Wes Vernon
November 5, 2007
Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his Fight Against America's Enemies
Part 1--Stealing from the archives: it didn't start with Sandy Berger
By Wes Vernon

(See Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11)

Much of the history of the Cold War has been blurred and obscured — almost always in the direction of downplaying it. "Not to worry" was the mantra of the era. From the Olympian "unconditional surrender" proclamation that had ruled when confronting Nazi Germany and imperial Japan, much of the public and national discourse turned on a dime to a curious pressure to "get along" with Stalin and his successors who tried to succeed where Hitler failed.

Some of this could be attributed to a war-weariness from World War II. Add to that a naivetι in some quarters that perhaps Communists — as Eleanor Roosevelt once put it — were "harmless crackpots."

A third — and less innocent factor — was that while we were fighting alongside "our noble ally," Marshall Stalin's agents in our midst were infiltrating entertainment, academia, and most insidiously — positions in government where opportunities for mischief-making abounded.

It was almost ordained that anyone who came along with a 5-year non-stop high-profile campaign to unearth the failure, by persons in high places, to come to grips with the problems of subversives in government would find himself publicly vilified in his time and surely Blacklisted by History. That story is told for the first time in painstakingly documented detail by M. Stanton Evans in a 600-plus-page volume subtitled The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His fight Against America's Enemies. The book hits the bookstores this week.

The "McCarthy era"

Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy was surely not the first public figure to blow the whistle on Communism's inroads into U.S. society, nor was he the last. But he was surely the most persistent and the least fearful of rattling cages. His critics to this day claim he "never exposed any Communists." That is not only false, but quite beside the point anyway. His efforts were primarily aimed at putting a stop to cover-up after cover-up throughout the government when it came to the issue of bouncing Communists off the public payroll once they had been discovered.

The missing files on Communists in government

If you're younger than 50 or 60, your opinion of McCarthy is probably unfavorable. That negative caricature was likely presented to you in the classroom (K-12 and in higher academia), in the media, the history books, the documentaries, entertainment, news outlets — every form of opinion-molding that you have encountered. Those outlets have a history of leaning sharply left. If you're above that age, you might have been influenced by Edward R. Murrow's distorted attack on the senator (see this column "Murrow, McCarthy, and enduring myths — Part 1," Nov. 6, 2005, and Part 2, Nov. 13, 2005), or by Army counsel Joseph Welch's theatrics at the Army-McCarthy hearings.

Talk radio — modern conservatism's most high-profile outlet — is populated by the young and middle-aged who swing to the right despite having been raised in the "Oppose communism with a feather" environment, but are quite naturally inclined to focus on the here and now, with little to say about McCarthy or the era that bears his name.

But there is yet another significant reason why the world has a distorted vision of Senator McCarthy — missing files from the National Archives and other libraries of record, including newspaper files. If we are missing some key pieces of the puzzle to history, conventional wisdoms can (and often do) collide with facts.

It didn't start with Sandy Berger

The recent conviction of Sandy Berger — onetime National Security Advisor caught red-handed filching files from the National Archives — was not without precedent. Berger is suspected of lifting papers showing that his old boss Bill Clinton was recklessly negligent on protecting Americans from the terrorist threat. Document thieves of another era — from the forties and up to the early nineties and beyond — have lifted files loaded with evidence of Communist infiltration of the U.S. government and the failure of officials in high places to do anything about it.

A full investigation of this monumental theft of history is warranted — even at this late date — even if the earliest guilty parties have since passed on. If we don't learn anything from the discovery of failed cover-ups, the same thing will happen again. Perhaps if the earlier thieves had been caught — with concomitant publicity — Berger might have hesitated to follow suit.

Here's what's missing

One of the mysteriously "disappearing" documents was issued in the summer of 1946 by State Department official Samuel Klaus. He fingered Soviet agents and alleged Communist Party members — one of them Alger Hiss — in the Department. He also cited "suspects" and "sympathizers."

Four years later, after Senator McCarthy had launched his campaign to expose the failure to oust Communists from State, he learned of the Klaus memo, and brought pressure to have it turned over to Senator Millard Tydings, the Maryland Democrat who was conducting hearings to examine McCarthy's charges. Tydings received a copy. Thereafter it simply disappeared. There is in the Archives a cover letter of transmittal, but the memo itself is gone. Some cover-up artist pulled a Sandy Berger years before Sandy's time.

More than 40 years later

When Evans looked for the memo in the files of Samuel Klaus, it was likewise missing. And here's the real scary part: The Archives contained a notice that the file was withdrawn in March of 1993–43 years later.

That was in Evans's book. In my two-hour interview with the author, he revealed he had learned since the book went to print that important files on the "McCarthy era" had been lifted as late as the year 2000–50 years later.

Much of the missing material had to do with the Tydings subcommittee which had been named by the Senate's Democrat leadership — ostensibly to investigate McCarthy's allegations of Communists in the State Department — but in reality to do a whitewash of the charges and instead discredit McCarthy

Who in the year 2000 would be nosing around and risking jail time to steal (or "remove") the memo even then — after much of the world had forgotten about what was headline news way back in the 1950s? Here's a clip of the recorded interview:

Evans: It has everything to do with the issue. There are documents that are missing — some of which I've found in other [unofficial] places.

Me: You mean you stumbled upon them? You mean they are out of the place where they should've been?

