Bare Fists and Brass Knuckles
excerpted from the book
America's recruitment of Nazis,
and its disastrous effect on our domestic and foreign policy
by Christopher Simpson
Collier / Macmillan, 1988
Many of the Bloodstone recruits-both Nazi collaborators and anti-Nazis-were
passed along to two heavily funded CIA psychological warfare projects that are
still in operation. These two enterprises were authorized under the
"subversion against hostile states" and "propaganda"
sections of NSC 10/2 and are probably the largest and most expensive political
warfare efforts ever undertaken by the United States. They are certainly the
longest-running and best-publicized "secret" operations ever. Their
names are Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberation from Bolshevism, the latter of
which is better known as Radio Liberation or Radio Liberty.
Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (usually abbreviated RFE/ RL) began in
1948 as a corporation named the National Committee for a Free Europe, a
supposedly private charitable organization dedicated to aiding exiles from
Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe. The roots of the RFE/RL effort, in an
administrative sense, are the same political warfare programs that gave birth
to Bloodstone and NSC 10/2.
George Kennan, Allen Dulles, and a handful of other foreign affairs
specialists came up with the National Committee for a Free Europe (NCFE) as a
unique solution to a knotty problem. The U.S. government found it advantageous
to maintain conventional, albeit frosty, diplomatic relations with the
Communist-dominated governments of the USSR, Poland, Hungary, and the other
satellite states. However, the Department of State and the intelligence
community also wished to underwrite the anti-Communist work of the numerous
emigre organizations that claimed to represent "governments-in-exile"
of the same countries. It was impossible to have diplomatic relations with both
the official governments of Eastern Europe and the
"governments-in-exile" at the same time, for obvious reasons. The
NCFE was therefore launched to serve as a thinly veiled
"private-sector" cover through which clandestine U.S. funds for the
exile committees could be passed.
The seed money for the National Committee for a Free Europe was drawn from
the same pool of captured German assets that had earlier financed clandestine
operations during the Italian election. At least $2 million left over from that
affair found its way first into the hands of Frank Wisner's OPC and then into
the accounts of the NCFE, according to former RFE/RL president Sig Mickelson,
who helped administer Radio Free Europe money for many years. Printing presses,
radio transmitters, and other equipment salvaged from the Italian campaign were
also transferred to the OPC and from there on to the NCFE.
Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner combined their talents to line up an all-star
board of directors for the NCFE that served as a cover, in effect, to explain
where all the money was coming from. Early corporate notables who served on the
board or as members of the NCFE include (to name only a few) J. Peter Grace of
W. R. Grace & Company and the National City Bank; H. J. Heinz of the Mellon
Bank and Heinz tomato ketchup fame; Texas oilman George C. McGhee; auto magnate
Henry Ford II; film directors Darryl Zanuck and Cecil B. De Mille; and so many
Wall Street lawyers that NCFE board meetings could have resembled a gathering
of the New York State Bar Association. The intelligence community's contingent
featured former OSS chief William J. Donovan, Russian emigre Bernard Yarrow,
and Allen Dulles himself, among others. Labor was represented in the person of
James B. Carey, a self-described CIO "labor executive" who played a
leading role in the trade union movement's purge of Communists during the late
1940s. Carey was outspoken in his attitude concerning communism. "In the
last war we joined with the Communists to fight the Fascists," he told the
New York Herald Tribune. "In another war we will join the Fascists to
defeat the Communists."
From the beginning the National Committee for a Free Europe depended upon
the voluntary silence of powerful media personalities in the United States to
cloak its true operations in secrecy. "Representatives of some of the
nation's most influential media giants were involved early on as members of the
corporation [NCFE]," Mickelson notes in a relatively frank history of its
activities. This board included "magazine publishers Henry Luce [of
Time-Life] and DeWitt Wallace [of Reader's Digest]," he writes, "but
not a word of the government involvement appeared in print or on the air."
Luce and Wallace were not the only ones: C. D. Jackson, editor in chief of
Fortune magazine, came on board in 1951 as president of the entire Radio Free
Europe effort, while Reader's Digest senior editor Eugene Lyons headed the
American Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia Inc., a
corporate parent of Radio Liberation. Still, "sources of financing,"
Mickelson writes, were "never mentioned" in the press.
