A new book about John Wayne reveals what a threat he was to international Communism, and exposes how far America has come from his glory days.
At the height of the Red Scare and the Hollywood Blacklist, SAG president Ronald Reagan was asked what he thought should be done about Communism in the motion picture industry. Dutch Reagan told HUAC he did not want to bar political opinion, no matter how odious, offering that there were enough “men like us” to police the industry from within. Those “men like us” included his good friend, screen legend John “Duke” Wayne, and his sidekick Ward Bond. Wayne and Bond were Republicans, but this was not a partisan issue in the 1940s and early 1950s. Reagan and Wayne’s good friend, director John Ford, were Democrats.
But the issue did become partisan, because over time it was discovered that just as all Muslims were not terrorists, virtually all terrorists were Muslims, and while all liberal Democrats were not traitors, all traitors were liberal Democrats.
It started with the Alger Hiss case. Hiss was an erudite, Harvard-educated New Deal diplomat, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s shining lights. He was also a paid, true-believing Soviet spy, one who virtually engineered handing over all of Eastern Europe to Joseph Stalin after the formation of the U.N.
Hiss was pursued by two Republican yahoos straight out of literature: Les Miserable or Moby Dick. Richard Nixon and Whittaker Chambers were both flawed, lightning rods for criticism, and much fodder for Left-wing fury. They were also right, although it was only the opening of the Venona Papers, coming with the fall of the Soviet Union resulting in opening of their archives, that this was proved long after the shouting died down. But FBI director J. Edgar Hoover urged Congressman Nixon to stay after Hiss. He could not help him because he did not want the KGB to know we were on to them, but we were. Hoover knew of Venona, in which military surveillance of Soviet cable traffic revealed an entire network of Democrat traitors working in President Franklin Roosevelt’s White House.
But the Hiss case proves a disturbing case in mass psychology, which has played itself out many times since. The Left was convinced Hiss was innocent. Chambers and Nixon had the look of liars; rumpled, beady-eyed, sweating frows. American liberalism poured everything they had into his defense. The best attorneys, the most skilled orators, its most distinguished statesman, vouched for him without reservation. He was convicted, but they refused to accept it. Years later, a convicted liar, Bill Clinton, engendered the same enduring support from a party that, once committed, digs in like nobody’s business.
The New York Times and Hollywood used all their considerable resources to prove his case. In the film Advise and Consent, a dapper Henry Fonda “successfully” wins Hiss’s case when a daft Burgess Meredith is proved a liar.
But the real target of Left-wing vitriol was Senator Joseph McCarthy, who made wild accusations of Communism in the State Department, the Army, and in a “conspiracy so immense” spread throughout all the tentacles of American life. The Democrats destroyed McCarthy, who had many flaws to be exploited, not the least of which was his alcoholism, which resulted in his death by public disgrace a few short years after he reached the heights of popularity. Yet history tells those who listen – and there are not all that many who really do – that McCarthy was more right than he realized. To advocate this position is to set ones’ self up for withering criticism, for the template of McCarthy, of the Red Scare, of the Blacklist, of the Hollywood Ten, of treason at the behest of Communism, has long been established in public schools, academia, Hollywood, and the liberal media.
Perhaps it is only in studying our history that we can understand how this happened, and why it is so far from accurate. Duke Wayne remains the symbol of an American intransigence against Communism, and at the same time is to his detractors a pre-historic dinosaur fighting an enemy that they insist never existed.
Yet, if this enemy never existed, why did this enemy insist on trying to kill him not once but four times, precisely because he exposed their existence?
V.I. Lenin said as early as 1920 that “of all the arts, cinema is the most important.” The Nazis channeled its power more powerfully than anybody up until that time with their propaganda films of the 1930s. In 1949, one of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s most trusted diplomats attended a so-called “friendship conference” in New York City. It was there that he saw just how popular and influential Wayne was. Even the American press was slow to recognize his place in the pantheon, preferring to lionize elite actors of the stage such as Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier. Wayne was a “cowboy,” a Western yahoo.
But this yahoo was making speeches, along with Reagan, for the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. This was a huge, influential organization in the film industry of the late 1940s. Nothing like it exists today. An organization called the Hollywood Congress of Republicans does operate, but jokingly its members meet “in a phone booth” or as part of the Witness Protection Program.
