FBI and Homosexuality: 1940-1949
McCarthyism, according to some, was linked to closeted homosexuality in Washington at this time.
See OutHistory feature on McCarthyism, Homophobia, and Homosexuality.
FBI Special Agent Louis C. Beck completes an investigation of the US Moscow Embassy in which he finds that "at least one employee of the Military Attache's office was blackmailed by the GPU [Soviet secret police] and by Soviets with whom he had carried on homosexual activities." Beck also found that "Charge d'Affaires Alexander Kirk was commonly regarded as a homosexual."
Douglas M. Charles, Hoover's War on Gays: Exposing the FBI's "Sex Deviates" Program (Lawrence: KS: University Press of Kansas, September 18, 2015), pp. 52-53. See also: 1942, September 19.
1941, January 3: Sumner Welles
The U.S. Secret Service learned in January 1941 that railroad officials were considering legal action against Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles for drunkenly propositioning a number of Pullman porters on two different train trips. The first was on September 18, 1940, and the second was ten days later.
Athan Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex, and Crime: An Historical Antidote (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1991), pages 32-33. Douglas M. Charles, Hoover's War on Gays, p. 38.
President Franklin Roosevelt asked Hoover to conduct a discreet investigation. Hoover did so, confirming that the incidents did occur. Hoover pointed out that many people knew of these incidents and that Welles' behavior was the result of a "mental condition" and "there could not be an assurance it would not be repeated in the future." Hoover suggested that someone travel with Welles to prevent his drinking, and to prevent his "endeavor to make propositions for such immoral relations." Roosevelt accepted this suggestion.
On June 23, 1942 FBI Assistant Director Louis Nichols reported learning that in 1941 Welles was alleged to have had "unnatural relations" with a "boy" in Brazil, and that Welles was "compromised" by an unnamed South American government.
Douglas M. Charles, Hoover's War on Gays, p. 41.
On September 4, 1942, an FBI memo reported that Welles was the friend and a former Harvard roommate of Harden de Valson Pratt, a World War I army veteran who had contacted U.S. Army investigators to tell them that he "was a sexual pervert."
Douglas M. Charles, Hoover's War on Gays, p. 42.
By October 1942 Secretary of State Cordell Hull, who resented Welles, became concerned about rumors of Welles's homosexual behavior.
Douglas M. Charles, Hoover's War on Gays, p. 42.
In November 1942 a U.S. Treasury Department official told the FBI that a jailed Philadelphia "racketeer" claimed to have heard about Welles' sexual propositions and, in an attempt to lighten his sentence, was threatening to publicly reveal them.
The following year, in April 1943, Senator Ralph Brewster, Maine Republican, received information from sources interviewed by FBI agents, and met with J. Edgar Hoover about the rumors about Sumner Welles. Hoover told Brewster he should speak with Secretary of State Cordell Hull.
On August 15, 1943, Hull urged President Roosevelt to fire Welles.
On September 26, 1943, the President announced the resignation of Welles.
Athan Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex, and Crime, pp. 32-33. Douglas M. Charles, Hoover's War of Gays, p. 42-43; 48-51. Wikipedia, "Sumner Welles," accessed August 3, 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumner_Welles#Resignation
February 1942-April 26, 1949: Angela Calomiris
Angela Calomiris, an American photographer, and a lesbian, served as an FBI informant within the Communist Party during the above years. Also see 1949 entry and the OutHistory feature on Calomiris by Lisa Davis.
1942, March: Donald Downes
By March 1942, Donald Downes, an agent for William Donovan's Office of Strategic Services. had come to Hoover's attention and the FBI director "reserved a special loathing for Downes" for spying for the British and for being a "sex deviate", as the FBI's many surveillance reports on Downes described him.
Douglas Waller, Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage (Free Press, February 8, 2011), page 124. Research request: Check March 1942 date.
1942, April 24: Senator David I. Walsh Accused
Douglas M. Charles reports: On this date Morris Ernst, an attorney, and a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, informed President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) that the President's isolationist political opponent, David I. Walsh, Senator from Massachusetts, was about to be implicated in a sexual scandal in Brooklyn, NY. Walsh, a life-long bachelor, was rumored to have only platonic relations with women, and to have a Filippino houseboy with whom he was close.
Douglas M. Charles, Hoover's War on Gays, pp. 43-45, citing Laurence R. Murphy, "The House on Pacific Street: Homosexuality, Intrigue, and Politics during World War II," Journal of Homosexuality 12, no. 1 (Fall 1985): 23.
