tv Book Discussion John Birch CSPAN May 2, 2016 6:30am-8:01am EDT
america has really reached this historic point where it is no longer a detriment. >> just to bring us back to where we started. >> how do we get there? i would give most of the credit to a lot of women up-and-coming in these organizations have looked in america and said it is just not right that women aren't that levels equal to men and that we will get better public policy and have a more democratic nation if we spend our lives dedicated to working women and through the political system. ..
>> at the end of the war, towards the end of the war as the japanese were withdrawing their forces towards the north, birch moved from south ofchina, the area here, up to this province which really was behind japanese lines. and many -- in this area the nationalist forces were primarily in the southwest where they'd been, they had to retreat, withdraw after fighting so long and hard with the japanese.
the communists were forced up to the area after the long march, but their power increased through the course of world war ii. so when birch yets up there -- gets up there, he is in contact with communist forces from time to time, and the policy of the united states government is a very pragmatic policy, and that is to cooperate with the communist forces if necessary when there's a good reason to do so. he didn't have any particular sympathy for the communists or their cause, nor did he have any sympathy for the nationalists. his loyalties really were with the chinese people. there was great relief on his part at the end of the war. here he is in the middle of the
back row. and he was ready to go home. he had been in china for five years. he had suffered from malaria, he he had refused a 45-day leave to return home. he wrote to marjorie tooker, "when the first wild thrill swept through this little river town where i was as the radio said japan was trying to surrender, i realized for the first time how utterly weary, even heartsick this war has made me." almost no one could imagine the horrendous civil war would result in a communist victory within the next four years. birch, however, was not
permitted to just turn around and go home. by this time he's working for the oss, the office of strategic services, which is the forerunner of the cia. the oss asked hum or told him -- ordered him, i should say, to take a final mission from his base in -- whoops. up to the city of xiuxo, and this is where bill brown's parents and grandparents were presbyterian missionaries. and on the way there he and his team of ten chinese, two koreans who presumably spoke japanese and could help translate and three other americans -- so a total of four americans -- they
were intercepted and detained by a detachment of chinese communists from the eighth army. birch's mission was to proceed to xiuxo to gather intelligence on the condition of the air base there, see if there were documents that the japanese had left behind, see what was going on. but on the way there in the town, the market town of -- [inaudible] right there -- he runs into this detachment of japanese communists who have ordered to detain and disarm any intruders. birch refuses to be disarmed. he's carrying a .45 pistol on his hip. they're not heavily armed. they're not expecting trouble. the war is over. and birch says in chinese to the
communists why are you trying to disarm me? what are you, bandits? united states of america has just won the war. i'm not going to give you my weapon. and one thing leads to another, tempers flare, birch is shot and killed. this is ten days after the surrender of japan in august of 1945. it's a tragic, a tragic incident. no one expected this to happen. lieutenant william miller who got news about the death of birch arranged for his fine y'all in the -- funeral in the city of xiuxo just a couple of weeks after birch lost his life. the funeral site is on a
hillside close to the city. colleagues that bill brown introduced my wife ellen and i to took us to this site, a chinese medical doctor, dr. wong, took us there on the first morning that we'd arrived in xiuxo, and he said i know exactly where birch with us buried -- was buried. my father was a presbyterian missionary, he was there at the service, and he took us right there. there's no evidence, nothing but a few cement slabs now that exist. there's no memorial, no sign or anything like that. but we were able to locate the site as well as the catholic church where the funeral took place. the funeral, which william miller described as quite remarkable, it was attended by japanese officers and other,
others who had just surrendered to the americans at the end of the war, so you have this very curious collection of people, japanese as well as chinese, puppet troops who had been working for the japanese who are attending the funeral of this american officer. the death of john birch came as a shock to americans in china. general albert weed meyer who succeeded vinegar joe stillwell was commanding officer. he received news just a few days after, a radio telegram, and he was deeply concerned that the death of an american soldier, the detention of americans with birch who were the three americans with him as well as the chinese and koreans were
taken by the communist detachment and eventually made their way to the chinese communist headquarters. that took about two months for them to get there. and weedermeyer was deeply concerned about what this meant. were the chinese communists shifting their policies after they had been cooperating with the americans? what did this mean? were they trying to send a signal to the united states? it just turned out by coincidence that mao tse-tung, chairman of the communist party, had arrived with ambassador william hurley. he's the guy with the bow tie and -- [laughter] the handlebar moustache on the right. hurley was colorful and erratic and problematic for u.s./china
relations, but hurley arranged for mao to fly on an american plane, a c-47 i think it was. this was mao's first trip on an airplane, first time in his life that he'd been in an airplane. and you can sort of see this quizzical look on mao's face wondering what to make of all of this. i think it's worth knowing that this was not just a photo op for mao. he stayed, he remained more 43 days to negotiate some kind of compromise with chiang kai-shek, with the nationalists. nothing much came of it, but both the communests and nationalists -- communists and nationalists at this very delicate point at the end of world war ii are hoping to avoid civil war, hoping that they might be able to arrange some
sort of accommodation. and it's a very sensitive period in their relations. but weedermeyer takes advantage of mao's presence to arrange for a meeting at the home of ambassador hurley on the evening of august 30, 1945. this is just five days after the death of birch. and he says, weedermeyer says to mao that he has information about the death of an american officer. he points to a map, and he says to mao and -- [inaudible] who is also at this meeting that this is a very serious and a very grave incident. why was he there, asked joe. he was sent there by me several weeks ago to obtain information about the japanese, answered weedermeyer.
