US Army “Communist Specialist” Col. Ivan Yeaton Recognized Harry Hopkins’s Pro-Soviet Perfidy
Would the followers of the Rasputin of the White House…would these apostles of the [Rexford] Tugwellian philosophy, which would roll up its sleeves and make America over—use this war as a smoke screen to saddle upon America a type of government and a kind of economy entirely foreign and contrary to those we have ever known?
—Rep Dewey Short, (R, Mo.), quoted in Walter Trohan. “ ‘White House Harry’ Hopkins—A Modern Rasputin”, Chicago Daily Tribune, August 29, 1943
Hopkins is the leading admirer of Russia in the administration. He came back from his visits to Russia as personal envoy of the President singing the praises of Joe Stalin and the Russian system. In Russia he found the type of democracy he and the palace guard would like to see in America—one which would perpetuate them in office.
—Walter Trohan. “Fascists! That’s New Deal Tag For Its Critics”, Chicago Daily Tribune, March 31, 1944
Ivan D. Yeaton, who served as a Lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Force, Siberia, from 1919-1920, and subsequently, U.S. military attaché, Moscow, between 1939-1941, was among the most experienced and knowledgeable U.S. officials on Soviet matters. Indeed, Yeaton was classified as a “Communist Specialist” by the World War II and Cold War-era Department of the Army during his tenure as a G-2 (Military Intelligence) officer. “To win this rating” (i.e., “Communist Specialist”), Yeaton observed, in the Foreword to his Memoirs of Army service, from 1919-1953,
I spent three years in intensive study of communist ideology and Russian history and language in three American universities—namely, University of Oklahoma, University of California, and Columbia University. The study period was immediately followed by two years as military attaché and acting air and naval attaché to the Soviet Union in Moscow.
Col. Yeaton’s unique doctrinal and experience-based knowledge of Communist ideology, and the Soviet Union, led him to an uncompromised formulation of the threat aggressive Soviet totalitarianism posed, worldwide, and to the U.S., specifically:
The expansion of Communism under Soviet hegemony by military power, to enslave small nations, would be directed at us some day, when we were no longer powerful enough to defend ourselves successfully. On that basis I reasoned that the Soviet Union was our enemy.
This mindset, and the forthright, sobering policy recommendations Yeaton would make as a result, conflicted starkly with those of FDR’s aptly-termed “Deputy President,” and overseer of the massive U.S. Lend Lease program of material support to the Soviet Union, Harry Hopkins. Yeaton’s encounter with Hopkins during the latter’s end of July, 1941 visit to the U.S. embassy in Moscow, which went from anticipatory elation, to shocked dismay, became the very inspiration for his Memoirs, as recorded on p. 2 of the Foreword:
The Harry Hopkins mission to Moscow in July of 1941 gave me the greatest professional shock of my entire career. Within hours after the arrival of Presidential Adviser Hopkins, I sensed that I was in trouble. Members of his mission, with one exception, ignored and avoided me whenever possible. It was as if a Mafia had met, and a “contract” had been put out on me.
When I realized that it was my observations, analyses, and conclusions, which I had forwarded through official channels to the Army chief of intelligence in Washington, that had caused both the British and the White House to blackball me, my first shock and bewilderment turned to anger. How could a series of reports, considered excellent by my military superiors [Note: Appendices 2 and 3 of the Memoirs contain War Department evaluations of Yeaton by his commanders, which document, repeatedly, the “superior value” of his work as an intelligence officer, which was “enthusiastically carried out.”], cause such a different reaction in the White House? I was determined to find out, and the results of my investigation are the basis for this manuscript.
Hopkins’s interactions with Yeaton in Moscow during the “Deputy President’s” fateful visit the week of July 28, 1941, are recorded in a section of Yeaton’s Memoirs entitled, “The Harry Hopkins Mission.” Yeaton had eagerly anticipated Hopkins’s pending visit:
When advance warning of Harry Hopkins’ arrival reached us, I was elated. I felt my work was appreciated in Washington and that my military future was bright. Now, I thought, with White House pressure behind me I can break through the restrictions that confine me to Moscow and really do the job for which I was sent here.
