Frederick Vanderbilt Field

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Frederick Vanderbilt Field (April 15, 1905 - February 1, 2000) was an American millionaire[1] and great-great-grandson of railroad tycoon Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt[2] who claimed to have been a member of the Communist Party.[3]

Early life

He was born on April 15, 1905, and as a young man attended Harvard. While at Harvard, he was the editor of the Harvard Crimson.[4]

FBI Freedom of Information Act files

According to files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation[5] (FBI), he was also:

  • founder and Editorial Board Chairman of Amerasia, whose editor, Philip Jaffe, pleaded guilty to "conspiracy to embezzle, steal and purloin" government property after Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and FBI investigators found hundreds of government documents—many labeled "secret," "top secret," or "confidential"—in the magazine's offices.[6]
  • guest editor of (and weekly columnist in) the Daily Worker, the official newspaper of the Communist Party
  • assistant editor of New Masses, identified by one scholar as the "semi-official spokesman of Communist letters"[7]
  • Executive Vice-President of the Council for Pan American Democracy, which John Dewey's Committee for Cultural Freedom alleged in April 1940 was under "outright communist control"[8]
  • provisional secretary of the Board of Directors for the Jefferson School for Social Science, which was, according to Harry Magdoff's magazine, "sponsored by the Communist Party"[9]
  • executive secretary of American Peace Mobilization (APM), designated a Communist front group by United States Attorney General Tom C. Clark on the Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations for 1948, as directed by President Truman’s Executive Order 9835, and which, according to Field himself, "came into existence through Communist Party initiative." [10]
  • co-Chairman of the Citizens Nonpartisan Committee for the Election of Ben Davis, Jr., Communist Party candidate for New York City Council
  • secretary of the Research Committee of the Institute for Pacific Relations (IPR)
  • executive secretary of the American Council of the IPR.

Communist roots

Field also served as secretary of the bail fund of the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), another organization designated a Communist front by the attorney general.[11] According to Georgetown University Professor Carroll Quigley, Field was also an officer of what Quigley alleged was a "Communist-front organization, the Trade Union Services, Incorporated, of New York City." [12]

After education at Harvard University and a year at the London School of Economics[13] where he came under the influence of socialist Harold Laski,[14] he joined the Socialist Party of America of Norman Thomas in 1928.[4] By age 30, he had "evolved into a thoroughgoing Communist."[15]


Field "slavishly followed the party line."[4] "[Soviet dictator Josef] Stalin was infallible," he wrote. "[A]ll my Communist surroundings told me so. So was [American Communist Party Secretary Earl Browder, although on a lower level of sanctity, and so were the other CP [Communist Party] leaders."[16] At a time when other erstwhile loyal friends of the Soviet Union were becoming disillusioned by Stalin's Great Purge, Field defended the bloody Moscow show trials, saying, "because Comrade Stalin says so, we have to believe the trials are just."[15]

A year out of college, Field joined IPR, which he described as "a bourgeois research-educational organization" funded by the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations and some of the biggest corporations in the U.S., which he claimed subsidized his publication of proposals "as anticapitalistic as the articles he wrote in later decades for The New Masses and The Daily Worker."[17] He wrote a memo cautioning Owen Lattimore, editor of the IPR quarterly Pacific Affairs, with regard to a certain article, "the analysis is a straight Marxist one and . . . should not be altered."[18] In his role at IPR, Field "took no pay; he was, in fact, one of the institute's most generous contributors."[4] He also "supported Communist causes in the 1930's, 40's and 50's,"[19] while Russian files add that he was "generously donating money to several organizations close to" the Soviets.[20] Quigley alleged that Field served as "the chief link between the Communists and the Institute of Pacific Relations in 1928-1947." [21] He served as a Trustee of IPR, along with Alger Hiss, among others, until 1947.[22] Andrew Avery, Chicago Journal of Commerce (July 1, 1946), reported that Field attended the 1945 United Nations founding conference in San Francisco as an IPR representative, and also as a writer for the Daily Worker.[23] The presiding officer was Secretary-General Alger Hiss.[24]


In the mid-1930s he was on the editorial board of the New Masses. He set up the journal Amerasia in 1937; its purpose being conceived as a vehicle for criticism of Japanese attacks in China[25] He was later attacked, in the Cold War period, as a communist.

