Fifth Column in Congress
In August 1936 an extraordinary national convocation attended by American fascist and anti-Semitic propagandists took place at Asheville, North Carolina. The gathering, which was called the National Conference of Clergymen and Laymen, had been arranged with the assistance of the prominent Liberty Leaguer and lumber king, John Henry Kirby, and his aide, Vance Muse, who together had organized the fascist Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution.
Among those present at the Asheville assembly, whose promoters had the avowed purpose of making anti-Semitism a key issue in the 1936 Presidential campaign, were William Dudley Pelley, Silver Shirt chief and Nazi collaborator; James True, pro-Axis propagandist and inventor of a patented blackjack called the “kikekiller”; and George Deatherage, head of the “official Fascist Party,” the American Nationalist Confederation, who was later to attend a World Congress of anti-Semites held in Erfurt, Germany, and there dehver a speech entitled, “Will America be the Jews’ Waterloo?”
One of the main addresses at the Asheville conference was delivered by a stocky round-faced man with short-cropped hair whose name was Edward F. Sullivan. His remarks, according to the Asheville press, were “what Hitler would have said had he been speaking” . . .
Edward F. Sullivan had first become associated with the fascist movement in 1933, shortly after Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. Nazi agents were already swarming over the globe to organize fifth columns within the democracies, particularly among national groups and minorities. There were one million Ukrainian-Americans in the United States, and, under expert Nazi supervision, a pro-Axis fifth column soon mushroomed among them. When a publicity man was needed to help rally mass support for the movement, several of the Ukrainian-American fascist leaders recommended Edward F. Sullivan for the job. Sullivan was then an impecunious young newspaperman in Boston who, according to the records of the Senate Civil Liberties Committee, had been employed for a time by the labor-espionage Railway Audit and Inspection Company. Approached by the Ukrainian-Americans, Sullivan readily went to work for them.
By 1936, when he attended the Asheville conference, Sullivan was already regarded in fifth column circles as one of the more promising anti-democratic propagandists in the country.
Even so, under ordinary circumstances there would have been little to distinguish Sullivan from numerous such agitators then operating in the United States. But an event was soon to occur which would place Sullivan in a very special category . . .
In the summer of 1938 a Special Congressional Committee was formed, under the chairmanship of Representative Martin Dies of Texas, to investigate un-American activities in the United States.
The first Chief Investigator appointed by the Dies Committee was — Edward F. Sullivan.
American taxpayers who paid Sullivan’s salary while he was Chief Investigator for the Un-American Activities Committee were unaware of his anti-democratic previous activities. They might also have been interested in Sullivan’s police record. Here it is:
Offense Place of Offense Date Disposition
Drunkenness Charleston. Mass. 9/7/20 Released
Driving so as to endanger Roxbury 12/18/23 Fined $25
Driving without license Suffolk 2/1 1/24 Fined $25
Driving so as to endanger Suffolk 6/27/24 Placed on file 6 mo
Larceny Malden House of Correction; appealed
Larceny Middlesex Sup. Ct 4/12/32 Nolle prossed
Operating after license sus Lowell 2/11/32 Filed
Violation of Section 690 of New York City 12/20/33 Acquitted
the penal law (Sodomy)
Arrested on charges of im Pittsburgh 12/11/39 Charges dropped
personating FBI officer
After supervising the initial “investigations” conducted by the Un-American Activities Committee, Edward Sullivan was reluctantly dropped as Chief Investigator by Congressman Dies. “For reasons of economy,” said Dies. Actually, liberal American organizations had uncovered certain details about Sullivan’s unsavory record; and Dies, with an eye to a new appropriation for his Committee, wanted to avoid a public scandal.
Sullivan’s place as chief investigator for the Un-American Activities Committee was taken by J. B. Matthews, an embittered renegade radical who, Hke his predecessor, was held in high esteem by Axis agencies and their fifth column alHes. Matthew’s diffuse autobiography, Odyssey of a Fellow Traveller — dedicated to Martin Dies, J. Parnell Thomas, and other members of the Un-American Activities Committee and published by John Cecil, head of an antiSemitic organization called the American Immigration Conference Board— was widely distributed in American fascist circles. The Nazi Propaganda Ministry warmly recommended Matthew’s writings, and articles by him were printed in Contra-Komintern, an official organ of the German Foreign Office. . . .*
* In directing the “investigatory” operations of the Un-American Activities Committee, both Edward F. Sullivan and J. B. Matthews were assisted by a lean, sleek, pale-faced southerner named Robert E. Stripling who in 1943 became Chief Investigator of the Committee.