These naïve hopes were soon dashed, initially by his exclusion:
What a shock I was in for…A conference of Allied missions was hastily called to examine Soviet war needs and the ability of the Allies to meet them. All foreign military attachés were invited except me.
Yeaton learned that during a luncheon at the embassy he was also excluded from,
Hopkins made a short speech on the desire of the United States to help the Soviet Union in its war with Germany, that those present might just as well adjourn as the United States was going to provide the Soviet Union with all possible assistance, and that the details could be worked out later.
As Yeaton recounts, he was apprehensive about “the tone of Hopkins’ remarks at the conference,” as described to him, because they
…raised some questions in my mind as to just what his mission was and how he would handle it. If it was a fact finding mission regarding the war situation, I felt that I could be of some help. If it was a mission to discover what help the Soviet Union needed to fight the war, the makeup of his party was not qualified.
The following morning Yeaton was able to join Hopkins for breakfast in the embassy, and the military attaché “welcomed the opportunity to learn his plans and state the difficulties under which I was operating.” Hopkins made plain his firm belief that U.S. finances and equipment, combined with Soviet manpower, could accomplish Germany’s destruction. U.S. Lend-Lease support to the Soviets, Hopkins emphasized, would be “unencumbered” by any quid pro quo.
We would furnish the Russians all possible military and economic assistance, but Lend-Lease would never be used as a bargaining agency.
Yeaton was unsettled by Hopkins’s imprudence, engendered, he believed by a combination of willful blindness, ignorance, and perhaps even physical illness.
As he talked, my apprehension increased as to his ability to come to a sound estimate of the war situation and/or drive an equitable bargain as far as the United States was concerned. Hopkins was obviously a sick man physically. His enthusiasm to get us involved in this war and his readiness to negotiate with Stalin on an “I trust you” basis gave me reason to question whether or not his illness had affected his mind.
Refusing to shirk what he saw as a solemn overall responsibility—beyond merely his projected duty to report on the usage and repair of U.S. Lend-Lease military materials—Yeaton attempted to offer a corrective to the scenario Hopkins outlined:
It was my duty to put G-2 [Military Intelligence] on record as having advised representatives of our government of pitfalls ahead, whether they requested it or not. Hopkins suffered my monologue in silence, but when I impugned the integrity and methods of Stalin, he could stand it no longer and shut me up with an intense, “I don’t care to discuss the subject further.”
Shaken, Yeaton recalled:
That night I slept even less than the night before. I rehearsed over and over what he had said, and what I had volunteered that could possibly have upset him. No one had been a closer student of Stalin and his policies than I had been over the past year. I had watched his treatment of representatives of nations whom he feared and those of the two countries who were trying to help him. It had been the “red carpet” for his enemies and the “back of his hand” for us.
Yeaton’s attempt to reconcile with Hopkins the following day was to no avail.
The next morning, I apologized to Hopkins for whatever I had said that upset him, and I was determined not to volunteer further information on any subject. I then begged for his help on breaking out of the severe restrictions imposed on my movements. If the United States and Soviet Union were to be allies, I was certainly entitled to some freedom of movement and communications. He rewarded me with a cold, emphatic “no.”
Astounded and understandably embittered by his interactions with Hopkins, Yeaton wrote acidly:
This sick man was neither in my chain of command nor an elected official of our government, and by this time I felt no compassion towards him. He was an enemy of our country as far as I was concerned. Regardless of his credentials, and from then on I treated him as such. I will let [U.S.] Ambassador Steinhardt, who was an invisible witness, tell it, as reported by Walter Trohan, chief of the Washington bureau of the Chicago [Daily] Tribune.
