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 It may not be published in full except by permission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.