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 out.

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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