The alleged purpose for which the Un-American Activities Committee was established on May 26, 1938, was to gather information on “the diffusion within the United States of subversive and unAmerican propaganda that is instigated from foreign countries or of a domestic origin that attacks the principle of the form of government as guaranteed by the Constitution.”
Instead, from its inception, the Un-American Activities Committee itself served as a fountainhead of virulently anti-democratic propaganda and as an agency seeking to undermine basic tenets of the Constitution.
As The New World, official organ of the Chicago diocese of the Catholic Church, stated editorially six months after the formation of the Committee:
If it is really a committee to investigate “un-American activities,” it really should begin with an investigation of itself.
Week after week, in the marble-columned caucus room in the old House Office Building, an endless macabre procession of exconvicts, labor spies, foreign agents, racketeers, fascist propagandists or political renegades were solemnly paraded before the Committee to testify as “expert witnesses” on “communist activities” in the United States.
One of the first witnesses to appear before the Committee was a man by the name of Alvin I. Halpern. On the second day of Halpern’s testimony, a District of Columbia court sentenced him to serve a prison term of one to two years for the crime of larceny.
Nevertheless, Halpern’s testimony was included, without any reference to his criminal record, in the official published reports of the Un-American Activities Committee. . . .
These were some of the other “expert witnesses” to appear before the Committee:
Peter J. Innes: a labor spy who had been expelled from the National Maritime Union for stealing $500 from the union treasury; he was subsequently sentenced to eight years imprisonment for attempted rape of a small child.
William C. McCuiston: an organizer of strong-arm squads for attacking trade unionists; he testified before the Committee while under indictment for the murder of Philip Carey, a labor leader who was shot and clubbed to death in New Orleans; subsequently acquitted on murder charge.
William T. Gernaey: a labor spy, exposed by the LaFollette Committee as agent No. 0273 employed by the notorious labor espionage agency. Corporations Auxiliary.
Edwin Perry Banta: a pro-Axis propagandist, member of the Christian Front and collaborator with Nazi agents; he died in jail on November 8, 1945, while serving a three year sentence for conspiracy to commit a felony.
John Koos: 2. former leading spokesman for the American branch of a fascist Ukrainian organization called the Hetman, which had its headquarters in Berlin during the Nazi regime and operated under the direction of the German Military Intelligence; on September 30, 1938, he sent a congratulatory cable to Adolf Hitler praising him for his “history-making efforts in the adjustment of minority rights.”
Richard Krebs, alias Jan Valtin: a renegade German Communist who served thirty-nine months in San Quentin penitentiary; and who, in his book, Out of the Night, explained his former membership in the Nazi Gestapo on the grounds that he was combatting its activities.
Walter S. Steele: editor of the National Republic, a pro-Coughlin magazine; and one of the American sponsors of a book entitled Communism in Germany, which was the first official Nazi propaganda document to be distributed in the United States and which was prefaced with a quotation from Adolf Hitler.
These individuals did not appear before the Un-American Activities Committee as the accused. They were the accusers. Under the pretext of exposing “Communist activities” in the United States, they vilified outstanding American liberals, slandered progressive organizations, and calumniated the organized labor movement. The torrent of character assassination and abuse which flowed from their lips filled dozens of volumes published by the Government Printing Office and was widely quoted in the nation’s press.
None of the groups or persons thus publicly denounced had the opportunity to confront their defamers. The Committee permitted no cross examination of its “expert witnesses.”
“We can say anything we please about people and they have no recourse,” declared Representative John J. Dempsey, a member of the Committee . . .
While these hearings were being held, an elaborate espionage apparatus of secret agents was organized by the Committee to spy upon American citizens, plant dictaphones, seize private records, and compile extensive blacklists of liberals, anti-fascists and active trade unionists.
