Wes Vernon
November 12, 2007
The documented truth about the McCarthy investigations
Part 3: Amerasia--McCarthy's weirdest cover-up case; Lattimore--McCarthy's number 1 case
By Wes Vernon

(See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11)

As we read today's headlines about how China can trigger a 360-point plunge in the American stock market and threaten our economy merely by asserting the dollar has lost its luster, it just might spur some debate as to how this Communist giant was empowered in the first place.

More to the point, the world's largest nation is also aiming its missiles in our direction and forming alliances with America's sworn enemies and terrorist states such as Iran China's "new best friend" and (in our backyard) Castro's Cuba and Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.

M. Stanton Evans, author of Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his fight Against America's Enemies, says we can thank the 1940s conspirators here at home (in and out of government) for today's threat from China not just to our well-being, but to our very survival.

The Amerasia case

One of the rocks that Senator Joseph McCarthy turned over in the fifties was a case whose cover-up was as outrageous as the scandal itself.

On June 6, 1945 barely a month after the defeat of Nazi Germany, and with Imperial Japan clearly on the run Americans looked forward to the post-war future with optimism.

On that date, FBI agents broke into the New York City offices of a pro-Communist magazine Amerasia, located on lower Fifth Avenue. Amerasia was one of several propaganda outlets aimed at furthering the cause of the Communist revolutionaries seeking to attain power in China.

The break-in was prompted by an article that had appeared earlier in the year which was recognized in Gen. William Donovan's office of Strategic Services (predecessor to the CIA) as a precise copy (word-for-word, with minor and insignificant alterations) of a government document of top secrecy.

Stolen documents again

When the agents entered the Amerasia offices in the middle of the night, they recovered 1800 documents, stolen from the secret files of many government agencies involved in national security, including secret information on the position of the armies of the then pro-Western government of China. Naturally, these were of great interest to the Chinese Communist military revolutionaries then seeking to overthrow (ultimately with success) that American-friendly government.

After the break-in, the bureau arrested Philip Jaffe, Kate Mitchell, Mark Gayn, Andrew Roth, John Stewart Service, and Emanuel Larson the latter two from the State Department. All six connected in one way or another with the magazine had Communist or pro-Communist backgrounds.

The case garnered a brief whirlwind of publicity at the time, but not much beyond that. In relatively short order, all six escaped jail time, some of them paying light fines or other slaps on the wrist or getting off scot-free.

Service a diplomat who spent much of World War II in China, where he set about deriding the pro-Western Chinese government and praising the Communists as "simple agrarian reformers" was able to avoid indictment in part because his position at the State Department provided him with ample "connections." He slipped through the loose jaws of justice, notwithstanding that he was caught by the FBI passing secret documents to Jaffe (Amerasia's editor) the latter described by Evans as "a zealous Marxist" and "one of the more unusual characters in the murky byways of subversion." Service would later become one of McCarthy's listed State Department cases. Jaffe would also be mentioned, as well as Owen Lattimore (about whom more below).

Stan Evans has unearthed an FBI report on a Service/Jaffe meeting here in Washington where Service warned (while the FBI recorders were surreptitiously taking it all in) that "what I said about the military plans, of course, is very secret." The two held several such clandestine (or so they thought) meetings.

So how did they get away with it?

About the subsequent cover-up, John T. Flynn in his contemporary (1951) expose' While You Slept" expressed in jaw-dropping amazement some considerable angst that "Of course, all this fantastic procedure took place on orders from Washington."

Of course. But who pulled the strings?

"Teacup gossip"?

Shortly after the Amerasia case was wiped off the national radar, some lawmakers, including Congressman George Dondero (R-Mich.), demanded to know how such an important and far-reaching case could crumble so quickly. Democrats (then in control of Congress) held a hearing on the matter behind closed doors and without putting anyone under oath. Justice Department prosecutor Robert Hitchcock described the whole thing as nothing more than "teacup gossip."

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover went "ballistic" (Evans reports in "Blacklisted by History"). After all, the FBI had wiretaps and other documentation on the whole conspiracy. At the time of the arrests, Hoover had reportedly described it as "a 100 percent airtight case," only to see it covered up soon thereafter at the highest levels.

"Tommy the Cork"

Not until the late nineties was it publicly known that a major string-puller in the Amerasia cover-up of a half century ago was a veteran "Mr. Fixit," Thomas "Tommy the Cork" Corcoran. He had lived in the White House at President Roosevelt's side and later became a Washington lawyer.

