Bruce Craig, 2001
The Hiss-Chambers Controversy: Records of the House Un-American
By Bruce Craig
Due to the efforts made on behalf of a coalition of historians and archivists, the records of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA, or more commonly known and hereafter referred to as HUAC), are now open to the public. The records are housed in the National Archives and Records Administration’s Center for Legislative Archives in Washington D.C.  Access to Committee files is granted on a case-by-case basis under Rule VII of the House of Representatives.  The rule provides some restrictions — certain post-1971 records are still subject to a standard 30-year closure rule adopted by the House. Included in the records that have been screened and are now available for scholarly research are some four feet of files and materials the Committee generated relating to the Alger Hiss/Whittaker Chambers controversy.
The collection includes the Committee’s investigative, reference and research files, six boxes of newspaper clippings relating to the case (c. 1948-1971), as well as executive session transcripts, the majority of which have not been previously released or published. While all of the executive session transcripts relating to the interrogation of Alger Hiss were published by HUAC in 1948,  several interrogations of Chambers were not. Of particular interest to researchers are three unpublished executive session interviews of Hiss’s accuser made in 1948.
Other unpublished executive session transcripts of particular note include the testimony of Paul and Hede Massing and a transcript of Congressman Richard M. Nixon’s executive session interview of Admiral William Standley, American ambassador to the Soviet Union (ca. 1942-43). The collection also includes one box of materials largely composed of internal communications between members of the Committee (including Representative Nixon), HUAC staff investigators and Chief Investigator Robert Stripling. The collection is also unique in that researchers can reconstruct the Hiss case day-by-day from press reports and opinion columns that appeared in major newspapers (i.e. TheWashington Post, The New York Times,The Washington Star, The New York Herald Tribune) as well as the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) voice, The Daily Worker.
There are no “smoking gun” documents in the release, but, nevertheless, collectively the materials give researchers a unique insight and a clearer understanding of the internal workings of HUAC during the Hiss-Chambers investigation.
THE RELEVANCE OF THE HUAC COLLECTION TO THE HISS-CHAMBERS CONTROVERSY
The House Un-American Activities Committee was created January 3, 1945 and abolished by Congressional action in 1975. Records of the House of Representatives investigative committee that preceded HUAC — the Select Committee on Un-American Activities (the so-called Dies Committee) — which operated from 1938-1944, have been open to the public for some time. The Dies Committee collection may contain some materials relating to the Hiss case, but a review of possible relevant files in that collection was beyond the scope of this assessment. Some materials in the HUAC collection (such as the individual name “lead” cards of potential subversives) may have originally been in the Dies Committee research files, and were integrated by staff into the HUAC Investigative Section files (see discussion below).
Records of HUAC are quite voluminous – some 1,245 feet. A guide to the collection, prepared in July 2000 by archivist Charles E. Schamel of the Center for Legislative Archives, which describes the collection’s holdings, is available from the National Archives and Records Administration.
The records of the Committee consist of files of the Administrative, Legal, Investigative, Finance, Files and Reference, Editing, and General Counsel Sections, plus a huge assortment of diverse publications from the Research Section collected or generated by the Committee over some 30 years. Materials of particular relevance to students of the Hiss-Chambers case are approximately four feet of records relating to the investigation drawn largely from the Committee’s Investigative Section and Reference Section file holdings.
HUAC AND THE HISS-CHAMBERS CONTROVERSY
When created by Congress in 1945 as a standing committee of the House of Representatives under House Resolution 5 of the 79th Congress, HUAC was authorized: “to make investigations into the extent, character, and objects of un-American activities in the United States” and to assess the “diffusion of subversive and un-American propaganda.” The early history of the Committee is well documented by others, so little more than a thumbnail sketch of relevant points is necessary here. In essence, from its inception, the Committee had largely failed to make a very positive impression on the American public or, for that matter, members of Congress. Its members were, for the most part, second-rate Congressmen with second-rate minds. Their investigations into the labor movement, the Hollywood film industry, and government agencies had produced little except to have earned the contempt of Truman Administration officials as well as the general public.
In 1948, the Committee embarked on a series of investigations relating to communism in general and subversion in government agencies, in particular. The Hiss-Chambers investigation emerged out of that inquiry.
Committee staff were in possession of a memo detailing a March 20, 1945 interview of former self-confessed Communist courier David Whittaker Chambers, by State Department security official Raymond Murphy. In May and again in July 1945, Chambers was interviewed by FBI agents. During these interviews, the Time senior editor was relatively closed-mouthed and divulged little that he had not previously stated during his 1939 interview with Assistant Secretary of State Adolph A. Berle, Jr., the President’s personal advisor on internal-security matters.
In September 1945, a Soviet defector in Canada produced evidence of the existence of a major spy ring that had been (and possibly was still) operating in North America. The defector/informer, cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko, was interviewed by both Canadian authorities and FBI agents whom J. Edgar Hoover had quickly dispatched to Ottawa to assist the Canadians in the interrogation. Gouzenko had stolen from the Soviet embassy in Ottawa a batch of documents that indicated that the Soviets had a large network of operatives in the U.S. and Canada. Though he lacked documentary proof, in subsequent interviews Gouzenko also implicated a handful of high-level American officials based on conversations he reportedly had had with other Soviet intelligence officials when he was last in Moscow. In particular, Gouzenko recalled that there was an alleged agent, an “assistant to the then Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius,” who the FBI in short order decided could only refer to Alger Hiss.
