Preferred Citation: Newman, Robert P. Owen Lattimore and the "Loss" of China. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.

Chapter Fourteen Barmine

Chapter Fourteen

Until January 1949 the FBI file on Lattimore was thin. It contained only twelve documents, half of which concerned Lattimore's activities in the Maryland Civil Liberties Committee and the Maryland Citizens Council. The other documents were mostly reports from the Boston FBI office occasioned by Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter's visits, when she complained that Lattimore's stance against Japanese aggression was motivated by pro-communism. None of this struck the bureau as warranting additional investigation.

On January 12, 1949, Boston wrote headquarters again. There was a new angle: Boston had a report of the testimony of an informant in the Hiss investigation who identified Lattimore as a Russian agent. Boston wanted to make sure this item caught Hoover's attention. It succeeded.[1]

The new witness was Alexander Gregory Graf Barmine.

Barmine, a defector from the Soviet Union, was born of a noble family in 1899. He wrote that when the revolution broke out, he was "filled with hope and enthusiasm for the new Russia and the new world we were going to create. I left the university and engaged as a volunteer in the new army. At the same time I joined the Communist party. Six months later I was named political commissar of the battalion and later of the regiment, after taking part in the fighting in the Ukraine. After a course at military school I served as an officer in the war against Poland. Since then I have served in the Soviet Government in many posts and have given all my force and strength to the workers' cause, which I espoused in 1919."[2]

Barmine's accounts of service to the Soviet government in his various autobiographical writings differ from the account he gave the FBI, but he


was consistent in claiming that he was for many years a brigadier general in military intelligence and that when he defected in 1937 he was chargé d'affaires of the Russian embassy in Athens. The immediate stimulus for his defection was Stalin's purging of former colleagues; he sensed that his time was coming.

From Athens he went to Paris, claiming status as a political refugee; in 1940 he came to the United States, where he worked in a metal factory. Like many defectors, he now gave to anticommunism the same "force and strength" he had once given to the revolution. In 1942 he entered the U.S. Army as a private. Apparently his former skills as a Soviet brigadier general were no longer with him, as he was still a private in 1944 when he left the army to join the Office of Strategic Services.[3]

OSS seemed to appreciate his talents even less. Barmine does not discuss his work with OSS, but admits he was fired. He says the stated reason was repeated absence from the job because of illness, but that the real reason was his extracurricular activities.[4] By 1944 he had made contact with various publishers and was busily turning out exposes of Soviet perfidy and subversion. The publication to which he gravitated was Reader's Digest .

Barmine's article "The New Communist Conspiracy" appeared in the Digest in October 1944. It is a typical warning of how the American Communist party was merely a tool of the Kremlin, far more dangerous after Earl Browder "dissolved" it and formed the Communist Political Association. The Communists had penetrated American labor unions and used their agents in the army and navy to defeat counterintelligence efforts.[5] Barmine had not yet discovered China policy, the IPR, or Lattimore.

But the FBI discovered Barmine. On February 14, 1945, the New York office interviewed him. If he was so knowledgeable about how the Soviet network operated in the United States, they expected that he would know some of the key operatives. Barmine disappointed them. He could not name any Americans working for the Soviet Union.[6]

However, Barmine's contacts at the Digest soon provided him with names of Soviet apologists, if not with names of spies. He became friends with Max Eastman, shortly to publish the anti-Lattimore article with J. D. Powell; in March 1945 Eastman wrote a glowing preface to Barmine's book One Who Survived . Eastman had gotten the anti-Lattimore corpus from Kohlberg and now passed it on intact to Barmine. Barmine also became close to Digest staffer Bill White, son of the famous editor William Allen White. Bill White and Barmine collaborated to dissuade the Digest from publishing a condensation of Lattimore's allegedly pro-Soviet


Solution in Asia .[7] Barmine subsequently wrote a hostile review of Solution that appeared in the New Leader .[8] Paraphrasing (if not plagiarizing) the Kohlberg review of Solution , Barmine ignored the last three chapters, in which Lattimore argued for free enterprise in Asia, and instead attacked the misleading publisher's blurb.

Despite getting an article in the prestigious Digest , Barmine's career as a writer did not flourish. He was out of work from late 1944, when the OSS fired him, until October 1948, when he joined the Russian section of the Voice of America. During this period of unemployment the State Department told the FBI that Barmine was alleged to have seen a list of Soviet agents in the United States that included the name of Alger Hiss. The bureau thereupon contacted Barmine again, on October 23, 1946, when "he was closely questioned as to whether he knew of any Soviet agents in the United States or even if he suspected any individual. He denied knowing anything definite and added that he was merely suspicious of some things."[9] The Bureau was again disappointed; this was just another bad tip from State.

Barmine had lied to the bureau. To Bill White and other former Digest associates he had already suggested that Lattimore might be a Soviet agent,[10] but his suspicion did not become public knowledge until the McCarthy ruckus four years later.

In 1948 Barmine watched fascinated as HUAC had its "Vintage Year." In July, Elizabeth Bentley soared to stardom as she named a score of persons whom she claimed had been serving in her espionage ring. In August, Chambers unleased the spectacular charges against Hiss.[11] (Neither Bentley nor Chambers named Lattimore.) Here, Barmine surely reasoned, was a formula for advancing the anti-Communist cause: bring charges of treason, not just of fellow-traveling, against specific Americans. Then the naive would sit up and listen.