i feel i and must send americans anywhere in china to carry out my mission. you mean any place? yes, said weedermeyer. mao seemed to be caught by surprise. we cannot say the chinese communist troops killed him or not. if this is true that communist troops shot this american officer, i extend my deepest apology. i would like assurance that this will not occur again, demanded weedermeyer. i would like assurance that this will not occur again. i cannot have americans killed in this theater by chinese communists or anyone else. i am directed by the president of the united states to use whatever force i require to protect american lives in china. so you can see this is a very tense conversation. the record of this is in the national archives in college park. mao is apologetic at the time,
but we learn from other sources that subsequently that he was angry. he felt humiliated about the way he had been lectured by mao. at this point in time, the united states position is to try to maintain some neutrality which, of course, is impossible because the united states recognizes the nationalists, the republic of china. but the u.s. is trying to not get enmeshed and mired in what is a looming civil war in china. so weedermeyer says to mao and joe that he very much hopes china not be become involved in a civil war and that the various political factions could settle their differences without resorting to warfare. we have republican and democratic parties in the united states. they have violent differences. but they do not resort to the use of arms, the force of arms.
[laughter] right? we'll see. [laughter] back in fort worth, texas, ethel birch and george birch are attending a memorial service for their son. frank norris is on the right. this service actually was attended by clara schnalt, and ethel birch had been informed by u.s. military authorities that her son had been shot on august 25, 1945, enroute to xiuxo on the railway and was killed as a result of stray bullets. well, that wasn't the full story, of course. and as ethel birch dug into the story and tried to find out what had actually happened to her son, her eldest son, she became
increasingly skeptical and increasingly frustrated about the real issue. she was also angry because she felt her son had been denied recognition. she came to believe as the cold war develops, as debate over the loss of china takes hold after 1949 that her son deserved recognition, deserved credit but that never happened. so she was open to the idea of a conspiracy. open to the idea that her son had been wronged. this leads us to senator william noland, a prominent senator from california. he was senate majority leader for a time during the 1950s.
