Monday, June 15, 2015

A Complex Cast of Characters: Cold War Spy Narratives

In the deadly triangle defined by Beijing, Moscow, and Washington, the espionage network maintained by the international communist conspiracy during the 1930s and 1940s was densely populated by many Soviet agents, working undercover inside various offices in the United States government.

Lauchlin Currie was an advisor to FDR 1939 to 1945) and later an officer in the World Bank (1949 to 1953); when it was discovered that he working for a Soviet intelligence agency, he defected to Columbia.

John Service was a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) sent by the State Department to China; from there, he sent reports back to Washington which were supposed to inform policymakers about the domestic situation in country, but which in fact were pro-Mao pieces designed to nudge the United States away from supporting Chiang Kai-shek. He was in China during the 1930s and 1940s. He also sent useful information, both about China and about America’s policy toward China, to Moscow by means of agents like Max and Grace Granich.

Owen Lattimore was more likely an unwitting dupe than an employed Soviet agent. His affectionate statements about Stalin have been richly documented. Lattimore was employed by the Institute for Pacific Relations (IPR) as an editor for its periodical Pacific Affairs. The IPR was infiltrated by communist spies. Lattimore also worked as an advisor to Chiang Kai-shek, whom Lattimore secretly betrayed. Until 1963, he taught at Johns Hopkins University, and until 1970 at the University of Leeds in England.

John Vincent was, like John Service, an FSO in China, who similarly worked to undermine American support for Chiang Kai-shek.

Harry Dexter White's extensive work for the Soviet intelligence community has been thoroughly documented. He worked for the Treasury Department, influencing U.S. economic policy.

Solomon Adler was a link between the operatives in different agencies, because he was a Treasury Department representative in China. Adler formed a bridge between the Soviet moles in the State Department and those in the Treasury Department. Like John Service and John Vincent, his reports from China were essentially Maoist propaganda pieces.

Henry Morgenthau was Secretary of the Treasury for FDR. He was most likely neither a communist nor a Soviet agent, but he was manipulated into doing Stalin’s work. Harry Dexter White was in a position to ensure that Morgenthau received reports from John Service and Solomon Adler, and White also ensured that Morgenthau would not receive other, more reliable, reports about what was happening on the ground in China. Thus programmed, Morgenthau would brief President Roosevelt. Unsurprisingly, Morgenthau’s presentations about Mao were enthusiastic.

A point of connection for this wide-ranging cast of characters was the autumn of 1944 in Washington, D.C., when Service, after several years of work in China, returned to America. Historian Stan Evans reports about a series of meetings at that time:

Currie of course had plenty of reason to talk with Service, as China was Currie’s portfolio in the White House, there was ongoing contact between them, and Service would perform, as he later put it, as Currie’s “designated leaker.” The two also had many influential friends in common, most notably Owen Lattimore and John Vincent. The White contact seems more puzzling at first glance, but makes sense when Service’s ties to Adler are considered. White was Adler’s boss and received regular updates from his minion in the field, relayed to Morgenthau and others. White also obtained through Adler various reports of Service. There thus would have been no shortage of things for White to check out with the returning FSO.

One more character enters the drama in the person of Harry Hopkins, who’d worked for FDR in the 1930s, designing the WPA (Works Progress Administration). By the 1940s, he was still working for President Roosevelt, as an diplomatic and economic advisor. The evidence is inconclusive as to whether Hopkins was employed as a Soviet agent, or was merely manipulated as an unwitting dupe.

When questioned about his meetings in Washington in late 1944, John Service was quite defensive, as Stan Evans reports:

Yet another intriguing Service link to White occurred in connection with this visit. Shortly after he got back to the United States, Service was asked to give an off-the-record briefing to the Washington branch of the IPR, and did so. In testifying about this talk, Service would somewhat oddly stress that he had official clearance to give it, saying: “I got approval. I talked to Mr. Hopkins, Mr. White, and various other people.” Why Service needed approval from White to give this or any other talk was not explained, nor did anyone at the State Department hearing where he said this bother to ask this obvious question.

Although this list of characters may seem complex, it is in fact merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The number of Soviet agents, and the various government agencies into which they had insinuated themselves as moles, is long indeed.