
economist, lived there. He was a bachelor and he lived with the Silvermasters.
He was a camera fiend and he maintained his camera laboratory or whatever
you call it, a darkroom, in the basement and according to Miss Bentley
at the hearings in 1948 and later in her book, the network of agents who
Silvermaster controlled filtered in their purloined Government documents
to Ullman and he microfilmed them and gave them back to them to put back
in the files and every two weeks she would pick up fifteen, twenty, thirty
rolls of microfilm -- several hundred pictures all told. She said she
put them in a shopping bag which she carried and she took a bus or taxi
down to Union Station, took the train back to New York and turned it over
to Golos -- for three and a half years.
Furthermore, we know that the FBI knew who Golos was. She reported that
she was repeatedly being tailed by the FBI. Well, if they were tailing
her, why would she be bringing these stolen documents out for three
years? I mean it's all very well to watch an agent to get his contacts
and all that but not to let him get away with thousands and thousands
of secret papers in the meanwhile. That you can't very well countenance.
I mean, to let them wait a few weeks or two or three months that I might
say would be all right but not three years. And then Golos dies in her
arms in 1943 or 1944, she then reports to a different chief, a Russian,
she becomes disenchanted with him. He's crude and arrogant. She decides
she hates the Communists and she's going to turn loyal American again
so she decides to go to the FBI. She goes up to New Haven, she's afraid
she'll be tailed by the Communists in New York so she goes there in August,
1945, I think it is, and she tells her story to the FBI and they tell
her they'll be in touch with her. She doesn't hear a thing from them for
two and a half months I think it is.
Then they contact her again and they make some kind of arrangement with
her to meet her Russian contact and he turns money over to her and that
satisfies the FBI that she's the real McCoy, when the Russian turns
money over to her.
Then they sit down and they pump her dry of information, they write it
up in a tremendous report, this was early November, 1945, and they ship
it everywhere or at least they ship it all over the Government -- highly
classified, but everywhere.
Now the information they have is based almost exclusively on what Elizabeth
Bentley told them plus what Whittaker Chambers told them, but Whittaker
Chambers' knowledge broke off in 1938 because that's when he left the
party -- I think it was 1938 it was about that time -- so his information
was old, but hers was current up to 1945.
They make such investigations as they can, but they're very small because
by this time the ring has collapsed apparently -- the war is over -- the
ring has collapsed and it's no longer functioning, but they immediately
turn all this information over, and I have no doubt that the main thrust
of what Elizabeth Bentley says was correct -- I mean I believe it -- but
on any given peripheral individual whom she didn't know but only heard
about I would certainly want a lot more information before I would say
this guy must be among them,
because she is constantly repeating hearsay about what she heard from
this or that source, she doesn't even know where she heard it sometimes
and her memory -- she would contradict herself sometimes -- and she is
not, it seemed to me, on detail and on peripheral matters the most reliable
of witnesses, I don't mean she means to be wrong, but her memory seems
to play tricks with her and she's not a lawyer and sometimes she talks
as if she knew something and actually it turns out that it was only hearsay
information from some other source, about someone she'd never met or seen.
This you can't absolutely depend on, obviously.
For example, you have to remember this, if Mr. A. a Communist official
says to Miss B., a minor Communist functionary, that C. in Government
is our man, that doesn't mean it's true. This may be locker room fight
talk, that doesn't mean it's true. He may be trying to give her an impression
of what an effective espionage organization we have and what we're doing,
so he may be naming men as our men, who may know nothing about
it and are not in the slightest his men, or, as a matter of fact, this
might be a device for trying to vilify and kill the career of a
man who is against them by planting in the minds of the security police
that he is their man; there are a lot of angles to this, you have to be
I say that was a very clumsy operation; it was clumsy on the part of
Mr. Golos and the Russians because you just don't do things that way,
I mean not a sensible espionage outfit, you have cut outs, you don't send
them from a spy master to the source and then back again, I mean, why
children could catch a spy that way but the FBI didn't, now why not? I'd
like to know the answer to that. Then they took several months apparently
to believe her after she came to them and yet when they sent their report
to the Government, they were very mad because everybody doesn't believe
it instantly about everybody named in that report, and there were a lot
of important people named in that report some of whom had had a long and
apparently faithful service in Government. Now that was the problem.
In the Treasury in that period we had a number of cases, I'm not going
to name any names, but we had a number of cases which came out of that
report and there were five names in the Treasury that were the key names.
The information on all of them was based essentially on Elizabeth Bentley.
I'll take two of them that I know particularly. These men denied under
oath that it was true. As far as we in the Treasury were concerned, we
had never until that moment seen or heard of Elizabeth Bentley. She was
an anonymous informant; what would you do if you were a fair-minded man
and a man who has worked in responsible roles and apparently very well
and effectively, had been commended -- he's obviously able whatever else
he isn't -- has worked ten years in your department and he looks you in
the eye and under oath states there's not a word of truth in that, and
all you know is that an anonymous report from an anonymous informant whom
you have never seen says he is a Communist, now you're on a loyalty board,
what do you do?
And that was the problem in the Treasury -- in 1947 and '48 we were wrangling
all the time with the Department of Justice over this situation. They
had given us this huge report which contained essentially only the allegations
of Whittaker Chambers which ended in 1938 and the allegations of Elizabeth
Bentley and peripheral investigations that they had made which
were of very little additional value. It simply proved in some cases
that she knew the people she was talking about and about non-subversive
matters she had some accurate information on them, you see. Well, maybe
she found it out other ways, who knows?
They actually were able to get no really significant information substantiating
what Bentley and Chambers said. It relied essentially on what they said,
that was the main thrust of all the evidence and in effect we said, what
the hell; if our people deny this under oath, what are you going to do,
are you going to fire them? They wouldn't even produce her, you understand,
as a witness -- no, no, we couldn't interview her, theoretically she was
unknown to us.
So let me mention this, the great FBI was so adept at this point they
were trying to cover her; they sent us two reports in 1946. One was a
general report about espionage in the United States. There were two reports
and this first one named a lot of people who had been involved and it
specifically named Elizabeth Bentley and described her, you know, she'd
been to Vassar and this and that and the other thing, about her life,
you see. The other was based entirely on her
information, she was given an informant's cover name, and it described
enough about her, so that when you tied it in with the other report you
knew immediately that this was Elizabeth Bentley. The FBI sent those two
reports to us within days and one specifically based on her information
was supposed to hide her identity but we knew immediately who it was,
immediately. Any simpleton could look at the two reports and say, well,
obviously that's who it is, no doubt about it. This was the great FBI,
you see, but this was pretty clumsy.
Well, I hope they've learned. I still say that a lot more is done by
penetration and this may involve buying people on the other side or luring
them out. I don't know what they're doing in this and I hope that they're
doing a good job. You can spend millions and tens of millions on pavement
cops running around getting the gossip of the neighborhood and you get
an awful lot of crap that way because there always will be malicious and
spiteful neighbors who will say mean things. Oh, that woman is a Communist,
I know she is -- how do you know she is -- well, I heard her say that
she thought the Government ought to own the
railroad and that she didn't think they were being run very well, you
know. That's the way it goes, only half the time you won't even get them
to give a reason but the reason will be that silly.
So to get back to the wrangle between Treasury and the FBI, we kept saying
well, now, either go out and make a full field investigation, intensive,
of this individual and turn the original reports, not your summaries of
them, over to us, or give us permission, you give us the investigative
leads, the names and all the information you've got and let us, the Treasury,
do it -- but they wouldn't do it either way.
They just said fire them, we think you ought to fire them, and we said
we thought we ought to have more information before we fired people who
had been there for years, and all we had was unknown confidential informants
who alleged that they were Communists.
I went over with Ed Foley, who was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.
I went over with Lee Wiggins, who was Under Secretary, a conservative
banker from South Carolina; but he became just as mad at the FBI as I
did, and at the Justice Department, generally,
after he dealt with them for a while.
It seemed to me that the intransigence of the Justice Department and
the FBI in this matter -- it was the whole Justice Department including
the FBI -- Tom Clark and company -- that their intransigence aided the
retention of Communists in Government for this reason: that no fair-minded
man sitting on the loyalty board, and presumably you get fair-minded men,
with an employee looking him straight in the eye and under oath saying
it's not true, is going to order that employee fired if all he's got is
a written report saying that some unknown person says this fellow is a
Communist, that's all, I don't think so. If the employee stands up and
takes the oath and says it's not true and all you have is a boilerplate
report saying that informant 101-X says that they knew this person --
well you can think of a million ways there might be a mistake. For heavens
sake, there was Anna Rosenberg, who was Assistant Secretary of Defense.
Somebody got up at her hearing, I think it was on her nomination to be
Assistant Secretary of Defense in the early 1950s during the Truman administration,
and said that Anna Rosenberg had been a Communist, they'd known her in
Communist organization up in New York. Joe McCarthy was involved in that
operation and you know who else was involved, Gerald L. K. Smith, the
eminent hate monger of thirty odd years standing -- Joe McCarthy and Gerald
L. K. Smith, a great team. Well, it turned out that there was an
Anna Rosenberg in some Communist front organization but it was a different
Anna Rosenberg. The name Anna Rosenberg in New York is a pretty common
name. This can happen you know, I mean when you're dealing with this sort
of thing so it's a person with the same name or maybe even it's a confusion
of identities because they look alike, many things can happen, and you
can't interrogate the person, the unknown informant. So all I'm saying
is that in 1947 and '48 the Justice Department probably deferred or protracted
the elimination of some bona fide Communists by their failure to either
provide the information on which fair-minded men could rule on the case
or let the Treasury or the other agency go out and look for its own information,
because we had an investigative organization we thought was pretty good,
I started all this on the balancing of the equities. Now this is a big
job really and there are very few
people who have been on both sides of the picture. Now when I was in
the White House, we found that on internal security measures, the Attorney
General's recommendations always came from the FBI -- started there --
it was totally a security recommendation, on internal security legislation
for instance. And yet there are tremendous considerations of civil liberties
involved in these things but that aspect was never being considered by
anyone, really, theoretically by the Attorney General, but actually it
didn't work that way.
