The Questioning Continued, Hour After Hour
Unfortunately, Paul’s itinerant employment record, a long history of jumping from job to job, exacerbated the concerns about his character. It was, at the very least, suggestive of a troubled youth. One colleague in Bonn stated that Paul Child had once commented that he had “pretty much wasted his twenties” and only in his thirties had begun to settle down and apply himself. After dropping out of college, he had worked on the crews of freighters and tankers, picking up languages in the various ports of call. His linguistic skills led to teaching jobs, first as a tutor with a family in Asolo, north of Venice, and then at a boys’ boarding school in France, in the Dordogne. The investigators could discover nothing about his life during this period. After returning to the United States, he worked briefly as an instructor in art and French at the Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. While there had been no complaints about him at Cranbrook, and he had been “highly regarded” at the Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, there had been “various instances” of questionable behavior at the Avon Old Farms School, an exclusive boys’ academy in Connecticut. During his five-year tenure at Avon, Paul had instituted a photography club, provided nude photographic magazines as exhibits, and even endeavored to obtain a live nude model. Avon’s dean had classified some of the photo exhibits as “obscene,” and the magazine subscriptions had promptly been canceled. Paul Child’s conduct, the dean reported, was “completely out of place” in a school for adolescent boys. Although he could not cite any particular manifestation of “homosexual tendencies,” he stated that Paul had “these tendencies.”
All of this material, some of it going back more than a decade, gave Sullivan and Sanders ample cause to press their case. They had to ask Paul about his homosexuality, they told him, no matter how embarrassing it might be for all involved. The “Kafkas” resumed their humiliating probe of the most private parts of his life, repeatedly reading something suspicious into his long bachelorhood. Just when he thought the two agents had exhausted the subject of his “homosexual tendencies,” they commanded, without warning: “Drop your pants.”
Paul just gaped at them. Was he supposed to prove his manhood with some sort of demonstration? He was so outraged, and so adamant in his denials—challenging the flustered agents to take down their own pants to see if it was possible to tell by “just looking”—that they finally let it go. In spite of this, a half hour later they asked unprompted if he had ever sought out psychiatric treatment. When he demanded to know “what in God’s name that would prove,” they said they thought that perhaps, long ago, he might have requested advice about “some little homosexual leanings.”
Paul later wrote Julia that he had stood up to his interrogators and had assumed from the outset that the homosexual ploy—which he considered “fairly dirty”—was designed to unnerve him and compel a quick confession. He remembered that when their friend Charles E. “Chip” Bohlen was Eisenhower’s ambassador-designate for the Soviet Union in 1953, McCarthy opposed his nomination, and when his attacks on Bohlen’s performance at the Yalta Conference proved insufficient, he got the FBI to leak some suggestive stories raising doubt about Bohlen’s sexual persuasion. Bohlen was confirmed anyway. But to Paul, it showed that McCarthy and his henchmen viewed homosexuality, on their sliding scale of perversions, to be just a hair removed from Communism, and any such admission would have surely sealed his fate.
And so the questioning had continued, hour after hour. All the places he had lived. All the people he had known. All his colleagues since joining the OSS in 1942 and their names and addresses. There were more questions about his brother and sister-in-law: their interests and activities; the names of organizations they belonged to; the names of their friends and acquaintances. Questions about Julia’s relations, etc., etc. His memory, not particularly good at this sort of detail in the best of times, occasionally faltered. Not that it mattered. He had nothing to hide. “They weren’t brutal,” he wrote Julia, “just very, very thorough.” Their technique “was to take notes (in spite of the secretary), abandon a given subject for fifteen minutes, and then suddenly loop back and ask a question already asked, but in a different form.”
Ironically, after having to defend himself against charges that he was sexually bent, he then had to convince them he had never bedded Jane Foster, despite the fact that she was an attractive woman—a high-spirited, golden-haired California girl who was reportedly one of the most memorable of the female OSS recruits to be flown into the Eastern theater during the war. Paul had spent an entire year in her company in Ceylon. Did he really expect them to believe that despite being billeted in the same barracks all that time he had never so much as made a pass at her? Paul patiently explained that while he and Jane were “very good friends,” they had never been lovers. She was, in his words, a loose, warm, gregarious, and witty woman. Someone he found “fun to talk to.” A “bold, free spirit” who was not regulated by traditions, the type of person “who might dine at six pm one evening and at eleven the next.” He had escorted her to a number of dinner parties and dances on the post, and they had shared countless meals together, but that was as far as it went.