His opportunity came before the end of the year. Despite two earlier disappointments the FBI went back to Barmine on October 26, 1948, to see if he could add to the testimony against Hiss. Apparently he said nothing about Hiss, but he had a new story: Owen Lattimore and Joseph Barnes had been "working" for the Soviets in 1933.[12] (Barmine later "corrected" this date to 1935.)

The story was confused, but it concerned an incident Barmine now remembered from his years as head of the Soviet Auto-Motor Export Corporation in Moscow. In this position he was responsible for one overt activity, shipping cars and trucks abroad, and for a covert activity, furnishing arms to pro-Soviet groups in other countries, including China's


Sinkiang Province. For the latter operation he needed experienced "military men" to organize delivery of the guns, tanks, ammunition, and supplies he was to position in China.

Where were these experienced military men to be found? Barmine claimed that during this assignment he worked closely with General I. Berzin, head of Soviet military intelligence. General Berzin told Barmine not to worry: the Soviets had two Americans working for them in China, Owen Lattimore and Joseph Barnes of the IPR. They would handle his need for experienced men in Sinkiang.[13]

Berzin was a major Soviet figure who headed military intelligence from 1924 to 1935 and was senior Soviet adviser to Loyalist forces in the Spanish civil war in 1936-37. Barmine claims that while he held the export job, he conferred with Berzin—his boss—three or four times a week.[14] This claim is strange. Berzin was running so many agents in so many countries (including superspy Richard Sorge) that it is difficult to envisage his taking so much time with the mundane business of exporting.[15] Even more difficult to believe is that in his autobiographies written well before 1948, Barmine mentions Berzin not at all. Barmine writes about some 315 of his colleagues and superiors in the Soviet Union, from Stalin on down, paying special tribute to those who were caught up in Stalin's purges.[16] Berzin was liquidated in 1937, as were many other associates of Barmine, yet Barmine had not a word to say about Berzin.

Nor does Barmine mention Lattimore, Barnes, or the IPR in his autobiographies. In any case, the improbability of Barmine's scenario is staggering. For one thing, Barmine admits that he never contacted, met, or used Lattimore and Barnes. Within a short time of his "learning" from Berzin that Lattimore and Barnes were Soviet agents, Barmine asked to be relieved of the Auto-Motor Export job. He was then transferred to the diplomatic service.

Furthermore, to describe Lattimore and Barnes as experienced military men is ridiculous. Lattimore had always been a businessman-scholar-journalist. Barnes was a pure journalist and by the late 1940s was foreign editor of the New York Herald-Tribune . Neither ever had military service. And there was a problem with dates. In 1933,the date Barmine first mentioned, Lattimore was in China, but nowhere near Sinkiang, and his affiliation with the IPR did not come until the end of the year. Nor was Lattimore near Sinkiang in 1935. Barnes was in China for a while in 1933, but not in Sinkiang; in 1935 he was not even in China.

If the IPR was furnishing such stellar personnel for Soviet military intelligence, it is hard to see why that country attended only one IPR


conference and ceased to pay dues after 1939. Nor does it make sense for the Russians to have consistently denied Lattimore permission to enter their country, other than for the 1936 trip he made to meet Carter in Moscow.

Barmine dearly appreciated the flimsiness of his story. In later retellings he embellished, contradicted, and disparaged it to the point of farce. He even said of his own tale that he was not sure it could be called "evidence." The FBI eventually wrote off his testimony as "uncorroborated," noted that he told contradictory versions, and doubted his credibility.[17]

But in March 1948 J. Edgar Hoover took Barmine's testimony seriously enough to order the Baltimore office to start a "thorough and complete investigation" of Lattimore, with telephone taps and physical surveillance. (He also ordered that a microphone be hidden in Lattimore's home if the agents could install it secretly; it is not clear that they were able to do so.) The object was to find out whether Lattimore "is presently or has been in the past engaged in espionage activities." Now the Lattimore file began to grow rapidly, and his classification was upgraded, in bureau nomenclature, from an "Internal Security" case to one of "Espionage." A request for permission to tap his telephone went to the attorney general on March 24, 1949, and on April 3 the tap was installed.[18]

Physical surveillance began toward the end of March. A lecture tour Lattimore made to New England was followed closely. He, his wife, and the recently arrived Dilowa Hutukhtu (noted as traveling incognito) stayed overnight with writer Richard Lauterbach in New York, then journeyed to Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 30. Both Lattimore and Lauterbach spoke to the Springfield Adult Education League that evening, calling for recognition of people's governments in Asia and saying that we might be able to deal with the Chinese Communists.[19]

The next day Lauterbach returned to New York, and the Lattimore party went on to Cambridge. There they stayed for three days with Professor John King Fairbank. Fairbank gave a dinner party at the Buena Vista Restaurant in honor of Lattimore on April 1, and Lattimore addressed Fairbank's seminar in History of Far Eastern Civilizations that evening. The surveillance report filed by Boston also noted that Lattimore was a friend of Andrew Roth, Clyde Kluckhohn, Charles Siepmann, Michael Greenberg, and Harriet Moore.[20]

The telephone tap provided advance notice of Lattimore's movements for the next nine months. Agents shadowed him everywhere he went. His lecture schedule for 1949 was extensive, and the faithful FBI kept watch on each appearance; in Philadelphia April 21, New York May 5,


the Army Chemical Center May 9, the Council on Foreign Relations May 10, an NBC broadcast from New York June 7, and then on vacation.