A month later, in October 1945, Elizabeth Bentley, a former courier for the Soviet underground, also provided the FBI with similar accusations. She implicated over 80 individuals whom she claimed had been affiliated with her underground work that, for the most part, had centered in the Treasury Department. With Chambers’ story, the Gouzenko revelations, and Bentley’s assertions, the hunt for spies and corroborative evidence suggestive of internal subversion in government agencies was on.
The FBI matched the various allegations and wrote a 71-page report, “Soviet Espionage in the United States,” that implicated dozens of government officials. But even with a report in hand, the wheels of government turned exceedingly slowly in the pursuit of the alleged subversives. In August 1946, Chambers was again called upon by Ray Murphy — this time to discuss penetration into “old line” federal agencies, especially the State Department. The FBI followed up with Chambers and conducted five more interviews with him. Once again, Chambers was asked about suspected communists but he said little of note.
In June 1947, a federal grand jury was impaneled in New York charged to investigate the activities of officials of the Communist Party. Shortly before the grand jury was impaneled, New Jersey Republican J. Parnell Thomas, Chairman of HUAC, also launched multiple investigations of communist infiltration into the U.S. government. This provided the opportunity for the various memos that had been produced over the years to receive more than a glance from sympathetic eyes. Murphy’s latest memo, for example, was given to HUAC investigator Benjamin Mandel by New York Sun reporter Walter Nellor, who had obtained his copy from The Reverend John F. Cronin of the anti-Communist National Catholic Welfare Conference. In March 1948, Mandel visited Chambers and asked if he would testify in upcoming hearings scheduled for the end of July. The Time editor pleaded to be spared a summons.
One step ahead of HUAC in their pursuit of communists, on July 20, 1948, some 13 months after being empaneled, the grand jury handed down indictments to 12 leaders of the American Communist Party for alleged violations of the Smith Act. During their investigation, the grand jury had taken testimony from dozens of witnesses, including Elizabeth Bentley, who was eager to tell her story to just about anyone who would listen.
On July 31, on the heels of the grand jury investigation, HUAC heard from Bentley, who testified before the Committee in a public hearing for five hours. During her sensational appearance, she named dozens of individuals as being involved in a number of underground apparatuses. Her 12-page executive session testimony (which has not previously been made public) is included in the National Archives HUAC release. The day after her appearance before HUAC, on August 1, Chief Investigator Robert Stripling informed a roomful of reporters that Bentley’s testimony would be soon backed up by another witness. A reluctant Whittaker Chambers was subpoenaed to testify.
On August 3, Chambers arrived at 9:15 am at the Old House Office Building (today’s Cannon House Office Building). He entered HUAC’s offices through Room 226 and was reintroduced to Stripling whom Chambers had previously snubbed in March. Because Chambers had attempted to dodge the August 2 subpoena, Stripling feared that the witness was going to subvert the hearings. But Chambers handed him a three-page statement, the contents of which pleasantly surprised the Chief Investigator. The questioning began.
After responding to a number of questions posed by several members of the Committee, and after some discussion about what Chambers had to say, acting HUAC chairman Karl Mundt, a South Dakota Republican, concluded the executive session and ordered the Committee to meet in open session. Days earlier, Stripling had reserved the largest committee room on Capitol Hill – the Ways and Means Committee hearing room. Chambers later recalled, “a great public circus was being rigged, of which I was clearly to be the speaking center.”
What Chambers said is the stuff of history. He named names – over a dozen of them: Harry Dexter White, Frank Coe, Lee Pressman, John Abt, and Alger and Donald Hiss. Alger Hiss telegramed Stripling and requested that he be permitted to be heard. The Committee staff scheduled his appearance on August 5. On August 4, however, the Committee heard from Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, named by Bentley and whose war-time information gathering apparatus allegedly dwarfed Chamber’s operation of the mid-1930s. If Silvermaster could be persuaded to testify to his activities, he could bring down White and dozens of others in the Treasury Department. A devoted CPUSA member, he didn’t break. That same day, Bentley again appeared as a rebuttal witness to counter Silvermaster’s reveal-nothing testimony.
Alger Hiss made his scheduled appearance on August 5. His testimony was taken in the House Caucus Room in the Old House Office Building. He read his statement and bluntly denied Chambers’ allegations: “I am not and never have been a member of the Communist Party.” Hiss’s performance was brilliant and after the hearing, the Committee was clearly on the defensive.
That afternoon, at 3:00 pm, the Committee met behind closed doors. They were in a state of shock. While most of the members wanted to drop the matter, Stripling, who was privy to Ray Murphy’s background reports that included information on Hiss, believed the former State Department official was lying. Contrary to later claims that he had not heard of the Hiss brothers until the HUAC hearings, Rep. Nixon indeed also knew much about Alger Hiss based on information provided to him through The Rev. John Cronin. Cronin had characterized Hiss to Nixon as “the most influential communist in the State Department.” Knowing he would have Stripling’s help, Nixon, without hesitation, volunteered to take over the Committee’s investigation. Courtesy of the Bureau, FBI documents quickly found their way to Nixon’s and HUAC’s offices.