Walter Trohan’s October 24, 1948 Chicago Daily Tribune review (“Sherwood Story Is Damaging to the Roosevelt Legend”) of Roosevelt and Hopkins An Intimate History, Robert B. Sherwood’s hagiographic assessment of the “Deputy President,” provides this account of the Hopkins-Yeaton imbroglio, omitted by the early Hopkins hagiographer, Sherwood:
Laurence Steinhardt, then ambassador to the Soviet Union…described a 72 hour battle between Hopkins and Yeaton in which the army officer stoutly insisted that we should make quid pro quo demands for lend-lease, including the right to send observers to the front to safeguard American interests and lives. Steinhardt tells of finding the two pounding a breakfast table until the dishes danced in argument. The ambassador stuck his head in and hastily withdrew because he did not want to offend the president’s personal envoy by supporting the military attaché’s argument. Hopkins placed the stars that were destined for Yeaton’s shoulders on [Philip] Faymonville’s shoulder straps and appeasement rode high, according to the Steinhardt story.
Yeaton’s Memoirs include a chapter on Lend-Lease which elaborates the reasoning behind his “futile attempt to utilize Lend-Lease as a fact finding adjunct to Soviet military intelligence,” the “resistance” to that prudent stratagem, and the predictable “Soviet reaction to the White House attempt to curry favor with Stalin.”
Having established the inherent ideological hostility of the Soviet Union—avatar of revolutionary Communism—toward the U.S., Yeaton queried, “what rules apply to government officials that their actions and policies can be called traitorous?” To begin addressing this question, Yeaton cites two rational guidelines proposed by Major General John R. Deane, Secretary of the Army, who also served as Chief of our Military Mission in Moscow (during Lend-Lease), for the kind of information the U.S. “might have sought from the Soviet Union, “ but decided against obtaining:
The first is…that which our established intelligence agencies are continually seeking…The second is information as to the needs for an use of munitions being sent to the Soviet Union.
A third was added by Yeaton himself:
[T]he need to observe the performance of U.S. weapons against a powerful enemy in the time of war and enemy tactics against our weapons. During 1942-43, in my opinion, all three vital needs existed, and in this particular case it called for a Russian, a German, and an ordinance specialist.
None of these appropriate aims were pursued. Instead, as Yeaton enumerates, U.S. leadership acquiesced to a blackout of such vital intelligence:
In [Maj. Gen.] Deane’s first case, the U.S. was denied such information by White House, not Soviet edict. In the second case, the needs of the Soviet Union were ignored and a blank check issued. In my third case, it also was ignored on the same grounds as the first case. [U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union] Harriman excused the entire Lend-Lease policy to [Gen.] Marshal with the incredibly naïve remark, “by not spying on the Soviet Union we might overcome their suspicions.”
How did this transpire? Yeaton explains:
In October of 1943, Harriman was appointed ambassador and General John Deane replaced [Joseph A. “Mike”] Michela, not as military attaché but as a member of the U.S. Mission. General [Sidney] Spalding [a Hopkins loyalist, who became head of the Supply Division] replaced [Philip] Faymonville, and Hopkins was firmly in control of all Soviet intelligence. While he [Hopkins] kept the White House…informed, none of this intelligence filtered through to G-2 [Military Intelligence]
Dr. John Hazard, another Harry Hopkins loyalist who was appointed Lend-Lease liaison officer to the State Department, epitomized the dangerous excesses of this Soviet appeasement mentality, in Yeaton’s estimation:
[H]e automatically became responsible for the security of our own diplomatic pouches as well as all classified material turned over to the Soviets on the U.S. mainland. As a recognized Communist specialist, Hazard should have been familiar with the fact that the NKVD [precursor to the KGB] had complete control over all things leaving the Soviet Union.