Surveillance reports on these engagements show the FBI at its dogged best. The cable to the Washington field office (WFO) and Baltimore from New York on May 5 is typical:


Entirely unaware of being followed everywhere, the Lattimores, Dilowa Hutukhtu, and the Onons went to Bethel, Vermont, for a vacation at the end of June. They were to occupy Stoddard farm, belonging to Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who was then in Iceland. This created a bit of a problem for the FBI. A mail cover was easy (the Bethel postmaster gladly allowed the FBI to intercept and steam open Lattimore's mail), and it was easy to tap the telephone, but physical surveillance was not easy.

The nearest FBI office was in Albany, New York, three and a half hours' drive away. The gung ho Albany Special Agent in Charge (SAC), A. Cornelius, Jr., was more than prepared to drive that far to maintain surveillance of a suspicious character like Lattimore. But once the agents were near the Stoddard farm, there was no cover. In a city or town, agents could pretend to be eating in a restaurant, drinking in a bar, or simply waiting in a parked car. Rural Vermont did not offer such opportunities. As Cornelius plaintively put it, "The farm itself consists of several hundred acres on top of the mountain, and there are no buildings in which one could stay to observe any activities on the farm."[22]

So Cornelius read the mail, listened to the telephone recordings, and sent photographs of letters in Chinese and Mongol to Washington for translation. Unfortunately, Cornelius or one of his associates was not highly skilled at photography. A shipment of exposed film mailed from Albany to bureau headquarters on August 4, 1949, drew this response on August 10: "This is to advise you that the roll was too far underexposed to print,


it being loaded in the magazine with the emulsion side away from the lens so that the exposures were made through the back of the film. There is attached hereto, an instruction card with the correct method for unloading and also the correct exposure guide. Film is being returned herewith."[23] Some film, however, turned out dearly. Hundreds of letters to and from Lattimore were put in bureau files. Vital facts about Lattimore's activities were learned, such as that he had managed to install an indoor bathroom in one of the buildings at the Stoddard farm.

What SAC Cornelius lacked in photographic skills he made up for in geopolitical imagination. Now that the Albany district had been blessed with a world-famous suspect, he rose to the occasion. He read up on Buddhism so he could place the Dilowa in a monastic hierarchy (he was comparable to a Roman Catholic cardinal); he studied the history of Mongolia and of Tibet and the interrelations of the Buddhist authorities in those countries. He referred to the recent China White Paper and the appointment by Secretary of State Dean Acheson of a committee headed by Philip Jessup to review Asian policy, a committee that would undoubtedly seek Lattimore's advice. He followed Reuters and Associated Press dispatches about unrest in Tibet and about the dispatch of an emissary from China to Lhasa to reaffirm Chinese sovereignty there. All this and more SAC Cornelius put in a three-page letter to Hoover on August 9.[24]

Nor was this an idle show of erudition to impress the boss. There was a conclusion:

In view of the above factors, it would be quite possible that LATTIMORE by influencing his Mongolian associates (and they influencing their superiors and/or constituents in Tibet) is in a position to assist in bringing about the inclusion of Tibet in the Soviet or Chinese Communist sphere of influence, which country today, is not in either sphere. It is even possible the Communist forces would desire to see the tenth Lama replaced by a new Buddha if it would better suit their cause. It is then possible that LATTIMORE'S guest, the Dilowa (Living Buddha) may possibly be that person. It may be that continued investigation of LATTIMORE will tend to confirm or disprove this conjecture.

It is suggested that possibly this may be of assistance to the newly formed advisory committee, and it is believed they should be so advised prior to negotiations they may undertake with OWEN LATTIMORE .[25]

We do not know if Hoover read the Cornelius memorandum. Two months later, however, D. M. Ladd wrote to Hoover about the Jessup committee having consulted Lattimore. Ladd quoted, without acknowledgment, from the Cornelius memo and concluded that "Lattimore could be of immense


importance to the Russians" as an adviser to Jessup. Hoover did read this memo and commented below Ladd's signature: "This is shocking. Press vigorously investigation of Lattimore."[26]

The FBI investigation spilled over into the fledgling CIA. Many of Lattimore's alleged transgressions occurred abroad, out of the bureau's jurisdiction. Hoover thought the CIA might be able to furnish some information. On June 22, 1949, Hoover wrote the CIA, asking if that agency could verify Barmine's claim and also check out some fourth-hand gossip (source deleted) to the effect that Lattimore had divulged information to the Soviets.[27] Robert A. Schow, CIA assistant director, answered the bureau on August 10, hardly a speedy response; the CIA blacked out the substance of his letter when it was finally released in 1986.[28]

By contrast, the bureau moved rapidly and included in their investigation the mysterious Mongols Lattimore now had with him. Until Lattimore began the Page School Mongol program in 1947, there was little academic study of that exotic land and people. The Foreign Service Institute (State Department), American Council of Learned Societies, and the Carnegie Corporation all agreed to underwrite his project. It was to be multidisciplinary; Lattimore hired American linguists and social scientists, but his major effort was to obtain native speakers of Mongol. John Hangin and Urgunge Onon came to Johns Hopkins in 1948, barely getting out of Nanking before the Communists arrived.

