Cold War Spying: 1947
1947: The first issue of the anti-Communist periodical Plain Talk is published under the editorial direction of Isaac Don Levine. It is financed by San Francisco businessman Alfred Kohlberg. A weekly called Counterattack follows shortly, published by the American Business Consultants — a group founded by a trio of ex-FBI agents, dedicated to uncovering Reds who have infiltrated company unions.
March 7, 1947: President Truman addresses a Joint Session of Congress, warning that the world will face disaster unless the United States fights communism abroad. He calls for $400 million in aid to Greece and Turkey to help them beat back the encroachment of Communism and resist “attempted subjugation.” The Truman Doctrine (as it comes to be known) is resoundingly passed. Truman’s decision to fight communism overseas is the first clear direction that American Spies receive from the White House.
Spring 1947: Athens (Greece) becomes one of the biggest American intelligence posts in the world.
April 9, 1947: Demonstrations take place in Bogata (Columbia) at the Conference of American States. Among the activists is a young Cuban radical named Fidel Castro.
April 18, 1947: Financier Bernard Baruch addresses the South Carolina legislature. He warns: “Let us not be deceived — today we are in the midst of a Cold War.”
May 1, 1947: Rear Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter is sworn in as Director of the Central Intelligence Service, replacing General Vandenberg. He is the third man to hold the post in 15 months.
May 13, 1947: The Senate approves the Taft-Hartley Labor Act. The Act requires that labor leaders take an oath stating that they are not Communists.
June 5, 1947: Recently appointed Secretary of State George Marshall gives a speech at Harvard advocating major economic aid for struggling European countries to keep communism from gaining a foothold. The $12 billion Marshall Plan dovetails with the Truman Doctrine, implementing the policy of containment advocated by George Kennan. As LaFeber says, they are Two Halves of the Same Walnut. For his vision, Marshall is named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.
June 20, 1947: The Senate votes to override the veto of the Taft-Hartley Act registered by President Truman on that same day.
June 27, 1947: A congressional committee holds secret hearings that lead to the formal creation of the CIA at summer’s end. Allen Dulles — not Hillenkoetter — is selected to conduct a secret intelligence seminar for a few select members of Congress. Dulles, the OSS Chief in Switzerland, had a carefully cultivated reputation as an American master spy. He was regarded by the Republican leadership as the director of central intelligence in exile. A duplicitous man, Dulles wasn’t above misleading Congress or his colleagues or even his commander in chief.
July 26, 1947: President Truman signs the National Security Act of 1947, giving birth to the Central Intelligence Agency on September 18. The agency faces fierce and relentless opponents within the Pentagon and the State Department (the agencies whose reports it was supposed to coordinate). It has no formal charter or congressionally appropriated funds for 2 more years. Also, its secrecy conflicts with the openness of American democracy.
The CIA’s stated mission is to provide the president with secret information essential to the national security of the United States.
The National Security Act says nothing about secret operations overseas. It instructs the CIA to correlate, evaluate, and disseminate intelligence — and to perform “other functions and duties relating to intelligence affecting the national security.” Hundreds of major covert actions will take advantage of this loophole.
September 26, 1947: The new National Security Council (also created by the National Security Act) holds its first meeting. The NSC, at this time, is comprised of President Truman, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, and the military chiefs. It seldom convenes and — when it does– President Truman is rarely in attendance. Interestingly, the conduct of covert action requires the direct or implied authority of this group.
September 27, 1947: George Kennan sends (the first) Secretary of Defense James Forrestal a detailed paper calling for the establishment of a “guerilla warfare corps.” Forrestal agrees. Together Kennan and Forrestal set the American clandestine service in motion.
October 1947: The Comintern, now called the Cominform, is revived.
October 20, 1947: The House Un American Activities Committee (HUAC) holds Hollywood hearings under the stewardship of J. Parnell Thomas. Gary Cooper, Robert Taylor, Ronald Reagan, and Robert Montgomery testify as cooperative witnesses, along with studio executive heads Jack Warner, Walt Disney, and Dore Shary. Ginger Rogers’ mother is another cooperative witness.
October 21-23, 1947: The Hollywood Ten — Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Larson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbull — testify before HUAC. They repeatedly cite the Fifth Amendment in answer to the question, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?”
October 24, 1947: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Groucho Marx, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Ronald Reagan, John Huston, Danny Kaye, and dozens of other Hollywood actors, directors, and screenwriters band together under the name Committee for the First Amendment in protest of HUAC’s handling of the Hollywood Ten. Several of the stars charter a plane they call the Star of the Red Sea. The plane touches down in St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, and, finally, Washington DC, giving a press conference at each stop.
November 24, 1947: All of the Hollywood Ten are indicted for contempt of Congress, and they’re fired from their jobs the next day.
December 14, 1947: The National Security Council issues its first top secret orders to the CIA. The agency is to execute “covert psychological operations designed to counter Soviet and Soviet-inspired activities.” Specifically, the CIA sets out to beat the Reds in the Italian elections set for April 1948. Congress never gives a go-ahead. The mission is illegal from the start. The agency is going beyond their charter.
Millions of dollars are delivered to Italian politicians and the priests of Catholic Action, a political arm of the Vatican. Suitcases of cash change hands in the four-star Hassler Hotel. Italy’s Christian Democrats win by a comfortable margin and form a government that excludes communists. A long romance between the party and the agency begins.
The CIA’s practice of purchasing elections and politicians with bags of cash is repeated in Italy — and many other nations — for the next 25 years.
December 27, 1947: The Civil Service Loyalty Review Board begins testing the loyalty of federal employees.