Now we had one situation, there was a bill, I think its number was HR-10,
and this would have been the 81st Congress I guess, whatever the Congress
was in 1950. HR-10 was an immigration bill and it was a very strong drastic
immigration bill. I've forgotten the details, but the general idea was
to give the Attorney General enormous power to detain people who had been
ordered deported -- he could detain them for life under this bill, intern
them, you know, if he couldn't find a country that would take them. It
was a very drastic bill with a lot of tough provisions in it, I've forgotten
In any event the President and the Bureau of the Budget had previously
advised Attorney General Tom Clark that this bill was not in accord
with the President's program, that meant that the Administration did not
approve of it. But Clark went to the Supreme Court and McGrath became
Attorney General and we discovered from outside sources -- I mean it didn't
originate in the White House -- but someone advised us that the Department
of Justice was pushing the bill on the Hill Ė HR-10 -- so I took the matter
up with the President and he instructed me to go over and talk to Attorney
General McGrath about this.
Before I did this so that there would be no doubt about my authority
to do so, I wrote a memorandum for the President's signature to McGrath
-- I have given it to the Library -- in which he says in effect I've asked
Steve Spingarn to discuss this matter with you because he knows my views
and in summary they are this, and then the President, in this memorandum,
proceeded to say that we should have effective internal security laws
on the one hand and on the other hand we should make sure that they do
not unduly encroach on civil liberties and we have to balance these things
against each other
and so forth -- in other words it was a balancing of the equities and
he had wanted to be sure that the Department of Justice would scrutinize
every internal security measure both from the cops side and from the civil
liberties side, and I think there was a suggestion in it that he (McGrath)
had a civil rights section, well, let the bill go through them too, you
see, the opposing points of view and let him iron it out, that was the
idea, both balanced judgments on it -- I don't have the exact verbiage
but it's in the Library this memorandum -- and the President signed it
and I took it over and discussed it with McGrath and he said that of course
he wanted it that way, he hadn't known about HR-10, the bill was around,
he didn't realize it wasn't in accord with the President's program, he
would certainly see that it was stopped -- he was very cooperative.
Some years ago a young professor from Kenyon College came to see me,
I would place this around 1960 or '61, Richard Longaker. He later wrote
a book The Presidency and Individual Liberties, published by the
Cornell University Press, and I was naturally delighted to find that he
took my memorandum, the one that the President
signed sending me over to see McGrath,, and said that this was a model
statement, a model statement by a President on the balancing of considerations
of security and individual rights.
Now I'm going to get into the President's Loyalty Commission; I don't
think there's any necessity in classifying what I'm going to say. I started
off with some statement about the President's Loyalty Commission but I
stopped, now I want to get back to that.
I have told you who composed it. First of all we were unfortunate in
the choice of chairman I donít think any one who sat on that commission
will disagree with me on that. I have never seen so incompetent and ineffective
a man in so responsible a role the whole time I was in government, [A.
Devett Vanech] Gus Vanech. Iím sure heís a pleasant chap and good to wife
and children and all of that, but my goodness, how he ever got that post
Iíll never know. It was so bad and there was so much criticism of him
almost from the beginning from the members, that some time in the course
of the proceedings of the commission he suddenly embarrassed the hell
out of us, because at a full meeting of the
commission with all the members and all the alternates present, he suddenly
exploded, and among his other unfortunate liabilities was the fact that
he couldnít speak the kingís English. Maybe Iím being a snob, but I would
expect that a man who has gone to law school could talk literate English.
I donít mean that he has to talk Boston or Oxford English but you would
think that he would be able to speak reasonably literate English anyway,
but he couldnít.
he broke into flame one day to the terrible embarrassment of everyone
present. He was a special assistant to the Attorney General and his name
was up to be promoted to Assistant Attorney General and he suddenly said,
"Some of house guys has been talking to the Attorney General about
me and saying mean things about me. Youíre hurting my chances to be Assistant
Attorney General," and so on and so forth for some time. Well, assuming
it was true, it was a ridiculous way to handle the situation in public
before the whole group, most of them knew nothing about it until that
point. I didnít know at the moment who had talked, I certainly hadnít.
If I had had the opportunity, I might have but I hadnít.
All he did was make himself look like an ass. Well
there was a long embarrassed pause and on by one the commissioners denied
that they had done any such thing and the meeting proceeded, and then
eventually Gus was promoted to Assistant Attorney General and to my horror
he was later promoted to Deputy Attorney General Ė the second ranking
job in the whole department.
Years later I remember talking to Thurman Arnold about this, who had
been Assistant Attorney General in charge of antitrust in the early Ď30s
and who was a great man, brilliant man, and he said, "Gus Vanech,
chairman of that commission. Why," he said, "in my Justice days
Gus was the fellow you went to when you wanted furniture for your office,
or an automobile." Well, all I can say is that seemed to me about
all he was equipped to do.
Later in the early Ď50s, Gus stumbled or his past caught up with him,
and I donít mean to be unkind to a man who has had troubles, but it did
all appear as a matter of public records, I mean it was all over the newspapers,
naturally, that Gus had had an awful lot of trouble getting admitted to
the bar, that he flunked the Connecticut Bar examination I think three
and that he had then finally got admitted by going down to, I think it
was Tennessee, and getting admitted in some way in the course of a week
and there was some question as to whether that was legal, because I think
he had to swear that he was a resident of the state of Tennessee, and
things like that you know.
Anyway he lost his job at the Justice Department but he should never
have gotten to the eminence that he achieved, at least on the basis of
my view of him. He was not the only Justice man. There were two pretty
sharp apples from Justice backstopping him, one was Dave [David N.] Edelstein,
who is now a Federal judge and the other was Vincent Quinn, who, I'm not
sure if he isn't a Federal judge now, too, anyway he became Assistant
Attorney General later and I'm not sure where he is now, but these were
the fellows backstopping poor old Gus, and I remember some of the other
backstops -- I worked with them on the working committee -- there was
a good man named Stanley Goodrich, who was a State Department working
committee man, he'd been a lieutenant colonel of counterintelligence in
World War II and although he was a Republican from Maine, he and I agreed
on most things; the subcommittee often split
four to two with Goodrich and me in the minority and as I think I've
said before, I said one time I thought we ought to have a theme song called
"Patience and Four to Two," there was a very popular song at that time,
"Patience and Fortitude." And there was Larry Meloy, who died recently,
who was the General Counsel of the Civil Service Commission, he was our
chairman and a likeable, conservative chap. There was a lieutenant colonel
from the Army, he had an old Virginia name but I forget it now, and he
was a card. On one occasion, he said very seriously, "You know a liberal
is only a hop, skip and a jump from a Communist." I naturally differed
with that since I regarded myself as a liberal and I knew I wasn't a hop,
skip and a jump from a Communist, and I said to him, or at least I hope
I did, maybe this is staircase wit, I said to him, "And I suppose a conservative
is only a hop, skip and a jump from a Fascist?" In any event his thinking
processes are exemplified by that remark, they were very conservative,
he was one of the Army representatives but there was a much better one,
a good man, from the Army, a civilian named [Kenneth D.] Johnson, and
Johnson was a fine man and an able man. He later became Dean
of the Columbia School of Social Research, he's now dead -- a good man.
I forget the Navy man at the moment but I don't have any special recollection
of him; he didn't play a very important part in the whole picture [Marvin
I would say on the working committee the men who were most active were
Meloy, the chairman, and the two Justice men -- they came in a little
later -- Edelstein and Quinn and Ken Johnson, Stan Goodrich and myself.
These were the men who did most of the work.
In any event the big thing at the beginning, the big question was how
big a problem are we dealing with. Here was a commission set up to write
a loyalty program for the Government. Well the first problem is how serious
is the loyalty problem? For weeks we struggled to get some meaningful
statement from the Department of Justice without any success; is it a
one division war, is it a five division war, is it a twenty division war;
do we need rifles, machine guns or atom bombs? We struggled with this
without success and I was particularly insistent on trying to get some
meaningful information. I wanted to get J. Edgar Hoover before the commission
and cross-examine him and, in fact, I prepared a very
long list of very provocative questions for him but they were never used.
Eventually there was a secret session, so called, of the full commission.
It was the only session from which the alternates were excluded and Tom
Clark, who didn't attend the commission meetings at all, attended that
one; and he talked to the other commissioners and he told them -- now
this is ancient history, and I'm not going to name any names, but I see
no reason why I shouldn't discuss this fully. Of course the commissioners,
naturally, right after the meeting told their alternates, so it was no
secret. Tom Clark told them that there were twenty-five known Communist
agents in the Government and he told us the Treasury had five and he named
the five. These are the five I was talking about previously and I've also
told you that the basis of this was Bentley and Chambers. I think that
this probably had some influence on the matters of the commission, if
not us at the Treasury, the others. The Attorney General making a statement
like that carried some weight with them and it possibly, I'm just guessing,
just speculating, possibly may have influenced them into writing
a stronger program than they would have otherwise.
In any event the whole thing is laid out in my memorandum and I probably
will be inaccurate in describing it now and to the extent I differ now
with that memorandum I'm wrong now, you see, since I was writing about
contemporary things. I reserve the right to disagree with myself twenty
years ago, I reserve that right but I don't think I would disagree, from
what I remember of it, very fundamentally.
My theory was then not to erect an enormous, cumbersome security machinery
that would spend millions of dollars and slow down administrative operations
tremendously; the best way to fight things is to grab a bull by the horns,
not by the tail, don't grab the chimney by the smoke, always look for
the center and go for that.
I kept saying and arguing that what was really needed was a better counterespionage
organization. A few silly fellow travelers in unimportant jobs didn't
make nearly as much difference as genuine spies in sensitive jobs and
a good counterespionage organization should be going for them and trying
to penetrate the enemy espionage, and money spent there would be worth
ten times what it would be spent on pavement cops going around
collecting a lot of malicious gossip among the neighbors.