Lattimore wanted the Dilowa also. Periodically he had letters from his friend, by 1948 in a Tibetan monastery and planning to live out his life there. Homesick as he was for his native Mongolia, the Communists there would not tolerate his presence. He plaintively explained this in a letter to Lattimore: "Though I am not against them, they must be against me. The old can sometimes forgive the new, but the new can never forgive the old."[29] By the end of 1948 Tibet too seemed an insecure refuge, and the Dilowa contemplated a move to India. Lattimore persuaded him instead to come to the United States. He arrived in Baltimore early in March 1949.

Despite State's clean bill of health to all three Mongols, the FBI was suspicious. The Dilowa's baggage came by ship, arriving May 6. Every bit of it was searched. There were numerous letters written in Mongol; it took almost a year for the FBI to get these translated. They apparently showed no evidence that the Dilowa had Communist thoughts, but one very suspicious enclosure raised a warning flag with SAC McFarlin in Baltimore: "The following described letters, made available by the same highly confidential source referred to above [the search of Dilowa's bag-


gage] were in sealed and addressed but unstamped envelopes. . . . Baltimore exhibit #51—letter and envelope bearing what appears to be Mongol script. It will be noted that folded in the letter were two dried flower petals, which appear in the photograph. The Bureau is requested to advise, if possible, whether these dried flower petals are of any known significance."[30]

Four rolls of film were also confiscated from the Dilowa's luggage. When developed, they also must have been innocuous. Later FBI documents show no incriminating evidence coming from the Dilowa's baggage. But agent Cornelius in Albany had planted the seeds of suspicion: the Dilowa might yet be the Communists' chosen agent to take over Tibet. This fear endured in bureau files.

The bureau missed one high-level attack on Lattimore in early 1949. John F. Kennedy was still only a congressman, but he knew what to feed the then-hawkish citizens of Salem, Massachusetts. On January 30, seeking to explain the "tragic" decline of Chiang Kai-shek, for whom we had gone to war against Japan, Kennedy borrowed liberally from Bullitt, Hurley, and other Asia-firsters: "Our policy in China has reaped the whirlwind. The continued insistence that aid would not be forthcoming unless a coalition government with the Communists was formed was a crippling blow to the national government. So concerned were our diplomats and their advisers, the Lattimores and the Fairbanks, with the imperfections of the diplomatic system in China after 20 years of war, and the tales of corruption in high places, that they lost sight of our tremendous stake in a non-Communist China." Kennedy later regretted this indiscretion. Fortunately, in 1949 he did not command the rhetorical heights of the presidency.[31]

The March 19, 1949, Collier's brought a surprise from Louis Budenz. When he first started writing about the Soviet threat in his 1947 autobiography, This Is My Story , he portrayed the Soviet Union as operating directly through American Communists. The takeover of America would come after the collapse of the American capitalist economy. In this first Budenz call to arms there was no mention of Asia, China, Japan, or the IPR. Budenz listed eighty-seven Americans who were working with the Soviets to hasten America's collapse; Fred Field and Owen Lattimore were not among them. By the time he wrote for Collier's in 1949, the Soviet threat had assumed a quite different dimension. His title was "The Menace of Red China": "The Communist conquest of China, now dangerously near completion, long has been planned as a major milestone in Moscow's road toward creation of a Soviet America. Japan and Korea are


next on the schedule, then Indonesia and the Philippines. Once in control of the western Pacific's vast manpower and vital rubber, tin and oil resources, Russia hopes to be ready for the final showdown with the United States. That is the blueprint, at least, of Soviet world conquest. . . . Since 1927, every American Communist has been inculcated with the Soviet tenet that China is the master key to a Red White House."[32]

This "master key," as Budenz suddenly remembered, was first activated in 1937, when Earl Browder called a "China conference" at Party headquarters. Ten American Communist party leaders attended. Budenz says: "Browder announced that he had received word that 'the followers of Mao Tse-tung have to be presented in a new dress.' With a sarcastic grin and Kansas-imitated twang, he said our new objective was to picture them as a mild variation of Plains states agrarian reformers. Up to that point they had been known simply as Chinese Communists."[33]

At this China conference Fred Field allegedly suggested the idea of working through "legitimate" organizations such as the IPR. "This is not a Communist organization," writes Budenz, "but Field later succeeded in becoming secretary of the American Council. . . . Browder masterminded the new China policy. Having served two years in China as a Communist International representative, he was an authority on that country." Budenz also identified five writers who took part in Browder's project: Philip Jaffe, Lawrence Salisbury, T. A. Bisson, Harrison Forman, and Guenther Stein. Thus, China became Russia's "steppingstone to world domination. . . . It took nearly a quarter of a century to reach the goal, which only proves that while the pattern of conquest may deviate, it never dies."[34]

One would be tempted to suspect that Budenz had bought Kohlberg's conspiracy theory in toto except for one thing: Lattimore and all his works are missing from the Collier's account. It took another year for Budenz to adopt the full Kohlberg agenda.

Meanwhile, Lattimore was putting out an agenda of his own. It was Situation in Asia , requested of Lattimore by Little, Brown in late December 1948 and completed by Lattimore in three weeks. Publication date was April 4, 1949.[35] Naturally, this was not all new material; some of it came from Lattimore's ONA columns, one chapter came from a paper he had delivered to the American Historical Association in December, and two chapters had been prepared for the Atlantic Monthly . There were no surprises.