On August 7, Chambers once again appeared before HUAC, this time in Room 101 of the Federal Courthouse at 2 Foley Square in New York City. This was the first of a series of executive and open session meetings of the Committee, most of which were made public in the late 1940s and early 50s.
The story of HUAC’s relentless pursuit of Hiss is recounted by others, including the principal characters of the investigation, and there is little reason to recount the familiar story in great detail. In a nutshell, after taking testimony from Bentley, Chambers, and others, and while setting the stage for a series of hearings scheduled to take place early in the 81st Congress that were to focus on atomic espionage, HUAC conducted an in-depth probe of the Hiss matter. The Investigative Section files of the Committee contain several files with materials relating to the various special investigations that investigators conducted. Of particular note are the materials relating to the identification of Chambers’ one-time document photographer, Felix Inslerman, and files relating to the disposition of the Hiss’s Ford automobile to the Cherner Motor Company. There also is evidence of a number of false leads that the Committee pursued and dropped.
HUAC took testimony from a long list of witnesses – Abraham George Silverman, John Abt, Lee Pressman, Harry Dexter White, Donald Hiss, Lauchlin Currie, and a host of minor characters. Testimony from some (but not all) was taken both in executive and open session. The HUAC Committee executive session records include the statements of all called to testify in executive session from August 3-September 3. Staff then postponed further hearings until September 15, thus giving Committee members the opportunity to visit their home districts and campaign for the upcoming election. HUAC staff, however, continued the pursuit of new leads.
THE STANDLEY INTERVIEW
One executive session interview of particular interest was taken during this congressional break. On September 18, 1948, Rep. Nixon, who was campaigning in California, took a brief break from his planned schedule of appearances to take testimony in Los Angeles from Admiral William H. Standley, onetime American ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1942-43. Standley had written Nixon just days earlier, informing him that when he was posted in Moscow, President Franklin Roosevelt considered the State Department codes insecure and instead had preferred to use Navy Department codes for his sensitive communications. Nixon, as a subcommittee of one, conducted the hearing and mailed the transcript to HUAC staff in Washington D.C. Standley’s testimony suggested that there were Soviet spies in the Moscow embassy. His September 18 testimony, along with Nixon’s correspondence, is included in the HUAC executive session materials.
THE MASSING INTERVIEW
Another executive session transcript of particular note is the September 21, 1948 interview of Paul and Hede Massing. The 38-page transcript of the September 21, 1948 interview is found in Box 7 of the HUAC Investigatory Records Section. HUAC considered the Massings as “friendly witnesses” — they were interviewed together though most of the questions were directed to Paul Massing. The interrogation focused on Soviet intelligence trade practices, the Massings’ involvement in the Soviet underground, and their various underground contacts. During the second Hiss perjury trial, Hede Massing became a central and controversial figure in bringing about Hiss’s conviction. During the first trial, she was not permitted to testify, but in the second she was a key figure. She told the jurors that she had informed the FBI on December 10, 1948, and again in mid-December, that in 1935, Hiss had tried to recruit her contact, Noel Field (a fellow State Department employee and a friend of Hiss’s), into Hiss’s espionage apparatus.
According to Massing’s trial testimony, at a party at Noel Field’s apartment, she and Hiss had discussed their “friendly competition” to bring Field into their respective espionage folds. While Field, during interrogations by Hungarian State Security authorities in 1954, confessed that “in 1935, I revealed myself [as being in service to the Soviet Union] to Alger Hiss,” he later denied any basis in truth to the Massing story. Hiss also vehemently denied the Massing accusation. It should also be also noted that in all of his testimony and interrogations by HUAC investigators and the FBI, Chambers never even hinted that Hiss ever ran his own apparatus, as alleged by Massing; to the contrary, Chambers claimed Hiss early on was separated out from Chambers’ apparatus. Chambers’ testimony on this point, along with the Committee’s executive session transcripts, tend to support Hiss’s denials.
The transcripts give evidence that in spite of every opportunity to tell her story relating to Hiss and Field to the HUAC investigators, Hede Massing never mentioned the alleged meeting. The omission of this central point in her HUAC testimony relating to Hiss is glaring, and in light of Mrs. Massing’s later accusations regarding him, one wonders why there is no mention of this incident in this transcript in spite of every opportunity to discuss the matter. The omission is suggestive that Hede Massing’s testimony during the Hiss trial may have been perjured.
In the Massing transcript, one does, however, find considerable discussion about Noel Field. Paul Massing, for example, stated that he doubted that Field was a member of the Communist Party but believed that he had “Trotskyite opinions.” Mr. Massing discussed Field’s involvement in the underground and concluded that his involvement was, in the end, “a great disappointment.” When queried by the Committee about Fields’ Communist Party connections, Paul Massing could not state that Field “ever acted as an espionage agent or courier for the Communist Party for the Soviet Union.” All he could recall is that he did introduce him to Soviet defector General W.G. Krivitsky; Massing stated, “I would not say [Field was] a Communist in the sense that he was a card-carrying Communist, but ideologically a loyal friend of the Soviet Union.”
