Charles Flato

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This article is part of the
Venona
series.

Secret apparatus
LaFollette Civil Liberties Committee
Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs
Board of Economic Warfare
Foreign Economic Administration

Charles S. Flato also Charles Floto (May 27, 1908 - January 1, 1984) was a writer, American Communist Party member[1] and a Soviet agent.

Contents

Early Life

Flato was born in New York on May 27, 1908 to David A. and Hilda (Firot) Flato. He suffered from polio as a child and as a result was deformed, standing only a little over three feet in height and left with a hunchback forcing him to walk with a cane.[2] His younger brother Jerome (1918-1981) served in the United States Navy during World War II.[3]

During the winter of 1932 he and homosexual author John Cheever rented Prescott Townsend's place in Provincetown, Massachusetts.[4] Flato wrote an article on Matthew Brady's Civil War photographs that was subsequently published in the Harvard University literary magazine Hound & Horn.[5] The article "Matthew B. Brady 1823-1896" was published in the October-December 1933 issue.[6]One drawback to this article is that he credits Brady with all the Civil War photographs even though Brady often had others take the pictures for him.[7] Flato also wrote poetry which was published in Hound & Horn and of which Yvor Winters called "rotten." Winters defined rotten saying, "it is nothing; it means nothing."[8]

Career as Soviet Spy

Flato began working for the United States government in 1934.[9] In May 1935 Flato joined the Communist Party.[10] His party alias was C.D. Manchester.[11] He married Lucy Burman also a Communist Party member. He was employed at the Work Projects Administration from February 23, 1937 to July 13, 1937.[12] Then from 1937 to 1941 Flato worked as an investigator and report writer for the Senate Subcommittee on Civil Liberties of the Labor Committee. While employed by the United States government he spied for Soviet intelligence during World War II. He also served under Nelson Rockefeller in the Latin American division of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs during World War II. Flato worked in the Blockade and Supply Branch of the Board of Economic Warfare (BEW), the Senate Committee on Education and Labor chaired by Senator Robert M. La Follette, Jr., and was a senior information specialist for the Foreign Economic Administration.[13] Jane Foster Zlatovski, another Soviet agent on the BEW wrote that Flato was her closest friend on the board.[14]

Flato is mentioned in Venona transcript #588 of April 29, 1944. His complicity in espionage was corroborated by information exhumed from the NKVD archives in the 1990s. He was also a member of the “Sound” and “Myrna” groups. His codename in the Gorsky memo is "Bob".[15] In another Venona transcript, he is believed to be codename "Char".

He became a literary scout for the Houghton Mifflin Company in 1944.[16] Flato was one of the names on a document produced by Alexander Vassilievof of Soviet agents. The list was dated March 15, 1945. Victor Perlo is said to have been the source of the information.[17] Flato was transfered to the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion.[18] He was finally rated ineligible by the Civil Service Commission on loyalty grounds, and instructions were issued for his removal on April 23, 1945.[19] He resigned from the government and moved to San Fransico in about mid July 1945.

Later Life

Sometime in the 1950's he and his wife divorced.[20] He was invited to appear before the Jenner subcommitte at some point and was asked questions about his communist affliations. It was reported that he "invoked the privilege" and refused to answer.[21] According to counsel Alfred M. Nittle, "Flato appeared in hearings before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, during the course of which he invoked the fifth amendment as a basis for refusal to answer questions, particularly relating to his Communist Party membership."[22] Flato did, however, mention prominently Henry Folwer who was Secretary-Treasurer to the South's biggest Communist front organization, the Southern Conference for Human Welfare.[23]

By 1957, Flato lived alone in a cottage he had designed by the architect Serge Chermayeff and built in 1954.[24] He lived near a beach in Truro[25] on Cape Cod and worked as a freelance writer throughout the 60's and 70's.[26] In 1957 he was the editor of the Complete Home Improvement Handbook. The Golden Book of the Civil War was a children's book adapted by Flato and published in 1961.[27] His article, "Medicine Looks at Nuclear War: Is there a Doctor in the Rubble?" was published in the June 9, 1962 issue of The Nation. He is known to have used at least one ghost writer in the form of a friend for an article printed in The Saturday Evening Post on October 6, 1962.[28][29]

After Peking resumed diplomatic relations with the United States, Flato wrote a six-part report on health care in China. The Chinese Medical Association invited him to travel through the country as their guest. He was one of the co-founders of the Medical Pharmaceutical Information Bureau, and wrote and edited for the publication Hospital Practice. He was known to have also written scripts for medical documentaries.