On April 27, FDR thanked Ernst for the information and urged to provide more.
On April 30 Ernst, with the help of the FBI, informed FDR that Gustave Herman Beekman, the operator of a "house of degradation" on Pacific Street, in Brooklyn, had been found guilty of sodomy, and had identified a picture of David I. Walsh, Massachusetts Senator, as a visitor to Beekman's "male brothel" frequented by soldiers and sailors.
On May 1, 1942 the New York Post, which had long favored U.S. involvement in the European conflict, published the first of a series of stories. They implicated the isolationist Senator Walsh in a sex and spy scandal at a Brooklyn male brothel visited by U.S. Navy personnel. The brothel was said to have been infiltrated by Nazi spies. The Post published an affidavit signed by Beekman on April 30 saying that Senator Walsh had kissed and sodomized two sailors. Other newspapers also published stories on this scandal.
On May 2 FBI agents, an assistant district attorney, and a naval intelligence officer, interviewed Beekman. Beekman claimed that Senator Walsh had visited his brothel about 14 times and had sexual relations with sailors.
On May 4 J. Edgar Hoover informed FDR's secreatry McIntyre that the FBI was only interested in the espiononage aspects of the Walsh investigation. On the same day a senior Justice Department official, Oscar Cox, asked Hoover for a complete report on Walsh, to share with Senator Alben Barkley for possible discussion in the US Senate.
On May 7 Beekman submitted another affidavit to a Brooklyn district attorney restating his former claims about Senator Walsh.
On May 16, in an interview with FBI agents, Beekman recanted his claims about Senator Walsh, saying he had mistaken Walsh for a client named "Doc." FBI agents also interviewed eighteen others who had visited Beekman's brothel, all of whom denied that Senator Walsh had visited the place. ("Doc" was later revealed by FBI agents to be Dr. Harry Stone.)
On May 20, in the Senate, the Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley discussed the FBI investigation of Senator Walsh and claimed that it had found Walsh innocent of visiting the brothel. The same day the New York Post published a new affidavit from Gustav Beekman recanting his earlier recantation of the story that Senator Walsh had been a regular visitor to his brothel.
May 21 the editor of the New York Post published a letter to US Attonrey General Francis Biddle criticizing him for permitting the FBI to be used "as though it were the counterpart of the secret political police of Communist Russia or Nazi Germany." He said the public had been denied all the evidence in the case of Senator Walsh. The FBI then investigated The Post's investigation of the Walsh case, interviewing numbers of people. Among these was George Boden, a Chicago lawyer, who claimed that the Post had "obtained a photograph of Senator Walsh having unnatural relations with a page boy of the Senate in the Riggs Bath House in Washington." FBI agents found no evidence confirming Boden's claim.
Douglas M. Charles, Hoover's War on Gays, pp. 46-48.
1942, September 19: General Philip R. Faymonville Accused
Douglas M. Charles reports that Major General George Strong, chief of US Army intelligence telephoned FBI inteligence liaison, Assistant to the Director Edward Tamm, about a "mess" among personnel at the US Embassy in Moscow.
Meeting with Tamm two days later, Strong complained that General Philip R. Faymonville, head of the US lend-lease program in Moscow, had turned his office into "virtually a house of prostitution." Faymonville himself was rumored to be "engaging in sexually perverted practices and is consorting with sexual perverts."
FBI Special Agent Louis C. Beck was assigned to the case an an undercover operator. (For Beck's earlier work see: 1940, Summer.) Beck's investigation indicated that "all of the accusations in this case" appear to have originated with General Joseph A. Michela, the military attache in Moscow, who detested Faymonville. Michela had sent a report to the Pentagon claiming that "General Faymonville is 'again' involved in sexual abnormalities," and reported "immoral conditions" in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Michela's "'again'" refered to a rumor that Faymonville had, between 1934 and 1939, regularly engaged in homosexual activity with a young Russian.
By June 1943, Agent Beck submitted his reports on Faymonville. On July 6, 1943, Hoover forwarded Beck's reports to Major General George Strong. Re the "morals charges" that Michela had directed at Faymonville, Beck found that "no evidence has been uncovered which would prove the charges in this case." Beck said he had been "present at many frank conversations" with Faymonville's staff and others, "but at no time have I heard any specific reference made to any immoral conduct by General Faymonville."
Douglas M. Charles, Hoover's War on Gays, pp. 53, 54, 61. For Charles' whole section on Faymonville see pp. 51-64.
1943: Bridge Player Admonished in Cleveland, Ohio
Athan Theoharis reproduces FBI documents that show that in 1943 a woman remarked at her bridge party in Cleveland, Ohio, that she had heard that J. Edgar Hoover was homosexual. Someone contacted the Cleveland FBI office about her remarks, and the Cleveland FBI contacted her and chastised her for spreading such rumors. She agreed that at the next meeting of her bridge club she would according to her FBI file: "point out to each of those present that her statement was not founded on fact and that she was deeply sorry that she had made it and it should not have been made at all."
Athan Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex, and Crime: An Historical Antidote (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1991), pages 35-36. The relevant FBI memo relating to this incident is reprinted in Athan Theoharis, From the Secret Files of J. Edgar Hoover.
1943: 'Queer' Hoover?
Jennifer Terry says: "FBI documents indicate that as early as 1943, agents under his [Hoover's] direction believed that Hoover was 'queer' and that his relationship with FBI official Clyde Tolson was homosexual in nature. Hoover attempted to suppress these rumors and kept his own private files on 'derogatory information' that named the culprits of such gossip.
Jennifer Terry, An American Obsession: Science, Medicine, and Homosexuality in Modern Society(University of Chicago Press, 1999), page 350. ISBN 0-226-79366-4. Research Request: See what her cites are. Theoharis is cited by Potter "Queer" (2006) page 368: "as early as 1943, Hoover began to use FBI agents systematically to repress those who gossiped in casual conversation about his alleged homosexuality."
1943: Hoover to Tolson: "thoughts and feelings"
Hoover writes to Tolson: “Words are mere man-given symbols for thoughts and feelings, and they are grossly insufficient to express the thoughts in my mind and the feelings in my heart that I have for you.” He added: “I hope I will always have you beside me.”
Beverly Gage, "Internal Affairs. Were J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson lovers?" Slate, Nov. 10 2011 1:21 PM, accessed August 25, 2015 from http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/life_and_art/2011/11/clint_eastwood_s_j_edgar_were_j_edgar_hoover_and_clyde_tolson_lovers_.single.html#pagebreak_anchor_2 Research request: source of this quote???
1943: WW II Dishonorable Discharges
Claire Bond Potter says: "Thousands of soldiers, many of them combat veterans, were drummed out of the military by psychiatrists beginning in 1943. Their dishonorable discharges made many homosexuals unemployable and ineligible for the government beneﬁts that expanded the middle class after World War II even while it emphasized their presence in society."
Potter "Queer" (2006), page 368, citing Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex and Crime, pages 103–8; Bérubé, 149–76; Margot Canaday, “Finding the Lesbian in the State,” paper presented on June 3, 2005 at the Thirteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Scripps College; Terry, 296–314; Robert J. Corber, Homosexuality in Cold War America: Resistance and the Crisis of Masculinity (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997) and “Cold War Femme: Lesbian Visibility in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve,” GLQ 11, no. 1 (2005): 1–22. Research request: Documented examples of FBI role in military discharges for homosexuality?
1943, December 17: "J. Edgar Hoover is a fairy"
Athan Theoharis says: On this date an FBI agent reported to his superior that D.C. businessman John Monroe had allegedly bragged that he had "no fear of the FBI inasmuch as he 'was the only one who had positive proof that J. Edgar Hoover is a fairy.'" The FBI agent's report was not relayed to Hoover until January 18, 1944.
Monroe was being investigated for having used his government connections to secure dismissal of a suit by the Office of Price Administration against a Brooklyn baking company.
On January 18, 1944, Hoover protested to the special agent in charge of the FBI's New York Field office about this "gross" mishandling of the rumor and demanded to know "why this matter was not reported from Dec 17 to Jan 18." Hoover simultaneously ordered his senior aides to take "vigorous action" to address this failure "to promtly report" the homosexual allegation to Hoover. The Director also asked that Monroe be made to "put up or shut up" concerning the allegation about Hoover. FBI Assistant Director Louis Nichols was sent to confront Monroe and "dress down" and threaten him with "crim[inal] slander unless can [he can] prove" the allged allegations.
Monroe signed a statement denying to Nichols that he had made the aspersion about Hoover, claiming that he himself was the victim of character assassination.
Monroe was at that time involved in a libel suit with the columnisdenial and he remained a subject of FBI investigations. Monroe was indicated in 1945 and convicted in 1946 for violating price ceilings set by the Office of Price Administration.
Athan Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex and Crime, pages 34-36. Potter also cites Kessler, The Bureau, 98–99. Research request: See what's in Kessler. Check Pearson's and Jack Anderson's FBI files.
1944, June: Obscene File
This month an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) employee named Towell contacted the FBI's wartime security divison to obtain permission for an OSS agent to "select copies of obscene material" from FBI files. The material was to be used to counteract a Japanese program which sent out obscene photos of American girls in an effort to show the lax morals of Americans. The OSS planned to disseminate similar photos of Japanese girls. He was advised that the FBI had "a collection of 25 to 30 photsgraphs of this nature" in its Obscene File. Hoover allowed an OSS agent to "obtain copies".
Theorharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex and Crime, pages 48-49. See also: 1951, May.
1944, June 27: Prominent New Yorker calls Hoover "queer"
Historians Athan Theoharis and John Stuart Cox say that an FBI agent wrote that during the course of an FBI interview a prominent New Yorker reported having heard “a rumor to the effect that Mr. Hoover was a ‘queer.’”
The agents present vigorously defended Hoover’s character and, according to their account, claimed to have convinced this New Yorker that “the rumors concerning Mr. Hoover’s morals was [sic] undoubtedly baseless.”
Their report was immediately delivered to Hoover, who exploded on reading it: “I never heard of this obvious degenerate. Only one with a depraved mind could have such thoughts.”
Athan Theoharis and John Stuart Cox, The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition (1988), p. 208 note 14 on page 458 which provides the following sources: Memo, FBI agent to [E. E.] Conroy, 27 June 1944, and Personal and Confidential Memo, [FBI agent E. E.-JNK] Conroy to Hoover, July 5, 1944, both in name deleted folder, Folder no. 75, Hoover O&C [Official and Confidential File-JNK]. Research request: any indication of who the prominent New Yorker was?
1945, September 2
"the postwar rumors [about J. Edgar Hoover's homosexuality] were probably generated by one of Hoover’s political enemies in the CIA".
Potter, "Queer" (2006), page 372, citing Kessler, The Bureau, 108–11, 43.
1946: Detroit businessman threatened
Athan Theoharis provides FBI files about a Detroit businessman who, during a trip to New York City, made remarks to his host suggesting that J. Edgar Hoover was homosexual.
An agent from the FBI's Detroit office, reporting on his interview with the businessman, said he had warned the man that if he ever again called Hoover a homosexual he "might take care of him right there on the spot." The Detroit agent predicted that the man "will not repeat such a statement in the future." The agent described the man has "scared to death" that the FBI was "going to investigate him".
Athan Theoharis, From the Secret Files of J. Edgar Hoover, p ? Research request: what pages? The case is also discussed in Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex and Crime, pages 35, 36.
Kinsey report on the sexuality of human males.
Research request: FBI investigation of Kinsey and his associates? Content and results?
1948, January: Anthony Leviero/Lawrence Spivak
Hoover receives a rumor that Anthony Leviero, a New York Times reporter, has been commissioned by the publisher of The American Mercury publisher, Lawrence Spivak, to write "a highly critical 'smear' article in the nature of a profile" which would charge Hoover "with perversion."
The article would also allegedly contend that Hoover claimed "personal credit" for the accomplishments of local police, other government departments," and other FBI associates, and had taken sides in politically-relevant investigations.
To respond to this alleged threat Hoover and his associates mounted a multi-pronged attack. Tolson accosted Spivak in a restaurant and asked how the "smear article" was developing. Louis Nichols contacted a former business partner of Spivak's, asking him to persuade Spivak to kill the article. Nichols also met with Spivak and Leviero, who denied the piece on Hoover was a "smear".
Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex and Crime, pages 27-39; Theoharis, The Boss, pp. 210-211. Research request: Did Leviero ever write, did Spivak and/or American Mercury every publish an article on the FBI or Hoover?
1948, May: Charles W. Thayer investigated
Douglas M. Charles reports: Charles W. Thayer, head of the Voice of America (VOA) in New York, this month publicly criticized the FBI for not completing timely background checks on potential VOA employees.
On January 26, 1949, FBI Assistant Director Alex Rosen reported to Associate Director CLyde Tolson the results of a Senate inquiry. This concluded that time-consuming FBI background checks had created understaffing in the Voice of America.