When Mrs. Massing was asked whether Field had ever acted as an espionage agent, she told HUAC’s Chief Investigator: “You know, Mr. Stripling, by now much better than I most likely that such things are not discussed. If he did, he did not tell me. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that he did, but I could not prove it to you.”  When asked if he knew either Alger Hiss or Whittaker Chambers, Paul Massing stated, “I know neither one of them” while Mrs. Massing remained curiously silent.
THE CHAMBERS INTERVIEWS
There are three executive session transcripts of interest relating to the testimony by Whittaker Chambers — December 6, December 28 and September 7, 1948. None of these transcripts “officially” have been made public until now. In fact, the December 6 testimony was released to select researchers by HUAC in the early 1970s, and copies of his December 23 testimony have floated in Hiss-Chambers researcher circles for some years. According to some, Representative Nixon originally released a copy of this transcript to journalists. The September 7 testimony has not previously been available to researchers.
Chambers’ December 6 testimony focuses on information provided during the Hiss civil suit pre-trial examination. There is a prolonged discussion focusing on the “Baltimore Papers” and the so-called “Pumpkin Papers” and the circumstances surrounding their origin and release. HUAC questioned Chambers about a number of individuals who allegedly were part of his espionage ring, including John Abt, Harry Dexter White, and others. Details of Chambers’ knowledge of the Hisses is also discussed. It is significant to note that, in this testimony, Chambers discussed the delivery of three (not four) “gift” rugs that he claimed were destined for George Silverman, Harry Dexter White, and Alger Hiss. There is no mention of a fourth rug that, according to the documentary record, evidently went to State Department official Julian Wadleigh.
Shortly before the conclusion of the 80th Congress, HUAC staff began working on what was anticipated to be its final report, “Soviet Espionage Within the United States Government” In preparing it, Nixon and HUAC investigators called upon Whittaker Chambers one more time, and conducted a lengthy interview (the December 28 testimony runs 104 pages) at Chambers’ home in Westminster, Maryland.
Nixon asked Chambers to “speak to us today concerning your knowledge of espionage activities in the United States in a chronological fashion without regard to the testimony that you may previously have given before the Committee.” Chambers did so for hours. He covered familiar territory relating to his recruitment into the communist movement, his dealings with the Ware Group, his contact with Alger Hiss and others, and his eventual defection from the Party.
The third transcript, Chambers’s testimony of September 7, has not previously been released or published. The interrogation began in Mr. Nixon’s office and then continued in Room 528 of the Old House Office Building. In this interview, Chambers was asked whether in 1946 he had been an inmate in the Bloomingdale Mental Institution, registered under the name Robert Cantwell. Chambers stated unequivocally that, “I have never been in Bloomingdale under my own name or any other name or in any other mental institution in the United States, or anywhere else in the world at any time.” He explained that he did use the name “Lloyd Cantwell” as one of his aliases, and that Robert Cantwell was a close friend at Time magazine and had suffered a nervous breakdown while Chambers was working there.
HUAC, THE FEDERAL GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION, AND THE HUAC-JUSTICE DEPARTMENT BATTLE
Throughout the Hiss-Chambers investigation, as HUAC continued to take executive session testimony, the Republican controlled HUAC was suspicious of Justice Department officials, who as loyalists to President Harry Truman appeared to have little vested interest in seeing the investigation move forward.  In mid-December, however, Justice Department prosecutors began examining aspects of the case in relation to possible violations of federal conspiracy and perjury laws. For several weeks a procession of witnesses filed through the grand jury’s room at the Federal Court House at Foley Square in New York City.
To the members of HUAC and its investigators, it was unclear whether the federal prosecutors were seeking to indict Chambers, Hiss or both. Chambers clearly had perjured himself on several occasions and was susceptible to prosecution; Hiss’s vulnerability was less clear. But Nixon and HUAC worked hard to prevent Chambers’ arrest, especially after he turned over to HUAC, rather than to the FBI or Justice Department, documentary evidence of espionage — the “Pumpkin Papers.”
In mid-December, Justice Department officials requested of HUAC that the “Pumpkin Papers” be turned over to the federal grand jury. HUAC did not know how to respond. The HUAC collection, however, contains a 21-page hand-written memo — a near verbatim transcript — taken by Assilia Poore (apparently a HUAC secretary), that documents the Committee’s internal discussions of December 14, 1948, after dispatching Nixon to New York with the documents. The Committee had agreed that Representative Nixon would personally carry the films with him to show them to the grand jury, but Nixon was under strict orders not to let the films out of his possession. On December 13, once in the grand jury room, Nixon waved them dramatically, and made a moving speech in which he appealed to the grand jurors to indict Hiss and not Chambers.
THE END OF THE HUAC PROBE
By the end of 1948, HUAC’s involvement in the Hiss-Chambers controversy appeared to be coming to a close. On its last day of operation, December 15, 1948, the federal grand jury indicted Hiss on two counts of perjury. The first trial of Alger Hiss began on June 1, 1949. When the first trial resulted in a hung jury, Representative Nixon criticized Judge Samuel Kaufman, who had presided over the trial, for not allowing Hede Massing to take the stand — Nixon called for another HUAC hearing to allow her to tell her story publicly. But HUAC Chairman John Wood would have none of that — he ruled that any new hearings would be “an interference” with the Justice Department prosecution of the case.