You do get an awful lot of crap, I'm telling you. You have to listen
to it. I remember in Italy during the war we'd go into a town and we'd
set up shop and say, "All right, who are the spies," no, we didn't put
it quite that way, but I mean we were known by this time and they came
flocking to us with information. People would line up outside our headquarters
to come in and tell their stories and you heard a good deal of vindictive,
mean talk. A lot of people tried to air their prejudices and get rid of
HESS: Why wasn't it decided to go after the more important people who
might have been Communists in Government rather than to have more of a
blanket plan, as came out?
SPINGARN: Well, the theory was I mean as Gus Vanech used to put it, I
disagreed with his thesis -- well, let me put it this way; there was considerable
disturbance over penetration in Canada and the United States and there's
no doubt there was some penetration. The idea was to set up an organization
that would make that penetration difficult, impossible if possible, and
also there was a theory that the Government shouldn't have to employ
a single Communist for any job. Now this involved a considerable screening
operation, you see, and personally my theory is this: You should guard
the diamonds with great care but not the toothbrushes; if you guard your
diamonds and toothbrushes with the same degree of care, you will give
too much care to the toothbrushes and not enough to the diamonds. You
see, you're diluting. There's only a given amount of time and money and
personnel for anything, so the thing is to pick the sensitive things and
to guard them terribly carefully but don't waste your time guarding unimportant
things, that's a fundamental in security.
HESS: What members of the commission argued on your side and what members
did you feel were on the other side? Is that a fair statement?
SPINGARN: Yes, I think it's a fair statement but it's hard for me to
remember, of course, Ed Foley and I thought pretty much alike. John Sullivan
was strong for all-out security as I recall; I think Ken Royall inclined
to be that way but he was tempered somewhat by the fact that he had an
awful good man in Kenneth Johnson at his side; Ken Royall was not as hotheaded
as John Sullivan I would have said, or as all-out. The State Department
men changed every few weeks so I have trouble remembering where they
stood. There were at least three of them. I remember for State there was
[John E.] Peurifoy, there was [Donald S.] Russell, and there was [J. Anthony]
Panuch. Mr. [Harry B.] Mitchell was so old and feeble I don't know where
he stood,, he was well into his seventies -- he was the Civil Service
Commission Chairman -- and who else was there, oh, Gus Vanech.
Gus was impossible; he was an all-out tiger, and he couldnít even make
sense, he just blurted blab.
Anyway let me put it this way, I donít think that was the worst of all
security systems, it provided that everybody coming in had to have a loyalty
screening and this involved simply the agency check up to the point derogatory
information was found, then if that was found, a full field investigation.
There was a question in my mind whether, well I don't know I mean I'd
have to think about it and look over the files before I made any considered
judgment. I still think though that it might have been wiser to name sensitive
jobs that you were going to do a real job in and give them all full field
investigations and pay less attention to the other non-sensitive jobs;
and also I thought there ought to have
been more concentration on actual -- we did put something in the report
that I wrote, about intensifying counterespionage but I think it was just
window dressing myself I don't think anything ever happened on that.
We were addressing the FBI, which presumably doesn't pay heed of anybody.
Now there was one thing I was proud of, some people may disagree with
me, but I insisted that we ought to get in the subversives of the right,
too, you know, the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazis, and so we did write them
in, I was the fellow who agitated and wrote the first draft of that. We
did get something in about people who advocated the use of force or violence
or followed the policy of denying others of their constitutional rights,
something like that, I've forgotten the language of that, but it was intended
to cover -- I mean, the pure civil libertarian who say O.K hire the Communist,
hire the Ku Klux Klan, but I might say, well, if you're talking about
a caretaker for a latrine in Lafayette Park I don't really care who you
hire, I don't see much point in spending a lot of money to make sure he's
not a Communist; I don't see any more reason why you should hire Ku Klux
Klan members than Communists, I really don't, and yet this did raise problems.
The director of personnel of the Treasury, I forget his name but he's
dead now, he was a nice fellow from Alabama, and he was on our Loyalty
Board and he said to me, "You know it's just by the grace of God that
I didn't join the Ku Klux Klan back in the '20s, because in my home town
in Alabama that was a very respectable organization then. I don't know
how I failed to join it." I sympathized, I knew him, that was a very respectable
organization in Alabama then, I'm sure it was. I don't think it
would be today, for the most part, but it was then.
HESS: A little bit more socially acceptable back then.
SPINGARN: Yes, nobody thought it was subversive, on the contrary, a high
patriotic, Christian organization, keeping those God damn foreigners and
that low class of people out of places they didn't belong in. Well, looking
back on that operation, I think we could have done a lot worse; as I recall
the first standard for loyalty, I mean for determining what the standard
or test you had to apply in case you went to remove a guy, was within
reason, but then they kept watering that thing down.
After I left the White House they reversed the
burden of proof, as I recall. Originally the burden of proof was on the
Government, then they put it on the individual, that they wouldn't retain
him unless his retention was clearly consistent with national security.
How in the hell does anyone prove that his retention is clearly
consistent with national security? You could take General Marshall and
you would say, well, Senator Jenner and Senator McCarthy say he's a subversive,
obviously since they are Senators of the United States, and his retention
could not be clearly consistent. If you're General Marshall, that's ridiculous,
but suppose you're a pipsqueak down the line nobody ever heard of you
before people say that you are a subversive -- what chance do you have?
HESS: That would be the end of him.
SPINGARN: Yes, and then the Eisenhower administration came along and
boy, they started playing the numbers game. They merged loyalty and security,
and then they would issue new figures every week beating their breasts
and shouting about how many of these Truman, Roosevelt subversives they
were removing. They merged loyalty and security. Now security involves
people who drink too much, it involves homos, it involves blabbermouths,
people who are in bad debt all the time, all sorts of things, most of
them have nothing to do with loyalty, just character defects, that's what
most of them are.
But they were merging security and loyalty and they were announcing it
all as if they were removing subversives. Actually, I have a definition,
slightly humorous, of a non-subversive, a non-security risk, let's put
it that way. A non-security risk, I'd say as a seasoned security officer,
is a deaf, dumb, blind eunuch, who doesn't drink, smoke or take narcotics
-- everyone else is a security risk; anyone who has any human sensations
and feelings, and emotions is a security risk, and it's true.
I remember for instance, I don't think I've told this on tape, have I,
about the Hoey Committee? Well, in 1950 when I was at the White House,
this is the Joe McCarthy period, a subcommittee was set up under Senator
[Clyde Roark] Hoey of North Carolina, I think it was a Government Operation
Subcommittee, but I'm not sure, to investigate homosexuals in Government.
Joe McCarthy was making a lot out of that, you know. They had as chief
counsel an ex-FBI man named Francis Flanigan, and I was White House liaison
man. I remember Charley
Murphy and I going up and having a talk with Senator Hoey on the thing
at the beginning, agreeing that I would act as liaison man with the committee,
we would work out arrangements for cooperation. It was a question of what
we wanted to disclose on this very delicate, sensitive matter. It's a
terrible thing, I mean, a man who may have had a wonderful career in Government,
just the charge of homosexuality may wreck his whole career not to mention
his family fortunes, and a lot of other things.
Look at the case of Walter Jenkins; Walter Jenkins' career was destroyed
because, as I wrote to the New York Times at the time, and it was
published, of a compulsive aberration which society viewed as so minor
he could post $25 or $50 collateral and forfeit that and that was the
end of it. That was the way society views this thing as a crime, but it
was so horrible to the moral senses that his whole career was destroyed,
as a result, his Government career, after twenty-five years of loyal service.
I didn't know Jenkins well but I had some meetings and talks with him
and he helped on this KOED program, he helped open doors, he was then
Vice President Johnson's
right-hand man, his number one aide. To me he seemed like an imaginative,
able, hard-hitting, hard working Government official, a good man. You
could have knocked me over with a feather when I read that thing, I wouldn't
have believed it for a moment.
Anyway Flanigan came down to see me, we had a long talk about the whole
thing. I asked him, "What documentation do you have? I can see the homosexual
as a security risk, but he's one of many. What documentation do you have
that he is a particularly bad security risk?" He said, "Well, it's funny.
I haven't been able to find anything on this country," and the only case
he could give me was a colonel who was a chief of counterespionage in
the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914. He was a fairy and he had been a Russian
agent. He sold out the Austria-Hungarians, their military secrets. That
was reaching pretty far back, I thought, in a different country forty
years earlier. Of course, we've had a few cases in this country since
then and the British had the case of, oh, what were those two fellows'
names, you know those foreign service officers who defected?
HESS: I can't recall their names but I know who you mean.
SPINGARN: Yes, two foreign service officers. There was
homosexuality in one or both of those instances according to reports.
In this country we've had the cases of those two mathematicians at the
National Security Agency who defected, but I'm not clear to what extent
in either case that was the determining factor in the defection, or a
In any event, I would say that there are two risks involved with homosexuals,
one is that he can be blackmailed, and this is a charge that can destroy
a man's career, you see, so it is a serious thing, and the other is that
they live in a milieu of their own, a sort of separate world of their
own which crosses all sorts of caste and cultural lines, a chauffeur and
a Cabinet officer might have a homosexual affair, that sort of thing.
In their own world there are no caste lines, and this is useful in espionage
organizations because if you happened to know that an important Government
official had that weakness you could infiltrate a handsome young chauffeur
maybe or someone else. But on the other hand it is also true of heterosexual
male, that if he has an exceptional weakness for women you could infiltrate
a woman into his life, too, and it is much more likely, in my opinion,
to happen that way.
In my experiences it has happened much more that way in espionage. This
is the whole history of the thing. There was a case of a United States
Senator which is well-known, I mean this has been in the newspapers, I
won't mention his name, but a United States Senator who was chairman of
a powerful war committee throughout World War II, who was a notorious
homosexual who was once caught in a house of prostitution near the Brooklyn
Navy Yard, I mean a male house of prostitution, and there are other cases,
but there is no indication that there was any breach of security, so I'll
go back to my definition of a non-security risk.
