Washington Times on September 20, 2016, published a review of “True Believer: Stalin’s Last American Spy” by Kati Marton, Simon and Schuster, $27, 289 pages. Excerpts below:
Soviet spy Noel Field was born into a prominent Quaker family…While at Harvard, his Quaker idealism, coupled with a loathing for capitalism, morphed into admiration for communism. Bent upon “reforming America,” he joined State’s Western European Division in 1926 and achieved a reputation for brilliance — and also for unconcealed leftism.
In a New Deal Washington teeming with communists and sympathizers, Field proved to be a prime prospect for Soviet intelligence recruiters. A legendary KGB recruiter known as “J. Peters” easily hooked Field. “An ideal target,” Kati Marton terms him. “Who would ever believe a well-mannered young man with deep New England roots and immaculate appearances such as Noel Field could betray his country?”
Lack of security made spying easy. “The mentality of the State Department was rather provincial This was evident from the careless manner in which state secrets were managed. The most secret documents, sometimes in multiple copies, circulated from hand to hand.
Field was careless to the point of recklessness. Contrary to KGB dicta, he subscribed to The Daily Worker, the U. S. communist newspaper, and flashed copies to make points in debates. He marched in leftist protest demonstrations. And perhaps most striking, he drove a group of friends to the Lincoln Memorial one evening, got out of the car, and loudly sang the “International” — in Russian.
Switching to the United Nations in Geneva in 1936, Field took on a most odious Soviet assignment — to help assassinate a longtime KGB officer named Ignace Reiss, who was threatening to defect to protest the Stalin “show trials” that killed many former associates. Field was tasked with watching for Reiss and notifying the assigned assassin if he appeared. As matters turned out, another killer disposed of Reiss (12 shots to the head). But as Ms. Morton observes, Field “had shown his willingness to do Moscow’s bidding — even as an accessory in a comrade’s murder.”
Field next shifted to France…And when war came, he sought out an old family friend, Allen Dulles, and signed on with the Office of Strategic Services. (The OSS director, Gen. William Donovan, had famously declared, “I’d put Stalin on the OSS payroll if I thought it would help us defeat Hitler.)
Field’s world tumbled in 1948. Communist agent Whittaker Chambers defected and revealed wide Red infiltration of Federal agencies. He named Field and Hiss, among others. Field sought refuge in Hungary, a Soviet puppet state.
Then another jolt: a paranoid Stalin accused Field and several other former agents for being secret American intelligence agents working against the USSR…
A stunned Field was tortured — at times so severely he had to be carried to his cell on a stretcher. He followed a prepared script and “confessed”… His sentence: five years in solitary confinement.
Field played along with his tormentors, faulting himself for lack of Communist character” and begging to continue with the party. Even the jailing of his wife, brother and adopted daughter did not shake his faith in communism. He chose to remain in Hungary after his release from prison — still worshipping a the feet of the failed god communism.