Owen Lattimore

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Owen Lattimore was U.S. political advisor to Chiang Kai-shek in 1941; after Pearl Harbor he became director of Pacific Operations for the United States Office of War Information.[1] According a unanimous report of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was also "from some time beginning in the 1930's, a conscious articulate instrument of the Soviet conspiracy."[2]

Early writings

In the years between 1928 and 1945 Owen Lattimore wrote eight books about Asia and China. In his first book, Desert Road to Turkestan (1928), Lattimore wrote, "I should be inclined to say that a very strong case can be made out for the Soviet position."[3] In a later book, Manchuria, Cradle of Conflict (1935), Lattimore writes, "Russia appears to be the only nation of the modern world that is 'young' enough to have 'men of destiny' It creates its Lenin and its Stalin. . . . Russia, more than China and more than any nation of the West, is launched upon a career of growth"[4] China, which was to become the victim of this communist "growth," is characterized by such adjectives as "aggressive," and "expansionist."

In 1934, in The Mongols of Manchuria, Lattimore put forward the idea that Sinkiang, Mongolia and Manchuria might be made into a separate empire under Soviet influence, and he claims the people of Manchuria are not Chinese at all, but Mongolian. In 1935, in his Manchuria: Cradle of Conflict, Lattimore wrote that the Soviet Union, China and Japan all had ambitions in Manchuria, but that the Soviet Union had more right there than China or Japan. It was in this book that he pictured China as an aggressor in Manchuria. In 1942, Lattimore wrote a Foreign Policy Report (September 1, 1942) called Asia in a New World Order after the Pearl Harbor attack. Japan had taken Manchuria. Lattimore altered his picture of Manchuria. He abandoned his old line that Manchuria was not Chinese but Mongolian, asserting that it was "95 per cent Chinese" and that it was a mistake, merely because the country is called Manchuria, to think that the people are not Chinese.

In 1940, Lattimore characterized Soviet policy in Mongolia as "in the interests of the Mongol people as a whole"; from Moscow in 1960, he was taken on an extensive tour of the (Communist) Mongolian People's Republic, toward which he adopted a "completely uncritical attitude." By the late '60s, Lattimore openly affirmed the position that the United States was pursuing an imperialist strategy as against the progressive stance of the Soviet Union.[5]

In all these books Lattimore emphasized that Americans were reluctant to admit that the Soviet Union had any valid claim to be called a democracy, "even when democratic procedures are as plainly stated as they are in the Stalin Constitution."[6] Lattimore placed the three principals of Sun Yat-sen, Soviet collectivism and the New Deal as all akin to one another. In the September 1938 issue of Pacific Affairs, Lattimore described the Moscow purge trials as "a triumph for Democracy,"[7] concluding that this orgy of mass murder "sounds like democracy to me."[8]

In July of 1938 IPR obtained a grant of $90,000 (equivalent to about $1.5 million today) from the Rockefeller Foundation to perform a study of Asia. Dr. Edward C. Carter was managing it. Lattimore wrote to Carter, “I think you were pretty cagey to turn over so much of the China section of the inquiry to Asiaticus, Han-seng and Chi.[9]. They will bring out the essential radical aspects, but can be depended upon to do it with the right touch!” Lattimore went on to say "my hunch is that it will pay to keep behind the official Chinese Communist position, " and "as for the USSR—back their international policy in general, hut without using their slogans, and above all without giving them or anybody else the impression of subservience."[10] Lattimore recommended highly Challenge of Red China, written by Guenther Stein, a member of Richard Sorge's Soviet spy ring in Japan. Of Israel Epstein's Unfinished Revolution in China he said: "When he pleads his case the arguments pile up like a wedge." When Lattimore resigned as editor of Pacific Affairs, he was succeeded by Michael Greenberg, a Communist Party member. Lattimore then became a member of the editorial board of the notorious Amerasia magazine.