I [Yeaton] first learned that our State Department pouches were being opened and searched by the NKVD when a copy of my report on Soviet combat strength disappeared en route to Moscow. A few days after the first copies were assembled I sent one to [then U.S. military attaché in Moscow] Mike Michela by “pouch.” Several months later, after repeated cables from Michela that he had not received it, the copy was naded to him by the Soviet Foreign Office, dog eared from handling.
Yeaton further describes an informal two-part conversation with Hazard that took place after Yeaton had formally briefed Hazard in Washington, D.C. The follow-up exchange with Lend-Lease liaison officer Hazard was eerily reminiscent of Yeaton’s earlier Moscow interaction with Harry Hopkins:
After our talk he said that he had just completed a research paper on the Soviet educational system and proudly gave me a copy to review. After a few days I called on him to return the copy, stating that I thought it was an excellent piece of research. However, I added, I had failed to find any footnotes or comments any place in the paper on how the system was actually carried out. He demanded to know what I meant. I then explained, what he already knew, that I had lived for two years next door to the University of Moscow and with Miss Tolstoy’s [niece of the great Russian writer, and Russian translator employed by the U.S. embassy] help had learned that in education, family loyalty, and a high I.Q. were the most important credentials for higher education, that it was a sort of “up or out” system, and that the Soviets did not agree that everyone was entitled to a college education.
Hazard froze on me, as Hopkins had done when I criticized the Soviet Union, and like Hopkins he wanted to hear no more. By this time I was getting used to the fact that “friends of the Soviet Union” would defend Communism with more emotion than logic; so, I cut the conversation short and never saw him again. Years later, Hazard was identified by a witness before a Congressional committee as a member of the Communist Party as late as 1930.
Independent confirmation of this atmosphere of near fanatical, pro-Soviet Lend-Lease zealousness was provided by Maj. Gen. Deane, U.S. Military Mission head in Moscow, in his own published 1947 analysis, The Strange Alliance—The Story of Our Efforts at Wartime Cooperation with Russia:
With respect to Russian aid, I always felt that their mission (that is, the mission of Harry Hopkins and his aide, Major General James Burns) was carried out with a zeal which approached fanaticism. Their enthusiasm became so ingrained that it could not be tempered when conditions indicated that a change in policy was desirable…When the tide turned at Stalingrad and a Russian offensive started which only ended in Berlin, a new situation was created. We now had a Red Army which was plenty cocky and which became more so with each successive victory. The Soviet leaders became more and more demanding. The fire in our neighbor’s house had been extinguished and we had submitted ourselves to his direction in helping to extinguish it. He assumed that we would continue to submit ourselves to his direction in helping rebuild the house, and unfortunately we did. He allowed us to work on the outside and demanded that we furnish material for the inside, the exact use of which we were not allowed to see. Now that the house is furnished, we have at best only a nodding acquaintance.
The Alaska-Siberia Air Ferry (ALSIB), which commenced operations on September 3, 1942, its eastern terminal being Gore Field, Great Falls, Montana, illustrated for Yeaton the dangerous and deliberately concealed excesses of Hopkins’s Lend-Lease machinations. A month after the ALSIB began operating, FDR appointed Harry Hopkins as U.S.-Soviet Union Lend-Lease Protocol Committee Chairman.
This exit port for Lend-Lease and all other types of packages and pouches leaving the U.S. for the Soviet Union, should have been staffed by our most knowledgeable and trustworthy customs officials, but it was left practically unguarded. The decisions of what passed were left entirely up to Hopkins personally and his man Hazard. The result of this wide open port of call for Soviet planes can best be described by Major George Racey Jordan, USAF (Ret.), in his published diaries.