Evans: They're not in the Archives, but they're in other places. These McCarthy names that are in [the book's] Appendix should be in the Archives. There's a letter and a list submitted to Millard Tydings by Joe McCarthy on March 18, 1950.... It's part of an official proceeding in the U.S. Senate, and it should be in the Archives, but it isn't.

Then where did Evans find it?

Whoever tried to blackout history did not reckon with Evans' ability to secure a copy of key materials from the late Ralph de Toledano, a conservative journalist who turned over to the author files that Toledano (in the fifties a Newsweek correspondent) had held since 1954. Evans "found a lot of the stuff that's missing," but not all of it.

And that's not the half of it

Also mysteriously missing are two dozen other documents "from the State Department related to security matters," the author reports. The long laundry list of stolen Archive files includes "the names of eighty loyalty/security suspects at State and elsewhere," and a letter from the head of the CIA concerning one of the eighty on that list; another listing of 12 other suspects for inquiry; and papers from McCarthy's own investigating subcommittee which he chaired 1953-1955.

Missing "McCarthy-era" records not confined to the Archives

McCarthy's first speech on the Communist issue was delivered in Wheeling, West Virginia, on February 9, 1950. There was a lot of controversy about what the previously little-known Wisconsin senator did and did not say in that speech. So Evans spent some time in Wheeling in an attempt to peruse records of the Wheeling Intelligencer, now stored at the local public library there.

Surely that file would preserve for posterity news of the events that took place during this history-making event in Wheeling, would it not?

Wrong. All editions going back to the 19th Century were microfilmed and in their places — except for two months in well over a century's worth of cataloguing — January and February, 1950. Those two months included what are probably the period where Wheeling, W. Va., made the biggest national news in its history, and they just happen to be the two months where the local newspaper's back issues are missing. What was reported in that daily newspaper that would inspire someone to wipe out the record as if it never happened?

So what about the Library of Congress?

Evans then figured not to worry. He would simply go to the Library of Congress which keeps records of newspapers and other publications from around the country. The library had issues of the Wheeling Intelligencer, but none prior to August, 1952.

A pattern

It seems that wherever Senator McCarthy sniffed around for subversives and those who covered for them, files would turn up missing. In the Blacklisted by History's chapter "File it and forget it," we learn that McCarthy came up with depositions from four past and present employees of State, saying, "We were instructed to remove all derogatory material from the personnel files and we were instructed to dispose of this material." As one of them put it, "All of the clerks on the project were to pull out of the files all materials considered derogatory, either morally or politically. The [data] I pulled out of the files pertained to either the morals of the person or in some way reflected on his or her loyalty."

The Tydings committee: a fraud and a hoax

In the chapter aptly titled "A Fraud and a Hoax," M. Stanton Evans tells of a "melee" on the floor of the Senate that resulted in a shouting and shoving match that apparently barely avoided an outright fist fight.

Again, the Tydings committee — formally charged with investigating McCarthy's charges of the State Department cover-up — in reality, was charged by the Senate's then-Democrat majority with putting the lid on the whole thing.

When the committee issued its final report, one of the Republican members, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, noted that 35 pages of stenographic record in the final hearing were missing. Not included (surprise!) were Senator Lodge's comments toward the end of the hearings that many significant topics had not been covered or had been swept under the rug in Tydings' "probe." The New England Republican outlined a series of questions that had not been answered.

When Lodge indignantly took his complaint to the Senate floor, all hell broke loose.

Exhibiting as much anger as his Boston blue-blood upbringing would allow, Senator Lodge charged the disappearance "obviously wasn't accidental" and that "[s]omebody had surgically removed" the 35 pages because the last pages in the transcript, including the part about adjournment, were tacked on to give the false impression of a complete record.

Tydings' committee counsel Edward Morgan (whom Evans describes in my interview as "sinister") included in the committee's cover-up report an anti-McCarthy comment which Emmanuel Larsen — one of the accused in the Amerasia case — attributed to Senator Kenneth Wherry (R-Neb.)

Wherry exploded, denied making the comment, and confronted Morgan (who was on the Senate floor as an aide to Senator Tydings) and castigated Morgan for inserting the purported quote without bothering to check it out with the Nebraska senator. A shoving match ultimately ensued and at one point Wherry took a swing at Morgan. That half of the story is recorded by "historians [such as Oshinsky and Reeves]" who did not bother to report the other half — i.e., the provocation.

McCarthy's first witness

In early 1953, after McCarthy assumed the chairmanship of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, he had for the first time an opportunity to conduct his own hearings and call the witnesses. First up to testify on State Department files was Helen Balog, supervisor of the department's Foreign Service file room. She told the panel that personnel file safeguards were extremely lax, with "three or four hundred people" having access to the records.

Mrs. Balog noted that one employee spent an inordinate amount of time in the file room working on the folders, namely John Stewart Service. That was a bombshell considering that Service was one of the accused in the Amerasia case involving a pro-Communist magazine touting the cause of the Communists in Asia who ultimately overthrew the pro-Western government in China and rule there to this day. Service was also named a year earlier by a Democrat-controlled subcommittee (chaired by Nevada's Pat McCarran) for his role in policies that aided the revolution in China.

Don't blame the archivists

Evans takes pains to absolve the employees of the National Archives from culpability, paying tribute to their meticulous care in "safeguarding papers entrusted to their safekeeping." But thieves familiar with the system and hell-bent on pulling off a heist can sometimes succeed. (To be continued)

© Wes Vernon

Comments feature added August 14, 2011

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