after the outbreak of the korean war in 1950, june 1950, that fall he stands up on the floorover the senate, and he delivers -- floor of the senate, and he delivers a speech that breathes fresh life into the story of john birch which really was a footnote of this history. it would have been long forgotten had it not been for noland. noland -- and here i quote -- told the simple story of a lone american officer who was willing to sacrifice his life so that this nation might find out whether these communists were friends or enemies. the incident, claimed noland, was one of the least known and most significant indications of communist intentions in china. the senator went on in his speech to ask rhetorically if members of congress had had this information in august or
september of 1945 at the end of the war against japan, is there any person here who feels they would have tolerated the subsequent activity of the state department in trying to force a coalition between the government of the republicover china and the -- republic of china and the same communists represented by the man who shot captain john birch in cold blood. birch was willing to sacrifice his life, according to noland, to test the communists who pretended to be cooperating with the united states. so this is a rewriting of history. or it's noland's attempt to say history would have been different if only the truth of the death of this american officer had been revealed at the time. >> [inaudible] >> he gave the speech in, i believe, it was october --
>> okay. before they -- [inaudible] >> exactly. actually, it was september. and the chinese -- yes, it was a couple of months before the chinese enter the korean conflict. but, of course, relations are already badly fraying. and he's not -- well, communists in general, but the chinese communist is the real threat. noland was sometimes called the senator from formosa. he gave so many speeches that, in defense of taiwan and chiang kai-shek, that he earned that soakly debt. -- soakly debt. and it wasn't robert welch who came up with the story of john birch, it was because robert welch read a speech in the congressional record, of all places -- [laughter] can you imagine sitting down and reading the congressional record? [laughter] it was in the congressional record. three years later robert welch
read the speech. it didn't get much attention in september of 1950. americans were dying by the hundreds and eventually thousands in korea at this point. so it didn't get much attention. this was old news. this was something that happened in 1945, a lone american officer. i mean, what would that really signify? but robert welch realize the speech and latched on to it. he went to macon, georgia, visited with birch's parents, told them that he believed their son was a great patriot, compared him to nathan hale, the revolutionary war hero hanged by the british, and said that he, robert welch, would bring the recognition to their son that he deserved despite the fact that the u.s. military, the u.s. government had refused even to award birch a purple heart.
because the u.s. was not at war with the communists in 1945. welch, robert welch never met birch, and he never visited china. but george and ethel birch, here they are with their children, and ethel is holding a portrait of john, were open to this proposition from robert welch. ethel birch gave welch materials that she had been collecting for her own biography of her son. welch wrote a short -- [inaudible] which is as much his own political platform as it is a biography of welch. there are no footnotes, there's no documentation. it's a frustrating book. [laughter] welch calls him a heroic young patriot who recognized the dangers of communism long before others.
here he's just echoing what noland has already said. he said that the death of birch was a deliberate and unjustified killing, claimed that birch had sacrifice canned his life z -- sacrificed his life as a warning to others about the true intentions of the communists. so with the enthusiastic permission of the parents, welch established the john birch society in 1958. and as i mentioned, it became one of the most influential and controversial organizations of its time. its platform was anti-communism and anti-big government. welch had decided that john birch was the ideal symbol for his new movement founded in late 1958. and he did so for three reasons. one is that birch represented to the mind of robert welch the epitome of american values. he'd been a missionary, he'd been a military office, he'd
helped -- according to welch -- to rescue jimmy doolittle. he was described by noland and then welch as the first casualty of world war iii. the first casualty of the cold war. the first victim at the hands of the communists. but equally important to welch was the idea, his belief that there was a conspiracy to cover up the death of john birch. the secret file, the top secret file on birch's death was not released until after nixon's visit to china in 1972 as a result of a freedom of information request. robert welch realized it was the geopolitical context that gave john birch story a greater snaps.
he noted -- sentence. significance. he noted he committed to nations to his creed, but his murder illuminated a crossroads of is civilization. in one direction toward greater freedom, further growth and more enlightenment. as welch put it, with his death and in his death the battle lines are drawn. if birch had sacrificed his life in some other country -- this is me now, not robert welch -- say greece or india, it would have mattered far less. the fact that he was murdered by chinese communists imbued the event with much more meaning because the unforeseen loss of china was to displaying and disorienting to americans. chinese -- china's rejection of capitalism and democracy in favor of marxism, leninism
represented a profound failure of u.s. leadership. accusations blaming the truman administration ranging from poor judgment to appeasement and even treason transformed a complex foreign policy problem into a potent political issue. so the name of john birch is caught up in all of this. and robert welch here is in his belmont, massachusetts, headquarters, the john birch society with a portrait of john birch. believed that the story of welch as a missionary, a patriotic soldier and a selfless martyr would inspire and instruct americans about conspiracy and communism. instead, his memory was misappropriated and made synonymous with extremist
politics. let me end there and thank you very much for your interest. [applause] >> thanks. now it's time for discussion and question and answers. the hands are already going up, but let's just say the rules are please wait for the microphone to reach you, please identify yourself when you get the mic and use the mic, please. so that everyone can hear you. there's a gentleman here on the left side of the table. >> my name is steven sage, i was formerly american vice counsel in the embassy in beijing, and my question concerns chinese sources for the death of john birch. surely, given the high profile that welch endowed upon him, there must have been some kind of investigation and some kind of scholarship regarding him. >> yes.