[Maj. Gen] Deane’s second type of information that the U.S. might seek—information about Soviet needs—was at no place more brazenly ignored than here. Jordan’s attempt to stop it met with nothing short of rebuke from Hazard’s office for “being too officious,” and a threat to have him transferred to “an island somewhere in the South Seas.” [p. 193]
Reproduced below are the questions then Congressman Richard Nixon addressed (pp. 7-9) to Donald T. Appell, former F.B.I. agent, and special investigator for the Committee on Un-American Activities, from Congressional hearings that took place during December, 1949, and March, 1950. The queries and responses make plain that 4/5 of Major Jordan’s allegations were affirmed—including the claim regarding shipment of uranium products to the Soviet Union via Lend-Lease, in violation of a U.S. embargo. Jordan’s fifth claim, that Harry Hopkins contacted him personally to expedite a uranium shipment could not be proven, as Jordan himself acknowledged (also excerpted, below).
Mr. Nixon: Your investigation shows first, then, that Major Jordan did, at least on two occasions, make a report concerning the passage of materials through Great Falls?
Mr. Appell: Yes.
Mr. Nixon: As I recall, Mr. [Whittaker] Chambers had to tell his story five times before any cognizance was taken of his charges. So apparently if Major Jordan had told his more than twice he might have gotten the Government to do something about it. But be that as it may, as I see it at present time the issues are five. First of all, the charge was made that if the shipments were going through, Major Jordan should have made a report. In this regard, he did make a report of the charges at least on two occasions. Is that correct?
Mr. Appell: Yes.
Mr. Nixon: As far as you have been able to find, at least two reports were made?
Mr. Appell: Yes; that is correct.
Mr. Nixon: Another point that was made was whether or not he tore radar equipment out of C-47 planes. As I understand, this particular phase of his story was questioned in the article in Life magazine, in which they said that the report that Mr. Jordan ripped out radar equipment from C-47s was preposterous, and they quoted his superior officer, Meredith, in that respect; and it was further said that as a matter of fact no C-47s were equipped with radar at the time mentioned by Major Jordan. The investigation of the committee, in addition to your own, has shown, (1) that the C-47s equipped with radar and going to Russia did go through Great Falls; and (2) that Mr. Jordan specifically asked permission of Colonel Gitzinger in Daytona to tear the radar equipment out of a specific plane on one occasion.
Mr. Appell: That is correct, and he received that permission from Colonel Gitzinger.
Mr. Nixon: Then on the point of whether Mr. Jordan did or did not tear radar out of a plane, your investigation substantiates Major Jordan?
Mr. Appell: That is correct.
Mr. Nixon: Another point that Major Jordan made was that certain documents were going through Great Falls under diplomatic immunity; that he broke into the cases, examined the documents, and that some of the material in there which he examined consisted of plans, secret material, and so on, which it would be assumed would not be regarded under diplomatic immunity. I think it is quite clear from your testimony that that phase of Major Jordan’s testimony stands up; is that correct?
Mr. Appell: Well, we do know, we are in contact with a witness, a former employee of the Russian Purchasing Commission, who helped pack one pouch of so-called diplomatic mail that went through, and we know it contained material highly secretive on industrial and war developments . . .
Mr. Nixon: Is it the intention of the staff, then, to present the witness [Victor A. Kravchenko] who may be able to substantiate, at least in part, Major Jordan’s testimony that secret material was going through?
Mr. Appell: That is correct. [Kravchenko’s testimony, quoted on pp. 257-67 of Jordan’s published diaries did in fact provide important corroboration of Jordan’s claims, in general terms, and specifically regarding the espionage of Semen Vasilenko who traveled through Great Falls]
Mr. Nixon: On the point of the so-called shipments of uranium . . . the shipments went through. Is that correct?
Mr. Appell: Two specific shipments of uranium oxide and uranium nitrate and shipments of heavy water have been completely documented to include even the number of the plane that flew the uranium and heavy water to Great Falls.
Mr. Nixon: And the final point is the matter of Mr. Hopkins having attempted to expedite the shipments. Major Jordan’s testimony on that was that his notes, written at the time, showed the initials “H.H.” on one of the consignments which he broke into. Your investigation has shown no correspondence of Mr. Hopkins in which he used the initials “H.H.” Is that correct?