Policy subversion

According to his Federal Bureau of Investigation file, Lattimore was suspected of engaging in espionage for a foreign power as early as 1927, while in Shanghai.[11] Lattimore had been hand picked by the Comintern "to change the thinking here in Washington and in America on the Communist activities in China and relations to the Soviet Union," testified former Communist Party USA Politburo member Louis Budenz. Lattimore was thought to be a man "who could put out propaganda and conceal the Communist activity, but still have it carry out the policy of the Communists," he said. "[T]he weight of his discussions was always along the lines of the Soviet policy," according to Budenz, but the language employed "was non-Soviet in character."[12] Alexander Barmine, former Charge d'Affairs at the Soviet Embassy in Athens, Greece, advised FBI agents that then-GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence) chief General Jan Berzin referred to Lattimore in his presence as one of the "most promising young men that the Soviet military intelligence had..."[13]

During the Nazi-Soviet pact, Lattimore was added to Roosevelt's Custodial Detention Index,[14] listed as "Nationalistic tendency—Communist."[15] Later the same year President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Lattimore U.S. adviser to Kuomintang Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek on the surreptitious and out-of-process recommendation of Lattimore's personal friend and patron at the White House,[16] Roosevelt adviser and NKVD agent Lauchlin Currie.[17] While serving in this capacity, according to Chinese military intelligence, Lattimore was sending coded messages to the Communist Chinese rebels.[18]

On November 25, 1941, twelve days before Pearl Harbor, Lattimore dispatched an anxious cable to Currie in the White House arguing against a proposed diplomatic understanding between the United States and Japan. When Congress later investigated the Pearl Harbor attack, U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull testified that he took a tough line with the Japanese because of this cable from Lattimore to Currie reporting on Chinese morale in the Kuomintang. This cable was the only documentary evidence Hull presented which influenced his decision to reverse himself and send the ultimatum to Japan.[19] The use of harsh, demanding language toward Japan only strengthened the position of the war party in Tokyo. Japanese Ambassador Nomura found it impossible to reach an agreement because the U.S. demands were extreme.[20]

Prof. Anthony Kubek has written that Lattimore, by this one act, designed to accomplish the Soviet objective of promoting war between the United States and Japan -- did more to promote the Sovietization of China than in any other act of his career. All Comintern designs for conquest of China hinged upon destroying Japan and the balance of power in the Pacific. [21]

Following Pearl Harbor, Lattimore became director of Pacific Operations for the Office of War Information. In 1942 he and Currie tried to get a commission in military intelligence for Frederick Vanderbilt Field. The following year, Lattimore instructed Joseph Barnes[22] to replace non-Communist Chinese of the OWI with Communists; OWI did so. On July 14 Thomas A. Bisson, in the Institute of Pacific Relations publication, Far Eastern Survey, referred to Maoist forces as the "democratic China." This disinformation was widely repeated among journalists and academics. In July and August 1943, the Chinese Communist forces -- in the midst of the war -- joined with the Japanese armies to inflict a serious defeat on the Kuomintang allies with the United States. [23]

At President Roosevelt's request, Lattimore accompanied US Vice-President Henry Wallace on a mission to China in 1944, for the US Office of War Information.[3]. During this visit, which overlapped the D-Day landings, Wallace and his delegation stopped over in Siberia and were given a tour of the Magadan concentration camp at Kolyma, which Nobel laureate Alexandr Solzhenitsyn dubbed the "pole of cold and cruelty."[24] "[T]he Soviet government sent upwards of one million prisoners to Magadan for servitude in the hard labor camps of the Kolyma..." writes Library of Congress historian David J. Nordlander. "Standing as the most notorious center of the Gulag, indeed as its 'capital,' Magadan became synonymous with the Great Terror."[25] According to ex-Communist Marvin Liebman, one of the camp's prisoners, Elinor Lipper (author of Eleven Years in Soviet Prison Camps), told him of an incident during Wallace's visit:

Suddenly, a woman ran from the ranks and threw herself at Wallace’s feet. She screamed in Russian how the prisoners were being treated, how they were dying, how they were innocent, as innocent as the snow at his feet. ‘Please,’ she sobbed, ‘please help us.’