In the end, the two agents had just stood up, thanked him, and said goodbye. They were finished for the time being. They gave absolutely no indication whether they believed him or not. Their expressions gave nothing away. Paul, who had maintained his poise for most of the interrogation, finally lost it. He had had all he could take and gave full vent to his fury. The whole charade, he berated them, had been handled in an “amateurish” fashion. All the subterfuge had been for nothing because they had “left him dangling” without information for days, and as a result “practically everyone in the outfit was aware something was screwy.” Bringing him back to Washington, he added bitterly, had been a pointless exercise, not to mention a fantastic waste of the government’s time and money. Looking supremely unconcerned, the two agents replied that, far from being useless, the interview had proved “extraordinarily valuable,” certainly worth the inconvenience and cost. With that, Paul was dismissed. It was 9:00 p.m. by the time he got back to his hotel and his letter to Julia. At the conclusion of his long, harrowing account, he had scribbled wearily, “The shape of the immediate future is—at the moment—totally unclear.”
At first, Julia was unable to take it in. “Paul is being investigated!” she noted in her diary on April 13, the enormity of what was happening finally beginning to sink in. The very idea of a Special Inquiry was “inexplicably weird.” Although it was utterly absurd that anyone could suspect her husband of being a Communist, she realized they could not afford to take the allegations lightly. Paul was afraid he might be in the “same position” as an old friend and colleague, Leonard Rennie, who was among a group of employees dismissed by the State Department as security risks. Paul had spent the weekend with the Rennies at their country home, and while their sympathy was well intended, it was of small comfort. They knew all too well the damage that even a hint of controversy could do, let alone a full-blown inquiry. He had been advised by a high-level USIS official by the name of Parker May to say nothing and wait. Patience would be in his “own interests.” Meanwhile, he was not to engage in any real work, but to try his best to maintain the fiction that this was one of those run-of-the-mill “government mixups.” If the FBI did not turn up anything incriminating, he would be given a clean bill of health and sent home.
Paul, of course, had no intention of keeping quiet. “As soon as he got out that first day, he went howling to everyone he knew,” recalled Julia, who had stayed up till dawn on Wednesday reviewing everything Paul had told her with a senior Foreign Service officer whom she knew they could trust. Between them, she and Paul knew a number of important people, and they both spent the next few days working the phones trying to find a way to remedy his situation.
Although Paul was confident he had acquitted himself well in the security interview and was still a “persona grata,” he was not yet in the clear. He had been given notice that he could be reexamined at any time. He was not to leave town. The standard investigation lasted thirty days, and he had to sit tight until they were done. As a precaution of sorts, he asked Julia to make copies of his long account of his interrogation available to his two supervisors in the Bonn office. He wrote her daily. His affectionate letters, full of his usual chatty badinage about the poor food and soupy heat of Washington’s Indian summer, belied his consuming doubt and anger. He cautioned her to postpone an upcoming trip to Paris in case she was needed in Washington at the last minute.
The OSS Society
In one letter, he enclosed a Washington Post and Times-Herald article about the problems being caused by American postwar “hyperpatriotism,” explaining that the extreme security procedures being put in place to safeguard against espionage were perceived by many leading lawyers and scientists as “harrying and constricting.” The Washington attorney Harold Green, a former member of the Atomic Energy Commission’s general counsel’s office, also pointed to the government’s “wobbly standards” in the present program: “Our criteria, for example, condemn the homosexual and pervert as security risks because of the risk of blackmail, but they are silent as to the married adulterer. We do not yet know who is the greater risk: the paragon of virtue who has a record of carelessness in locking classified material in his safe, or the chronic alcoholic who has a spotless record of security performance.” Another story on the same page reported that the legality of the government loyalty-security hearings was facing a legal challenge in the Supreme Court because the proceedings “did not grant the accused the right to confront or cross-examine his accusers.” At the top of each article, Paul scribbled “Julie! Julie!”