Since the Communists had all but taken over China, and the Soviet Union stood to gain by this takeover, the Russian menace figured strongly


in Situation . Lattimore does not equivocate about this menace. "The spread of direct Russian control over Asia would be disastrous for the countries of Asia as well as for America and Europe. To replace one kind of empire with another kind of empire would make things worse, not better." And while Russian propaganda painted Marxism as "modern and progressive," this description was erroneous; "according to this theory, to be 'progressive' in politics means to be on the side of that which is coming up and against that which is going down." Lattimore believed that we had to adopt policies that would "demonstrate that there can be progress and democracy—democracy for Asia, in forms acceptable to Asia—without Marxism."[36]

Such policies did not mean we had to go to war with Russia. The Truman Doctrine was still too provocative. Our defenses already in place were sufficient to protect our own territory; in the Third World, our superior economic capabilities would tip the balance of influence in our favor. "The fundamental adjustment will then require the Russians to concede that capitalism is not withering or collapsing, while we shall have to concede that Communism cannot be extirpated by war. On our side, we shall have given a fresh impetus to both capitalism and political democracy."[37]

As with his earlier book, Solution in Asia , Lattimore consistently argues the superiority of capitalistic productive power and the inferiority of Soviet communism. "America is the strongest private-enterprise country in the world, and there are all kinds of jobs, all over the world, that can be done better by American private enterprise than by any other agency." As to the former colonial areas, "The American interest in these countries is to cultivate the maximum field of legitimate operation for American private enterprise in trade, in contracting and engineering, and in supplying and installing machinery."[38]

Lattimore was still convinced that Mao was not under the thumb of the Kremlin, that China would go its own road internally. MacArthur had done a great job in Japan, despite the 1948 reversal of policy, but Japan still could not be counted on in the future. And on the nascent revisionist thesis that Truman ordered use of nuclear weapons only to intimidate the Russians, Lattimore was emphatic: there was "no justification whatever" for believing it. With no exceptions, throughout Situation Lattimore advocates democracy and free enterprise.[39]

One influential force in American opinion paid no attention to Situation : the American Legion. On May 5, 1949, Kenneth R. Hammer, chairman of the Maryland Legion's Americanism Commission, released a list


compiled by the commission of 102 prominent citizens who were "unsuitable for Legion sponsorship" as speakers or entertainers. It was largely a roll call of Hollywood and Broadway personalities, but there were a few professors, among them Lattimore. When the Baltimore Sun asked Lattimore about it, he responded with "complete surprise." "The only person on the list with whom I'm acquainted," he said, "is William L. Shirer. I'll always be glad to be on any list with him."[40]

Underneath the sangfroid there was concern. When Lattimore learned that Richard E. Lauterbach was also on the list, he wrote Lauterbach, "If you know of any proposal for action by a group of us who are clearly libeled by the 'guilt by association' listing please let me know. Since actual loss or damage as the result of such a story is one of the most important things in bringing a libel action, and since you have already had an article turned down, I think your case is clearer than mine. It makes me furious to see you get this kind of treatment, and I want to do anything I can to help."[41]

Nothing came of it. Buried in Lattimore's FBI file is a wiretap report made by the FBI on two prominent Communist party functionaries. Part of what the FBI overheard concerned Lattimore and the Legion list.

Baltimore Confidential informant T-15 [the wiretap] of known reliability, advised on May 6, 1949, that PHIL FRANKFELD , Chairman, District No. 4 of the Communist Party, with headquarters in Baltimore, and GEORGE MEYERS , Labor Secretary, District No. 4 of the Communist Party, discussed a HENRY WALLACE rally. . . . Near the conclusion of their conversation, according to the informant, MEYERS referred to the American Legion's "Honor Roll" and that the Legion had listed in the newspapers over a hundred names to "tip people off that they are traveling under false colors." MEYERS made the statement "they even got OWEN LATTIMORE on there, and WALTER DURANTY ." According to the informant, FRANKFELD seemed puzzled and responded with the following one-word inquiry, "LATTIMORE ?" The informant stated that MEYERS laughed, repeated both names and thereafter told FRANKFELD that he, MEYERS , guessed he would have to start writing with his "right" hand. . . . MEYERS seemed to ridicule the implications the Legion list might suggest insofar as LATTIMORE and WALTER DURANTY are concerned.[42]

While the American Legion was compiling its list of un-American speakers, Lattimore was probing a Russian weakness that few others saw and that would not be fully visible for four decades. His ONA article of April 19, 1949, "Nationalism in Russia's Back Yard," commented on a


chauvinistic piece "written for Bolshevik highbrows"in the Moscow magazine Questions of Philosophy . Lattimore had always given the Russians high marks for their easy assimilation of Asian ethnic groups, but this article, "Against the Bourgeois Ideology of Cosmopolitanism," indicated growing arrogance on the part of the Russians.

Cosmopolitanism was wrong, said the writer, because it implied that there was a body of universal ideas equally valid for all peoples at all times. Such a notion is un-Russian, for the Russians "are the outstanding people" of the Soviet Union, with the richest history and the richest culture. Lattimore observed, "In the headstrong Russian way, they are now overdoing the whole business by laying claim to having invented practically everything." The Questions of Philosophy piece was patronizing, inaccurate, and offensive. Lattimore predicted that if the Russians maintained this attitude, they would face nationalistic hostilities throughout their vast territory.

