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

The Greek and Italian campaigns revealed something else as well: Covert action was largely out of the control of the established foreign policy apparatus in Washington. Although the Italian operation had been endorsed by all the appropriate government committees, not one of them had really known what was under way...

Secretary of State George Marshall counted on George Kennan to make sure that obvious blunders like the Romanian affair did not occur again. By the summer of 1948 Truman and Marshall had delegated personal responsibility for political-oversight of all peacetime clandestine operations to George Kennan, according to a later Senate investigation of U.S. foreign intelligence activities. (Control of espionage and counterintelligence, however, remained outside the diplomat's purview.) Key members of Kennan's Policy Planning Staff-officially a somewhat egg-headed institution dedicated to planning U.S. strategy for ten or twenty years in the future-were detailed to help him with this task.

Two forces, then, converged to thrust the covert operations weapon into Kennan's hands. First, there was President Truman's desire-strongly backed up by Secretary of Defense Forrestal-to make use of this powerful tool in what appeared to be a deteriorating situation in Europe. Secondly, there was the determination, especially by Secretary of State Marshall as well as by Kennan himself, to make sure that no one else in the U.S. government seized political control of this prize before the State Department did.

A new stage in the American effort to use ex-Nazis began. The early "tactical" or short-term utilization of former Fascists and collaborators-techniques somewhat akin to the exploitation of prisoners of war by intelligence agents-gradually came to an end. American agencies and policymakers replaced the tactical approach with a deeper "strategic" appreciation of the usefulness that emigre groups might have in large-scale clandestine operations against the USSR. The U.S. government increasingly accepted the exiles' organizations as legitimate and began to pour substantial amounts of money into them-at least $5 million in 1948 alone, and probably considerably more.

The strategic thinking behind the United States tactics during this period is best summarized in a top secret National Security Council directive and a group of supporting policy papers which are known collectively as NSC 20. These documents, which were drawn up primarily by Kennan and his Policy Planning Staff (PPS), were formally adopted by Truman's NSC in August 1948.2 They deserve quotation at some length because they provided the basic policy framework for U.S. clandestine operations against the Soviets, including the use of former Nazi collaborators, for the remainder of Truman's term.

Kennan sought, as the preamble of his policy statement states, "to define our present peacetime objectives and our hypothetical wartime objectives with relation to Russia, and to reduce as far as possible the gap between them." The objectives, he writes, were really only two:

a. To reduce the power and influence of Moscow.... b. To bring about a basic change in the theory and practice of international relations observed by the government in power in Russia.

Adoption of these concepts in Moscow [however] would be equivalent to saying that it was our objective to overthrow Soviet power. Proceeding from that point, it could be argued that this is in turn an objective unrealizable by means short of war, and that we are therefore admitting that our objective with respect to the Soviet Union is eventual war and the violent overthrow of Soviet power.

But actual warfare is not what he had in mind. The idea, rather, was to encourage every split and crisis inside the USSR and the Soviet camp that could lead to the collapse of the USSR from within, while at the same time maintaining an official stance of nonintervention in Soviet internal affairs. "It is not our peacetime aim to overthrow the Soviet Government," NSC 20 continued. "Admittedly, we are aiming at the creation of circumstances and situations which would be difficult for the present Soviet leaders to stomach, and which they would not like. It is possible that they might not be able, in the face of these circumstances and situations, to retain their power in Russia. But it must be reiterated: that is their business, not ours...."

Anti-Communist exile organizations are cited as one of the primary vehicles for the creation of the desired domestic crisis. "At the present time," Kennan continues, "there are a number of interesting and powerful Russian political groupings among the Russian exiles . . . any of which would probably be preferable to the Soviet Government, from our standpoint, as rulers of Russia." At the same time it is decided that both the Soviet internal problems and the official "hands-off" posture that the United States desires could be more effectively achieved by promoting all the exile organizations more or less equally rather than by sponsoring only one favored group. "We must make a determined effort to avoid taking responsibility for deciding who would rule Russia in the wake of a disintegration of the Soviet regime. Our best course would be to permit all of the exiled elements to return to Russia as rapidly as possible and to see to it, in so far as this depends on us, that they are all given roughly equal opportunity to establish their bids for power....

The policy framework for clandestine operations involving exiles from the USSR, in short, was to encourage each of them to attempt to seize power in his or her homeland but to attempt to decline responsibility for having done so. Most interesting in the present context, no distinctions were to be made in the extension of aid to the various exile groups. The practical implication of this decision in the world of 1948 is clear: The United States would indeed support the veterans of the Vlasov Army, the eastern SS collaborators, and other groups that had permitted themselves to become pawns of Berlin during the war.

The State Department began the first known major clandestine effort recruiting Soviet émigrés at the same time its drafts of NSC 20 were working their way through the policy process. This project was known as Operation Bloodstone, and it became one of the department's most important covert projects from 1948 until approximately 1950, when it was superseded by similar programs under direct CIA sponsorship.

Bloodstone proved to be an open door through which scores of leaders of Nazi collaborationist organizations thought to be useful for political warfare in Eastern Europe entered the United States. The project's usual cover, even in top secret correspondence, was an innocuous effort to utilize "socialist, labor union, intellectual, moderate right-wing groups and others" for distribution of anti-Communist "handbills, publications, magazines or use of . . . radio" that was secretly financed by the U.S. government. This all was true enough.

But there was much more to Bloodstone than its cover story. In reality, many of Bloodstone's recruits had once been Nazi collaborators who were now being brought to the United States for use as intelligence and covert operations experts. Some of them eventually became U.S. agent spotters for sabotage and assassination missions. The men and women enlisted under Bloodstone were not low-level thugs, concentration camp guards, or brutal hoodlums, at least not in the usual sense of those words. Quite the contrary, they were the cream of the Nazis and collaborators, the leaders, the intelligence specialists, and the scholars who had put their skills to work for the Nazi cause.

Kennan's anti-communism was far more sophisticated than that of many of his colleagues, and he wanted to use clandestine warfare techniques carefully. He viewed as unrealistic and dangerous demands for a quick "liberation" of Eastern Europe from Soviet influence, which were beginning to make themselves heard from the political right. Kennan had long been suspicious of popular participation in the formulation of foreign policy, and he considered the


U.S. Congress, for example, too mercurial, too ill informed, and too much subject to domestic pressures to serve the country well when it came to foreign affairs. These attitudes made him aware of the dangerous impact that yahoo-style reaction was beginning to have on American policy overseas. "I personally look with some dismay and concern at many of the things we are now experiencing in our public life," Kennan had written in the spring of 1947.'7 "In particular I deplore the hysterical sort of anti-Communism which, it seems to me, is gaining currency in our country."

Whatever the reason, Kennan made common cause in those years with other men who were soon to commandeer the work he had begun and take it places the diplomat apparently never expected. NSC 10/2 failed to bring covert operations under close civilian control. Instead, the clandestine service metastasized through the government at an extraordinary rate. Regardless of what Kennan may have intended, as NSC 10/2, NSC 20, and other programs he had helped design became institutionalized, they transformed themselves into an unrelentingly hostile effort to "roll back communism" in Eastern Europe, an effort that eventually consumed millions of dollars, thousands of lives, and considerable national prestige. As the political temperature between the superpowers inevitably got more frigid, the forces that Kennan had once ridden to power overwhelmed him and his program. By 1950 his erstwhile allies in secret work-men like Allen and John Foster Dulles, Paul Nitze, and Arthur Bliss Lane-were grasping for more power and depreciating Kennan's policies for being "soft on communism."

In the end, Kennan testified many years later, "it did not work out at all the way I had conceived it.''

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