But Wayne and Reagan were actively exposing Communist infiltration in Hollywood. This is today treated as a myth, a ghost, but as the Venona unearthing of the Soviet archives revealed in the 1990s, just as HUAC, the FBI – and Reagan and Wayne - knew then, it was very real and very, very insidious. It was one thing for a ripe conservative politician like Dick Nixon or Joe McCarthy to spout off about it, but when John Wayne spoke millions and millions listened closely.
So it was that Stalin was informed of Wayne’s influence when his man returned from New York. Half mad by then anyway, surrounded by plots and conspiracies, decades of mass murder having rotted his soul beyond repair, Stalin ordered the assassination of Duke Wayne. Wayne learned of it by accident. He was divorcing his second wife, Chata, who in turn hired private detectives to get dirt on Duke. Studio security began to notice their suspicious activity, and out of this more suspicious activity, in the form of Communist hit men. Working with the FBI, Wayne managed to catch them and actually turned them into intelligence assets.
A second attempt again resulted in Stalin’s men captured and, after thinking they were to be killed on a lonely Southern California beach, turned over to the FBI. It did not end there. Homegrown Communists operating out of a printing company near the Warner Bros. lots in Burbank tried to kill Wayne, but that plot was uncovered by Duke’s “cowboy” friends, a group of loyal stuntmen lead by Yakima Canutt. After an “almighty fight” the Communists were, according to Canutt, literally put on a plane to Russia.
In 1958, Wayne met Nikita Khrushchev, in what may have been the model for the confrontation between George C. Scott and the Russian general in Patton, courtesy of USC film student John Milius and his friend, the film’s screenwriter and his friend, Francis Ford Coppola. After a few drinks Duke asked the Soviet premier why he was trying to have him killed. Khrushchev said that had been Stalin’s idea, that he put an end to it, had been unaware of the American Communists trying to carry it out on their own, that he would put a halt to such further activity, but then warned “Mao can’t be controlled.” Chinese mass murderer Mao Tse-tung was also trying to have him killed.
Sure as heck, during a 1966 USO tour of a Marine base camp at Pleiku, Vietnam, a bullet narrowly missed the Duke. The Marines managed to capture the Chinese hit man, who confirmed “the big American movie star” was his target. None of this was publicly revealed. Wayne never wanted his family to know, much less his fans.
So how great was the Communist threat? The assassination of John Wayne would have been traumatic, but life would have gone on. On the other hand, the U.S. fought two world wars against Germany, one against Japan. Some 40 million people died in World War I, another 60 million in World War II. 12 million died in the Holocaust, 6 million of whom were Jews.
Before exploring the ultimate danger Communism posed, consider the case of Time-Life publisher Henry Luce and his star reporter, Theodore White. Luce was a devout Christian, raised by missionaries in China. He was a conservative who dedicated his media empire to promotion of American – and conservative – ideals. As part of this, he propped up Chiang Kai-shek, fighting duel wars with Japan and Mao’s Red hordes attacking from the hinterlands. Time’s coverage was a major part of Chiang’s support, politically and financially.
Then White began to report that Chiang was corrupt, his military poorly led, disorganized, while Mao was on the verge of winning. Luce flew to China to meet with White, and told him regardless of Chiang’s corruption, the more important, bigger picture was to save China from going Red. At all costs.
White disagreed, arguing journalism must not be sullied by political considerations. His reports did filter out as he wrote them, eventually becoming a book, Thunder Out of China, detailed Mao’s successful “Long March.”
A victory of journalism? But at what price? Consider that in 1949, Mao did win, and China did become Communist. What followed? The Soviets attained nuclear weapons, ostensibly because of American treason (the Rosenbergs, Robert Oppenheimer), followed by the Chinese. Some 33,000 American soldiers died in Korea, then 58,000 in Vietnam. This certainly belies the notion that the battle over the next half century was merely a Cold War.
But before examining additional casualties of this conflict, consider the Left’s duplicity. There were, of course, the Hollywood Ten. Led by John Howard Lawson, given full union protections, these were card-carrying, admitted Communists, paid by the U.S.S.R., bent on using their influence to propagandize on behalf of Stalin. Yet, these were only the ones the government could prove were Communists. Many more were engaged in an operation Stalin himself said was one of the most important Soviet espionage plots of them all. They continued to work, to use their influence, to shape Hollywood into what it would become over the next decades, just as Alger Hiss, convicted or not, shaped the U.N. into what it is today! A Hollywood that, year by year by year, turned further away from the ideals of Reagan and Wayne. To say this was just “progress” or “natural” is to be naïve.