According to the Committee’s own claims, its files soon contained the names of “more than one million subversive Americans.”
“And how did they get those names?” asked Representative John J. Cochran of Missouri. “They confiscated mailing lists of so-called subversive organizations. . . . Undoubtedly my name is on the list; and so is yours.”
After learning that his name was included on the Committee’s blacklists. Professor Clyde R. Miller of Teachers College, Columbia University, paid a visit to the Committee’s office in Washington, D. C. He said he wanted to know why the Committee had listed him as a “dangerous American.”
A Committee investigator named Chester Nickolas told Professor Miller that, according to the Committee’s records, he had been a member of several organizations combatting anti-Semitism. “You’re just a college professor,” said Nickolas. “You should know. Professor, that all these groups fighting anti-Semitism are Communist transmission belts.”
Then Investigator Nickolas added:
“You better go back and tell your Jewish friends that the Jews in Germany stuck their necks out too far and Hitler took care of them, and the same thing is going to happen here unless they watch their step. . . .”
On February 11, 1941, Congressman Samuel Dickstein of New York made a startling accusation against the Un-American Activities Committee. Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives, Dickstein charged:
One hundred and ten fascist organizations in the United States have had, and have now the key to the back door of the Un-American Activities Committee!
In the crucial years immediately preceding Pearl Harbor, with the Axis fifth column in America feverishly endeavoring to undermine national morale and hamstring U. S. defense preparations, the Un-American Activities Committee not only failed to combat these machinations; it actually worked in collusion with German and Japanese agents and their American accomplices.
One of the largest and most menacing of the pre-war fifth column organizations in America was the Christian Front. Its members, operating under the supervision of Nazi agents, ran into the tens of thousands; its secret stormtroop cells were armed and drilling in every major city; and its leader. Father Charles E. Coughlin, by means of his radio program and his pubhcation, Social Justice, was disseminating copious quantities of propaganda received directly from the Nazi Propaganda Ministry.
The Un-American Activities Committee never investigated Father Coughhn and his vast fascist apparatus. On the contrary, a secret understanding existed between the Committee and the proNazi priest, who periodically provided Chairman Martin Dies with lists of “Communists” and various propaganda material.
In 1939, Father Coughlin issued these instructions to his stormtroopers:
In your appreciation of the work accomplished by Dies, employ some of your leisure moments to write him a letter of encouragement. In fact, a million letters brought to his desk would be an answer to those who are bent on destroying him and the legislative body he represents.
On December 8, 1939, the German-American Bund leader and Nazi spy, Fritz Kuhn, was asked by newspapermen what he thought of the Un-American Activities Committee. “I am in favor of it being appointed again,” Kuhn replied, “and I wish them to get more money.”
Here are other typical comments by leading fifth columnists or fascist propagandists on the work of the Un-American Activities Committee:
“I have the highest respect for the Committee and sympathize with its program.”— George Sylvester Viereck, Nazi agent sentenced on February 21, 1942, to serve eight months to two years in prison.
“I founded the Silver Legion in 1933 … to propagandize exactly the same principles.”— William Dudley Pelley, former head of the proNazi Silver Shirts, sentenced on August 13, 1942, to 15 years imprisonment for criminal sedition.
“[The Committee’s] program … so closely parallels the program of the Klan that there is no distinguishable difference between them.” —James Colescott, Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
“. . . the Committee of One Million carried a petition bearing more than 400,000 names to Washington calling for the continuation of the investigation.”— Gerald L. K. Smith, ex-Silver Shirter No. 3223, National Chairman of the fascist Committee of One Million.*
* After America’s entry into the war, the Un-American Activities Committee carried on a continuous propaganda campaign which closely paralleled that of the Axis, violently attacking the Roosevelt Administration, charging that U. S. Government agencies were riddled with “Reds,” and denouncing America’s fighting allies. These charges were repeatedly picked up and repeated by the Axis Propaganda Ministries. A report made by the Federal Communications Commission on Axis short-wave broadcasts to this hemisphere stated: “Representative Dies received as many favorable references in Axis propaganda in this country as any living American public figure. His opinions were quoted by the Axis without criticism at any time.”