Flato died of kidney failure in Hyannis, Massachusetts, on January 1, 1984.[30] [31] [32]

Two years after Flato's death, Francis M. O’Brien, gave a lecture at the Portland Public Library as part of the Anthoensen Press Lecture Series. He gave a colorful description of Flato saying that, "Flato, not much more than three feet in height, with a hunchback and crippled legs, was a colorful man with a beard, who wore a broad-brimmed black fedora and a black cloak and got around with the aid of a walking stick, with which he would whack people who got in his way. He had great wit, had written for the Hound and Horn, a leading quarterly of the time, and was an authority on Brady photographs."[33]

References

  1. Suze Rotolo confirms he was a CP member in letter to the publisher of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, according to author Michael Gray's Blog, December 3, 2006
  2. Books About Bookselling: A Backward Look
  3. Relative's statement, Charles Flato was not a hunchbacked dwarf, January 17, 2006.
  4. John Cheever: A Biography, Scott Donaldson, 2002
  5. Afterimage, "Scavenging the landscape: Walker Evans and American life," Melissa Rachleff, Jan-Feb 1996.
  6. Afterimage, "Scavenging the landscape: Walker Evans and American life," Melissa Rachleff, Jan-Feb 1996.
  7. Afterimage, "Scavenging the landscape: Walker Evans and American life," Melissa Rachleff, Jan-Feb 1996.
  8. Studies in American Literature, Volume 6, Mouton, 1966, page 175.
  9. "U. S. Communist Party assistance to foreign Communist governments ; (Medical Aid to Cuba Committee and Friends of British Guiana) : hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-seventh Congress, second session, November 14-15 1962"
  10. The Alger Hiss Story, "Gorsky's List", No. 72.
  11. The Alger Hiss Story, "Gorsky's List", No. 72.
  12. Institute of Pacific Relations By United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary, 1951, page 4623.
  13. "U. S. Communist Party assistance to foreign Communist governments ; (Medical Aid to Cuba Committee and Friends of British Guiana) : hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-seventh Congress, second session, November 14-15 1962"
  14. An Un-American Lady, Jane Foster, London, 1980
  15. Alexander Vassiliev's original Russian hand-written notes titled "A.Gorsky's Report to S.R. Savchenko, 23 December 1949".
  16. Houghton Mifflin Company Contracts, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
  17. The Alger Hiss Story
  18. "U. S. Communist Party assistance to foreign Communist governments ; (Medical Aid to Cuba Committee and Friends of British Guiana) : hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-seventh Congress, second session, November 14-15 1962"
  19. "U. S. Communist Party assistance to foreign Communist governments ; (Medical Aid to Cuba Committee and Friends of British Guiana) : hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-seventh Congress, second session, November 14-15 1962"
  20. Relative's statement, Charles Flato was not a hunchbacked dwarf, January 17, 2006.
  21. The Twenty Year Revolution from Roosevelt to Eisenhower, Chesly Manly, H. Regnery Co., 1957, pge 54.
  22. "U. S. Communist Party assistance to foreign Communist governments ; (Medical Aid to Cuba Committee and Friends of British Guiana) : hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-seventh Congress, second session, November 14-15 1962"
  23. Traitors and Treason, Robert W. Pelton, Buy Books on the web, 2002, pages 220 & 221.
  24. Cape Cod Modern House Trust, Serge Chermayeff Projects on the Outer Cape
  25. "U. S. Communist Party assistance to foreign Communist governments ; (Medical Aid to Cuba Committee and Friends of British Guiana) : hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-seventh Congress, second session, November 14-15 1962"
  26. Cods: Webster’s Quotations, Facts and Phrases, Compiled by Icon Group International, Inc. Staff, Published by ICON Group International, Inc., page 11.
  27. Cods: Webster’s Quotations, Facts and Phrases, Compiled by Icon Group International, Inc. Staff, Published by ICON Group International, Inc., page 11.
  28. Saturday Evening Post, Parents Who Beat Children, Charles Flato, October 6, 1962, Vol. 235, No. 35.
  29. Cods: Webster’s Quotations, Facts and Phrases, Compiled by Icon Group International, Inc. Staff, Published by ICON Group International, Inc., page 11.
  30. Washington Post, Charles Flato Obituary, January 2, 1984.
  31. Chicago Tribune, Charles Flato Obituary, January 4, 1984.
  32. United States Social Security Death Index
  33. Books About Bookselling: A Backward Look
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