in response to this confrontation between mao and weedermeyer, the chinese did investigate the circumstances of the death. the commander of the communist military forces wrote a letter to and gave a report to weedermeyer based on the information he'd been able to gather from the field. the communist report said that birch was responsible for his own death, that he had pulled his weapon and had threatened the local communist commander and that the communists had retaliated in self-defense. i think that's hard to imagine because it would have been suicidal to actually pull out your weapon.
but it's clear that birch had lost his temper, that he was angry, and the u.s. investigation of the incident does come to the conclusion that birch did bear some responsibility, that he had been provocative. nonetheless, in the final analysis it was classified as a murder. there was no justification for his death at the hands of communists. i did, when i went to xiuxo, i did try to get boo some archives -- into some archives. that was not possible. as you may know, archives in china have become much more restrictive not only for foreigners, but for chinese as well. so i was not able to obtain any further information. but what we do know is that this incident, there was a follow up as you suggest. and be as a result of this incident, we also know that the chinese communist party reversed
its standing order to detain and disarm any intruders. they said specifically if any americans come into contact with your forces, treat them very carefully. treat them diplomatically. do not atent to disarm -- attempt to disarm them. basically, they were saying we cannot afford to risk another birch incident at this point in time. so there was a fallout from this which i think is significant in light of the delicate policies of this time. >> thank you. bobby? >> bob hathaway. terry, can't wait to read the book. glad the wilson center had a small part in it. were you able to track down how noland got hold of this story? >> absolutely. yeah. no beland's papers -- noland's papers are at university of california-berkeley, and it turns out that he was informed
about the incident by william miller. william miller being the young lieutenant who had arranged for the funeral of birch in xiuxo to. miller was convinced that birch had been wronged, you know, that there should have been more attention given to his death, that he did deserve recognition. and since that had not happened, since the incident had been forgotten, he wrote to noland, and noland then as a u.s. senator was actually able to gain access to the secret files. but noland chose to interpret it as kind of a revision of history, as a rewriting of history saying that we would have known, had we only known about this incident, we would have known better. >> thank you. since we're talking about archives, since we're at the homes of the national institute
project, maybe you can talk for a moment about what kind of document, what kind of sources you used for the book. you already alluded to the fact that access in china is difficult these days. what kind of sources did you use? and second question, what to you was the most challenging thing about writing a biography? writing this biography? >> right. putting this book together was a real detective story. you know, there's so many different pieces to it, different aspects to it. so as i mentioned before, i was very fortunate to meet three of birch's surviving brothers. the papers of william noland at uc berkeley, papers of weedermeyer at the hoover institution. the 14th air force archives in montgomery, alabama, maxwell air
force base, that was really an exciting, an exciting trip, an exciting find. because bury in -- buried in those materials is a 24, 25-page interview i, oral history interview with john birch that was conducted about five months before his death. the army air force historian arranged this interview because john birch was the first of these field intelligence officers. he had met doolittle, he'd led a colorful life. and so there's some wonderful detail in that interview. the, another source that was extremely helpful was a newspaper called the fundamentalist which was published by the bible baptist institute in fort worth. i went down there.
and vicki bryant, the curator of that archive, was extremely helpful in showing me different sources. but birch had written letters not only to his parents, but also to the fundamental -- or the independent baptists back in texas, and they published these letters. so they're detailed accounts of how he traveled across japanese lands, for example, or how he encountered doolittle. so it was really quite a remarkable experience to be able to identify these different sources and to piece them together. i went to new jersey and found information about the marriage of birch's parents, made trips to worcester college where ethel birch was a graduate. found alumni information. she had been the president of the ywca and so on and so forth.
greatest challenge in putting the book together aside from trying to find a publisher, which took a while -- because i think people hear the name john birch, and it's fascinating to say, you know, to tell people that, friends and others who i meet, well, i've written a book about john birch. and their eyes get wide, and the eyebrows go up, and they say you mean the john birch society? and then i say, yes, but he's not who you thought he was. i think probably for that reason it was not easy to find a publisher. i was fortunate that oxford press was willing to take it on. i think just getting insights into who he really was through the letters that he had written to these three women and his letters home, i entered this
project skeptical. .. his brother said there was no connection between my brother, john birch, at the john birch society. and i think that some data. urge was interested in religion. welch was interested in politics. >> roger? >> i had a similar question about the sources of the archives at the birch society itself.