She was taken away, of course, while Wallace’s translator told him that she was mentally ill and he could not understand what she was saying… I subsequently discovered that Wallace’s translator that day had been Owen Lattimore...[26]

In a travelogue for National Geographic, Lattimore described this Siberian gulag as a combination of the Hudson's Bay Company and the TVA, gushing about how strong and well-fed the inmates were and ascribing to camp commandant Feliks Nikishov “a trained and sensitive interest in art and music and also a deep sense of civic responsibility.”[27] Solzhenitsyn wrote in the Gulag Archipelago that the city of Magadan was founded as a Soviet Gulag, and would not have existed otherwise.[28] Commentator Cal Thomas wrote in 2007,

"While many Westerners recall Nazi-run death camps like Auschwitz and Buchenwald, few remember Soviet death camps named Kolyma and Magadan. True, Alexander Solzhenitsyn mentioned them in "The Gulag Archipelago" as did Varlam Sjalamov in "Tales from Kolyma," but as the late Swedish journalist Andres Kung wrote, "There are people who have still not heard of these communist extermination camps -- even though the communists preceded the Nazis in creating such camps and killed an even larger number of people in their camps."[29]

In 1944, Lattimore told Dr. Karl Wittfogel that the emperor of Japan should be removed and that as far as Korea was concerned "the best solution would be to let Russia take it over." (At a State Department conference later he would submit a ten-point program which included recognizing the Chinese Communist government, turning over Formosa and Hong Kong to them and stating that no aid should be sent Chiang's forces.)[30] The same year Lattimore, as Director of OWI Pacific Operations, co-wrote (with his wife) a pamphlet entitled "Our Chinese Ally," distributed to U.S. servicemen as War Department Education Manual EM-42. It instructed American and Allied forces in Asia that the Communist Chinese were "a party of compromise, and it is at least possible that after the war, instead of becoming a party of extremism, they will be found to be a party of moderation."[31]

The following year, Lattimore published Solution in Asia. As the publisher's blurb on the book jacket states:

He [Lattimore] shows that all the Asiatic people are more interested in actual democratic practices, such as the ones they can see in action across the Russian border, than they are in the fine theories of Anglo-Saxon democracies which come coupled with ruthless imperialism.... He inclines to support American newspapermen who report that the only real democracy in China is found in Communist areas.[32]

After the fall of China to the Communists in 1949, then-Senator John F. Kennedy would blame Lattimore (and his colleague John K. Fairbank) for this tragedy:

Mr. Speaker, over this weekend we have learned the extent of the disaster that has befallen China and the United States. The responsibility for the failure of our foreign policy in the Far East rests squarely with the [Truman] White House and the [Acheson] Department of State. The continued insistence that aid would not be forthcoming unless a coalition government with the Communists was formed, was a crippling blow to the National Government. So concerned were our diplomats and their advisers, the Lattimores and the Fairbanks, with the imperfection of the democratic system in China after twenty years of war, and the tales of corruption in high places, that they lost sight of our tremendous stake in a non-Communist China.[33]

Senate investigations

Lattimore was identified by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy as a Communist and under Party discipline. Former Communist Party member Louis Budenz corroborated McCarthy's claims and detailed how Lattimore had been of service to the Communist Party in the Amerasia case.