The homosexual is one kind of security risk and yet he's only one and
I don't know whether he is worse, more or less, than others. I would say
that the excessively red-blooded heterosexual male, who has no discretion
in such matters, and who blabs freely when he is in bed with a lady is
likely to be a worse one. And then the fellow with delusions of grandeur,
the fellow who wants to show everybody he knows more than they do and
who just has to tell them what he knows, he may be the worst of all.
We had a case at Fifth Army, involving a key officer
who was a homosexual, and one of my men reported that this man had made
personal advances to him. This man disliked my outfit, CIC, and naturally
he would because a man of that sort would dislike an investigative outfit
automatically, he'd feel some danger from them. He had done some nasty
things vis-a-vis us. I thought in my mind should we do something about
this, should I report this, but here was the problem: This man was a West
Pointer, he was close to the top brass, I was not, I was a civilian soldier
and I was not. I don't mean in any wrong way but he was a highly regarded
and respected officer who held a key job. I mean if he had been disloyal,
he could have done enormous damage, he could have revealed all the secrets
of the whole Army.
This is not the kind of a charge you make lightly against an important
man. If you make it against a man and fail, I mean I knew if this charge
didn't stand up or if they didn't think it stood up, that I would be out
walking guard in the Aleutian Islands, that's about the way it would happen.
So I thought it over very carefully and I said to hell with it and we
went all through the war, this guy was in this key spot
all through the war and we won the war, and he remained just as flagrant
a fairy at the end as he was at the beginning. I mean I kept hearing reports
about it from my people, advances he had made and things like that.
I don't remember actually what happened to the report of this Committee.
They came in with a report but I don't remember what was recommended.
Those were the days that McCarthy was pounding this situation, among others,
very hard. I think it was about that time that an article appeared called
"I Was a Homosexual in the State Department for the FBI," or something
like that. Well, I think that covers that.
Now, first of all I want to restrict this tape on what I’m going
to say now about Clark Clifford and an episode or two involving him, and
my own life and career. I want this closed nad not used or made available
to anybody until five years after Clifford’s death.
Clark Clifford was my original boss at the White House. I first met him
in I think it was January, 1948, when I went over on detail for a little
while to work on the President’ Civil Rights Bill. That was only
couple of weeks.
My impression is that he was away with the President during the campaign
-- I did see him at the beginning in September 1948 when I went over there
but he was away most of the time, but then in January, 1949, I think it
was, he called me over to the White House, it was then or thereabouts,
and asked me if I’d care to come over permanently as his assistant;
he asked me some questions about myself I recall and asked me if I had
any skeletons in my closet and I assured him that as far as I knew I had
none, unless he regarded the fact that my father and uncle were presidents
of the NAACP as adverse information, he assured me he didn’t. He
told me the White House was very much of a small family and that the people
had to fit in in personality and temperament, I mean that’s natural
that they wanted people who would fit into the group.
We had a little friendly talk, and I remember the question came up as
to why didn’t the FBI like me. It seemed that someone, I don’t
know who it was, I think it was Gus Vanech -- my old friend Gus Vanech
-- had suggested to somebody at the White House, just mysteriously, that
the FBI didn’t like Spingarn. I explained it
wasn’t that they had anything subversive on me, it’s just
that I had been in, shall I say, policy disagreement with them on a number
of issues, and I mentioned the latest one which was the internal security
bill that they were plugging, and how the Treasury report on this, which
had been written by me, had been approved by the President and the Budget
as the Administration’s position, then they wanted to reopen the
matter and they sent a young lawyer named Mike Horan over to the Treasury
and he talked to Tom Lynch and me, and he didn’t just want to reopen
it, he just wanted us to reverse ourselves and acquiesce in the Justice-FBI
position. That didn’t strike me as particularly good negotiations.
I mean, we had been approved by the highest authority, why should he think
we would reverse our position? The Budget spoke for the President on this.
Why should we reverse ourselves because a young fellow named Mike Horan
asked us to? We still thought we were right and he was wrong.
They had some silly things in that bill, I mean it’s usual for
a security agency -- they want to throw a dragnet over everything. They
don’t want to hit the target or the bulls-eye, well, they say, we
be able to use this, and so forth and so on. They had a provision, for
example, in this bill of theirs that we commented on, I’ve forgotten
the exact details, but they wanted everybody who had received training
in the operation of foreign intelligence services to register with the
Department of Justice or somewhere. It was designed to catch the “sleeper
agent” in this country who had been trained to come here as a spy
but not to operate for several years. Now suppose he’s picked up
before he’s done anything, there’s nothing you can charge
him with unless you have his registration provision. So he was required
to register, you see, because he had been trained by a foreign espionage
service even if he hadn’t done any espionage. That was all right,
but their provision would have required every academician who ever studied
foreign intelligence operations, you might have had thousands of professors
and students and as far as that goes, every CIC man had studied the operations
of German and Nazi intelligence and things like that. It was stupid. Thousands
of people would have had to register who had no connection with the real
case, but it was a typical internal security measure -- throw a loose
net around everybody, you see, the you
sift out the ones you want -- didn’t make any sense.
I told Clark about this, told him there had been some disagreements between
Treasury and Justice. I was counsel of Secret Service, and between the
Treasury cops and the Justice cops there was a certain built-in friction.
The Treasury copes understandably rankled a little because the FBI was
always getting the credit for everything; you’d pick up a newspaper
and you’d see, “G-men catch this crook.” Now everybody
supposed that G-men were the FBI, but when you looked down, it was a narcotics
agent or internal revenue agent or customs agent or alcohol tax, all Treasury
agents. They were big publicity hounds and our people weren’t, and
there were other things, they were always getting the big treatment; they
were getting better retirement benefits. When anything was being given
away, the FBI was first in line.
We had this situation in the Treasury. The FBI in 1947 put through a
special retirement bill giving them better retirement privileges than
the rest of the Government copes on the grounds of risk and hazard. We
wanted to climb aboard that bill and get it for our people, too, but they
fought us off, they repelled
us, they even convince Secretary Snyder that we shouldn’t be on
it, and we weren’t. They said they’d make the precedent and
then we could get on the next year, and we did, as a matter of fact. I
was the legislative counsel; we got the bill and I marshaled the witnesses
and Don Hansen and I wrote Snyder’s statement, and I coordinated
the whole thing, and we pushed the bill through. It was a pretty good
little lobby operation. We had teams up there, but the funny thing was
that the FBI had gotten it first on the grounds of greater risk and all
that. The insurance companies at that time had rescinded the premium pay
for FBI, that is they no longer required them to make premium payments
on account of extra risk, but they wouldn’t do it for our people.
The fact of the matter is that the FBI is one of the safest places in
the whole country; once in a while a FBI man does get bumped off, one
every two years or something like that. It was much more dangerous being
on a city police force, and our people were killed and maimed much more
often than the FBI, I mean, nobody is shrewder or cooler-eyed than the
insurance companies. At that time around 1947 or ’48 they had taken
off the requirement of premium payments
by FBI agents for insurance, but when he said, well, the FBI has got
it -- oh, no, not you fellows; you’re too dangerous.
The FBI got their retirement bill first and we got ours second and that’s
the way it always works. Then there was the disagreements over the loyalty
cases in 1947, and there have been the disagreements on the Loyalty Commission,
there had been these little frictions, you see, and I was always the cutting
edge for the Treasury. I was always the fellow they bumped into.
HESS: You were always out in front.
SPINGARN: So I told Clark Clifford this, and he agreed that these were
matters of policy disagreements and not anything else. Well, Clark was,
I think, already committed to going out into private practice, which he
did in January, 1950. I went over on an informal basis in January, 1949,
and it was confirmed in February.
I think he was already committed because as far as I could see, if he
was concentrating on White House matters (and I was his only professional
assistant), I never saw it. I saw him only occasionally, I can only remember
a few subjects or assignments that I
got from him, there must have been others, but I can only remember two
For instance, one day he said to me that the President had been much
interested and wanted to know the background of the Alien and Sedition
Laws of 1798, would I give him a memorandum on that; so I went to the
library and I spent two or three days and I wrote a four or five page
single-spaced memorandum giving him some background on the laws, their
provisions, their history, the prosecutions under them and the impact
on the political scene both then and later of these things. It was really
a memorandum in my own opinion, of what was happening right now -- that
was in 1949 -- because, although McCarthy had not yet appeared, we still
had the Alger Hiss case and all that business, Whittaker Chambers and
Bentley, and this was very hot stuff, and in my memo I squared up the
“then” period against the Alien-Sedition Laws period. I made
some recommendations also as to what I thought the President ought to
Well, that was one thing; it took me three or four days. Then on another
occasion, he called me up one morning, I remember, some southern politician,
I think it was a southern Governor, I don’t remember, had come
up with a proposal that a law be passed requiring every business to
hire ten percent Negroes. Clark wanted a memorandum by that afternoon
on this, you see, so I gave him the memorandum that afternoon -- that
was a four or five hour project -- saying that it was probably unconstitutional,
and it was silly to begin with. It was impractical and probably unconstitutional,
I assumed it was. It’s one thing to say you can’t discriminate,
you know, you mustn’t discriminate but it’s another thing
to have to take ten percent whether competent or not. In some areas you
couldn’t possibly get ten percent, of people who have had the proper
training. You might get some other areas where you’d get twenty
percent, you see, it worked the other way, but you couldn’t in many
skilled areas get ten percent because they didn’t have the training
-- certainly not in 1950 or ’49.