at the end of the store you didn't health what became of the society and what its significance is. >> the birch society still exist. you can go online and find a. its headquarters down in appleton, wisconsin, which coincidentally is the home of joseph mccarthy. [laughter] i asked about getting access to the archives. they are apparently available to members. i did not take out a membership. [laughter] there still are, you know, i don't know what the numbers are, at the heart of the birch society commitment as many as 100,000 members paying their dues, meeting on a regular basis. i wanted to see if i could use some extended quotes from robert welch, but the birch society was not inclined to give me permission for that unless they
could review my manuscript, which i declined. fortunately, robert welch, for my purposes robert welch was prolific. he was quite a brilliant man. he graduated from university of north carolina at the age of 17, attended the u.s. navy academy for two years, attended harvard law school for two years and to decide, married and became a businessman. but welch produced reams of material, had a monthly magazine, a magazine called the new american that the birch society puts out, produced no end of lectures, videos, materials for the local members to discuss and review and so
forth. he gave speeches. all of this is pretty widely covered in the media at the time, and so there's plenty of material, more than enough material about the birch society itself, which i do we've into the store to explain how and why the name of birch was used. >> i'm going to slip in a question, co-chairs prerogative. i'm surprised about the difficulty in finding a publisher because it's an absolutely engaging story. i mean, held my attention from start to finish. and you do recover a john birch very different from the one who was appropriated or in your telling misappropriated and put to political use. that's what my question is about. there's another we reading this and this is about robert welch's brilliance inappropriate in this figure, john birch, and impressing them into political service after his death, with
the assistance of a mother. said john birch might not have been a birch are but mom was. and so she is the facilitator providing them with material that allows birch to do his version of the biography, it seems to come even if the brother express doubts later on, she's the transmission belt and she gives it the golden seal of approval. so this could be read slightly differently as kind of a brilliant political act on robert welch is a part. you take some raw material, embellish it in your assisted along the way by family members and even by the independent baptist over chronicling in an exaggerated way john birch his own activities earlier. so even from the start there's a fictionalized john birch, kind
of accompanying the real one. >> right. i think you put it so well, and a mother, ethel birch, as i mentioned earlier was frustrated, angry and bought into this idea that there was a conspiracy about her son's death, and so she was very much open to welch. welch, think the other reason that welch last -- latched onto this was because the store was not widely known. it was because this figure of birch was so anonymous in a way, it really was, he was not a major symbol. he was not a household name. and so that meant for the purposes of robert welch that the image of birch was malleable. the image of birch could be appropriated and used for these
political cold war anti-communist purposes, it essentially nobody would really know the difference, right? and so i think there was at least part of a strategy, part of the thinking of the part of robert welch in addition to the fact that there was the china connection, which loomed large in the american political imagination, as well as the way in which this pointed to evidence of conspiracy. but i think you are saying something very important, and that is, you know, why pick somebody who who is so unknown? in reality it should've been called the robert welch society, not the john birch society. but i think the fact that john birch was an unknown was actually attractive. and when welch establishes the
society in indianapolis with a small group of business people in 1958, he says to the group i'm not going to talk much about john birch. he says basically, go read a biography that i've written and you understand why i am using his name. >> thank you. the gentleman on the left. >> just a little bit of a -- >> your name? >> bill brown. i'm retired from the cia and i do consulting work out there every now and then. you have probably seen in the lobby, their memorial hall which people have died from cia speech peak i can speak in the microphone. >> on one side of the hall the cia, people who died in action. on the other side there is one big start for oss people. enters a little book underneath
it listing all ss people who died in action. something like cold war, said the cold war period. so after i'd been talking to carry about this project a couple years ago, i asked the store and, well, i looked at the book. is just one page of oss people and, of course, john birch is not listed. asked the cia historian, i said, why isn't john birch on this sheet? and she said, you mean john birch? [laughter] i said, yes, john birch, oss officer. all, i don't know anything about, i think you should investigate. so she did. he investigated. e-mailed me back about two weeks later and said, bill, i think you are right. do you want us to put john birch at the top of our list? after all, the first casualty of the cold war.
i said, it's not my business, but yes. seems like you should put in a form and it might happen. and i said, i don't think i'm the person to put in before. you should talk to the family. this was two years ago. i was there a few aches ago. it's still not on the list. she said effectively, i said why did they put it on? she said it's a political. just a second commentary though, i was in china in october. there in fewer and -- interviewing me about my grandparents lived there for four years. i went upon the hill, and i stopped at this great site, and the tv crew says, why are you looking here? and i said this is a great site of john birch. do you want to talk about that? i said though, i don't want to talk about that. they said please, talk about that. i said it's too political.