In a unanimous report, the McCarran Committee classified Lattimore as a "conscious articulate instrument of the Soviet conspiracy". [34] Lattimore wrote a letter of introduction for Haakon Chevalier to KGB operative, Lauchlin Currie. Chevalier was attempting to obtain a Government job during this period of time. Chevalier is a known Soviet Secret Intelligence Service (KGB) contact and was associated with numerous members of the Communist Party on the West Coast. Currie also recommended Lattimore to President Roosevelt to serve as a special advisor to Chiang Kai-shek. Currie gave evidence in New York to a grand jury investigating Lattimore's role in the publication by Amerasia magazine of secret State Department documents. In December 1952, Lattimore was indicted for perjury.[35]

Lattimore was indicted for perjury in his testimony before the McCarran Committee, but Judge Luther Youngdahl dropped the charges against him in 1955 on "a purely technical finding, wholly unrelated to Lattimore's activities."[36]


Even on the left, many of the most knowledgeable observers agreed that Lattimore was a propagandist for Party line. The socialist[37] (and ex-Communist)[38] Granville Hicks, for example, was dismayed by the spectacle of liberals "rallying with such absolute assurance to Lattimore’s defense."[39] Lattimore “defends every item of Stalinist justice," wrote "unabashedly liberal partisan"[40] Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. When Lattimore wrote that the Stalin's Great Purge "sounds to me like democracy," Schlesinger commented that those words "sound to me like fellow-traveling."[41] Lattimore got his views adopted by "the entire body of respectable opinion—conservative as well as liberal—on the Far East," wrote self-described former communist[42] Irving Kristol. "His ingratiating pseudo-Marxist platitudes became the stock-in-trade of all the ‘experts’."[43] Lattimore "consistently and consciously undertook to do what the Soviet Union wanted done," wrote the former Communist fellow-traveler[44] Diana Trilling. Though perhaps not a Communist Party member, she wrote, he was "something far more dangerous"—an ostensibly independent 'idealist' "whose idealism just happened to coincide with Russian realism."[45] Sol Levitas, editor of the socialist[46] magazine The New Leader, wrote that Lattimore was worse than a spy—he was a "LitAg" (literary agitator) of the Kremlin who sought to harm American foreign policy by molding public opinion to favor a pro-Soviet course—and was therefore more valuable to Stalin than a thousand Communist Party members.[47] Far from being simply "a well-meaning liberal martyrized by McCarthy for telling unpalatable truths about Asia," wrote the socialist[48] Sidney Hook, Lattimore, "at the very least, was a devious and skillful follower of the Communist Party line on Asian affairs" who had more influence on American foreign policy in Asia than “all anti-Communists combined.”[49] As the American Committee for Cultural Freedom concluded in an article in The New Republic, "Lattimore was indeed a willing instrument of the Soviet conspiracy against the free world."[50]