On January 21, 1950, Hiss’s second perjury trial came to a close. The second trial lasted nearly twice as long as the first, and, in the end, Hiss was found guilty on both perjury counts. The conviction in essence meant that the jurors believed that Hiss transmitted papers to Chambers after January 1937 and indeed was a Soviet agent. So ended the Hiss perjury trials and HUAC’s role in the Hiss-Chambers controversy.
THE RECORDS OF HUAC RELATING TO THE HISS-CHAMBERS CONTROVERSY
What follows is a summary of the highlights of the collection and research notes of possible value to the student of the Hiss-Chambers controversy. As previously mentioned, the materials relating to the controversy are spread throughout several of the records series, primarily the Investigative Files on Individuals, Files and Reference Name Files, Files and Reference Individual Index Card Files, and Executive Session Transcripts. National Archives staff have photocopied and set aside certain Hiss-Chambers materials for researchers because of the likelihood of high researcher demand. Depending on the scope of a records request, when reviewing materials, researchers may find that documents will be culled from their shelf boxes located in diverse places throughout the HUAC collection and will be assembled in temporary “composite” boxes by NARA archivists for ease of use by the researcher.
INVESTIGATIVE FILES SECTION
“Alger Hiss: Investigatory Files – Series 1.” While most of the HUAC investigatory files consist of only a few pages – often the subpoena to appear before the Committee, and a few related telegrams or letters – the investigatory file on Alger Hiss is unusually large and full. The Hiss file consists of six folders (about four inches of records) and includes the bulk of correspondence, reports, and papers generated by the Committee members, investigators, and other staff relating to the case.
File one contains a copy of the December 13, 1948 federal grand jury subpoena issued to Rep. Richard Nixon, demanding that the “Pumpkin Papers” be turned over to the New York grand jury investigating subversion in government agencies; telegrams from Alger Hiss to HUAC relating to the scheduling of his various appearances; materials relating to the attendees of the Yalta conference; correspondence relating to the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York (the company that insured the Hisses); John E. Peurifoy’s assessments of the contents of the “Baltimore Papers”; reports assessing Hiss’s handwriting; reports analyzing the typeface of the documents turned over by Chambers; signed originals of Hiss’s public statements to the Committee of August 5, 18, and 24, 1948; photocopies of the typewritten “Hiss standards” (used for comparative analysis in the search for the Hiss Woodstock typewriter); investigative reports and correspondence to/from realtors relating to the “Shirkey place” (a small farm outside Westminster Maryland that both Hiss and Chambers had an interest in purchasing, though at different times); and reports of HUAC investigators relating to accusations by George Hewitt (this individual alleged that Hiss attended Communist Party meetings in the 1930s).
File two consists of the 21-page handwritten memo (written on the back of HUAC letterhead), taken by Assilia Poore that documents the Committee’s internal discussions of December 14, 1948 on the “Pumpkin Papers” that were shown to the New York based-federal grand jury. In this memo one finds the following statement: “Nixon: The G.J. [Grand Jury] is convinced that Hiss is guilty but they don’t know what to do about it — 2. Campbell said Hiss is guilty; 3. FBI is working on the case and has much evidence. They might indict Chambers and Wadleigh or one of the others.”
File three includes a typewritten analysis of the case by HUAC investigator William Wheeler; a copy of Rep. Richard Nixon’s January 26, 1950 speech on the Hiss case; investigative materials relating to Hiss’s various addresses; research notes on Charles Dollard and Hiss’s recommendation of Noel Field for a government position; credit reports, gas bills, and copies of passport applications made by Alger Hiss; a Committee Print of a “Legal Analysis of the Testimony of Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss Before the Committee on Un-American Activities” (ca. 1949).
File four relates entirely to general memoranda detailing Alger and Priscilla Hiss’s employment records and Alger Hiss’s Selective Service status. Included is a U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel file, bank cards, Priscilla Hiss’s resignation letter from the Library of Congress (February 5, 1941), Alger Hiss’s application to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, and his Selective Service questionnaire.
File five is perhaps best characterized as the HUAC “lead file.” It contains letters from the public, prominent Americans (there is a note from publisher Alfred Knopf, for example), and past government officials who knew Hiss or Chambers and who had or could suggest leads for the Committee to pursue. Also included are papers relating to the identification of Chambers’ document photographer Felix August Inslerman, Noel Field’s civil-service appointments, and the “Zablodowsky incident.” Also, there is a large collection of Hiss’s long-distance telephone vouchers.
File six, entitled “Alger Hiss’s Automobile Records,” contains the Committee’s investigative materials relating to the disposition of the Hisses’ 1929 Ford roadster to the Cherner Motor Company. Researchers will find copies of title certificates, insurance records, and information relating to the Cherners and William Rosen.
File seven is the “Elizabeth Bentley” (Investigative File). In contrast to the voluminous Hiss file, the investigative file on Elizabeth Bentley contains only a handful of pages, including a summons for Elizabeth Bentley, served July 23, 1948 by Donald T. Appell, for her to appear July 28, 1948, and several other orders to appear. There is a memo from Benjamin Mandel to Robert Stripling based on an interview of September 9, 1948; also, various memos relating to the Remington case.