In 1940 Field became executive secretary of American Peace Mobilization, a position for which he had been recruited by Browder himself. “Some time before the APM was formally organized,” wrote Field, “Earl Browder asked me if I would accept the executive secretaryship if it were offered me.”[26] At APM, Field emerged as a committed pacifist, demanding that the United States stay out of the war in Europe -– at least while the Hitler-Stalin pact lasted.[27] But on June 20, 1941, Field suddenly called off the organization's “peace picketing” of the White House,[28] reversing himself to demand immediate U.S. war on Germany.[29] The following day, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The APM dropped the word "peace" from its name, officially changing its name to "American Peoples' Mobilization."

Lauchlin Currie and infiltration of military intelligence

According to the McCarran Committee's IPR Report, Lattimore, along with President Franklin Roosevelt's Administrative Assistant Lauchlin Currie (identified in the Venona decrypts as the Soviets' White House source code-named "Page"),[30] tried in 1942 to get Field a commission in military intelligence,[31] but, unlike Duncan Lee (Venona code name "Koch"), Maurice Halperin ("Hare"), Julius Joseph ("Cautious"),[32] Carl Marzani, Franz Leopold Neumann ("Ruff"),[33] Helen Tenney ("Muse"), and Donald Wheeler ("Izra")—all of whom got into the OSS—Field was rejected as a security risk.[34]

In November 1945, former Soviet spy Elizabeth Bentley told FBI investigators that she had attended a conference in Field's home earlier that year.[35] Also present, she alleged, were Browder, John Hazard Reynolds, head of the United States Service and Shipping Corporation (a Comintern front organization for Soviet espionage activities)[36] and "Ray" Elson (Identified in the Gorsky list under the cover name "Irma")[37]

Senate Internal Security Subcommittee investigation

In 1950, Louis Budenz, former managing editor of the Daily Worker, testified before the Tydings Committee to personal knowledge that Field was a Soviet espionage agent.[38] Questioned about this, Field refused to answer on grounds of potential self-incrimination.[39] The following year, former Soviet spy Whittaker Chambers testified before the McCarran Committee that NKVD "handler" J. Peters told him in 1937 that Field was a member of the Communist underground.[40] Herbert Romerstein, former head of the office to Counter Soviet Disinformation at the United States Information Agency, and the late Eric Breindel placed Field in the GRU apparat, alleging that he "was an agent of Soviet miliary intelligence."[41] Bird and Chervonnaya disagree: "Documents show that he was in contact with various Soviet representatives in the United States beginning in early 1935. Some of these interactions may be described as 'active measures' on behalf of the Soviet Union. Still, what we know does not prove that Field was a full-blown Soviet agent.[42]


As secretary of the CRC bail fund, Field refused to reveal who had put up bond for eight Communist Party officials who had jumped bail and disappeared after being indicted by the Truman administration Department of Justice for violations of the Smith Act. Convicted of contempt of court, he served two months of a 90-day sentence[43] in federal prison at Ashland, Kentucky in 1951.[44] He was at the time "a registered foreign agent, as a lobbyist for Communist China."[45]

A prominent figure in the Silvermaster files detailing widespread communist and Soviet efforts to penetrate and illegally influence the US government.

