Hiss/Chambers Controversy: Records of the House Un-American
BRUCE CRAIG, Ph.D.
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.
collection includes the Committee's investigative, reference
and research files, six boxes of newspaper clippings relating
to the case (ca. 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to researchers are three unpublished executive session interviews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.
unpublished executive session transcripts of particular note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. Washington Post,
New York Times, Washington Star, New York
Herald Tribune) as well as the Communist Party USA (CPUSA)
voice, The Daily Worker.
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.
RELEVANCE OF THE HUAC COLLECTION
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 the 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.
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
AND THE HISS/CHAMBERS CONTROVERSY
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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 Party member,
he didn't break. That same day, Bentley, again appeared as
a rebuttal witness to counter Silvermaster's reveal-nothing
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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 either knew Alger Hiss or Whittaker Chambers,
Paul Massing stated, "I know neither one of them"
while Mrs. Massing remained curiously silent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 that he had suffered a nervous breakdown while
Chambers was working there.
HUAC, THE FEDERAL GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION
AND THE HUAC-JUSTICE DEPARTMENT BATTLE
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.
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.
END OF THE HUAC PROBE
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.
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
THE HISS/CHAMBERS CONTROVERSY
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
"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.
AND REFERENCE SECTION
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.
137, Files and Reference Section (1941-December 31, 1948):
This box is the first in 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 (Washington Post,
New York Times, 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.
138 (January 1949 - 1st Perjury Trial): Press
clippings interspersed with an occasional memo or letter relating
to the Hiss/Chambers controversy.
139 (1st Perjury Trial - December 1949 2nd Perjury Trial):
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 judgement
of reliable friends and associates in Washington."
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,"
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 that Dulles
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.
FILES AND REFERENCE NAME FILES
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
"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
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.
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.
Whittaker Chambers' executive session testimony of August
3, 1948, which has previously been discussed, is found in
6 Executive Session Transcripts (August 9 - September 10,
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).
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.
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
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.
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 telephone (202) 501-5350 / E-mail: email@example.com
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
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
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.
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.
See Walter Goodman, "The Committee" (New York: Farrar,
Straus and Girous, 1968) and Robert K. Carr, "The House
Committee on Un-American Activities, 1945-50" (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1952).
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.
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,
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,
Tanenhaus, "Whittaker Chambers," 206.
Tanenhaus, "Whittaker Chambers," 208.
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,"
Tanenhaus, "Whittaker Chambers," 216-220.
Tanenhaus, "Whittaker Chambers," 218-19; quote,
HUAC Hearings, 585-622.
HUAC Hearings, 642-659.
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.
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,
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,
25 See Chambers, "Witness," 347.
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.
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).
For a detailed discussion of the battle between HUAC and Justice,
see Weinstein, "Perjury," 241-250.
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/.
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 AdministrationŠNortheast
Region (New York City), pp. 4155-4202 and 4208-4211.
Tanenhaus, "Whittaker Chambers," 412.
See Weinstein, "Perjury," 329.