INDIVIDUAL NAME INDEX CARDS
HUAC Index Cards File: “Alger Hiss” (Box 301). This box evidently includes lead and index cards that HUAC may have inherited from the Dies Committee. Some of the information contained on these cards was probably recorded based on an October 17, 1941 list of 1,124 alleged “Communists, fellow travelers, Communist sympathizers” compiled by the Dies Committee.
Researchers will find a total of 38 cards relating to Alger Hiss dating from 1948 to 1971. The earliest card incorrectly states that Hiss was a member of the Washington Committee for Democratic Action, a group considered “radical” by HUAC. When confronted by the FBI on February 4, 1942, Hiss denied membership in the group. According to Weinstein, Priscilla Hiss did briefly belong to the group. Most of the cards refer to newspaper and magazine clippings filed in HUAC’s Files and Reference Section Name Files, to books and pamphlets filed on the shelves in the HUAC offices and to testimony before HUAC and the Internal Security Subcommittee, its Senate counterpart. While the Files and Reference Name File on Alger Hiss contains thousands of clippings, only a handful are indexed on the cards here.
HUAC Index Cards File: Whittaker Chambers (Box 110). This box contains 17 lead cards for Whittaker Chambers. The earliest is dated 1930; it refers to Chambers as an instructor at the New York Workers School.
FILES AND REFERENCE SECTION
Boxes 137-142 contain clippings and other public material from 1941 through the mid-1970s. The clippings are filed in chronological order. Documents less than 50 years old are closed in accordance with House rules until they are 50 years old.
Box 137, Files and Reference Section (1941-December 31, 1948): This box is the first of several that contain the Committee’s impressive and exhaustive collection of press clippings relating to the Hiss-Chambers controversy. From the clippings, researchers can reconstruct the Hiss case from press reports and opinion columns that appeared in major newspapers (The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Star) as well as The Daily Worker. Interspersed throughout the collection are occasional magazine-article clippings and copies of speeches by Committee members.
In Box 137, researchers will find the earliest documents relating to Alger Hiss – a press clipping dated 12/10/46, “Alger Hiss Named Head of Carnegie Endowment”; a memo dated 7/27/46 that references a two-page letter to Rep. Parnell Thomas from Rep. Richard B. Wigglesworth, regarding “unverified representations made to Mr. Wigglesworth” concerning nine State Department employees, including Owen Lattimore, Harold T. Glasser, Donald Niven Wheeler, and Alger Hiss; a copy of what is believed to be an entry from the Dies Committee central card system on Alger and Priscilla Hiss, listing their address and alleged membership in the Washington Committee for Democratic Action (ca. 1941); and a copy of the Crimean Conference Report (December 8, 1945). What can be safely assumed from the contents of this file is that, as it did with many other individuals, HUAC inherited from the Dies Committee reference lead-card listings on the Hisses dating from 1941.
Box 138 (January 1949 – 1st Perjury Trial): Press clippings interspersed with an occasional memo or letter relating to the Hiss-Chambers controversy.
Box 139 (1st Perjury Trial – December 1949 2nd Perjury Trial): Press clippings.
Box 140 (January 1950 – December 1950): Press clippings.
Box 141 (1951-1970): This box contains a Report of Operative No. 32, entitled “Radical Activities.” This document appears to have been misfiled and it relates to a meeting of the Los Angeles branch of the ACLU on September 4, 1923. There are also copies of “USA v. Alger Hiss” (December 15, 1948), and Hiss’s arrest photo.
Of greatest interest in this file is a copy of the correspondence from Larry S. Davidow to and from John Foster Dulles (December 23 and 26, 1946), relating to Hiss’s selection as head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In the letter, Davidow, a “delegate to the Cleveland Conference” representing the American Unitarian Association, informed Dulles that: “The information we have would indicate that Mr. Hiss has a provable Communist record” based on “reliable individuals in Washington.” He urged Dulles “to become familiar with the facts” and avoid “substantial embarrassment.” Dulles responded by stating that “I have heard of the reports which you refer to, but I am confident that there is no reason to doubt Mr. Hiss’s complete loyalty to our American institutions… I have myself in the past, particularly during the campaign in 1944, been victim of the so-called ‘documentary proof’ that I was various things that I was not. Under the circumstances, I feel a little skeptical about information which seems inconsistent with all that I personally know and what is the judgment of reliable friends and associates in Washington.”
Regarding this correspondence, it is known that Hiss was the target of an FBI investigation at this time; the “Washington sources” may refer to Alfred Kohlberg, the financier of the anti-Communist publication, Plain Talk, edited by Chambers’ acquaintance, Isaac Don Levine. Nevertheless, this letter from Dulles demonstrates that, contrary to what Allen Weinstein states in the revised edition of Perjury, his assertion”that the “Carnegie Endowment’s new president had not even arrived in New York when Dulles, chairman of its board, received the first of several complaints about his alleged Communist involvements,” is not accurate and was well aware of the accusations against Hiss prior to his appointment as head of the Endowment.