"Tommy the Cork," so nicknamed by FDR, was not regarded with the same degree of affection at the White House after Harry Truman became president. "The new President," according to Evans' book on Joe McCarthy, "had certain suspicions about the New Deal wheelhorse," and put the FBI on his trail. There they found him up to his ears "in the Amerasia quagmire," working with pro-Soviet FDR aide Laughlin Currie (John Stewart Service's mentor) to make sure Service was not indicted. As a result, reports the author, "Service would walk free and clear from any legal sanctions. Not one of the people being [wire]tapped, according to Bureau records, dissented from this felonious project."

Samples of the wiretapped conversations in the cover-up

Corcoran: What I want to do is get this guy [Service] out. These other fellows want to make a Dreyfus case out of it.

Currie: Yeah, but the important thing is to get him out.


Corcoran (to Service):
I talked to the Attorney General [Tom Clark, later elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court] and ... l did want you to know that I'd gone right to the top on this damn thing, and I'm quite sure I'll get it cut out [i.e., spare your name from going to the Grand Jury]

Enter the Wisconsin redhunter

That was all in the middle forties. The entire case had been swept under the rug until Joe McCarthy came along in 1950 and kicked over the traces where the sleeping dogs had been laid to rest, so to speak.

That was when he brought his cases, including John Stewart Service, to the attention of the Tydings committee whose Democrat majority compounded the cover-up (see Part 1 in this series) and instead turned its fire on Senator McCarthy.

But who was behind Amerasia?

Amerasia was actually the brainchild of the Institute of Pacific Relations. The IPR, funded in part by the Rockefeller Foundation and other "respectable" entities, affected a tone of scholarly non-advocacy. In fact, it became the product of those with a pro-Communist (in particular Chinese Communist) agenda. The "powers that be" at IPR pushed hard to aid the Chinese Red revolutionaries.

Enter Owen Lattimore

A powerful icon at IPR was the ubiquitous Owen Lattimore, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and alumnus of the infiltrated Office of War Information (OWI). The latter was organized in World War II to coordinate the release of war news for domestic and foreign consumption. Conservapedia says OWI "was penetrated by Soviet intelligence during World War II, and frequently broadcast Communist propaganda subversive to U.S. interests and American foreign policy."

After the war, OWI was merged with the State Department, complete with its Communist agents (including some brought on board by Lattimore) thus contributing to what would later become McCarthy's list of subversives at State.

You might say Owen Lattimore became Senator McCarthy's "Alger Hiss case," in terms of importance and the investigating senator's emphasis.

In the early stages of his crusade to clear the stables, McCarthy labeled Lattimore as the "top Soviet espionage agent," a charge the senator quickly retracted. But he continued to set out to prove that the professor was a leading Moscow agent.

For details on the Lattimore case, you can quickly check out this column "Murrow, McCarthy and enduring myths, Part 2" 11/13/05, or much better yet, see the new Evans' book Blacklisted by History, Chapter 29 "Owen Lattimore Espionage."

Some of the highlights on Lattimore

Senator Tydings as with so many cases in his alleged "investigation" of McCarthy's charges did a real whitewash on Lattimore, proclaiming, "There is nothing in that file to show that you were a Communist or ever had been a Communist, or that you were in any way connected with any espionage information or charges, so that the FBI file puts you completely, up to this moment, in the clear."

The ever-intrepid Evans has produced a memo from Lou Nichols of the FBI saying he couldn't understand what had come over Tydings that the Maryland Democrat knew very well that Director Hoover had said that if he had been on the Loyalty Board, he would have questioned any attempt to clear Lattimore, and that he regarded the IPR icon as a security risk and would never have hired him at the Bureau.

Enter Pat McCarran

A year after the Tydings whitewash, the Senate internal Security Subcommittee chaired by Nevada Democrat Pat McCarran (yes, there were conservative Democrats in those days) found, among much other damning evidence, the following:

  • Lattimore had conferred (during the Hitler-Stalin pact) with the Soviet ambassador about Lattimore's upcoming assignment as President Roosevelt's adviser to Chiang-Kai-Shek then trying to fend off the Communist revolution in his country.

  • Credible testimony revealed "five episodes" wherein Lattimore within the Politburo of the Communist Party "participated as a full participant in the conspiracy."

  • A former brigadier-general in the Soviet military intelligence testified to having been told that "Lattimore was one of our men."

In a nutshell, the verdict

On page 218 of the McCarran committee's voluminous report of its year-long investigation, this bottom line: "[T]he subcommittee can come to no other conclusion but that Lattimore was for some time beginning in the 1930s a conscious, articulate instrument of the Soviet conspiracy."

Once again, McCarthy was right. Think about that the next time the 58-year old Chinese Communist regime rattles the sabers or hints at plans to pull the slats out from under our economy. (To be continued)

© Wes Vernon

Comments feature added August 14, 2011

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