Joseph McCarthy, Wisconsin’s junior Senator started out as a most unremarkable figure. He was dubbed the “Pepsi-Cola Kid” when it came out that he benefitted from a $20,000 personal loan from the CEO while he was pushing to eliminate prices controls on sugar. He lobbied to commute the death sentences of several Waffen-SS war criminals, saying they didn’t get a fair trial. Fellow Senators avoided him. They were put off by his explosive temper and impatience. In 1949, the Senate press pool voted him “the worst U.S. Senator.”
But he was a popular speaker. Clubs, civic groups and political organizations lined up to book him for their banquets and meetings.
One such group was the Republic Women’s Club of Wheeling, West Virginia. That’s where, on February 9, 1950, he gave the speech that changed the course of his career. Towards the end of his speech in which he catalogued all that was wrong with America, he famously held up that mysterious piece of paper and said, “While I cannot take the time to name all of the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205 — a list of names that were known to the Secretary of State, and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy in the State Department.”
The next day, a Salt Lake City radio station aired a prerecorded interview. Listeners heard McCarthy say that he had the names of 57 card-carrying Communists at the State Department. The day after that, he released a letter that he had sent to President Truman asking why the State Department had discharged only 80 of 300 employees “certified” as security risks. Every time he raised the subject, his numbers kept changing. But he revealed his partisan motives when he demanded that Truman order the State Department to turn their personnel records over to him. “Failure on your part,” he wrote, “will label the Democratic party as being the bed-fellow of international communism.”
McCarthy was no longer that forgotten, unremarkable figure. He now had a sensational cause that was guaranteed to make front page headlines. And his party had an issue that might finally dislodge the Democrats from their seventeen-year lock on power.
McCarthy’s charges were long in rhetoric. But they were short in details and devoid of names. The State Department’s Undersecretary of State John E. Peurifoy was responsible for administration, including employent and security. He publicly challenged McCarthy to provide the department with his list of names. In a telegram to McCarthy, Peurifoy said, “As a loyal American you owe it to your country to inform the officials responsible for any such characters existing in the government.”
McCarthy refused, but on February 20, he held court on the floor of the Senate for five and a half hours as he read out details of 81 people he said were “security risks” at the State Department. Again, several Senators challenged him to provide names, and again McCarthy refused. Senate Majority Leader Scott W. Lucas (D-IL) interrupted McCarthy several times. Their arguments grew so acrimonious that McCarthy finally demanded a quorum call in the nearly empty chamber. After about thirty-five minutes, the sergeant-at-arms was able to round up fifteen more Senators to form a quorum. McCarthy resumed speaking, and held the Senate hostage until almost midnight.
Among those McCarthy accused, one was, supposedly, “one of our foreign ministers.” Another allegedly was a top official at the Voice of America. And another was Truman’s speechwriter. “I am doing President Truman a favor by telling him this,” said McCarthy. “He wouldn’t have this individual there if he knew it.”
Two of the eighty-one cases McCarthy weren’t particularly noteworthy at time. Case 14 and Case 62 escaped the press’s attention. But they are interesting to us today because they show how easily his Red Scare can color shift to Lavender. Case 14 came up just a before the quorum call:
Case No. 14. This is a case of pressure from a high State Department official to obtain security clearance for an individual with a bad background from the standpoint of security. He was appointed in December 1945 as a translator in the State Department.
This is an interesting case showing the extent to which some of their superior officers will go when they find that some of these very unusual individuals are going to lose their jobs. He was appointed in December 1945 as a translator in the State Department. A report from another Government investigating agency under date of January 9, 1946, advised that the subject should be dismissed as a bad security risk because he was flagrantly homosexual. He had extremely close connections with other individuals with the same tendencies, and who were active members of Communist front organizations, including the Young Communist League.
I think this is interesting, Mr. President. I asked one of our top intelligence men in Washington, one day, “Why do you find men who are so fanatically Communist? Is there something about the Communist philosophy that attracts them?”
He said, “Senator McCarthy, if you had been in this work as long as we have been, you would realize that there is something wrong with each one of these individuals. You will find that practically every active Communist is twisted mentally or physically in some way.”