Well, most of the things he had me do seemed to be favors for important
people from Missouri -- friends. On quite a few occasions he would phone
me or usually just send me a memorandum and tell me -- I remember one
was Bishop [Ivan] Holt of St. Louis. He was going to Europe that summer,
as I recall, and going to a lot of
countries, and I was to call the State Department and make arrangements
so the red carpet would be rolled out for him by our embassy in each country,
and this involved a number of memorandum, letters and phone calls back
It wasn’t a big job, it was certainly not what I thought I had
gone over to the White House for -- I was doing more interesting work
at the Treasury than that, but I didn’t grumble about that. I believe
that you do what you’re told to do and you work and if you don’t
like it you leave. But that fact remains that I wasn’t getting enough
work, I was getting very little work from Clark. And if he was playing
an important part in the affairs of the White House, I didn’t see
It is true that he sat in on the last rounds of the speech conferences
and things like that, but that didn’t amount to much. That was usually
a matter of crossing “t’s” and things like that; there
are rarely major changes made at that stage. It’s usually just minor
style changes, and sometimes he sat in before that, I mean, sometimes
he sat in at earlier stages. But it didn’t seem to me that he was
pulling an awful
lot of water at that time. Others may see it differently.
From where I sat I didn’t see it that way, so I used to go in to
see Charlie Murphy, who was Administrative Assistant to the President
then. I said, “Charlie, I don’t have any work to do, have
you got something?” And Charlie was always glad to have another
hand because he was always snowed under with work. So most of the time
I was working on assignments from Charlie Murphy that year, and it turned
out well for me because when Clifford left, I was promoted to Murphy’s
place and he was promoted to Clifford’s place and obviously if I
hadn’t done a lot of work for Murphy, although Murphy had known
me for a long time, but still if I had only been sitting there at a distance
from him, I expect I wouldn’t have gotten that post, and I know
to this day that Dave Bell and Dave Lloyd both deserved it more than I
did. But they got it later, I mean the title of Administrative Assistant
to the President. Anyway, Clifford left. Now when I became Administrative
Assistant to the President, among my other duties I was legislative man,
and I was aviation man. Now under the law, the domestic decisions of the
Board do not come to the president but the foreign, that is the ones
that involve traffic between the United States and other countries by
air and the routes and things, have to be approved by the President, the
CAB decisions in that field. It was very pleasant in the fact that Joe
O’Connell, who was my old Treasury boss, was the chairman of the
Civil Aeronautics Board and Joe and I had not only been colleagues on
the Treasury, he the boss, and I his chief assistant, but we were friends
and have been for many years, in fact we both had been assistant general
counsel together, no, but anyway I had been a Treasury lawyer and when
he was assistant general counsel he and I worked on the same level and
he and I were friends -- social friends as well as business friends, and
so it was pleasant to work with him in complete harmony, and we got along
well and I could always call on him for, well, he was always cooperative,
he was a good man.
Well, then there came a major case. Now Clifford had gone out and, among
other things, he had become counsel for Howard Hughes, who owned a controlling
share in TWA, Trans World Airlines, among many other things. And the most
important case of that period,
airlines case, was the Pan Am-TWA-AOA case. Now, if I have the details
wrong, I defer to the record, I’m reciting from memory I haven’t
looked at this in a long time, but as I remember it, I think I’m
substantially right, this was the situation: There was three American
airlines between here and Europe at that time, Pan American, the biggest;
TWA, the second; and a smaller one AOA, American Overseas Airline, and
both Pan American and TWA were contesting to take over AOA’s routes
absorb them. Now Clifford was lawyer for Howard Hughes, he wasn’t
counsel for TWA actually, but he was Howard Hughes’ personal counsel
and I think he may have been counsel, I’m not sure of this, for
the Hughes Tool Company. Anyway he was Howard Hughes’ counsel in
some way or other, and I’m sure he was getting a huge retainer for
this. I knew this case was coming up, you see, so I went to the President
and I told him I wanted to disqualify myself on that case since I had
been Clark Clifford’s assistant and since he was the lawyer for
Howard Hughes who was on one side of that case. I didn’t think that
I should have anything to do with the case, and HST agreed with me. It
was arranged between us that I’d make the arrangements with Frederick
J. Lawton, who was Director of the Budget. The usual situation was this;
When the CAB made a decision, it sent it -- I don’t know if it sent
it direct, I think it sent it to the Bureau of the Budget or maybe sent
it to the White House to be sent to the Bureau of the Budget, but anyway
it went to the Budget. The Budget then collected the views of other affected
agencies, the State Department would be interested, you see and others,
perhaps the Post Office Department, and several others, and then it sent
the whole thing to the White House and that went to me with its recommendation,
the other agency views and its recommendations, and then I went over them
and made my recommendations, the final recommendation to the President
as to whether he should approve or disapprove the CAB decision. So it
was arranged that Fred Lawton should take it up with the President, and
I would not be involved at all, but of course, it was a tremendous and
fascinating case and I kept myself advised on what was happening, developments
in the case even though I wasn’t participating in any way.
Well, the thing got really well fouled up, the CAB by a three to two
vote decided that TWA should have the route. That decision went to the
President, he signed
it and approved it, and if my memory is right, it was sent back to the
CAB and then almost immediately, now this is my recollection the record
will show, I defer to what the record shows, but this is my recollection,
it was very much like this if not exactly. The White House then telephoned
and asked that the file be returned to the White House. The President’s
signature was then erased rather clumsily and he then added a memo of
some sort disapproving the decision, and I’ve forgotten whether
he directed that it be reconsidered, I’ve forgotten what the exact
nature of his direction was, again I defer to the record on this. In any
event he withdrew his approval and, in effect either threw the AOA routes
to Pan Am entirely or at least threw it open, my impression is that it
was then thrown to Pan Am with a reversal, or it was at least in large
part thrown to Pan Am with maybe some sop to TWA, but before it had been
all TWA, period. Pan Am being the largest, the majority of the board had
thought they shouldn’t give the bigger competitor another arm, you
see, that was the main thinking, as I understand it. I have memorandum
in my files somewhere which I really should look up and put into the same
package as this tape, you see, somewhere
or other I have longhand notes, maybe what I’ll do is look them
up later and give them to you and ask you to associate them with this
tape with the same proviso that five years should elapse after Clark Clifford’s
death before any of this becomes open to any one.
HESS: It can be done without any trouble.
SPINGARN: Yes, because I do have longhand contemporary notes on the things
that happened then and now I’ve been talking from my memory which
is a very fallible instrument, but the recollection I have is this: That
at the time the file was recalled, after it was signed and then recalled,
there was a conference at the White House and Oswald Ryan, who was a Republican
and vice chairman at that time, was called over to the White House but
not Joe O’Connell. Now Oswald Ryan had voted in the minority on
this three to two decision for TWA, Joe had noted in the majority but
O’Connell was not called over, you see, this seemed peculiar, and
Joe O’Connell thought it was very peculiar, in fact he deeply resented
In Washington circles, for whatever it may mean, Oswald Ryan was sometimes
described as vice president of Pan Am for CAB operations, I say that’s
circles in Washington thought. He was a pleasant fellow, but I’m
just saying how some people described him, however apt the description
may be. In any event this was, as I recall over the Fourth of July weekend
in 1950 if I’m not mistaken. Joe O’Connell came over to see
me, or maybe we talked on the phone, I forget which, he was very angry
and he said he had written the President and asked why he wasn’t
invited -- after all he was not only the chairman of CAB but he had voted
with the majority on this decision, why wasn’t he consulted before
they were reversed. The President wrote him back saying, “You were
invited,” now the President was simply misinformed by somebody,
I think I know who it was but I won’t say so.
HESS: This is going to be closed.
SPINGARN: Well, it simply had to be Matthew Connelly. I think it had
to be. Connelly and [John R.] Steelman were in the middle of this picture,
it was one or the other and I think it had to be Matt Connelly, in any
event, Joe knows he was not invited, he knows that, I mean, he told me
that, that there was no telephone call to him, no invitation to him.
HESS: Would you like to put an additional restriction on
this linked to five years after Mr. Connelly’s death?
SPINGARN: Yes, both of those, all right let’s make it that way,
five years after the last of the two has passed away.
Joe knows he wasn’t invited, he told me this, and yet the President
wrote and told him that, “You were invited.” But he wasn’t,
and naturally, you could see how the chairman of an agency would feel
when a dissenting member in the minority on a case was invited over and
then he is reversed without a chance to put in his views. Well, Joe had
tried to resign before, he tried to resign because he wanted to go into
private practice but now this made him feel certain that he had to resign,
so he wrote a rather hot-tempered letter, I mean it was a little hot-tempered,
he was mad.
I tried to dissuade him, he called me up and said he was sending it to
me, the President was at Blair House and he wanted to see that it got
to him there, it was the Fourth of July weekend. I had tried to argue
him out of it. I said, “Joe, wait, sit on it for a while, think
about it for a few days, don’t do this in haste,” I couldn’t
budge him, well, it was his decision,
I couldn’t make it for him. We argued for a long time and I tried
to persuade him to think it over during the weekend. I said, “Why
do you have to do it now, why does it have to be done this quickly, why
can’t you wait until the weekend is over?” But he insisted
and I said O.K. and he sent it over to me and I sent it over to the President
at Blair House. My impression is that he never got any real reply, you
know, because his letter was sharp, that he got either a formal acknowledgement,
a cold formal acknowledgement, or nothing at al, when in ordinary course,
a man like Joe O’Connell who had long and fine service would have
gotten a beautiful letter from the President when he left. But he didn’t
get that kind of letter, at least that’s my distinct impression.
Anyway, the case was still reversed and obviously Clark Clifford was fit
to be tied and Clark called me up, and in my long hand notes I have an
account of this, he called me up and he came to see me in my apartment
across the street one night and he, naturally was very distressed.
Clark knew, I don’t know from what sources, he had plenty of lines,
he knew what had happened, you see, and obviously his best client -- I
assume Howard Hughes
was his best client and his best-paying client, I’m just guessing
this, but certainly he was not working for him for peanuts -- his best
client had just been stabbed in the back, after what seemed to be a win,
in the dark as it were, behind closed doors, in this peculiar way.