Box 142 (1960-1969): As mentioned above, the only materials in the collection that have been redacted are press clippings from 1971-1975, when the Committee was abolished. These records will be opened as provided by House of Representatives rules, when the requisite thirty years has passed.
OTHER FILES AND REFERENCE NAME FILES
HUAC staff created literally dozens of individual name files on those involved in the Hiss-Chambers controversy. For example, there are files on Donald Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Lee Pressman, John Abt, and many others. The material contained in each vary from a few clippings to several inches of diverse records. Only two files (Priscilla Hiss and Whittaker Chambers) are discussed below:
File: “Priscilla Hiss” (Files and Reference Name Files): This file includes one item – a clipping from The New York Times, dated 12/30/49, “Chambers Charges Denied by Mrs. Hiss.”
File: “Chambers, Whittaker” (Files and Reference Name Files): This file contains copies of Chambers’ articles from Labor Defender and other radical publications (ca. 1931-32). This box also contains copies of articles that appeared in New Masses, written by Chambers from 1931-1935. Evidently, the Dies Committee (and subsequently HUAC) were monitoring Chambers’ activities from the time of his first listing on the masthead of New Masses.
EXECUTIVE SESSION TRANSCRIPTS
Box 5 Executive Session Transcripts (May 18 – August 3, 1948): This series of boxes relate to the Committee’s investigation into atomic energy matters (Condon hearings) and the “Red Spy Probe,” from which the Hiss-Chambers controversy emerged. Researchers will find that, while the vast majority of the transcripts in this box do not specifically relate to the Hiss-Chambers controversy (the exception being the July 31, 1948 testimony of Elizabeth Bentley and the August 3, 1948 testimony of David Whittaker Chambers), some of the executive session transcripts may be of interest. They include the May 25, 1945 testimony of Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, as well as the testimony by Harry Samuel Magdoff, Charles Kramer, and Louis Francis Budenz.
Bentley’s 12-page executive session transcript of her July 31, 1948 appearance is of particular interest. Bentley stated that she joined the Communist Party in March 1935, and was recruited by Mrs. Lee Fuhr and Dr. James Mendenhall, and that she met Jacob Golos, President of World Tourists, in mid-October 1938. She stated that the “espionage ring” that she was affiliated with was organized in July 1941 and described in some detail the nature of the operation under Golos. She was asked about her knowledge of a variety of people, including Alger Hiss. Bentley stated that she never was in touch with him but that “I have heard of him very indirectly but I never met him.” She was asked a number of questions about the Italian Propaganda Bureau, and then a decision was made to go into open session, at which point the Committee rose and brought Bentley out before the cameras.
David Whittaker Chambers’ executive session testimony of August 3, 1948, which has previously been discussed, is found in this box.
Box 6 Executive Session Transcripts (August 9 – September 10, 1948): This box contains relevant executive session testimony, including those of Alexander Koral (August 6, 1948); Victor Perlo (August 7, 1948); Earl Browder (August 7, 1948); Whittaker Chambers (August 7, 1948); Howard Rushmore (August 9, 1948); Alexander Koral (August 9, 1948); Henry Collins (August 11, 1948); Alexander Stevens (aka J. Peters; August 30, 1948); and David Whittaker Chambers (September 7, 1948).
Box 7 Executive Session Transcripts (September 13, 1948 – September 28, 1948): This box contains executive session transcripts that relate to HUAC’s investigation into communism in general and the Manhattan Project in particular. Several relate to the Hiss-Chambers investigation: Joseph Gillman (September 14, 1948) discusses Chambers briefly; as mentioned above, Admiral William Standley (September 16, 1948), who served as the American ambassador to the Soviet Union from February 1942-October 1943, discusses code-breaking practices at the American embassy in Moscow; Paul and Hedwig Massing (September 21, 1948), whose 38-page testimony is discussed in detail above, is also found in this box.
Box 8 Executive Session Transcripts (October 1, 1948 – December 28, 1948): This box contains the largest assortment of executive session testimony relating to the Hiss-Chambers controversy. Testimony herein includes: David Whittaker Chambers (December 6, 1948); James E. Peurifoy (December 7, 1948); Isaac Don Levine (December 8, 1948); David A. Salman (December 8, 1948); Eunice Adel Lincoln (December 8, 1948); Henry J. Wadleigh (December 9, 1948); Nathan L. Levine (December 10, 1948); Richard Howard Post (December 10, 1948); Marion Bachrach (December 14, 1948); Francis Bowe Sayre (December 23, 1948); Anna Bella Newcomb (December 23, 1948); and Whittaker Chambers (December 28, 1948).
Box 9 Executive Session Transcripts (December 28, 1948 – June 14, 1949): In this box researchers will find another copy of Chambers’ December 28, 1948 testimony. There are no additional witnesses whose executive session testimony have any relevance to the Hiss-Chambers controversy.
1. For details on the multi-year effort to secure the release of the records, see National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History, “HUAC Records Unsealed – Now Open to Public Scrutiny,” NCC WASHINGTON UPDATE, Vol. 7, # 34, August 9, 2001; http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~ncc/.