Yet this naïveté remains to this day. Or is it naïveté? CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite said he never felt a real threat from Communism. He was also the man most influential in turning America away from fighting Communism in Vietnam.
During the Red Scare, many “named names.” These people are today treated by the Left with greater contempt than Benedict Arnold, “Red Emma” Goldman, Ezra Pound, or Tokyo Rose; all actual traitors against the United States.
The template in schools: McCarthyism was a “witch hunt” in which mean HUAC Republicans went after innocent Jewish writers. It is often described as on par with the Holocaust, yet in truth involved a handful of people, most of whom were guilty. The ones with talent wrote under pseudonyms, and many were eventually welcomed back to show business. Many “fled” to the “exile” of the French Riviera, working with the likes of Jean Luc-Goddard on the French New Wave, which has been described as among the “best years of our lives.”
Not exactly the gulags. But Hiss had his avengers, and it would not stop.
In the mean time, one must ask: what is to be made of those who sympathized with Communism? Were “fellow travelers”? Who attended Communist meetings and knew of Communist activity, even espionage? Who accepted money from the KGB?
Are these people just innocent bystanders of history? Consider switching the word “Nazi” for “Communist.” If somebody was a “Nazi sympathizer” or, worse, a spy; if they attended Nazi meetings, if they knew of Nazi plots; what then? Would not the government, HUAC, the American public been righteous in pursuing who these people were? How large the conspiracy, and doing something to stop it?
In addressing this question, go back to Henry Luce, and what he was trying to stop Theodore White from allowing to happen. Luce’s beloved China went, to his way of thinking, actually to hell. Historians generally agreed Mao murdered 55 million human beings, mostly during the Cultural Revolution. A recent Mao biography adjusts that figure: 70 million.
Stalin was a piker by comparison: 35 million. To liberal Jews, who ascribe special hatred reserved for Adolf Hitler above all other despots, consider that Stalin’s victims surely include 6 million Jews, or close to it.
From 1917 to date, international Communism has murdered 120 million human beings. That is twice as many as all killed on all the battlefields and collateral damage of World War II, South Pacific and European Theatre combined. More than both world wars combined.
This further gives rise to what can be called the “Reagan theory.” The U.S. lost some 400,000 men fighting World War II, but the general consensus is that it was “worth it.” Given the above-referenced Communist carnage, would it have been “worth it” had 400,000 Americans sacrificed themselves, as Abe Lincoln would have called it, on the “altar of freedom” to stop something that killed 120 million people? Reagan won the Cold War, as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “without firing a shot.”
All of which begs a further study of those who, in varying ways, found favor, sympathized with, apologized for, or did not particularly think badly of, the murderers of 120 million of their fellow world citizens, seen by Stalin as the “eggs” that needed to be “broken” in order to “make an omelet.” Not to mention, a re-examination and debt of thanks given to those who recognized it and decided to do something about it. This certainly includes the boys lost in Vietnam, many of whom got no thanks and often were spat upon by those very fellow travelers attempting to proffer the lie that they fought not a Communist threat but “agrarian reformers.”
It is impossible to avoid partisan blame, either. Every Communist spy was a liberal Democrat in one way or another. The Left has attempted to paint the Right with Nazi association, as if Hitler’s Big Government can possibly be squared with the rugged individualism and “get out of my hair” philosophy at the heart of conservatism. Plus, a hunt for “Republican Nazis” reveals that none can be found having walked around on the Earth. By the same token, John Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy (possibly the worst non-mass murderer in 20th Century America), advocated joining forces with Hitler “because we can’t beat him.”
All of this requires a defense if liberalism is to stand up as a legitimate political philosophy. That defense, however, has no real legs to stand on. It must be built on a lie. Starting with Hiss, continuing with McCarthyism, then above all other divisions within this nation, girding itself onto the protest movement of the Vietnam War, continuing to Clinton and now Barack Obama, it becomes the ammunition used to take down the Rushmore image of John Wayne, and therefore all he stood for.