He wanted my opinion as to whether he, Clark Clifford, should go to the
President and inform the President that he had been sold out by his own
people, that’s what he wanted to tell him. I said, “Clark,
you can’t go to the President in your present posture.” I
said, “Before you got to the President, you have got to resign your
commission, your retainer, with Howard Hughes and give back your retainer
otherwise you are going to the President and you are trading, in effect,
on your relationship with him but you’re an advocate for one side
of this case. You can’t do that. If you want to tell the President,
and believe me you would have my complete endorsement,” I mean,
I would have been glad to see him do that as a dispassionate, objective
bystander who was out of any pecuniary interest in the case, but as long
as he had any money interest in the case, how could he do it, because
he had the access to the President as the President’s former
Special Counsel and friend, and he couldn’t go and say to him,
“You’ve been sold out by your own people,” because he
was doing to for money.
Well, Clark said he’d think about doing that, of course he never
did, and I don’t know if he went to the President or not, I don’t
know that, I would be interested myself in knowing whether he ever went
to the President, but it seemed to me, I mean this is an ethical judgment.
I’m not going to blame Clark too harshly for this thing, but it
seemed to me that he did owe the President the duty of advising him that,
shall we say, he was sold out by his own people in some peculiar way,
but he had to do it as a dispassionate person and that meant giving up
a big handsome retainer and this he wasn’t willing to do, at least
he never gave up the retainer, whether or not he went to the President
or not I don’t know. Anyway, Pan Am got the lion’s share of
the pie but then there was some compromise made with TWA, but Pan Am was
the one that came out ahead on this deal and all I can say is, there was
a lot of shouting about the way this had happened. It looked mighty peculiar
to me too and I’ glad that I disqualified myself on that case and
involved in it, but I’m sorry it went the way it did, because
I don’t think the President was well served in this particular matter
by whoever served him.
Well, now that’s item one, item two, and the one that really stuck
in my craw because of Clark Clifford was this: Probably in 1951 or ’52,
I don’t know, well anyway sometime while I was on the Federal Trade
Commission, I would place it around 1952, Clark Clifford came down to
see me and had a long talk with me. He came down as a lawyer for various
interests, the Pennsylvania Railroad was one and various others, this
was perfectly appropriate, I mean, a Federal Trade Commissioner, except
on a matter which has reached the quasi-judicial stage where a complaint
has been filed, can see anyone and should see people who want the Commission
to move into some area or other. So I remember, Clark hoped that we would
favor or oppose certain legislation that the Pennsylvania, or whatever
side he was on, I think he represented Pennsylvania Railroad, and he wanted
to know did we agree with the railroad and I said no, we were on the other
side and we had already made our decision and that ended that. There were
several other matters, but finally there came the main thing he was
there for, he was representing a competitor, I’ve forgotten the
name of the firm he represented, of the Luria Company, which was the principal
scrap iron company in the United States, a major source of steel, collecting
and bringing in scrap iron, that’s my recollection of the situation,
again I defer to the formal records of the Commission on this matter.
He wanted the Commission to launch an investigation of Luria for possible
violations of the antitrust law. The Commission, in fact, was already
considering this and I was the commissioner, in fact, assigned to make
the recommendation to the full Commission on this matter. If Clark Clifford
had never appeared in my office, we were going to do it, the point was
this was the middle of the Korean war, and steel was needed badly and
anything that impeded the flow of steel and scrap into the steel mills
was obviously something to be dealt with, so this was a highly worthwhile
investigation from our standpoint. Clark discussed the thing with me on
the merits which is entirely right, and everything went well until he
left, and then as he left he stood in the door and said, “By the
way, Steve, there’ll be a $25,000 fee for me if the Federal Trade
launches an investigation.” In other words, just our beginning
an investigation meant a $25,000 fee for him.
Well, I thought that was a rotten thing to do, I mean, remember this,
he obviously thought that I felt under obligations of gratitude to him,
I had been his assistant in the White House. Why should it make any difference
to an honest Government official whether a lawyer gets $25,000 if the
official odes something, why should it make any difference to him, quite
the contrary, why should it make the remotest difference to him, why should
he be reminded of such a thing. I’m not suggesting for a moment
that Clifford was suggesting that I cut in on it, that was the furthest
thing from his mind or my mind. It never occurred to me. That wasn’t
the thought, no, it was only that he thought that I was under bonds of
gratitude to him and that I should help him. Well, I didn’t feel
that way and eve, I mean, even if I had been under bonds of gratitude
to him, the last thing you do is to use your Government powers to pay
off gratitude debts. You pay them other ways, but you don’t use
your official powers to do it, although a lot of people seem to think
so -- you know it’s funny, a lot of people come to me, “Well,
you’re a friend of mine.”
And I say, “I don’t give a God damn if I’m your best
friend, if you want me to lend you some money personally, come on ask
me, I’ll lend you some. But don’t come to me and ask me to
do some official act on your behalf, that I have no right to do for you,
and in fact, you were asking me to do a corrupt thing, and I’m ashamed
That’s the line I take with them and that sets them back a little.
The funny thing is, this in not malevolence on the part of people. This
is particularly true of women, they simply don’t understand why
you can’t do something for them. “You’re running this
big agency, you have all that power, why can’t you use a little
of it for me, I’m your friend,” but men do it too. But Clark
knew better than that.
Well, Clark Clifford is far from being the worst of the lawyer-lobbyists
in this town. But that what he is, he’s an enormously successful
lawyer-lobbyist. I’m sure that he makes huge sums, I have no doubt
whatever, and he has great prestige. I have heard him
laugh about the fact that his clients think he had influence, of course
he doesn’t have any influence, you know, he was just pooh-poohing
the idea that he had influence. Well, that’s the most effective
ploy there is. I mean by that everybody who reads the national press,
I mean anybody who is familiar with national affairs in any big corporation
knows that Clark Clifford stands aces with President Johnson, that he
stood aces with President Kennedy, and that he was President Truman’s
Special Counsel. In other words, he has been high on the roster of all
three Democratic Presidents since World War II. He was a Special Counsel
of Truman, he was President Kennedy’s transition agent, arranging
the transition between the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, he
is an intimate consultant and advisor to Lyndon Johnson, and he is Chairman
of the Foreign Intelligence Policy Advisory Board, or some such thing,
he has been out to Saigon, I think he was at the Manila conference, if
I’m not mistaken. And a very important Federal official, whom I
will not name, told me a month or two ago, when we had lunch, that a matter
that came up in his agency not so long ago and the President phoned him
consulting with him on the matter and it was obvious that Clark Clifford
was sitting at the President’s elbow, because the President kept
saying, “I want to talk to Clark,” and acting as if Clark
was sitting at his elbow and he was talking to my friend, who is also
a friend of the President’s and Clark’s, Clark was sitting
there, and he was listening to Clark and getting advice form my friend,
an agency head, at the same time.
He takes advice from him and everybody knows that and Clark has done
a wonderful job of burnishing his image because here when somebody writes
a book, Cabell Phillips for instance, here’s this book The Truman
Presidency, and when you look at the preface he says, “A great many
people have helped me with this book and I have acknowledged my debt to
most of them in the text and the notes and sources. There are a few, however,
whose encouragement and assistance were literally indispensable and whom
I want to pay a special measure of gratitude. Clark M. Clifford, who was
the White House Special Counsel of the 1946 to 1950, was the most effective
and the most heavily relied upon member of President Truman’s personal
staff. With great patience
and generosity, Clark gave me many hours of his time and a virtually
free rein on the voluminous personal files he brought away from the White
House.” And in the notes in almost every chapter and at the end
of the book, you find glowing tributes to Clark Clifford, and to the help
he gave on that particular chapter. These are the notes on sources, and
many of them, chapter six, chapter five, “Those who have been most
helpful in this respect,” that is interviews, files, “are
Clark M. Clifford,” he always leads, “Oscar Chapman, Paul
Porter,” and chapter six starts off: “I’ve been greatly
assisted in the preparation of this chapter by Clark M. Clifford,”
and so on down the line, chapter seven, “Clark Clifford,”
chapter eight, “I’ve had the generous assistance of Clark
M. Clifford,” first name mentioned, and so on. Well, I’m not
saying that Clark shouldn’t do this, of course he should, and as
a matter of fact it’s a tribute to his astuteness that he does because
the result has been -- I took Cabell Phillips to lunch a month or two
ago, he’s a friend of mine of long-standing, and I said, “Cabell,
why do you have to perpetuate this myth that Clark Clifford was the only
first class man on the White House staff?”
And he said, “Well, he was so helpful to me,” in effect,
he said, “He was so helpful to me.”
Cabell Phillips is an awfully nice guy and a very competent reporter
but he’s like most human beings, the man who helps him the most
becomes the best guy, this is natural.
Now on my books Charlie Murphy is worth three Clark Cliffords; (a) Charlie
has a better, keener mind, what Charlie lacks is façade, that’s
what Clark has, wonderful façade. He’s a big handsome impressive
man with a fine personality, and he looks like a big-leaguer. He looks
like a President might, you know, a lot more than Mr. Truman did, as a
matter of fact, if you want to get that way about it. It used to be said
of Warren Harding, “By God he looks like President,” well,
he did look like a President but he didn’t act like a President,
so that’s not the only test.