The FBI wiretap on Lattimore picked up another interesting item in May. On May 10 Lattimore received a telegram from the Office of Naval Research in Washington inviting him to attend a meeting of the Arctic Research Laboratory in Point Barrow, Alaska, May 17. The FBI immediately went to Naval Research to ask why Lattimore was going on this trip. Navy replied that Dr. Detlev Bronk, president of Johns Hopkins and a member of the Arctic Research Laboratory Board, was unable to make this meeting; Lattimore was a substitute nominated by Bronk and cleared by the navy. The navy also supplied the itinerary and names of other persons attending. The bureau decided this trip was legitimate and no surveillance was necessary.[43]

Despite Lattimore's heavy involvement in writing, lecturing, and the Mongol project, he was interested in branching out into other activities: capitalist-style activities. In July 1949, while he and his family were living at the farm in Vermont, Lattimore wrote a business friend of his, Owen Roche, on Long Island. There were several things he wanted to talk to Roche about, not the least of which was making money.

Among other things, why shouldn't you and I pool our experience, yours in Latin America and mine in the Far East, and go into business as consultants on foreign trade under Point Four, or simply as opportunity offers. I once gave a large corporation some sound advice on their investments in Shanghai under Japanese occupation. They took the advice, and liquidated their investment before Pearl Harbor. It seems to me that a couple of men who know their way around in the field of foreign trade and investment ought to be able to give equivalent advice


today; only under present conditions, of course, it would be primarily a question of giving advice on where to undertake new ventures rather than on the liquidation of old commitments.[44]

Roche's response does not survive, and Lattimore did not remember how this project turned out. If it had gotten started, the force of the inquisition would have aborted it shortly.

When the famous China White Paper (formally titled United States Relations with China ) came out on August 5, 1949, Lattimore was an avid reader. It was, he thought, a tremendous mistake. His analysis of the motives behind the White Paper , and of the probable consequences of issuing it, was the most incisive to be found.[45] In an ONA column of August 13 he noted the struggle between Truman's administration and the Asia-first Republicans over whether to try to revive Chiang Kai-shek. Truman was right on this point: Chiang could not be rescued. Lattimore concluded with two points, the first that the White Paper highlighted the "two-billion dollar bankroll that was squandered" in China, making the Democrats look bad.

On the second point, that of emphasizing the redness, ruthlessness, and Russianness of the Chinese Communists, the White Paper commits what will in time be revealed as a serious diplomatic blunder. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, in his statement accompanying the White Paper , speaks of the Russian influence in China as a "foreign domination masking behind the facade of a vast crusading movement," and even suggests that American policy should now encourage the Chinese to "throw off the foreign yoke."

Such language is a diplomatic mistake because, while a Russian yoke on the necks of the Chinese may be one of the possibilities of the future, it is not an actuality of the present. The insinuation that the United States is ready at any moment to encourage a new civil war in China is a grave error. The main body of the White Paper will support the belief, already prevalent in China, that American intervention has been much greater than Russian intervention. The suggestion of a new kind of American intervention will drive the Chinese closer to the Russians.

Mao took precisely this line in a series of four articles using more invective and sarcasm than he had ever before displayed.[46] Nor did the Nationalists like the White Paper . It pleased nobody.

Four months after the Point Barrow trip another public attack on Lattimore's loyalty appeared. The September 1949 issue of Columbia , the magazine of the Knights of Columbus, carried an article, "Disaster in


China," by Father James F. Kearney, S.J. Some of the material was similar to the Eastman-Powell Reader's Digest article, but most of it came straight and undiluted from the source: Kohlberg. The "disaster" was of course the Communist triumph: "For Communism it is the greatest triumph since the Russian Revolution; for us, though few Americans yet fully realize it, it is perhaps the greatest disaster in our history; and the end is not yet. Who is responsible? It wasn't a one-man job; short-sighted Chinese officials contributed some fifty percent of the catastrophe, we the other fifty percent. There are those who believe, though, that no Americans deserve more credit for this Russian triumph and Sino-American disaster than Owen Lattimore and a small group of his followers. Owen Lattimore, confidant of two U.S. Presidents, adviser to our State Department."[47]

Surprisingly, the FBI did not acquire this article until November 28, and it was January 30, 1950, by the time two agents from the San Francisco office interviewed Father Kearney at Santa Clara University. After discovering that Kearney had never met Lattimore, could not identify his "followers" or associates, did not know who in the State Department associated with Lattimore, and had no knowledge of Communist party activity on Lattimore's part, they hit pay dirt: Kearney "advised that ALFRED KOHLBERG , 1 West 37th Street, New York City, had been his principal source of information concerning LATTIMORE , other than LATTIMORE'S books and articles."[48]

Kearney described for the FBI agents Kohlberg's "open letter" operation, stating that in 1948 Kohlberg had informed him that Lattimore screened applicants for positions in the Far Eastern Division of the State Department, however, Kearney could not name any of these individuals. Kearney then added what was, in light of his claimed dependence on Kohlberg, a peculiar reservation about the man: "He expressed the belief that in view of KOHLBERG'S hatred of Communism, KOHLBERG may be indiscreet, and that he would hesitate to recommend an interview of KOHLBERG by this Bureau."[49] This was fine with the bureau Lattimore specialists; they had long regarded Kohlberg as unbalanced and had no desire to interview him. Not until McCarthy quoted Kohlberg before the Senate did they change their minds.