The practical effect of this arrangement was the creation of a powerful
lobby inside American media that tended to suppress critical news concerning
the CIA's propaganda projects. This was not simply a matter of declining to
mention the fact that the agency was behind these programs, as Mickelson implies.
Actually the media falsified their reports to the public concerning the
government's role in Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberation for years, actively
promoting the myth-which most sophisticated editors knew perfectly well was
false-that these projects were financed through nickel-and-dime contributions
from concerned citizens. Writers soon learned that exposes concerning the NCFE
and RFE/ RL were simply not welcome at mainstream publications. No corporate
officers needed to issue any memorandums to enforce this silence: with C. D.
Jackson as RFE / RL's president and Luce himself on the group's board of
directors, for example, Time's and Life's authors were no more likely to delve
into the darker side of RFE/ RL than they were to attack the American flag.
CIA-funded psychological warfare projects employing Eastern European
émigrés became major operations during the 1950s, consuming tens and even
hundreds of millions of dollars. Noted conservative author (and OPC
psychological warfare consultant) James Burnham estimated in 1953 that the
United States was spending "well over a billion dollars yearly" on a
wide variety of psychological warfare projects, and that was in pre-inflation
dollars. This included underwriting most of the French Paix et Liberte movement,
paying the bills of the German League for Struggle Against Inhumanity, and
financing a half dozen free jurists associations, a variety of European
federalist groups, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, magazines, news services,
book publishers, and much more.
These were very broad programs designed to influence world public opinion
at virtually every level, from illiterate peasants in the fields to the most
sophisticated scholars in prestigious universities. They drew on a wide range
of resources: labor unions, advertising agencies, college professors,
journalists, and student leaders, to name a few. The political analysis they
promoted varied from case to case, but taken as a whole, this was prodemocracy,
pro-West, and anti-Communist thinking, with a frequent "tilt" toward
liberal or European-style Social Democratic ideals. They were not
"Nazi" propaganda efforts, nor were many of the men and women engaged
in them former Nazi collaborators or sympathizers. In Europe, at least, the
Central Intelligence Agency has historically I been the clandestine promoter of
the parties of the political center, not the extreme right.
Unlike the relative moderation of the present-day RFE/RL broadcasts, the cold
war operations of these stations were hardhitting. It was "bare fists and
brass knuckles," as Sig Mickelson puts it. Their work was, as National
Committee for a Free Europe President Dewitt Poole noted in one 1950 directive,
"to take up the individual Bolshevik rulers and their quislings and tear
them apart, exposing their motivations, laying bare their private lives,
pointing at their meannesses, pillorying their evil deeds, holding them up to
ridicule and contumely." Further, the radio broadcasting operations were
themselves used as covers for a much broader range of political warfare
activities, including printing and distributing black propaganda, intelligence
gathering, and the maintenance of agent networks behind the Iron Curtain.
This tough agitation drew its ideological vigor from a variety of sources.
Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were often quoted and praised in RFE/ RL
broadcasts, as were Eastern European national heroes like the Hungarian Lajos
Kossuth and the Pole Thaddeus Kosciuszko. At the same time, however, RFE/RL
sometimes produced a dull undertone of Nazi-like propaganda in its early years.
At times material that had been directly created by the Nazi security service
SD found its way into RFE/RL broadcasts and publications. The NCFE often
distributed the highly publicized- but fraudulent-"Document on
Terror," for example, as a means of crystallizing public anger in the West
against communism during Radio Free Europe fund-raising campaigns. The
"Document" purported to be a translation of a captured Soviet secret
police directive encouraging the use of terror against civilian populations. It
included sections on "general terror" (murders, hangings, etc.),
"creating the psychosis of white fear," "enlightened
terror" (use of agents provocateurs), "disintegrating
operations," and others. The CIA aggressively promoted the text of the
"Document" both directly through RFE/RL and indirectly through
coverage planted in a wide variety of sympathetic newspapers, magazines, and
television broadcasts to audiences around the world.