[laughter] >> okay. great story. the gentleman all the way in the back and then we'll go to you. >> i'm check from the state department. everybody, boomers grew up in when we were teenagers launcher -- john birch society was a big deal. do you remember the song, chad mitchell? we are the john birch society, stepping out of the reds. we use our hands and hearts, but we must use our heads. [laughter] it was terrific. would you have any interest in going on a little bit about whether such a symbol of ultimate right wing, where would they stand today? >> as i mentioned earlier there's a lot of consistency with today's tea party politics, and if you look at their website today you will see that it's still very much about strict
interpretation of the constitution, states' rights, opposition to gun control, opposition to abortion, opposition to federal income tax. you know, the litany of conservative issues, and so there is i think an interesting connection even though we live in very different times. what's intriguing is the way the birch society was created at the time by william buckley and the national review, and barry goldwater who felt that because the birch society had become so notorious with the acquisition of eisenhower being a communist, that welch had to be right out of the conservative movement,
echoes of mr. trump, right? the way in which the conservatives today, the national review, for example, has said donald trump is not a real conservative, he should not represent the conservative movement. so there's some interesting parallels there your goldwater and buckley as well went to some pains to say many of my best friends are members of the birch society, they are upstanding citizens, respectable americans. but robert welch should resign as head of the birch society. thank you. >> can't help but reminded of the use made in a different nation at a different time but i think horse vessel was the least a nazi. >> do you want to comment on that? >> no. i believe that as a comment.
any other questions? >> wait for the microphone and please state your name. [inaudible] this was not in my plant debate but i really am glad i am here, so it's very fascinating story, thank you. i'm interested, what happened to the three americans that wasn't detained by the chinese group at the time or when he was killed? >> right. they were taken, as i mentioned it to too much for them to make the journey, very arduous. they wrote a report, a detailed report about their experiences and they observed the territory that they were passing through. one of them had some very positive comments about the communist. others were more negative. two of them were officers come
one was an enlisted man. when they reached the city, they were a apologized to for the death of john birch. they said we are very sorry this happened, it was an accident, very tragic, we regret this. they were debriefed and then they went to india and back to the united states. i'm sure they were told not to talk about this incident. it was too sensitive at the time. >> i remember driving across the country when i was quite young and seeing those billboards, impeach earl warren. of what he did say a bit more about the site it's a. you said it was popular. i would be interested instead of how large a membership it had and where, i mean, welch himself was in massachusetts which, of
course, is now a blue state, but was it a stronghold for the society? want other parts of the country tended to be areas of interest for the society? >> the epicenter for the birch society and the right wing political movement in general was a southern california. the defense industry was growing there after world war ii. aeronautics industry. and there were many people who are moving to southern california from the midwest and they didn't have deep roots in their local communities. so southern californian was really what a lot of the action took place, but the majority of the membership in the western states, texas in, and through the south there were ardent members in other parts of the country.
a woman has written a book about her parents were devout members of the birch society in chicago. her book is called wrapped in the flag, and she describes how they organized meetings in their home. they would stand up every couple of weeks and started meeting with the pledge of allegiance to the flag and then they would watch films or discuss articles, events of the day. so it was really quite widespread. >> professor cohen. >> a quick one on that. when i was teaching in 1962 our congressman was a member of the john birch society. [laughter] there were two congressmen that i've been able to identify and are members, i forgot the other but i think it was also california. birch didn't believe in institutional politics.