When President Truman announced on September 23 that the Soviet Union had exploded a nuclear bomb, America's virile self-image took another beating. For most observers the trauma was military, Lattimore took a different view. The Russians may have had a bomb or two, but we had a stockpile. The real danger, as Lattimore wrote in an October 3 ONA


article, was in what the bomb represented by way of advanced technology. We could no longer afford the complacent assumption that all the fingers of Russian technologists "are nothing but clumsy peasant thumbs." We now had to revise our estimate of Russian competence, period. Now "Russia's possible industrial application of atomic energy is of even more importance than atomic bombs."

But an equally significant development did not receive from Lattimore the attention it deserved. On October 1 Mao Tse-tung declared the existence of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Lattimore knew this was a milestone, but having been raised abroad and having had little contact with the Protestant mission support system in the United States, he did not appreciate the symbolic significance of this triumph of atheistic communism. He saw the creation of the PRC as primarily a geopolitical problem, to be dealt with on the international stage. It was in fact far more a domestic political problem.

To many Americans, the atheists defeated the Christians in 1949. The inquisition could never have achieved its virulence without the massive grassroots devotion to Christian missions. In 1936 there were at least six thousand Protestant missionaries in China, and each of them had a built-in constituency back home.[50] As Sherwood Eddy, prominent chronicler of China missions, noted of his youth, "China was the goal, the lodestar, the great magnet that drew us all in those days."[51] John Hersey's The Call recreates this Sinocentrism vividly. China was also the lodestar for Henry Luce, who was born in China of missionary parents and who developed a lifelong attachment to the cause served by his father, to the country where his father served, and to the great captain who, until 1949, ruled that country. In the Luce theology, which all of his publishing empire promulgated until his death, missions and righteousness, Republican politics, and Chiang and Americanism were all inseparable.[52]

The psychological significance of Mao's victory lay not just in the fact that the American missionary enterprise suffered a defeat but in the fact that the heathen Communists beat them at their own game. The Communists won the theological battle, the battle for souls. Mao, with his rigid moral code, his strict standards of service and self-abnegation, his overwhelming creed of devotion to duty, had captured the spirit of the Protestant ethic and turned it against them. For many missionaries the triumph of the Communists caused intolerable dissonance. Their China, the Kuomintang, was riddled with "graft and greed, idleness and inefficiency, nepotism and factional rivalries," in the words of missionary-ambassador John Leighton Stuart. Stuart was overtly envious of the dis-


cipline and abstemiousness of the Maoists, qualities which he admitted were "no mean achievement, especially in the perspective of Kuomintang shortcomings."[53]

For several decades American religious circles simply could not cope with the idea that any kind of Communist regime could achieve the popular devotion Mao had in his early years. In 1972 E. Gray Dimond, provost of the University of Missouri at Kansas City Medical School, toured China with a team of fellow doctors. When he gave a series of lectures in the Midwest after his return, he began to get letters: "My pastor has told me to write to you. I told him I was not able to understand how godless, Communist China could not have alcoholism, drugs, venereal disease, and prostitutes. How can this happen in the absence of the Bible? Surely the explanation must be that Christianity is alive and operating behind the scenes. Please write and assure me that this is true." "Your reports about Red China and what you saw there do not do your scientific training justice. It is obvious that you were shown only well-selected areas which had been prepared for you. My minister told me so."[54]

American Catholics, though with less investment in China than Protestants, were also appalled when "China, in the end, rejected Christianity and chose Marxism." Richard Madsen, in the Holy Cross Quarterly , explains why Mao's triumph was so traumatic: "The Chinese Communists succeeded in doing what the churches always claimed to want to do, but never succeeded to any great degree: they fed China's hungry, provided medical care for her sick, eliminated the great gap between China's few rich and many poor, made China into a self-reliant nation, and helped bring new meaning and hope into the lives of great masses of Chinese people."[55]

Lattimore believed that the professional Kuomintang supporters in the United States were in it for money or power or both, but he was in error. Shirley Stone Garrett, in "The American Churches and China," had it right. "With the Communist takeover . . . the collapse of the missionary era left a deep sense of betrayal. . . . It is certain . . . that China's repudiation of the missionary gift worked like a disease in the consciousness of many Americans."[56] The significance of that disease for Lattimore was not yet clear.

In the summer of 1949 SAC Cornelius had warned FBI headquarters about the dangerous possibility that Lattimore would be consulted by Philip Jessup and his committee to review China policy; this threat materialized when Jessup wrote several dozen pundits for their suggestions on August


18; Lattimore replied within the month. His six-page letter digested his book Situation in Asia and concluded, "The major aim of United States policy in the Far East . . . should be to enable the countries of the Far East to do without Russia to the maximum extent. This is a much more modest aim than insistence on and organization of hostility to Russia; but it is an attainable aim, and the other is not."[57] One wonders if Cornelius would have worried so had he actually read this letter.