The NCFE announced that it had obtained the "Document" from
"a former Baltic cabinet minister, favorably known to us," who in
turn had gotten it from a Ukrainian refugee, who in turn had "found it on
the body of a dead NKVD officer" in Poland in 1948. The committee
acknowledged in small type that it had "no means of conclusively
establishing the authenticity" of the "Document," but it
insisted that it was a "genuine product of Communist theory" whose
recommendations "did . . . take place." This low-key caveat
concerning the questionable authenticity of the "Document" was soon
forgotten in the media storm that followed publication of the item.
The "Document" became a staple of anti-Communist propaganda and
continues to show up occasionally in extreme-right-wing publications to this
day. Recycled extensively through congressional hearings, Reader's Digest
articles, and newspaper accounts, this "captured report" emerged as
one of the frequently cited sources of "documentary evidence" of
Communist terror during the cold war. It was not until 1956, with the
publication of Khrushchev's extraordinary report detailing Stalin's crimes,
that the "Document" began to fade from view.
In fact, however, the "Document" was a forgery, whose origins can
be traced to the wartime Nazi intelligence service. The true source of the
"Document" was, according to American psychological warfare expert
Paul Blackstock, "one of the Nazi secret police or related terrorist
organizations such as the Sicherheitsdienst or one of the notorious SD or SS
'action groups' "-that is, the Einsatzgruppen (mobile murder squads).
Blackstock uses an etymological investigation to track the origins of phrases
used in the "Document" back to their sources. He concludes that the
section concerning "disintegrating operations," for example,
originated in a Nazi manual used for indoctrinating Eastern European
collaborationist troops, including the Ukrainian Waffen SS.
RFE/RL broadcasts sometimes featured well-known Nazi collaborators and even
outright war criminals. Officially, of course, the political slant of those
stations was nondenominational support for "freedom" and
"democracy." The large majority of RFE/RL employees were not Nazi
collaborators, and the two stations often quoted anti-Nazi European politicians
with approval. RFE/RL's broadcasts of European Social Democrats, in fact,
occasionally led to complaints from hard-core anti-Communist congressmen in the
United States, who found such ideas dangerously close to communism.
Even so, certain war criminals found a comfortable roost at RFE / RL. Radio
Free Europe repeatedly featured Romanian Fascist leader (and Archbishop of the
Romanian Orthodox Church in America) Valerian Trifa, for example, in
Romanian-language broadcasts, particularly during the 1950s. Vilis Hazners, who
was accused in a CBS-TV 60 Minutes broadcast of spearheading a Nazi gang that
"force[d] a number of Jews into a synagogue [which was] then set on
fire," emerged as a prominent Latvian personality in Radio Liberation
transmissions. Hazners, at last report, was still broadcasting for RL in the
1980s. Belorussian quisling and mass murderer Stanislaw Stankievich also
frequently free-lanced programs for the radios.'
The Pentagon was gradually coming to grips with using former Nazi
collaborators at about the same time that the State Department and CIA were.
General Lucius Clay's war scare of early 1948, together with the deepening cold
war, convinced many Americans in and out of government that there was at least
an even chance of an all-out U.S.-USSR war over Europe before the decade was
As the final arbiter of U.S. security the Pentagon considers it part of its
job to assume the worst about Soviet intentions in order to be adequately
prepared for any eventuality. By 1948 that the United States would increasingly
rely on atomic weapons to deter any Soviet military moves against the West had
already become a foregone conclusion among most U.S. military strategists. The
American perception that the Soviets enjoyed overwhelming superiority in troops
and conventional arms in Europe seemed to leave few other choices.
The Pentagon was evolving a strategy of exactly how to go about using
atomic weapons in a war with the USSR at about the same time that Kennan,
Dulles, and Wisner were hammering together the National Committee for a Free
Europe and the NSC 10/2 clandestine warfare authorization. By the time the
decade was out the military's preparations for waging nuclear war-if that
proved necessary-had merged with many of the ongoing CIA and State Department
political warfare operations that have been discussed thus far. As those two
streams came together, Nazi collaborators became entwined with some of
America's most sensitive military affairs.
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