Further reading

See also


  1. Harry G. Heiss, Owen Lattimore: A Register of His Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, 1998
  2. S. Rpt. 2050: Institute of Pacific Relations, 82d Cong., 2d sess., Serial 11574, Report of the Committee on the Judiciary Pursuant to S. Res. 366, 1952 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 214-218 (PDF pp. 222-226)
  3. Desert Road to Turkestan by Owen Lattimore (Boston, 1928), pg. 247.
  4. Manchuria, Cradle of Conflict by Owen Lattimore (Rev. 1935), pg. 293.
  5. James Cotton, Asian Frontier Nationalism: Owen Lattimore and the American Policy Debate (Manchester University Press, 1989) ISBN 0719025850, pp. 159-160
  6. Asia in a New World Order, by Owen Lattimore, Foreign Policy Report, September 1, 1942.
  7. Subcommittee on S. Res. 231, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, 81st Cong., 2d sess., State Department Employee Loyalty Investigation: Hearings, Part II, Appendix (Washington: U.S. GPO, 1950), p. 1532 (PDF p. 36)
  8. Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society, 4th Ed. (Transaction Publishers, 1998), ISBN 1560009543, p. 165
  9. Hans Moeller, Chen Han-seng and Chi Chao-ting. Source: U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Report on the Institute of Pacific Relations, Washington 1952.
  10. United States Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security Hearings, July 26, 1951.
  11. FBI Report, "Owen Lattimore, Internal Security - R, Espionage - R," September 8, 1949 (FBI file: Owen Lattimore, Section 1A), p. 1 (PDF p. 2)
  12. Testimony of Louis Francis Budenz, August 22, 1951. Institute of Pacific Relations, Hearings. Part 2, pp. 522-23.
  13. FBI Report, "Owen Lattimore, Internal Security - R, Espionage - R," September 8, 1949 (FBI File: Owen Lattimore, Part 1A), p. 2 (PDF p. 7)
  14. In September 1939, FDR ordered the compilation of a "Custodial Detention Index" (CDI) of “persons to be considered for custodial detention pending investigation in the event of a national emergency” among the German, Italian, Hungarian, Romanian and Bulgarian populations (Japanese-Americans were soon added to the roster; it was the CDI that provided the basis for Roosevelt's wartime internment of Japanese, Germans and Italians in the United States during World War II.) During the Hitler-Stalin pact, when the Soviet Union was a Nazi ally in the invasion of Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania, the list was expanded to include Communists.
  15. Robert P. Newman, Owen Lattimore and the "Loss" of China (University of California Press, 1992) ISBN 0520073886, p. 52
  16. Lattimore wrote that when in Washington, he used Currie’s office (“I am in Washington about 4 days a week, and when there can always be reached at Lauchlin Currie's office, room 228, State Department Building; telephone National 1414, extension 90”), and that when Currie was out, Lattimore handled his mail: “Currie asked me to take care of his correspondence while he is away.” Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, Institute of Pacific Relations, Hearings, Part 9 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 3199-3200 (PDF pp. 311-312)
  17. “I asked who had suggested to President Roosevelt the nomination of Mr. Lattimore. Mr. Currie replied that he, Currie, had.” (Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, Testimony of Stanley K. Hornbeck, Institute of Pacific Relations, Hearings, Part 9 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 3209-10 (PDF pp. 321-322)
  18. M. Stanton Evans, Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies (New York: Crown Forum, 2007), ISBN 978-1-4000-8105-9
  19. Testimony of Cordell Hull, November 23, 1945. Pearl Harbor Attack, Part 2, 434-435 and Unnumbered Volume, pp. 36-37.
  20. Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, Carroll Quigley, Collier-Macmillan, 1966, pg. 741. ISBN 0-945001-10-X