The Jessup committee talked privately to a number of State Department and other Asian experts during the summer and held a roundtable discussion on American policy toward China on October 6, 7, and 8, 1949.[58] Twenty-five "outsiders" attended the discussion. Five of them vigorously opposed even considering diplomatic relations with the People's Republic; Lattimore advocated waiting a while but thought that Titoist tendencies in Peking could be enhanced if recognition were granted after a reasonable wait. This advice put him at odds with the leader of the nonrecognitionists, Harold Stassen, at that time president of the University of Pennsylvania.

Lattimore also opposed Stassen's proposals for heavy support of the rump Nationalist government in the south of China and later attacked Stassen by name in several of his ONA columns for this proposal. At the conference Stassen came loaded with charts and graphs in the custody of an assistant; the charts showed how we could still save half of China by expeditious aid.[59] It was an impressive performance. As Lattimore remembered it, "Stassen was busy showing how important he was; he kept popping out to get messages from his assistants." But Stassen and his supporters lost the argument. Most of the academic participants, and many of the business leaders, agreed with Lattimore: nonrecognition made no sense as a long-term policy. Stassen had his revenge before McCarran's Senate Internal Security Subcommittee two years later. It was the familiar charge: Lattimore had "lost" China to the Communists.

Lattimore had, of course, played a part in "advising the State Department" about China policy at the roundtable conference. But despite the near consensus of the participants in favor of eventual recognition, the U.S. government did not act on the majority opinion. Perhaps it is still arguable whether recognition would have been a wiser policy, but it is not arguable that Lattimore influenced policy. The roundtable was ignored.

On November 8, 1949, Lattimore spoke to the students of the National War College. It was his only appearance as an official lecturer before this group. His topic was "The Situation in Asia." Much alarm was raised in the Congress some years later when it was learned that Lattimore had


"infected" the military, but his message that day was as anti-Communist as was his book of the same title: the Russians would not be able to control China; nationalism in Asia would be most effectively captured by free enterprise ideas; the United States was superbly placed to promote political democracy in Asia so long as our models were not the Kuomintang and Syngman Rhee. The one weakness of his analysis was again Japan: he said the Japanese were unreliable. Lieutenant General H. R. Bull, commandant of the National War College, said the response to Lattimore's lecture was "most gratifying."[60]

On November 25, 1949, Lee Nichols of United Press interviewed Lattimore about Mao's threat to invade Tibet. The FBI apparently talked to Nichols, since a two-page report on Lattimore's opinions about Tibet includes direct quotations from him and Nichols. Lattimore explained in some detail the status of the Dalai Lama as the ruler of Tibet, determined to maintain Tibetan autonomy. There were, however, two rival Panchen Lamas, of lesser rank, one of whom appeared to be speaking for the Chinese. Nichols asked if the Chinese Communists were interested in taking over Tibet. Lattimore answered:

The only thing that I have seen is that story off the Communist radio some weeks ago more or less denying that it was the business of the authorities in Lhasa to declare the political status of Tibet. I rather pricked up my ears when I saw that because it indicated that regardless of general Communist protestations about the right of self-determination and self-government and all the rest of it, in this case they were putting the emphasis on China's national claims. . . . They might be able to do something by interfering in the internal politics of Tibet but from the point of view of sending an army of their own to conquer the country—well, they may be bullheaded enough to do it but I can't see what the percentage would be.[61]

We do not yet know whether the "bullheaded" Chinese Communists gained or lost by invading Tibet. We do know where Lattimore's sympathies lay: as always, with the ethnic minority.

As if the other events of 1949 had not kept Lattimore fully occupied, he agreed at the urging of a prominent Indian official to attend a conference in New Delhi December 4, expecting to return within ten days. When he landed in New Delhi, a personal aide of Jawaharlal Nehru was waiting for him and whisked him off to confer with the prime minister. Nehru was anxious to have Lattimore's observations on several problems confronting India; one of them was the situation in Kashmir, to which Lattimore was sent for five days. When he returned to New Delhi, Nehru,


Ambassador to China Panikkar, Foreign Secretary Menon, and other Indian officials debriefed him extensively. Nehru's partiality toward Lattimore elevated the latter's prestige with the IPR delegates considerably, but it irritated Loy Henderson, the American ambassador, who believed Nehru too inclined toward socialism, which was but the first step toward communism.

Lattimore reported extensively on his Indian trip to Roger Evans of the Rockefeller Foundation, which had financed his air travel. In his long letter to Evans the only mention of the conference itself was a glowing appraisal of one of the participants, W. F. Rivers, the Delhi representative of Standard Oil. Rivers he found to be the ideal "business diplomat." This was probably an indirect criticism of the official American diplomatic staff in India, which did not have Rivers's "extraordinary range of friendships among both Indians and foreigners."[62]

Because of the Kashmir trip and many conferences with government people, Lattimore did not get back to Baltimore until December 26, 1949.

In Lattimore's absence, J. Edgar Hoover reached a decision. The public attacks on Lattimore were extensive enough, and the FBI file was thick enough, that prosecution was possible. That being the case, since evidence obtained through the use of illegal wiretaps was not admissible in court, the technical surveillance of Lattimore was to be discontinued. Removal of the wiretap was ordered December 20, 1949.[63] From now on, anything obtained by the bureau was to be available for court use.


Chapter Fourteen Barmine

Preferred Citation: Newman, Robert P. Owen Lattimore and the "Loss" of China. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.