The much-maligned J. Edgar Hoover noticed something that history has decided not to notice, which is that much of the protest movement during Vietnam was funded by Communist fronts, and incredibly, while the names, the bank accounts, and the principals have changed, these front groups never went away, even after the Cold War was won. They were behind much of the Iraq War protests, and include some of Barack Obama’s top supporters. These include a line of progeny stretching from Saul Alinsky to Noam Chomsky to the Weather Underground to Bill Ayers to George Soros to Van Jones.
But out of that grew something even more insidious. KGB agents of the 1970s changed the way they approached prospects. From the 1920s to the 1950s, they generally had to pay, or blackmail, Western intelligence assets to turn their way. Beginning with the Vietnam protest generation, they found a large a segment, within the Democratic Party, who did not need to be persuaded or paid. Their politics were one and the same! This is how the Stanford marching band, at the height of Mao’s killing spree, can do a halftime march incredulously described by announcer Chris Schenkel as a “tribute to Chairman Mao,” he of the 70 million murders. This is how a top aide to President Obama, Anita Dunn can stand before a crowd and freely state that her “political hero” is the same Chairman Mao. It is how when a conservative commentator, Glenn Beck, has the temerity to find fault with it, just as HUAC found fault with such un-American activities in the 1950s, he is somehow forced off the air.
This is also how a mindset can be formed, starting with Darwinism, molded by Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood, sanctified by Roe v. Wade, in which a supposedly exceptional country, one Wayne and like minds once believed was literally favored by God, can now approach Mao’s 70 million figure in the form of aborted babies since 1973!
This is how the world of John Wayne is no more, and this is how America may not be able to called themselves “blessed” as we once were. Does God still “shed His grace on three”?
That is the question.
To Christians, who believe in good and evil, God and the devil, the answer to this question is relatively simple. The devil, as Paul Harvey so aptly described in 1965, decided that America was the “ripest apple on the tree,’ and endeavored to acquire it above all other fruits. But the human mind is still prone to inquiry, and so we inquire, how the hell did this happen?
We discover that while a small handful of card-carrying Communists were discovered, apprehended, and convicted, thousands were left to freely live in America. They had children who they influenced. One incendiary conservative disparagingly refers to these kids as “red diaper doper babies.”
These people are now in control of our institutions: the government, the media, Hollywood, the culture, the public schools, academia, and don’t look know, soon the military. If you do not believe they are about halfway in control of organized Christianity, you are deluded on that score.
But are they Communists? Well, like the Nazis, the Communists were easy to identify, and easy to hate. They were the Red Army of the Soviet Union and Mao’s China. They committed genocides, often using as their murder weapons famine and forced labor, but because neither was ever defeated in the way Dwight Eisenhower defeated Hitler, their gulags were paved over by highways and shopping malls, not Life photographers telling the world what they did because, as Ike pointed out, if they did not “nobody will believe it happened.” Their symbol was the hammer and sickle, their adherents walked around with Karl Marx’s Das Kapital or The Little Red Book.
At their height, they controlled an empire far greater than the free world. This included Eastern Europe and East Germany, delivered to their tender mercies in large measure by the policies of Alger Hiss at the formation of the U.N. (1945). We fought them in proxy wars of the Third World (Asia, Latin America, the Middle East). Much of the enmity and hatred extended to the West by the Muslim world was fomented by them, a fact virtually ignored by history.
When Reagan won the Cold War, the Republicans jumped up and down in triumph. One historian called it the “end of history.” George H.W. Bush called it the “new world order.” After victory over Saddam Hussein that seemed to re-write military strategy, the whole “Vietnam syndrome” was a thing of the past. The Democrats could only look at the GOP’s 91 percent approval ratings and dream.
The Republicans should have recalled Winston Churchill’s defeat at the hands of the British voters in 1946 instead.
So what happened? Well, the Communists never went away. No, they do not have their hammers and sickles or Little Red Books. They do not go around “carrying pictures of Chairman Mao,” or speak of how they will “bury” us in world domination or the space race. Sure, there is something called organized Communism, but it is a much different animal now. The Chinese now embrace greater market economic principles and a more Laissev-faire tax system than Barack Obama. They actually lecture him on spending.
Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, Burma; they hold out, starving and impoverished. Logically, one looks at them and says, “Ah, there is the reason to turn from Communism.”
The devil does not work that way.
No, since 1992, there has not been a “conspiracy so immense,” as McCarthy called it, to bring Communism to our shores. Rather, as the KGB began to see in the 1970s, it grew because somehow a growing number of people, who found a home in the Democratic Party, did not need to be paid or blackmailed to do its bidding, but have adopted its politics as their own.