he didn't think that was, he thought it was part of the establishment, part of what he came to describe as the insiders who are conspiratorial, many of whom in his opinion were communists. and so we did believe the most effective thing was to advocate at the grassroots level to infiltrate, if you would, parent teacher association, pta, to investigate books in public libraries, to operate at the local level here. >> i am a trade lawyer but i begin my car as an ssl at stake. you mentioned the general knew this young man, john birch. wasn't his wife and he, weren't they involved with the committee of 1 million or something and
they supported -- did they get involved in any way in supporting the john birch society and this legend of this young man? >> he was very close to birch. it was a mutual admiration society, as far as the two of them are concerned. but even though as you also say was very close to shank i shut and became a strong supporter of the nationals on taiwan -- chiang kai-shek. he never joined the birch society largely because he died of lung cancer right about the time the birch society was being established in 1958. so chennault wasn't around to take part in the. i'm not sure he would have in
any case. [inaudible] >> she was there active for many years in the so-called china lobby. she was not a member of the birch society, nor, to the best of my knowledge, was william nolan who have talked about birch. albert wedemeyer was on an advisory council for robert welch, but he came to believe that welch had misused or misrepresented the facts about the death of birch in the investigation of birch. wedemeyer felt there was no conspiracy, there was a cover-up and so wedemeyer wrote a very testy letter to welch saying i don't want anything more to do with the birch society, i am resigning my position as an advisor.
>> we have been talking about birch member in a political context. are their missionary communities or american baptist i cling to his memory? is he an important member for them? >> the was a biography of birch written in the early 1980s by conservative christian couple. they did have some new material. no footnotes, no documentation, but they did go into more detail about birch. however, they made virtually no connection between john birch and the john birch society. so i think there were christians, in fact there are conservative christians who do feel that birch is an important person as a missionary to china, as part of that larger movement.
that i don't think there are a lot of people who know this story but there are some at least who do appreciate his history as a religious figure rather than as a political symbol. >> thank you. terry, i wonder if you have any sense of what birch's image in china is? havhave a talk to a contemporary chinese about it was and is, what it is a suspect their actions are not so much different than perhaps in the u.s., has there been an interest in rediscovered john birch based on your book and rewriting that history? >> i've been in correspondence with a chinese scholar who is extremely curious about the details of the story, but i think the to this point john birch and the name, even the john birch society is even less known in china than it is in the
united states, which is not surprising. this was a minor incident and while the name of mccarthy may be well known, or at least pretty well-known in china, the name of the birch society didn't reach the same level. mccarthy was in political office and had a different kind of platform from robert welch and the birch society. i think it's a book were to be translated and published in china, then they would obviously be more interest and, of course, it would be extreme interesting to note if there is more information in the archives about the incident. but so far as i know the communist party through the late '50s and '60s, while they followed the american politics at a distance in terms of the civil rights movement and were
quite concerned, quite interested in what they viewed as the oppression of african-americans, blocks in your society, and this was evidence of the annals of -- bills of capitalism, not to mention and realism, there wasn't that much attention to the birch society. partly this is also because the birch society was so heavily focused on the communist conspiracy within the united states. they were not that interested in the threat from abroad. welch imagined that conspiracies were everywhere. he thought the kennedy administration's invasion of the bay of pigs was, the actual purpose was to reinforce the power of castro and enforce the communist regime. he had a way, you know, it was
alice in wonderland. he called it is the principle of reversal or so everything was done except what it appeared to be. it was actually the opposite. the vietnam war he felt was being fought as a distraction to the real issue of communism at home. so we actually opposed the vietnam war. which led to another falling out with conservatives. >> on that note we will draw the seminar to a close. but before we exit let's remind you that next week we have a talk about cuba and american history. that are books for purchase and signing outside this door. please join us for a reception. thank you dora on kids. thank you to terry lautz.
companies. they take it for granted. the internet is on a similar path. i think we know when we will get there who don't have a hyphenated internet. right now the call of e-commerce. someday we'll just call it commerce. we are not there yet. i think we'll take another 10 or 20 years but i think we are on that path and the third wave is just the next iteration, the next step, the next way of taking the id of the internet and shifting it from being a quirky technology thing to being a fundamental kind of part of everyday life. >> transport errors on booktv every saturday at 10 p.m. and sunday at 9 p.m. eastern. you can watch all previous "after words" programs on our website, booktv.org. >> when i tune into on the weekends, usually it is authors sharing to new releases. >> watching the nonfiction authors on booktv is the best television or serious readers.
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