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Amerasia Spy Case: Prelude to McCarthyism

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0756754563
ISBN-10: 0756754569
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In February 1945, Kenneth Wells, chief of the South Asia division of the Office of Strategic Services, happened upon a leftist magazine called Amerasia. In its pages he found a story on British-American political relations in recently liberated Indochina. Wells recognized the story, for he had written it in a report to which only a few senior government analysts had access. When government agents raided the magazine's offices they found many such documents, some marked "Top Secret." The magazine's spies had infiltrated the State Department with ludicrous ease. No one was punished, thanks to government prosecutors' ineptitude, until some years later Joseph McCarthy, an obscure first-term Republican senator of little distinction, revived the case. McCarthy was zealous and had small regard for the Constitution, but in this case he had a point; as Harvey Klehr and Ronald Radosh slyly remark, not everyone accused of disloyalty or espionage was innocent. Students of Cold War history will find much of interest in these pages. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Less well-known than the Hiss and Rosenberg cases, the Amerasia affair was the first major postwar espionage case, and was cited by Senator Joseph McCarthy as proof of his contention that the State Department had been infiltrated by a clique of "card carrying" Communists. The case revolved largely around the arrests of Philip Jaffe, editor of the pro-Communist magazine Amerasia, for conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviets and of John Stewart Service, one of the State Department's "China hands," who favored Mao's victory over the Nationalists. The authors of this well-researched study, working from FBI files and interviews, reveal new details of Service's efforts to undermine U.S. ambassador Patrick Hurley's diplomatic mission to China in 1945. ("As the Amerasia case ought to teach us," they comment, "not everyone accused of disloyalty or espionage was innocent.") The study also includes fresh revelations of how lobbyist Thomas Corcoran successfully pressured the Justice Department not to indict the Amerasia defendants; the department feared that a full-scale prosecution would unduly publicize the threat of Communist espionage and embarrass the Truman administration. Klehr is professor of politics at Emory University; Radosh is a history professor at Adelphi. Photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina Press (January 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756754569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756754563
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,418,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Stephen M. St Onge on November 11, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 1950, Joe McCarthy started telling USAmericans that there was a Great Communist Conspiracy that had infiltrated the U.S. govt., the Press, the churches, you name it. One of his prime exhibits was the AMERASIA case, where what started as an espionage conspiracy suddenly, mysteriously collapsed. "It's true," said the Right and the Republicans. "Nonsense you're all paranoids," said Democrats, liberals, and the Left. Now, thanks to Klehr and Radosh, we have the truth, and it is stranger than anything either side ever suspected. There were multiple, independent, overlapping conspiracies, at AMERASIA magazine (to spy for Stalin),in the State Dept. (to undermine FDR's China Policy), in the Communist movement (to shape U.S. policy) in the Justice Dept. (to cover up political embarrassments) and in Congress (to cover up the other conspiracies). Had the truth been told then, we might have been spared some of the worst political messes of modern times. Highly Recommended.
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In 1995, with the release of the Venona Papers, the charade that the Russians were "Socialists In A Hurry" or "Socialists In Overhalls" went out the window. The subsequent access to KGB files and the discovery of the papers of the Communist Party-USA that had been hidden in a Russian warehouse for 40 years (Yelstsin asked Reagan if he wanted them as they were taking up too much space!!) only added to the primary research material that ended once and for all the arguments between the Left and the Right on who was right on the cold war. The Left lost!

Further, the charade that there were no Russian spies, either domestic or foreign, in the US is finally put to rest with the exposure of not only the Rosenburgs (whose sons are now trying a new tack by saying that at least their mother wasn't a spy--sorry boys), Alger Hiss was an industrial strength liar until they buried him at 93 (Truman didn't move him out of the State Department to the Carnegie Endowment For Peace for nothing), Witaker Chambers was not only telling the truth but was right on every count, and Harry Dexter White (someone whose daughters were still trying to clear his name as recently as 1994) was "red" to the marrow while undermining the Nationalist Chinese cause during their civil war with the Communists. One member of the Truman administration, I forgot which (Laurence Duggan?), had the good sense to jump out a window to his demise as the FBI was closing in.

"Amerasia" is superb in exposing it as a Communist spy cover being run out of Johns Hopkins University, not a bona fide research think tank, and that McCarthy was right in his charges.
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The Amerasia spy case - a case where six Americans associated with the Far-Eastern affairs journal "Amerasia" were charged with espionage in June, 1945, but then cleared or had charges reduced - would be confined to the dust-bin of history if Sen. Joe McCarthy had not made the case relevant again with his Lincoln Day speech in 1950 in Wheeling, WV, where he asserted that up to 205 card-carrying Communists currently worked in the State Dept. The authors do not ignore the consequences of McCarthy's inflammatory charges, devoting a lengthy chapter to the special subcommittee hearings chaired by Sen. Tydings of MD to investigate State Dept security, but their main thrust is to detail the movements, meetings, and conversations of those six individuals and others from the time they were suspected of espionage through the disposition of their case, as well as, the actions taken by various governmental bodies in pursuit of them. Despite the authors' close look, in the end, the entire situation remains murky and ambiguous. It is not in doubt that all of the six had Communist sympathies and associated with known Communists, but they seemed to not have crossed the line into outright espionage, though one, Philip Jaffe, was actively seeking such an opportunity.

The entire affair began only on the chance reading by an OSS analyst of an article published in the Jan, 1950, issue of "Amerasia" that was a virtual reprint of a secret report that he had previously written. The OSS, when given an opportunity to break into the journal's offices, found hundreds of classified documents from several departments, most of them related to the Far-East. The FBI was called in to conduct a thorough investigation.
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