Rosen reported that VOA employees, as a group, were unfit for employment for "moral reasons," among others. Thayer was singled out for having fathered an illegitimate child.
Tolson and Hoover ordered an FBI inquiry to stop this criticism of the FBI if it was incorrect.
John Peurifoy, the State Department's assistant secretary for administration, assigned Donald Nicholson, chief of the State Department Security Division, to investigate Thayer. Nicholson reported that, if FBI agents could find an "derogatory information" about Thayer, they could "open a . . . loyalty case" against Thayer. Hoover then ordered a full investigation of Thayer.
On April 8, 1949, Guy Hottel, the FBI liaison with the State Deparmtment, received from John Finlator, a State Department Security Division officer, an earlier report on Thayer dated July 22, 1948, that was not in official State Department files. This State Department report claimed that Thayer was homosexual, and listed several of his allegedly homosexual associates, including Carmel Offie, Ambassador Alexander Kirk, Colonel Ira W. Porter, Nicholas Nabokoff, and Jacques Brosse, and others.
Hoover also learned that Thayer's brother-in-law, State Department lawyer Charles Bohlen, had helped to quash the investigation of Thayer. Hoover decided that Thayer "should have no place in govt."
In April 1949, FBI agent Hottel wrote a 25-page report detailing the allegations against Thayer. The report was to be distributed only within the FBI because it contained information from the State Department report the FBI was not supposed to possess.
An FBI memo of April 22, 1949 reported that Thayer had resigned from the Voice of American and was planning to move into diplomatic work.
Four years later, on January 29, 1953, Roy Cohn, chief legal counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy's Permanent Subcommitee on Investigations, asked FBI Assistant Director Louis Nichols for checks on a list of Voice of America present and former employees, including Thayer.
On March 4, 1953, Hoover sent White House Chief of Staff Sherman Adams a 38-page summer on Thayer which, near its end, detailed stories of Thayer's sex life and homosexual associates. One of these was State Department employee Colonel Ira W. Porter, who a State Department informer called a "notorious homosexual." Thayer and Porter were said to be "very good friends," and Porter was described as "a very large and masculine man, who had a great record in World War II as a full colonel, and that it is almost impossible for anyoen to surpmise Porter is a homosexual."
On March 4, 1953, Hoover forwared to Whitie Houose Chief of Staff Sherman Adams a 38-page memo on Thayer. Hoover also sent this memo to Undersecretary of State Walter Bedell Smith amd his assistant in charge of personnel. Allegations of homosexuality appeared at the end of this report. One of Thayer's associates, Colonal Ira W. Porter, was called by an informant a "notorious homosexual." The informant said that Porter had said that Thayer is "queer as a $3 bill," despite his being married. The informant added that Thayer was a "high-class homosexual and is known only among high- class homosexuals." Thayer's friendship with alleged homosexuals Carmel Offie, Major Randkin Robert, Mike Petrovich, Nicholas Nabokoff, and Jacques Brosse were also mentioned. Thayer had described Petrovich as "gay" which the informant explained "is a homosexual term meaning an active or participating homosexuals."
On March 6, 1953, Undersecretary of State Donald Laurie asked for Thayer's resignation.
On March 9, 1953, Deputy Attorney General William Rogers authorized the FBI's dissemination of its report on Thayer to Senator McCarthy, and it was sent to him on March 11, 1953.
On March 23, 1953 Thayer resigned from the U.S. Foreign Service, and his resignation was publicized on May 26, 1953.
SOURCE: Douglas M. Charles, Hoover's War on Gays, pp. 75-79; 122-123; 127-130.
1949, April 26: Lesbian FBI Informer Testifies
Surprise witness Angela Calomiris testified at the New York City Smith Act trial against former Communists and Communist supporters on April 26, 1949.
She achieved instant fame with testimony, quoted in all the New York dailies, about the Communist Party’s “conspiratorial devices” used “in teaching the need for violent revolution to set up a Soviet dictatorship.”
“The trial took place in New York City’s Federal Court House at Foley Square. Eleven members of the National Board of the CPUSA, men who had been labor union activists and Party members for years, had been indicted under the 1940 Smith Act (officially the Alien Registration Act) for “conspiracy to advocate the overthrow of the US Government by force and violence.”
SOURCE: Lisa E. Davis, Undercover Girl: The Lesbian Informant Who Helped the FBI Bring Down the Communist Party (Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2017)