2. The Center for Legislative Archives may be reached at (202) 501-5350 / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. For Rule VII see:http://clerkweb.house.gov/107/docs/rules/rule/_7.htm
4 .See “Hearings Regarding Communist Espionage in the United States,” Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, U.S. House of Representatives, 80th Cong., 2d sess., July 31 – September 9, 1948 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1948); hereafter: HUAC Hearings.
5. Chambers’ executive session testimony of September 7, 1948 has not previously been available to researchers. Copies of Chambers’ August 3, 1948 executive session testimony were released by HUAC in 1974, but never published. Pirated copies of the December 28, 1948 testimony have circulated in Hiss-Chambers researcher circles for years, but they also have never been published.
6. See Charles E. Schamel, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, Record Group 233, “Inventory of Records of the Special Committee on Un-American Activities, 1938-1944 (The Dies Committee),” Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives and Records Administration (July 1995), Washington D.C.
7. See Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, Record Group 233, “Records of the House Un-American Activities Committee, 1945-1969,” Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives and Records Administration (July 2001), Washington D.C.; hereafter: “Schamel, HUAC Finding Aid.”
8. See Schamel, HUAC Finding Aid, 4.
9. See Walter Goodman, The Committee (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968) and Robert K. Carr, The House Committee on Un-American Activities, 1945-50 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1952).
10. See Sam Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography (New York: Random House, 1997), 203. In his September 2, 1939 interview with Berle, Chambers recited the story of his underground work during the 1930s, and named several underground contacts including, among others, Donald and Alger Hiss. See Allen Weinstein, Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case, rev. ed, (New York: Random House, 1997), 291-95.
11. There is no recent scholarly assessment of the Gouzenko case; Amy Knight, author of several books on the history of the KGB, however, has a work in progress. For the Gouzenko story, see Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers, 205; Weinstein, Perjury, 315-317. For the most recent work on the Gouzenko allegations involving Americans, see Bruce Craig, “A Matter of Espionage: Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, and Igor Gouzenko — The Canadian Connection Reassessed,” Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 15, #2 (Summer 2000), 211-224; the article is also reproduced in David Stafford and Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, eds. American-British-Canadian Intelligence Relations 1939-2000 (London: Frank Cass, 2000), 211-224.
12. For Bentley’s romanticized tale, see Elizabeth Bentley (with an Afterward by Hayden Peake), Out of Bondage: The Story of Elizabeth Bentley (New York: Ballantine, 1988 ed.).
13. Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers, 206.
15. Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers, 208.
16. In 2000, in the case The American Historical Association v. USA, the grand jury testimony relating to the Hiss investigation was unsealed by court action. Unfortunately, Bentley’s grand jury testimony was not found among the surviving transcripts when unsealed. See also endnote 31.
17. Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers, 210-11.
18. Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers, 216-220.
19. Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers, 218-19; quote, 219.
20. HUAC Hearings, 585-622.
21. HUAC Hearings, 642-659.
22. Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers, 231. Hoover’s agents had conducted a two-year investigation of Hiss that included wiretapping, examination of his desk calendar, and detailed reports on his daily activities; the investigation found nothing remotely subversive. Ibid.
23. For the executive session transcript, see HUAC Hearings, 661-672. For the most recent recountings of the Hiss-Chambers saga, see Weinstein, Perjury, 337-368 and Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers, 235-335; for Whittaker Chambers’ recollections, see Witness, (New York: Random House, 1952), 529-784; for Hiss’s recollections, see In the Court of Public Opinion (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957).
24. For the Field affair, see Weinstein, Perjury, 173-184, and Maria Schmidt, “A Few New Aspects to the Story of the American Alger Hiss and the Hungarian Laszlo Rajk’s Affairs,” (unpublished article, in author’s possession, no date).
25. See Chambers, Witness, 347.
26. See Testimony of Paul Wilhelm Massing and Hedwig Massing, September 21, 1948, HUAC Executive Session Transcripts, Box 7, (September 13, 1948 – September 28, 1948).
27. Ibid., 30.
28. Ibid., 31.
29. The report was ultimately published in 1949; see U.S. Congress, House Committee on Un-American Activities, “Soviet Espionage Within the United States Government” (Washington D.C., Government Printing Office, 1949).
30. For a detailed discussion of the battle between HUAC and the Department of Justice, see Weinstein, Perjury, 241-250.
31. The records of the federal grand jury investigation into the Hiss-Chambers investigation were unsealed in October 1999, following a series of legal battles with the Department of Justice. See Public Citizen, News Release: “Grand Jury Records from Historic Alger Hiss Espionage Case Reveal New Details About Nixon’s Role in Investigation,” October 12, 1999; see also National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History, “Release of Alger Hiss Grand Jury Records,” NCC WASHINGTON UPDATE, Vol. 5, #36, October 12, 1999 http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~ncc/.
32. For the Nixon speech, see “Witness: Richard Nixon December 13, 1948,” in Records of U.S. Attorneys and Marshals U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Case 111692, U.S. v. Alger Hiss, “Grand Jury Minutes Southern District of New York: U.S. v. John Doe et. al.,” Record Group 118, National Archives and Records Administration, Northeast Region (New York City), pp. 4,155-4,202 and 4,208-4,211.
33. Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers, 412.
34. Ibid., 312.
35. See Weinstein, Perjury, 329.