  21. Communism at Pearl Harbor, How the Communists Helped to Bring on Pearl Harbor and Open up Asia to Communinization, Dr. Anthony Kubek, Dallas Texas, Teaching Publishing Company, 1959. Dr. Anthony Kubek was the Editor of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, Report on the Morgenthau Diaries. The records of the Morgenthau Diary Study, 1953-65 consist largely of copies of portions of memorandums, correspondence, transcripts of meetings, and other records preserved by Secretary Morgenthau in order to document his tenure. The original records are in the custody of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, NY. In 1965, the SISS issued a two volume committee print entitled Morgenthau Diary (China), Edited by Dr. Anthony Kubek, containing entries from the records at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library selected to illustrate the implementation of Roosevelt administration policy in China. According to Dr. Kubek, the subcommittee wanted to produce a documentary history on the subject and "also indicate the serious problem of unauthorized, uncontrolled and often dangerous power exercised by non-elected officials," specifically Harry Dexter White. White was a major figure in Senator William Jenner's investigation of interlocking subversion in Government departments in 1953. The bipartisan investigation lasted for twelve years, and the Subcommittee's Report took another two years to write. [1] Dr. Anthony Kubek also is a recognized expert on the subject of U.S. Naval Intelligence's Operation Magic, the effort to crack Japanese diplomatic ciphers. [2]
  22. Tongue-Tied, Time magazine, Feb. 07, 1944.
  23. The Yalta Betrayal, Felix Wittmer, Claxton Printers, 1953, pg. 36.
  24. Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 (HarperCollins, 2002) ISBN 0060007761, p. 211
  25. David J. Nordlander, "Origins of a Gulag Capital: Magadan and Stalinist Control in the Early 1930s," Slavic Review, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Winter 1998), p. 791
  26. Marvin Liebman, Coming Out Conservative: An Autobiography (Chronicle Books, 1992) ISBN 0811800733, pp. 87-88
  27. Paul Johnson, The Survival of the Adversary Culture (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1988) ISBN 1560005548, p. 180
  28. Islands of Slavery, Time magazine, June 24, 1974.
  29. Monument to murder, By Cal Thomas, Washington Times, June 13, 2007.
  30. United States Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security Hearings, August 7 and October 1, 1951.
  31. Owen and Eleanor Lattimore, "Our Chinese Ally" (United States Armed Forces Institute, August 1944), p. 55
  32. Subcommittee on S. Res. 231, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, 81st Cong., 2d sess., State Department Employee Loyalty Investigation: Hearings, Part II, Appendix (Washington: U.S. GPO, 1950), p. 1661 (PDF p. 185)
  33. John F. Kennedy, A Compendium of Speeches, Statements, and Remarks Delivered During His Service in the Congress of the United States (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1964), pp. 41-42
  34. US Senate, 82nd Congress, 2nd Session, Committee on the Judiciary, Institute of Pacific Relations, Report No. 2050, p. 224.
  35. Buckley, Jr., William F. and Bozell, L. Brent (1954, 1995 Printing). McCarthy & His Enemies, The Record And Its Meaning. Regnery Publishing Inc.. ISBN 0-89526-472-2.  McCarthy, Joseph (1953). Major Speeches and Debates of Senator Joe McCarthy Delivered in the United States Senate, 1950-1951. U. S. Government Printing Office. ISBN 0-87968-308-2.  McCarthy, Joseph (1952). McCarthyism: The Fight for America: Documented Answers to Questions Asked by Friend and Foe. The Devin-Adair Company. ASIN B0007DRBZ2. )
  36. William F. Buckley, Jr. , "Why are the Liberals Whitewashing? Owen Lattimore in the Liberal Press," National Review, July 14, 1989
  37. Barry Maine, John Dos Passos (Routledge, 1997) ISBN 0415159350, p. 243
  38. Warren F. Broderick, "Granville Hicks: Champion of the Small Town," in Granville Hicks, Small Towm (Fordham University Press, 2004) ISBN 0823223574, p. xvii
  39. Ronald Radosh, "The Legacy of the Anti-Communist Liberal Intellectuals," Partisan Review, Vol. LXVII, No. 4 (2000)
  40. Douglas Martin, "Arthur Schlesinger, Historian of Power, Dies at 89," The New York Times, March 1, 2007
  41. Ronald Radosh, "Sidney Hook Was Right, Arthur Schlesinger Is Wrong," The New York Sun, December 16, 2002
  42. "Political writer Irving Kristol dies at 89" The Washington Times, September 19, 2009
  43. The Twentieth Century, Vol. 152, No. 909 (November 1952), p. 323
  44. Patricia Bosworth, "A Life of Significant Contention," The New York Times, December 29, 1996
  45. Diana Trilling, Partisan Review, Vol. 20 (1953) p. 27
  46. "The Press: The New Leader Steps Out," Time, May 1, 1950
  47. Sol Levitas, "Lattimore and the IPR," The New Leader, March 31, 1952
  48. Thomas J. Main, "Fearless Sidney Hook," Policy Review, No. 120
  49. Edward S. Shapiro, ed., Letters of Sidney Hook: Democracy, Communism, and the Cold War (M.E. Sharpe, 1995) ISBN 156324487X, p. 207
  50. Mary Sperling McAuliffe, Crisis on the Left: Cold War Politics and American Liberals, 1947-1954 (University of Massachusetts Press, 1978) ISBN 087023241X, p. 127

External links