His mother, Lila Vanderbilt Sloane Field, was a direct descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Further reading


  1. Craig Thomson, “America's Millionaire Communist,” The Saturday Evening Post, September 9, 1950
  2. Anthony Summers, "Bombshell", Reader's Digest, October 2006
  3. Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya, “The Mystery of 'Ales',” The American Scholar, Summer 2007
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 COMMUNISTS: Life of an Angel, Time magazine article, January 9, 1950.
  5. FBI Report: Institute of Pacific Relations, Internal Security - C, November 4, 1944 (FBI file: Institute of Pacific Relations, Section 1, PDF pp. 45-46)
  6. Harvey Klehr and Ronald Radosh, The Amerasia Spy Case: Prelude to McCarthyism (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1996) ISBN 0-8078-2245-0, p. 131
  7. James Burkhart Gilbert, Writers and Partisans: A History of Literary Radicalism in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992) ISBN 0231082541, p. 106
  8. Eugene Lyons, The Red Decade: The Stalinist Penetration of America (Indianapolis: The Bobbs Merill Company, 1941), p. 376
  9. John J. Simon, "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review, Volume 51, Number 5 (October 1999)
  10. Frederick Vanderbilt Field, From Right to Left: An Autobiography (Westport, Conn.: L. Hill, 1983) ISBN 978-1859845271, p.186
  11. Enid Nemy, "Frederick Vanderbilt Field, Wealthy Leftist, Dies at 94," The New York Times, February 7, 2000
  12. Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (New York: Macmillan Company, 1966) ISBN 0-945001-10-X, p. 944
  13. Robert Sherrill, “A Life Devoted to a Lost Cause,” The New York Times, October 16, 1983
  14. Enid Nemy, Op. cit.,
  15. 15.0 15.1 Robert Sherrill, Op. cit.
  16. Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel, The Venona Secrets (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2001) ISBN 0895262258, p. 57
  17. Ibid.
  18. "Absent-Minded Professor?" Time, March 10, 1952
  19. Enid Nemy, Op. cit.
  20. Bird and Chervonnaya, Op. cit.
  21. Carroll Quigley, Op. cit.
  22. Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Security Laws, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Interlocking Subversion in Government Departments, (Washington: U S Government Printing Office, 1954), pp. 8-10
  23. FBI Report: Southern California Division, American Council, Institute of Pacific Relations, June 13, 1947, p. 3 (FBI file: Institute of Pacific Relations, Section 3, PDF p. 4)
  24. Who was Alger Hiss? The Alger Hiss Story: Search for the Truth
  25. Rudolf V. A. Janssens, "What Future for Japan?": U.S. Wartime Planning for the Postwar Era, 1942-1945, p. 78.
  26. Frederick Vanderbilt Field, Op. cit.
  27. “Picketers Picketed,” Time, June 2, 1941
  28. “White House Pickets Stop At 1,029 Hours,” Washington Post, June 22, 1941
  29. "Purely for Peace," Time, July 14, 1941
  30. Robert J. Hanyok, Eavesdropping on Hell: Historical Guide to Western Communications Intelligence and the Holocaust, 1939-1945 (Washington, DC: Center for Cryptologic History, National Security Agency, 2005, 2nd Ed.), p. 119 (PDF page 124)
  31. M. Stanton Evans, "McCarthyism: Waging the Cold War in America," Human Events, May 30, 1997
  32. Lee, Halperin and Joseph are identified in Venona decrypt 880 KGB New York to Moscow, 8 June 1943, p. 1
  33. "Alexander Vassiliev’s Own Translation of his Notes on Anatoly Gorsky’s December 1948 Memo on Compromised American Sources and Networks," October 2005
  34. Enid Nemy, Op. cit.
  35. FBI Report: Underground Soviet Espionage Organization (NKVD) in Agencies of the United States Government, October 21, 1946 (Silvermaster file, Vol. 82), p. 221
  36. Lauren Kessler, Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era (New York: HarperCollins, 2003) ISBN 0060959738, p. 77
  37. Alexander Vassiliev, Op. cit.
  38. "Of Cells & Onionskins," Time, May 1, 1950
  39. "In the Dark," Time May 8, 1950
  40. Romerstein and Breindel, Op. cit., p. 433
  41. Ibid., p. 57
  42. Bird and Chervonnaya, Op. cit.
  43. Enid Nemy, Op. cit.
  44. "Absent-Minded Professor?" Op. cit.
  45. "The Angel," Time, July 16, 1951

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