Chambers, August 1946

The following is a memorandum written by Raymond Murphy, Chief Security Officer of the State Department, recounting his second interview with Whittaker Chambers.

Memorandum of Conversation, August 28, 1946

The Communist underground in Washington is believed to have been set up sometime in 1933, after the inauguration of President Roosevelt. My informant does not know how or when it was set up, but he believes that Harold Ware had a prominent part in creating the underground and in enlisting key members. Ware, of course, could have acted pursuant to orders from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the United States.

My informant entered into the Washington picture in the summer of 1935, and left it and the party at the end of December 1937. The group was already in being and functioning actively. Its superior was the Hungarian known as J. Peters, the national head of the Communist underground movement. My informant acted as a courier between Washington and New York. He participated in oral discussions in Washington with the group which Peters himself conducted. They met only the top layer – in other words, leaders of cells of the Communist underground in government circles.

My informant did not know Coe who taught at McGill University, but he understood that he was a Communist. The other Coe, he definitely knew to be a Communist. Harry White was reported to be a member of one of the cells, not a leader, and his brother-in-law, a dentist in New York, is said to be a fanatical Communist. Alger Hiss was never to make converts. His job was to mess up policy. The Post of the State Department was a cell member. He thought he was of Nat Perlow’s group. Post was formerly of the WPA, where he measured skulls. He was definitely of minor importance in the movement compared with Hiss.

The heads of the various underground groups in Washington who met with Peters were the Hisses, Kramer (Krivitsky), Henry Collins, who was either secretary or treasurer of the group, John Abt, Lee Pressman, Nat Perlow, and Nat Witt. These men met regularly at special meetings. With the exception of Donald Hiss, who did not have an organization, they headed parallel organizations. But they did not know the personnel of the different organizations.

Hal Ware was the top man of these organizations. Upon his death in 1936, a fight broke out for leadership, but Nat Witt won out. Sometime after 1937, Witt is said to have been succeeded by Abt.

(There were other underground Communist groups operating in Washington, but this was the elite policy-making, top-level group.) This group did not exchange secret documents from the government departments, but did give sealed reports on the membership of the groups and on policy. It was not a spy ring but one far more important and cunning, because its members helped to shape policy in their departments. Henry Collins, as secretary or treasurer, delivered most of the sealed reports to my informant. At that time Henry Collins was believed to be working in the Forestry Division of Agriculture.

Peters was in the Agricultural Department of Hungary under Bela Kun. He was in the Austrian army in World War I. He is a little dark fellow, small feet and wavy black hair.

At the meetings in Washington with this group, Peters would give pep talks on Communist theory. He would then talk to each leader separately. Peters often discussed the morale with my informant. He praised the Hiss boys to my informant, very highly, but was doubtful of Pressman. He had a high opinion of Witt, a slightly less high opinion of Abt, thought Kramer was a nice boy but shallow, and had very little use for Perlow. He liked Henry Collins.

My informant asked Alger Hiss personally to break with the Party in early 1938, but Hiss refused with tears in his eyes and said he would remain loyal to the Party.

After his break with the Party, Grace Hutchins telephoned the mother of my informant on Long Island one night, and said that if he did not return to the Party by the following Thursday, it was a question of his death.