Now it’s only fair to say that Clark Clifford is an excellent salesman
of other men’s ideas, but he’s not an original thinker. In
the White House we used to call George Elsey, the man who did Clark Clifford’s
thinking for him, George was much brighter, much quicker, much more perceptive
than Clark. I don’t mean Clark
is stupid, he isn’t, not by a long shot, he’s smart, but
he has a rather shallow and sometimes even naïve tactical sense,
he’s got good tactical judgment on political matters, and he’s
got great effectiveness in peddling other men’s ideas, and that
is not a talent to be minimized, but on the other hand, the men who produced
those ideas, the men who did most of the work and sweat on the speeches
and messages deserve some credit, too. Charlie Murphy was the quarterback
on that team and he had some brilliant guys like Dave Bell and Dave Lloyd
and George Elsey, who was also Clark’s man, and he had Philleo Nash,
really, because Nash worked more with them than he did with Niles, and
he had Ken Hechler, Dick Neustadt and, well, there was quite a team there
and these men have made their mark since and Clark Clifford has made his
mark in a way, and yet it is interesting that of that whole group, Clifford
is the man who has done the least Government service since then, I mean,
his service has been these sort of ad hoc projects, and he has continuously
been engaged in a very lucrative lawyer-lobbyist practice. I don’t
blame him, but on the other hand, I think that men who have -- well, maybe
I shouldn’t make moral judgments, that’s not really it but,
anyway, I admire Charlie
Murphy a lot more than I admire Clark Clifford. And another thing, Charlie
Murphy has a much higher ethical sense, Charlie Murphy would never in
the world have said a thing like that to me, that there was “$25,000
in it for me.” I feel a debt of gratitude to Charlie Murphy as I
did not feel to Clifford, actually. Clifford evidently thought I did but
I didn’t. Quite the contrary, I felt that Clifford had not used
me very well at the White House, you see. I didn’t feel the least
bit of debt of gratitude to him, and, as a matter of fact, when I was
kicked upstairs to the Federal Trade Commission, Clifford seemed very
concerned; he called me up and he seemed very concerned, I went to see
him. I discovered he was not the least bit concerned about me, what he
was concerned about was that this was a behind-the-scenes attack on him
and his influence at the White House by Matt Connelly and Steelman --
I’d been his assistant, that they were trying to get rid of the
Clifford influence at the White House.
HESS: That was his impression of this.
SPINGARN: That was his initial impression, that it might
be that, but then he made his own explorations. I don’t know whom
he talked to, but he satisfied himself that this was not the case, that
they were not hitting at him through me, and then he lost all interest
in my case, immediately.
I don’t mean that there is any reason why he shouldn’t take
a great interest in it, but, I mean, he made it so obvious to me what
his only interest in the matter was, that naturally, I didn’t feel
any particular gratitude for that initial flare -- you know, when he first
showed interest, I said, “Oh, this is fine, Clark’s interested,”
then when I saw what he was really interested in I just said, “Oh,
well.” So I didn’t feel any sense of gratitude toward Clark
Clifford because we’d never established -- I don’t know, I
must have been to blame to some extent. I don’t know what the fault
was, but we never established a real rapport, he never used me. I mean
our superficial relationship was always friendly, but shallow, you know,
and that was all. Charlie Murphy is also, in a sense, a lawyer-lobbyist
during his eight years; he was a lawyer and I guess he registered to lobby
on some occasions. Every lawyer with a Washington practice is likely to
register, there’s nothing wrong with being a lobbyist. But Charlie
Murphy doesn’t operate that way, he would never -- Charlie Murphy
had a very high moral value, probably higher than mine in some respects.
I don’t think higher in the stage of government business, but I
will tell you one thing about Charlie, because this is going to be years
before this is opened, he is very much like Harry Truman in his ideas,
of shall we say, sexual morality.
I mean he’s a one-woman man just like Harry Truman, you see, now
General Eisenhower had girl friends, Kay Summersby, for example, it is
said that John Kennedy had girl friends, most people say that Lyndon Johnson
doesn’t, he looks to be flirting a lot, but he is (I think), a one-woman
man. It was said that Roosevelt had them, most Presidents, certainly Harding
had them, The President’s Daughter by Nan Britton, and so forth.
Anyway, Presidents are human beings, after all, and my theory is that
man is naturally polygamous, woman is monogamous. She has inflicted monogamy
on him, it’s good for her but bad for him. My theory is that it
takes more than one good woman to understand the many
facets of my noble nature but I like them to try. I’m a happy
middle-aged bachelor in that department and I wouldn’t be if I was
restricted to one woman, I am sure.
Well, getting back to this thing about Charlie; some time when I was
on the Commission, he consulted with me on a security case involving a
State Department official, I’ve forgotten the name of the official,
but the point about this was that the President -- I think this was a
case that McCarthy was making something out of -- anyway, it had hit the
headlines and it was in a White House “flap” and Charlie and
the President had discussed it, he wanted my opinion on this thing. Anyway,
to make a long story short, I’ve forgotten all the details of the
case, but Charlie had decided finally that there was nothing to this subversive
stuff but he was deeply shocked to find, and so was the President, I believe,
to find that this man who had been in the Orient without his wife, had
been shacked up with some local girl during the period he was there. I
admire Charlie Murphy intensely, I regard him as one of the finest human
beings that I have met, in many ways, and a very able guy, but on this
point he and I would not see it the same way. I think that I know more
about human nature in this department than he does. I mean this is the
nature of man, I mean he’s there without his wife, what the hell
do they expect him to do? I was overseas for three years and I commanded
a small rather compact unit. Now, many of these men were married, and
I can say that some of them held out for a long time, but before the war
was over, I don’t think there was a single man who hadn’t
succumbed. What do you expect of human beings? I was amazed to find that
this poor fellow was in trouble with the President and Charlie, not on
any subversive grounds but because they had found out that he had had
a mistress, an Asiatic mistress, whom he was living with while he was
I don’t know what happened to him, but this is interesting. And
there was another occasion when the President’s views on this were
brought forcibly to my attention. I think I mentioned it, but I don’t
know if it was on tape or not. One day Jim Mead and I went in to see the
President. We saw him quite a few times, I think this was on the Federal
Trade Commission appropriation in the fall of 1952. It was Jim’s
thought, and I may say with simple pride I was the particular instigator
of this, after the elections, it was a wonderful opportunity for the President
(a) to help the Commission; and (b) to put the new Administration a little
on the spot by giving us a more generous appropriation than the Budget
was willing to give us. The Budget, those glassy-eyed, beady-eyed, S.O.B.’s
at the Budget, with that kindly gleam in their glass eye.
I should say at this point to the extent that I’m repeating anecdotes
told outside this section, these anecdotes can be used if they are on
outside tapes, you see -- they are just incidentals.
HESS: From the portion that is to be closed.
SPINGARN: Yes, I mean this whole tape will be closed, but I mean if I’ve
repeated an anecdote here. I’m not sure, I’ve been talking
so long that I can’t remember all that I have said. If any of these
anecdotes have been told outside this tape, they shouldn’t be suppressed
on the outside tape, just this tape will be closed, the whole tape.
So the idea was to help the Federal Trade Commission, which certainly
needed the money, and also to, perhaps,
hopefully, embarrass the Eisenhower administration a bit, because if
we could get the President to up the amount that the Budget would give
us, well then the new administration would be in the position that one
of their first acts would be of having to cut back on antitrust appropriations
and that would make a good little issue for us, hopefully. And we did
get a million more than we ever had gotten before, which doesn’t
seem like a lot of money but to the Federal Trade Commission, especially
in those days, that was a lot of money. We’d never gotten more than
a four and a half million estimate in all our life at that time, and we
got five and a half million in the last Truman estimate.
In any event, as we went in, Joe Guffey the former Senator from Pennsylvania,
was waiting, an old man, and the President and Jim Mead had both served
in the Senate with him. They started reminiscing about him and the President
said, “The trouble with old Joe Guffey is that he never accepted
the responsibilities of marriage.” A lifelong bachelor. Well, Jim
Mead winked at me, and then he said to the President, “Well, you
know, Mr. President we have another fellow like that
The President looked at me and he suddenly remembered that I was a bachelor
and then being the kind-hearted guy he was, he said, “Oh, Steve,
I didn’t mean you,” and so forth and so on. I knew that the
President wasn’t talking about me, but that’s the way he really
He thought of marriage as a responsibility that a man had to accept,
you see, by golly, I don’t think of it that way. I don’t know
of any law of nature that says that man has to accept such a responsibility.
I regard marriage as a romance in which the hero dies in the first chapter,
and I want to live, and I do. And I have often said that I, there have
been times in my life when I nearly feel off the bridge, but fortunately,
at the last moment, or somewhere along the line, something happened and
averted disaster, and I have often said, if I may interject this personal
note, that there is one condition under which I would marry. First of
all it would have to be a woman far beyond my deserts, beautiful, brainy,
witty, charming, warm, affectionate, delightful -- Ingrid Bergman, let
us say, for example. Second, I would have to be rich enough, and it would
have to be my money, no good if it’s hers, she can have money
on her own in addition, but not in lieu, I would have to be rich enough
to own a house with a he wing and a she wing and a center -- a big he
wing for me and a big she wing for her and a center. By prearrangement,
in the afternoon, around five thirty or six say, we would meet for drinks
and dinner and then romance. I have introduced a little embellishment
of my own that I rather like, this would take a bit of money, but in the
far reaches of the night after romance had had its sway, I could push
a button and she could push a button, we’d both have independent
buttons, and when either one of us pushed a button, a wall would open
and your bed would slide back to your wing on tracks, and it could go
the other way, too, you wouldn’t even have to get out of bed. That
marriage I could stand.
Getting back to Clifford, actually, to take a more serious note, this
had a considerable effect on me, I was going out into the cold cruel world.
The thing that I was best equipped to do was be a lawyer in Washington
Federal practice, that means a lawyer-lobbyist. My whole training was
that and I think I could have
done well, at least I think I could have. I believe I was well equipped
to do that.
But then I saw what, it seemed to me, you had to do, the hostages you
had to give to fortune for that, even a fellow like Clark Clifford, who
was certainly far from the worst in this department, and I have seen others
I could mention. I saw something that Tommy Corcoran did a few years ago,
ten years ago to be exact, well, I don’t mean that it was corrupt,
I just mean it wasn’t the kind of thing I’d want to have to
do, let’s put it that way. It involved his blocking the publication
through his friendship with an important member of Congress, blocking
for a while the publication of a report which made some interesting observations,
and analysis of the relationship between senior officials of the major
regulatory agencies and the lawyer-lobbyists who work there, of whom he
was one. He blocked it for some time before, but fortunately not permanently,
he would have liked to block it permanently, I’m sure. I’m
not saying that was corrupt. I just don’t think I would want to
have to be doing that kind of thing.
