In the final scene of The Man Who Shot Liberty
Valance, the newspaperman
tears up his notes about the shooting of Valance and says something
to the effect that in the West you print the myth, not the facts. Sometimes
the myth about someone is so strong that nobody wants to print the
facts. Such is the case with Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.
In early 1950 Senator McCarthy made a speech in which he probably
said that there were 57 Communists in the State Department. It was
sometimes erroneously reported as 205 Communists; it probably should
have been 56. Whatever he said, the truth as we now know it with access
to Soviet and FBI files from the period is that substantially more
than 57 Communist spies, Party members, and propagandists taking orders
from the Soviet Union were working for the State Department, for international
organizations after working for the State Department, or elsewhere
in the government after working for the State Department.
State Department Risks
The espionage problem in the State Department was fairly severe. The
FBI had put together a good espionage case (Amerasia), but the Truman
administration through Tommy "The Cork" Cocoran had fixed
the U.S. Attorney's office to prevent a successful prosecution.
The Democrats, who knew that the loyalty/security situation was far
worse than reported, feared that a public discussion would lead to
an electoral disaster for them. The administration feared that exposure
of the extent of Communist influence in the China section of the State
Department would jeopardize the pre-Korean War, Acheson-Truman Cold
War strategy of setting up our Asian defenses much further East than
Eisenhower eventually did.
For these reasons and probably because of personal grudges, Democrats
talked about things like expelling McCarthy. However, it turned out
that he had more than 50 detailed files on Communists in the State
Department. The Democrats had to back off for the moment. We now know
that the FBI and the Truman White House had fierce battles over loyalty/security
issues that were not made public at the time.
The loyalty/security problem had much more to do with dedicated Communist
spies and propagandists than with people who were simply sympathizers.
At that time, discipline within the Communist Party was extremely rigid.
There were more than enough idiots around who thought it was fine to
lend confidential, secret, and topsecret documents to their Communist
friends or relatives.
Later, McCarthy wrote an unfortunate book about General George Marshall.
This probably had a lot to do with the way Marshall's friend, Eisenhower,
despised McCarthy. Marshall's policies were a mixed bag that sometimes
helped the Communists and sometimes were very anti-Communist. McCarthy
wrongly suspected that Marshall’s mistakes were deliberate
McCarthy got a bit of a reputation as a book burner because he wanted
to remove the blatant Communist propaganda of William Z. Foster, Herbert
Aptheker, and Howard Fast from the United States Information Agency
libraries overseas. Early in the Eisenhower administration, these libraries
underwent an almost total transformation, with more serious books replacing
less serious ones. These libraries were a boondoggle that served no
real national purpose.
Fort Monmouth Breaches
After the Republican victory of 1952, McCarthy discovered a problem
with thousands of classified documents being passed to Communists
at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Fort Monmouth, the headquarters of
the U.S. Army Signal Corps, was the location of sensitive radar research.
A dentist at Fort Monmouth had lied about the fact that he was a
Communist to get into the Army. He was already under suspicion when
he was promoted to major. The civilian leaders of the Army wanted
to get rid of him, but McCarthy wanted him court martialed and was
furious when the dentist received an honorable discharge. McCarthy
blew up at a general who had seemed to be on McCarthy's side until
he was reached and silenced by the Army civilian leadership. McCarthy
insulted him unnecessarily.
McCarthy had Robert Kennedy and Roy Cohn on his staff, an obvious
source of friction. He brought J. B. Matthews onto his staff to keep
peace, among other reasons. Matthews was an ordained Protestant minister,
and the last thing he wrote before joining McCarthy was a study of
Communism in the Protestant clergy. McCarthy was subsequently depicted
to the unsophisticated as attacking Protestantism and the U.S. Army.
McCarthy was accused of using his power to get special treatment for
a former staffer in the Army. At a televised hearing, McCarthy seems
to have won every substantive point and lost every rhetorical and
dramatic one, a disaster for him. Finally, the Senate censured him
for failing to disclose his tax returns for the period before he
was in the Senate. He believed that his obligation was to let the
Senate pry into anything about him after he was a Senator, but not
before. Senators Goldwater and Dirksen were unsuccessful in their
attempts to arrange a last-minute compromise.
The Democrats were unanimous on the censure vote. The Republicans
were split, with the conservatives voting against censure and the liberals
I have not said anything about McCarthy investigating anyone outside
the government because he never did. That he accused lots of people
of being Communists is the biggest myth of all about him — and the
M. Stanton Evans has written a new 600-page book called Blacklisted
by History — The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his Fight
against America's Enemies. It is a start in printing the facts, not
Back to The Confederate
The Confederate Lawyer is copyright © 2008
by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
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