The State Department’s own security agency recommended the discharge of this employee on January 22, 1946. On February 19, 1946, this individual’s services were terminated with the State Department. Subsequently on April l, 1946, the action discharging this individual was rescinded and he was reinstated in his job in the State Department. In this case a CSA report of September 2, 1947, is replete with information covering the attempt of a high State Department official to induce several individuals who had signed affidavits reflecting adversely upon the employee to repudiate their affidavits. The file shows that that high State Department employee even went out and ·personally contacted the individuals who signed the affidavits, and asked them, “Won’t you repudiate them?”
This individual, according to the security files of the State Department, was a very close associate of active Soviet agents. As to whether he is in the State Department at this time or not, I frankly do not know, but in view of the fact that he was reinstated, I assume that he is.
After the quorum call, McCarthy resumed his speech with Case 16. (He skipped 15.) He got as far as Case 34 when the Senate went more or less into rebellion over McCarthy’s stream of innuendos, one-sided case presentations and lack of specifics. But the longer the debate went, the more it became clear to everyone that McCarthy wasn’t about to give up the floor. He would keep the body hostage under threat of another quorum call all night long if he had to.
Finally, he came to Case 62, which McCarthy conceded had nothing to do with Communism.
Case No. 62. This file is not important insofar as communistic activities are concerned, but rather is important because it sheds light on some rather unusual mental aberrations of certain individuals in the Department. In this connection, it perhaps should be mentioned that the types of individuals described in this file are regarded as bad security risks by most investigative agencies for the reason that they are rather easy blackmail victims. This file I recommend to the attention of any committee that cares to investigate it. It goes into some detail in regard to the peculiar — how can we put it –the peculiar mental twists. I was trying to handle this matter delicately. I think this will be of interest to the committee in that it gives a rather interesting picture of some rather unusual mental twists of these gentlemen who are tied up with some of the Communist organizations.
Also it is confirmation of what I believe I mentioned earlier this evening when I was talking about one of the top investigators in Washington. I said to him, “Why do you find so many people fanatic about communism? Is there something that is so inviting about it? Is there something mentally wrong?” He said, “You will find if you search deep enough that there is something mentally or physically wrong with every one of them.” There is certainly something wrong with this group. I might say that the new security officer has recommended that they get rid of all that type of individuals regardless of whether they are shown to have any communistic connection or not.
This is the link, in McCarthy’s mind, between Communism and homosexuality: you’d have to be crazy to be a Communist, and you’d have to be crazy to be a homosexual. In fairness to McCarthy, he was far from alone in creating this linkage. As far as most people were concerned, there was one problem: subversion and perversion, which in their minds was one and the same.
The rest of the first year of what became known as the Red Scare was actually devoted to a Lavender Scare. The latter scare grew, somewhat accidentally, out of the first. It peaked in 1953, and then was swiftly forgotten. Today’s history books ignore the Lavender Scare and leave the impression that only suspected Communists were hunted. But we can look back and see the obvious: two parallel scares, each reinforcing the other.
The Quest for Case 14’s Protector
Case 14 figured in a spectacular showdown between, McCarthy and Sen. Millerd E. Tydings (D-MD), whose committee was named to investigate McCarthy’s accusations. The committee met on March 9, with McCarthy beings its star witness for much of the next two weeks. McCarthy had charged that “a high State Department official” had engaged in a cover-up to protect Case 14. Tydings began first day’s hearing by demanding to know this official’s name. “This is a very serious charge,” said Tydings, “that a high official in the State Department is tampering with the records to protect people who are charged with disloyal activities.”
McCarthy refused to answer. Instead, he insisted on going through each of the cases, in order, as he had done on the Senate floor. “I assure you we will get to it,” he said. “I have other cases documented for your information this morning.”
Tydings then asked not for the man’s name, but whether McCarthy knew it. Again McCarthy refused to answer. Then Tydings asked even more simply if the man’s identity could be found connected with another of McCarthy’s 81 cases. Again, McCarthy refused to answer. Tydings tried another tack. He asked if the man’s name was anywhere in McCarthy’s records. McCarthy kept stonewalling, saying that he will get to it when he was ready to discuss Case 14. The two went back and forth for about forty minutes. McCarthy refused to budge.
McCarthy had two objectives by refusing to answer. First, he wanted to retain control of the headlines. Answering Tydings’s question would effectively shift the headlines away from what he wanted to disclose for the day. He, McCarthy, would decide whose name would show up in the newspapers, and he would control its timing for maximum impact.
The fact that McCarthy didn’t want this particular name in the papers is closely related to his second reason for stonewalling. It was Joseph A. Panuch. He had been the State Department’s Undersecretary for Administration until 1947. That’s when Gen. George Marshall became Secretary of State and brought in his team with him. Panuch moved on and became a contributor to Plain Talk, a Chicago-based anti-Communist magazine. That exposure made him something of a minor hero to the far right. Panuch later became a special advisor to Gen. Lucuis D. Clay, U.S. Military Governor of the American sector in Germany.
But McCarthy refused to reveal Panuch’s name. That’s because McCarthy had named him — and praised him — when discussing another unrelated individual known only as Case 41. “Joe Panuch had made considerable efforts to get this man out of the State Department,” McCarthy had said. “Here is one man who had tried to do the job of housecleaning, and the ax falls.”
In other words, the un-named man who McCarthy condemned for helping Case 14 was the very same man McCarthy praised, by name, in Case 41.
Tydings already knew the name, and McCarthy knew that Tydings already knew. Tydings knew that this man was Panuch for the same reason that most other Senators knew it. McCarthy’s had simply re-arranged and renumbered the cases from a different list compiled in 1947. The so-called “Lee List,” named for House investigator Robert E. Lee, had been compiled for a House subcommittee investigating the State Department’s security procedures. The same list was also shared with three other subcommittees in what had been a Republican-controlled Congress. Four different GOP-run subcommittees looked into the list, and all of them concluded that no further actions were necessary.
By the time McCarthy got hold of the Lee List, it was 2½ years old. By then, was so well known among other legislators that Sen. Homer Ferguson (R-MI) brought his copy to the Senate chamber to read along during McCarthy’s speech. Case 14 in McCarthy’s list was actually Case 10 of the Lee List. It read:
This is a case of pressure from a high Department official to give clearance to a subject although derogatory information is available.
The subject was appointed in December 1945 as a translator for “not over a year.” He had previously been a special attorney with the Justice Department and was in the U. S. Marines for one year during World War II.
A report of another investigative agency, under date of January 9, 1940, advised that the subject has homosexual tendencies and made suicide attempts in 1936 and 1942.
A memorandum dated January 22, 1946, by Mr. Bannerman recommended terminating the subject’s services which could be done rather easily because of his appointment being of a temporary nature. He was terminated February 19, 1946, and appealed the termination.
A memorandum dated April 1, 1946, from J. A. Panuch stated that he had interviewed the subject and reviewed various affidavits and letters of reference submitted by this subject and he rescinded the termination action of February 19, 1946. A memorandum from Mr. Panuch, dated May 28, 1946, to Mr. Fred Lyon, of the Office of Controls, referred to an opinion expressed by Mr. Lyon on May 27, 1946, that the subject was an undesirable employee because of moral depravity, and requested substantiation of Lyon’s charge in writing with evidence additional to what was already in the file. Mr. Lyon’s memorandum of May 31, 1946, to Mr. Panuch pointed out that dismissal of charges against the subject was premature because —
- No complete CSA investigation had been made to determine the subject’s current personal conduct.
- No interviews were had with two witnesses who had originally reported homosexual tendencies on the part of the subject and later denied their statements in affidavits.
- The subject is known to have an arrest record in the District of Columbia for disorderly conduct. The facts regarding this arrest had not been checked.
Mr. Lyon pointed out that this is another case where it is necessary to either resolve all doubts in favor of the individual or the Department, and he favored the latter.
A memorandum of June 19, 1947, from the Foreign Activities Correlation Division to CSA stated information had been received from a Government security agency to the effect that the subject had been an enlisted man in the Marines and while such had shown undue interest in naval activities and had pro-German sentiments during the war. The memorandum also stated that investigation by another Government agency exposed him as a flagrant homosexual.
A CSA report of September 2. 1947. set out considerable information confirming the subject’s homosexual activities and tendencies. It also relates an interview with an attorney who originally reported the subject a homosexual to a Government agency and who subsequently on March 2, 1946, signed an affidavit contradicting his former statement. In connection with the affidavit he informed an investigator that the subject had approached him and begged him to sign a document he had written. He said he refused, but that a short time later Mr. Joseph Panuch, representing himself to be from Assistant Secretary of State Russell’s office, called him by telephone on behalf of the subject and said the subject was being ruined by statements that he had made about him. Mr. Panuch reportedly said that everyone else who had made statements against the subject’s character had retracted them and the informant was the only one holding out. Mr. Panuch then reportedly asked the informant to make an affidavit rescinding the statements made by him to another Government agency. It is noted that although Panuch said everyone else had rescinded their statements against the subject, the key witness to an incident of perversion by the subject did not sign an affidavit until March 18, 1946, whereas the informant’s affidavit was signed March 2, 1940. The CSA investigation developed quite conclusively that the subject had homosexual tendencies.
On September 12, 1947, a form memorandum from CSA to the Personnel Division stated that the subject is a homosexual.
He was still on the Department rolls as of October 29, 1947.
“The New Deal, The Fair Deal, and the Fairy Deal”
McCarthy finally submitted his list of names corresponding to his 81 cases to the Tydings Committee in March. The Tydings Committee released its report in July. Unsurprisingly, it found nothing behind any of McCarthy’s 81 charges:
We were thus confronted with the amazing spectacle of four different committees of the Eightieth Congress, which was controlled by Senator McCarthy’s own party, having considered the very same files and information which provided the predicate for the McCarthy charges — with none of these committees so much as regarding the situation as one meriting a report or citing a single State Department as disloyal.”
The two Republicans on the committee, Sens. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., (R-MA) and Bourke B. Hickenlooper (R-IA) refused to sign the report. Lodge’s objections are particularly noteworthy. A moderate Republican who would later fall out with McCarthy, Lodge objected to thirty-five missing pages of discussions that were omitted from the Committee’s published hearing transcripts. (They were later published in a separate thin volume.) The omitted portions included a lengthy dialogue between Lodge and Tydings in which Lodge objected to how the hearings were conducted. “I shall not attempt to characterize those methods and the tactics of leaving out of the printed text parts of the testimony and proceedings,” Lodge announced on the Senate floor. “I shall not characterize such methods, because I think they speak for themselves.”
Republicans were furious. Several of them had already criticized the Tydings committee for refusing to expand its investigations to include homosexuals in the State Department. Tydings insisted that the committee remain focused on Communists and other “disloyal” risks. In fact, neither Democrats nor Republicans saw any real difference between Communists and homosexuals, since everyone assumed that homosexuals could be easily blackmailed. And besides, as McCarthy had already said, Communists and homosexuals both shared certain “mental twists.” Tydings’s refusal to look into homosexuals in the State Department had already led Sen. William E. Jenner (R-IN), a close McCarthy ally, to call the Tydings Committee “Whitewash, Inc.” Its sole purpose, said Jenner, was to protect “the New Deal, the Fair Deal and the fairy deal administrations.”
In 2007, Library of Congress archivist and historian John Earl Haynes made public McCarthy’s list and associated names. Case 14 was identified as Ernest Theodore Arndt. He had been discharged from the Marines “by reason of habits and traits of character,” but his discharge was changed to honorable “for the convenience of the government.” He was hired by the State Department as a translator in December 1945. He was dismissed on February 19, 1946 for “homosexual activities and tendencies.” The State Department re-hired him April 1, despite a police record for disorderly conduct and an FBI report that said “he was suspected of being homosexually inclined.”
Case 62 was identified as Isham W. Perkins. He passed an FBI background check in 1940 with flying colors when the State Department hired him. But the Lee List reports that by 1947, two informants had come forward alleging that Perkins “had the reputation “among homosexuals as being homosexuals.” A third alleged that he “goes to homosexual parties, associates with homosexuals and is ‘undoubtedly homosexual.”
Perkins left the State Department job in 1948. By 1955, he was working at the Dumbarton Oaks Library, from which he retired in 1967. Perkins has been identified as the State Department librarian in Jeb and Dash: A Diary of Gay Life 1918-1945. Perkins appeared as C.C. Dasham, or Dash, in these diaries when they were edited and published by Ina Russell, the niece of Carter Newman Bealer (“Jeb Alexander”). He died in Boca Raton in 1976.
I have extracted the text of McCarthy’s floor speech of February 20 from the Congressional Record and placed it online here (PDF/11.9MB).
On the Timeline:
For February 20, 1950:
|President:||Harry S. Truman (D)|
|Vice-President:||Alben W. Barkley (D)|
|House:||262 (D)||169 (R)||2 (Other)||2 (Vacant)|
|Southern states:||102 (D)||2 (R)||1 (Vacant)|
|Senate:||54 (D)||42 (R)|
|Southern states:||22 (D)|
|GDP growth:||7.3 %||(Annual)|
|Fed discount rate:||1½ %|
Headlines: Coal rationing goes into effect in many parts of the country as striking miners bring reserves to critical levels. A severe cold snap in the east with single digit temperatures further strains coal supplies. Power companies institute brown-outs to conserve coal. Miners ignore a Federal Judge’s order that they return to work.
In the record stores: “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy” by Red Foley, “Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In)” by Teresa Brewer and the Dixieland All-Stars, “Rag Mop” by the Ames Brothers, “There’s No Tomorrow,” by Tony Martin, “The Cry of the Wild Goose” by Frankie Lane, “Dear Hearts and Gentle People” by Bing Crosby, “I Can Dream, Can’t I?” by the Andrew Sisters, “I Said My Pajamas” by Tony Martin and Fran Warren, “It Isn’t Fair” by Don Cornell and the Sammy Kaye Orchestra, “Rag Mop” by Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra.
On the radio: Lux Radio Theater (CBS), Jack Benny Program (CBS), Edgar Bergan & Charlie McCarthy (CBS), Amos & Andy (CBS), Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS), My Friend Irma (CBS), Walter Winchell’s Journal (ABC), (CBS), You Bet Your Life (NBC), Mr. Chameleon (CBS).
On television: The Lone Range (ABC), Toast of the Town/Ed Sullivan (CBS), Studio One (CBS), Captain Video and his Video Rangers (DuMont), Kraft Television Theater (NBC), The Goldbergs (CBS), Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS), Candid Camera (NBC), Texaco Star Theater/Milton Berle (NBC), Hopalong Cassidy (NBC), Cavalcade of Stars/Jackie Gleason (DuMont), Meet the Press (NBC), Roller Derby (ABC).
New York Times best sellers: Fiction: The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier, The Egyptian by Mika Waltari, The King’s Cavalier by Samual Shellabarger. Non-fiction: This I Remember by Eleanor Roosevelt, The Mature Mind by H.A. Overstreet, White Collar Zoo by Clare Barnes.
Newspapers (in chronological order):
“M’Carthy insists Truman ousts reds.” New York Times (February 12, 1950): 5.
Jay Walz. “Acheston aide asks ’57 Reds’ be named. New York Times (February 14, 1950): 16.
Harold B. Hinton. “M’Carthy charges spy for Russia has a high State Department post.” New York Times (February 21, 1950): 13.
“40 quarreling minutes: Mr. 14’s loyalty or lack of it embroils Tydings, McCarthy.” Washington Post (March 9, 1950): 1, 2.
William S. White. “Nazi tactics laid to M’Carthy foes.” New York Times (July 25, 1950): 1, 17.
“Communists in Government Service” Remarks by Sen. Joseph McCarthy given on February 20, 1950. 81st Cong., 2nd sess. Congressional Record 96 part 2: 1952-1981. Case 14 is given on page 1961. Case 62 is given on pages 1978-1979. The extracted remarks are available online here (PDF/11.9MB).
Remarks by Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., given on July 24, 1950. 81st Cong., 2nd sess. Congressional Record 96 part 8: 10813. Available online here.
State Department Employee Loyalty Investigation. Wednesday, March 8, 1950. Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate (Tydings Committee), 81st Cong., 2nd sess. part 1: 1-32. Available online here.
State Department Employee Loyalty Investigation. Wednesday, March 8, 1950. Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate (Tydings Committee), 81st Cong., 2nd sess. part 2. Available online here. McCarthy’s Case 14 (Ernest Theodore Arndt) is taken from Case 10 of the “Lee List,” given on page 1777-1778. McCarthy’s Case 62 (Isham W. Perkins) is taken from Case 73 of the “Lee List,” given on page 1796.
Genny Beemyn. A Queer Capital: A History of Gay Life in Washington, D.C. (New York: Routledge, 2015): 146-148.
Douglas M. Charles. Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s “Sex Deviates” Program. (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2015): 81-82.
Robert Griffith. The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate 2nd ed. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987): 25-27. 30, 54-67.