I remember in that particular episode, I had lunch with Drew Pearson
one day, and he talked to me
about it, and I told him what I knew about this situation in the fall
of 1956, I think, and he really knew more than I did, he was just checking
out his knowledge with me, so I didn’t really give him anything
but simply confirmed what he already knew and later I talked on some other
matter to Tommy Corcoran (Pearson had written some columns about Tommy
Corcoran and what he had done on this). Later I talked to Tommy Corcoran
on another matter and I discovered he was angry at me and he exploded
in my face when I called up to ask him to do something on another matter,
a public interest matter something like KOED, you know, and he exploded
in my face, and he said you so-and-so, you gave Pearson that story about
me, and I said no, I didn’t, he talked to me but he already knew
the story, he knew more than I did about it. I said laughing, “Tommy,
he gave you a million dollars worth of publicity, what are you complaining
about? He reported that you were able through your influence on Congress
to block the publication, for a time, of a congressional report; you got
a million dollars worth of publicity.” Maybe not, but it was worth
a good deal, I mean, people read that and they say, I mean,
corporations, lawyers, read that sort of thing and then they say, “Boy!
Tommy Corcoran can really do things,” he wants the game but not
the name, to work both sides of the street. Anyway, it affected my life
in a way, this business, looking at Clifford and Corcoran and others I
knew. I don’t want to seem too good for this world because I’m
not. If I had had the pressure these fellows had, if I had a family to
support and I had no money whatever, I’m sure I would have done
what they did, so that is, shall we say, the rub of the green. I mean
circumstances in which you find yourself make a great deal of difference.
The point is this, when I came out of government (a) there was a Republican
administration and a Republican Congress (b) a very reactionary climate
-- the middle of McCarthyism (c) I was a controversial figure anyway because
I was carrying on a fight at this juncture with the international oil
industry, holding press conferences, going on television and radio and
all that stuff. I was offered only one job when I came out and it wouldn’t
have made much difference, because I was offered the job of Staff Director
of the new National Issues Committee, a committee of which I myself was
a member, Mrs. Roosevelt and Clark Clifford, and the Truman Cabinet and
It was designed to keep the liberal Democratic side of the issues before
the country. Well, a delegation of several came to see me at the Federal
Trade Commission and offered me the job at the same salary I was getting
at the Commission, and I thought it over but turned them down. I turned
them down because I had some other ideas of what I wanted to do and, anyway,
I thought the job that they had was going to be heavily fundraising, and
I didn’t like that, and I knew I wasn’t any good at it. Well,
they only lasted a year or two, they couldn’t raise the money and
they went out of business, so it wouldn’t have made much difference.
But I was anxious to launch an anti-McCarthyism operation, a Truth Foundation,
and I approached Dean Rusk, he was president of the Rockefeller Institute,
I approached Robert Hutchins, I talked to him, he was the president, then
and now, of The Fund for the Republic which has just started up. I approached
But I couldn’t make any time at all, it was the middle of McCarthyism,
they were all timid about their tax exemptions. But I was determined that
I was not going to be a lawyer-lobbyist and that certainly has been an
important factor in my subsequent career or
lack of perhaps.
I haven’t loafed although I haven’t held a regular job since
I left the Truman administration. I’ve worked hard, I get up at
four to six o’clock in the morning seven days a week, almost without
exception, and I start working. I work on projects of my own choosing,
I have talked about some of them, KOED, and the Truth Foundation, and
other things. I work probably harder on a given project and devote more
time to it than another man would because I have the time and I like to
work. I work every day until six or seven o’clock. I have a lot
of energy. I only need about four or five hours of sleep. This hasn’t
been my whole life’s pattern but it has been for some time now.
It has been a source of frustration to me that I was not able, I mean
I realize it was impossible during the Eisenhower administration, but
it’s been a source of frustration to me that I wasn’t able
to get back into the arena where the action is since the Democrats came
back in. I’ve never quite been able to understand why. As far as
I have been able to determine, there are no black marks on my record,
there are no strikes against me, nobody’s saying, “No, we
can’t, “ but it just doesn’t
The Kennedys, of course, had an obsession about age. I’m fifty-eight
now, so I was fifty-two when Kennedy came in, anybody over forty-five
and certainly over fifty was over the hill as far as they were concerned,
but I will match my energy with any average man of forty, I think I’ve
In any event, nothing happened. Then when Lyndon Johnson came in, I thought
since I am five whole days younger than my President, a young man, you
see, that there was more opportunity there but still it hasn’t worked
that way. I have tried in several ways, I have tried being modest and
waiting for offers to come, and then I’ve tried going out and getting
massive support, and in the first occasion it seemed as if they said “Well,
has no real support,” and the second they say, “He’s
got too much support, he is overeager.” You have to find just the
right amount of support, not too much.
In 1964, for example, there was a presidential commission, the National
Commission on Farm Marketing, it was set up by statute, last for two years.
It had a million and a half or two million dollars to
spend, it was to make a searching study of the whole food distribution
system, the seventy billion dollar a year food distribution system, from
the farm to the table and analyze who gets what in between, and figure
out if there’s better ways of doing things that will benefit both
farmer and consumer, as well as being fair to others involved -- make
recommendations. It was to be composed of five Senator, five Congressmen,
and five public members, to be appointed by the President. It was a virtually
unpaid job; you got a hundred dollars a day while actually engaged in
the work of the Commission which might mean that you’d get two or
three thousand a year, because a commission like that wouldn’t meet
more than twenty or thirty days, the staff would be working but the commissioners
wouldn’t meet more than twenty or thirty days a year.
Well, I went out to see what I could do in the way of support. I got
fifteen Senators and sixteen Congressmen from twenty states, from Alaska
to Georgia -- I got Georgians to endorse me although, as I say, my NAACP
connection might have been though to exclude that, I got quite a few Congressmen
from Texas, including Wright Patman and various others, and I
got Hubert Humphrey, after he had gotten his own men on the commission.
President Truman endorsed me, Thurman Arnold endorsed me, all the Cabinet
officers with an equity in the legislation endorsed me, Orville Freeman
of Agriculture, HEW endorsement, Rand Dixon, the Chairman of the Federal
Trade Commission and Everette MacIntryre, another Commissioner, endorsed
me, Esther Peterson endorsed me, two of the three major farm organizations,
The Farmers Union and the National Grange endorsed me, I was their first
choice, the AFL-CIO endorsed me, I was their first non-labor choice, The
Machinist’s Union endorsed me, their only choice, I think, first
anyway, the executives of the twenty-four railroads endorsed me, four
or five small business organizations endorsed me and so on, but I didn’t
get it. He had too much support, they said, he was overeager. I had more
support than all the others put together, I think. There were several
hundred candidates in the field, it turned out, and I was told by a friend
in the White House at the time, that it narrowed down to six people and
I was the sixth man for the five slots. It’s only fair to say that
the President appointed good men. The last spot was filled by the dean
of the University of Missouri School Agriculture, you could
hardly quarrel with a choice like that for a Farm Marketing Commission.
But there you were. So I continued to work in my own way picking projects
of public interest from my standpoint, pro bona publico, public interest
projects, and working on them in my own way. Perhaps I spin my wheels
but I think I also accomplish some things. I finally sold the KOED program.
Yesterday, I don’t think I put this on tape on the Siler case, did
I? We talked about it, but did I put that on tape?
HESS: Yes, early this morning about the Siler…
SPINGARN: The win? Yes, did I put that on tape?
HESS: About Siler going back to work?
SPINGARN: Yes, I put that on tape.
SPINGARN: Well, I just want to mention again that I worked hard on this
Siler case and yesterday we won the Siler case; the commissioners reversed
the police board and sent him back to work with full pay for the six months
he’s been out, and other things that I have helped accomplish. I
can’t always point to whether I was responsible because that’s
not the way life is, but I work on something and sometimes something happens.
The Institute for American Democracy, I think in some small way I’ve
played a part over the years in that being there, through the work I did,
dating back to 1952, in pushing this sort of thing -- that’s the
Institute to fight left and rightwing extremist -- but I would like, if
I could find a useful niche, to get back into the arena where the action
is, and I still am hopeful that I will.
The purpose of all this has been to discuss the, wholly unknown to him,
effect of Clark Clifford on my career, and this is a matter of speculation,
you understand, because I don’t want to put all the blame on Clark
by any means. Obviously my own inadequacies or opinions and speculations,
right or wrong, have played some part in all of this, but to me it means
that while Clark Clifford has many talents, that his talents are showmanship
essentially, and while these deserve respect, or at least approval, they’re
valuable, they should not be given the kudos of saying that he was the
only first-class man on the White House staff, because the other less
showy people, and Charlie Murphy is a prime example, the other less showy
people aren’t able to produce the showmanship that
apparently is necessary to convince people, who should be more astute,
I think, or perceptive, as to what are the values, what are the abilities,
what are the talents that make an outstanding presidential assistant.
I’m not going to say that President Truman had the greatest White
House staff that was ever assembled, but I think he had a lot of good
men around him, and I don’t think he had any more cronies and mediocrities
than most Presidents have. President Kennedy had a “crony”
named David Powers, President Eisenhower had George Allen, every President
needs someone like that, and there were mediocrities around Kennedy too,
I’m not going to name any but I can think of one or two that I wouldn’t
have rated very high from my knowledge of them, and there were certainly
mediocrities around Eisenhower, and there were even mediocrities round
Roosevelt, at times, not all the men he had were first class, and I’m
sure that’s true of every President.
I would like to see perceptive historians do an historical reevaluation
of the Truman staff, not in terms of who looks the most like a big-leaguer,
but in terms of who produced the goods, and Clark deserves his share of
the credit but he shouldn’t get the total
share. End of chapter.
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