Mr. Appell: That which we reviewed.
Mr. Nixon: I understand that. My point is that as far as the investigation you have been able to make is concerned, you as yet have been unable to substantiate Major Jordan’s story on that point; is that correct?
Mr. Appell: Yes.
Mr. Nixon: But you have substantiated it on the four other points I mentioned?
Mr. Appell: Generally, yes.
Mr. Nixon: That is all.
[Jordan, Preface, p. 10] With regard to the Hopkins note and the Hopkins telephone call (which are fully discussed in Chapter 6; pp. 92 ff.), I realize that there is only my word for them. But suppose that a letter of Hopkins signed “H.H.” existed, would that prove my charge that I saw a particular note on White House stationery in a black suitcase on a plane headed for Russia? Of course not. Why, then, have some persons insisted that producing such a signature is necessary, when such evidence would prove nothing? Perhaps because they were impelled to raise a smoke screen. My point was that my notation of the signature (reproduced in center section of this edition) was “H.H.”, just as President Roosevelt sent Hopkins memos addressed “H.H.” (See Roosevelt and Hopkins by Robert Sherwood, page 409). Since I have neither the letter itself or the transcript of the phone call, I have only my word to offer…I am not a professional soldier, though I have served in two wars. I am a businessman who volunteered in the interests of my country. There is no reason, fortunately, for me to pull punches because of any pressures which can be applied to me. I have called the plays as I saw them.
Yeaton also alluded to Soviet defector Kravchenko in his discussion of Lend-Lease. Kravchenko had served the Soviet Union as an official in the Soviet Government Purchasing Committee within the U.S. Kravchenko’s report, dated July 31, 1944, which was appended (in full) to Yeaton’s Memoirs, contained this excerpt:
Kravchenko stated that just as Japan fired back at the United States the scrap metal which had been sold to her by United States corporations for many years prior to Pearl Harbor, just so would Stalin use against the United States the great mass of Lend-Lease material which we have sent to the Soviet Union. Kravchenko stated that the United States thought of Lend-Lease in economic terms, whereas Russia thinks of Lend-Lease in political terms. His interpretation of Soviet policy was that of obtaining as much as possible of materials which could be used by the Red Army regardless of any shortages which their Lend-Leasing to the Soviet Union might cause in the United States and to use the wedge of Lend-Lease as an opportunity for obtaining industrial information which will be used eventually to undermine the entire economy of the United States.
Kravchenko stated that because of the attitude of Stalin towards the United States and Great Britain he would not be at all surprised that the Soviet Union would be at the throats of her present allies.
Unbeknownst to Yeaton, and at any rate, not recorded in his Memoirs, Harry Hopkins, as Diana West has documented, labeled Kravchenko a “deserter,” even pressing FDR to return him to Soviet custody, and thereby condemn him to certain execution.
Hopkins hagiographers, original (Sherwood, 1948), and most recent (Roll, 2013), alike, have refused to acknowledge Yeaton’s apt evaluation that their lionized “Deputy President” was willfully reckless in administering U.S. Lend-Lease aid to the Soviet Union. Concomitantly, they chose to ignore what Yeaton also recognized about Hopkins—his effusive admiration of Stalin’s totalitarian Communist regime, whose predatory, mass murderous, liberty-crushing “revolutionary” system was antithetical to the ideals of the U.S., and directly threatened American security, which Hopkins was entrusted to defend, not jeopardize.
The Hopkins hagiographies put forth by such court historians are a sham castle of glib, deceitful affirmations. Col. Ivan Yeaton’s 1976 Memoirs include this apposite summary evaluation of the man who inspired them, Harry Hopkins:
As for Hopkins, from our first meeting I considered him disloyal to the trust that had been imposed on him. After learning of the manner in which he high-handedly handled security at our end of the Alaska-Siberian pipeline, I changed it to perfidious or traitorous, if you like.