Genocide is unsexy, the gulags too hard to maintain, re-education camps . . .well, they will just have to wait. Who needs that when you have, as Lenin called it, the “most important of the arts,” Hollywood.
Take Oliver Stone, who made a movie called Platoon endeavoring to tell the movie-going public that the My Lai massacre was not a one-time anomaly, but a regular occurrence. All he was doing was following the lead of John Kerry at the Winter Soldier hearings, where he said things that in an earlier time would have earned him a trial for treason. Stone recently produced a Showtime series called the Untold History of the United States. It is hard to even know where to begin, except to summarize that Stone somehow paints Stalin as a sympathetic figure who only wanted peace, but was forced to protect his nation’s interests from a war-hungry America bent on using the Atomic bomb. At no time does Stone even mention a whiff of Stalin’s 35 million dead, or Mao’s 70 million. The idea that something that can kill 120 million human beings is a threat to America, much less Mankind (who God tasked us to protect, if Reagan was to be believed) is the last possible thing Stone has any intention of telling people about.
Hollywood’s treatment of McCarthy and espionage is telling, as well. Very few movies have ever really told a non-fiction story of McCarthyism. Why? If they did, they would have to show John Howard Lawson, paid Soviet agents, and a host of liberal union screenwriters freely admitting they were in the C.P. Instead, they show fictionalized versions of screw-faced Republican members of HUAC eagerly going after some patriotic war veteran-turned-screenwriter tarnished by mistake (sharing the same last name?) as a Commie.
Take also all the movies Hollywood made about Hiss, about Kim Philby, about Robert Oppenheimer, the Rosenbergs, about Soviet spies burrowing into the U.S intelligence system, or the Venona project, in which dedicated military encryption analysts managed to find out half of FDR’s top people were in the hip pocket of the Kremlin . . . oh wait, those movies lack existence, just as actual “Republican Nazis” do. Instead they found the one spy who might have been a Republican, the only evidence of which was that he criticized Hillary Clinton for wearing a pants suit, and depicted him. Or they made a film about a Navy family that spied, in order to place forth the belief that the military is filled with spies, even though they are not (the Walkers did it purely out of greed, not ideology, while the hundreds of liberal spies did do it out of ideology).
No, the writers and Hollywood stars that make these movies do not have a handler in Moscow. If there are handlers handling top people in the American government, the Muslim Brotherhood is a better place to look. The people pressing the agenda in our public schools – like Bill Ayers – or the liberals in government or the Left-wing college professors; they do what they do because they believe in it. This is far more insidious than a Soviet espionage network, which could be found, taken apart, and prosecuted. This is amorphous, indefinable, and in that way, Satanic.
Its policy planks? Global warming, gay marriage, illegal amnesty, socialized medicine, nationalization of industry, stealing private property, soaking the rich, taking guns, victimhood, blame, race extortion, the welfare state. All planks of what Paul Harvey warned in 1965 were “what I would do if I were the devil.” This is the mindset of a President who takes over a country that at one time was unquestionably the greatest in all of history, but decides it needs to be “fundamentally transformed.
To put it in sports terms, it would be like a coach taking over from Bill Belichick in New England, and deciding all his methods were a failure; to be replaced by those with a history of . . . failure.
The tools at their considerable disposal? The EPA, the courts, executive orders issuing regulations nobody can read or understand, until they come and get you for breaking one of them. A nation that once idolized Duke Wayne, has rejected in large measure, almost everything he stood for. America in Wayne’s heyday stood as a colossus astride the world, the greatest empire in all of human history, yet today stands on the precipice, seemingly of its own free will unwilling to accept the responsibility that comes with such leadership.
It now appears, as Edmund Burke wrote after the French Revolution, that the “age of chivalry is gone.” As such, we are on the verge of descending into that “thousand years of darkness” Wayne’s friend Ronald Reagan warned would befall us if we, like each preceding generation, failed to fight for the freedoms the previous successfully secured.
The last question is: are we too late?
Steven Travers is a USC graduate, ex-professional baseball player, screenwriter, and author of 23 books, including The Duke, the Longhorns, and Chairman Mao: John Wayne’s Political Odyssey. His web site is redroom.com/member/steven-robert-travers and his email is USCSTEVE1@aol.com.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism