Horace Schmahl

Professor Stephen Salant has posed some of his findings to WhittakerChambers.org, as follows:

There is an aspect of the Hiss case that has not received adequate attention: the involvement of U.S. Army counterintelligence.

In October 1948, while Whittaker Chambers was still insisting under oath that Hiss was a Communist but not a spy and that he had no evidence to the contrary, the law firm Hiss had retained in his libel suit hired a detective who was immediately replaced by Horace Schmahl—who claimed to have expertise in “Trial Preparation.” Schmahl became Hiss’s Chief Investigator in the case, the one who later launched the Defense’s search for Hiss’s typewriter, etc.

He turns out to have been an undercover Special Agent of the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps [(CIC)]. He even confided to the FBI that he was really working for Military Intelligence.

My website documents his training at spy school (Camp Ritchie), his graduating class, etc.

Imagine having an agent of the government sitting in on what you thought were confidential meetings with your lawyer. What PRECOGNITION led the CIC to place him in that position before Chambers first “remembered” that Hiss had given him incriminating documents and that he still retained them? This seems hard to explain.

My personal guess is that U.S. counterintelligence (rightly or wrongly) thought Hiss was a spy in the 1940s (long after Chambers last saw him) based entirely on independent evidence which it felt it could not reveal and that the evidence surrendered by Chambers was cooked up to convict a man counterintelligence thought was guilty of espionage.

Read more about Dr. Salant’s findings at “Deception.”

Do others have insight into these findings?

Replies and comments are welcome for consideration—so long as they omit ad hominem attacks on any party involved.

7 Responses to Hiss Case: Army Counterintelligence

  1. Stephen St. Onge says:

    Nothing here.

    We have found out that Horace Schmahl knew Donovan. Donovan knew lots of people. So what?

    As for the documents, there is no evidence that anyone could forge documents well enough to withstand detailed forensic examination in 1949. Hiss’s lawyers hired four professional document examiners, and none found a single bit of evidence indicating the documents were typed on any typewriter but the one that also typed the ‘Hiss standards.’ The FBI examiner, the HCUA examiner, and the TIME Magazine examiner all concurred.

    Face it, Hiss was guilty.

  2. I’m going to ask that everyone start using more specific details, please.

    At what time did Hiss file the Coram Nobis petition?

    Did Schmahl remain a Special Agent in CIC throughout his involvement in the Hiss Case — and with whose permission?

    What were the other two cases Schmahl supported, and what dates?

    When did Donovan advocate for Schmahl?

    Why _must_ Donovan have known of Schmahl’s involvement in the Hiss case?

    When and why was Donovan having lunch with Schmahl?

    When and why did Donovan recommend Schmahl to CI Special Ops?

    If Berresford erred in saying that Schmahl was “hired” to look for Hiss’s typewriter, did he later (or sooner) partake in that search?

    Is the all-caps for “PRECOGNITION” your own term or does it refer to some special operation or other?

    When and where did Chambers testify that Hiss was no spy? What exactly did he say?

    (On August 3, 1948, Chambers said that the Ware Group’s purpose was “not primarily espionage,” which in no way says there was no espionage.)

  3. John W Berresford says:

    I recall reading Professor Salant’s attempt to make Schmahl into an International Man of Mystery when it was first published and being very dubious about it. Schmahl was hired by Hiss’s lawyer Ed McLean to find the typewriter and dig up dirt on Chambers. He found little or nothing on either count and was let go. I know of no evidence that he was an insider in the Hiss defense or that he knew anything of value to leak to the Prosecution. Schmahl’s role was litigated in Hiss’s last run at the courts in the early 1980s and was dismissed. With the greatest respect for Professor Salant, that Schmahl worked for Army Counter Intelligence in WWII adds nothing but more spooky background music.

    • I have great respect for John Berresford. However, it seems extremely unfair to say “Schmahl’s role was litigated in Hiss’s last run at the courts in the early 1980s and was dismissed.” At the time Hiss filed his Coram Nobis petition, he had no inkling that Schmahl was a Special Agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps and was almost surely working undercover not for the Hiss defense but for Military Intelligence. This information only came to light after Hiss had died.

      If Schmahl was really working for the Hiss defense because of the supposed expertise he had advertised on his letterhead “Investigations–Trial Preparation” when the Hiss defense hired him, it baffles me why—when he was asked under oath in an unrelated case just two months after Hiss went to prison to describe his investigative experience and expertise—he made no mention of his employment by the Hiss defense or his expertise in Trial Preparation. Instead he said, “I investigate suspected insurance frauds…personal injury accidents, railroad accidents…” Short memory, I guess.

      I am equally baffled why the former head of OSS (the predecessor of the CIA) and no friend of Hiss—General “Wild Bill” Donovan— went out on a limb in advocating on Schmahl’s behalf. Donovan had known Schmahl for a decade, and surely followed the Hiss case closely since his own organization (OSS) had been penetrated by Soviet agents. Moreover, Donovan lived in New York where the Hiss case was being litigated. He surely knew of Schmahl’s involvement in the case. Just weeks before Hiss went to prison Donovan had lunch with Hiss’s “Chief Investigator” Schmahl and urged Special Operations of the CIA to hire him saying “I believe you might well find him very useful to you.”

      Berresford also makes a seemingly minor mistake in saying that Schmahl was hired to look for Hiss’s typewriter. At the time that Schmahl was hired, Chambers had surrendered no typed evidence or any other evidence of espionage. In fact, Chambers was testifying under oath that he had no such evidence and that Hiss was not a spy.

      I come back to the amazing feat of PRECOGNITION that U.S. counterintelligence displayed in dispatching an undercover Special Agent to help in a mere libel case and at a time when Chambers was testifying under oath that Hiss was no spy and had given him no unauthorized information.

      • Mr. Chambers:

        I submitted my reply to Mr. Berresford before reading your questions.

        Here are the answers:

        1. On October 14 [1948] in sworn testimony before the grand jury, Chambers was asked “Could you give one name of anybody, who, in your opinion, was positively guilty of espionage against the United States? Yes or no.” On October 15, he responded “I do not believe I do know such a name.” He reversed this long-held position on November 18.

        2. According to the time sheets of the law firm, Horace Schmahl met with the Hiss legal team preparing Hiss’s libel suit as early as October 21, 1948.

        3. Chambers ceased to deny that Hiss was an espionage agent on November 18, surrendering typed evidence later traced to the typewriter. He surrendered the film evidence on December 2, 1948. So there was approximately a month’s gap between when Special Agent Schmahl penetrated the Hiss team preparing the libel suit and when Chambers first charged Hiss with espionage–a feat of PRECOGNITION on the part of Military Intelligence.

        4. Precognition: “Clairvoyance relating to an event or state not yet experienced” (Webster online). I used upper case for emphasis since italics are disabled on the website.

        5. The first news account that “Sleuth ‘Hired by Hiss’ Touched Off Hunt for Typewriter Here” appeared in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin on December 14, 1948.

        6. Donovan recommended Schmahl to CIA Special Operations on March 9, 1951 saying “I’m sure he could be useful.”

        7. Donovan composed a letter dated March 17, 1951 for Schmahl to present to CIA Special Operations which concluded “I believe you might well find him very useful to you.”

        8. Also on March 17, Schmahl wrote Donovan “Thank you for your luncheon the other day.” Presumably the luncheon occurred a few days earlier.

        9. Hiss entered prison on March 22, 1951.

        10. Schmahl appeared in the Court of Common Pleas on May 11 and May 17, 1951. In his expansive testimony about his investigative experience and expertise he experienced a severe memory lapse, neglecting to mention either the Hiss case or his skill at investigations in preparation for trials, the cover story he had used to attract the Hiss lawyers.

        11. Schmahl worked for Donovan prior to May 1941, used him as a character reference when applying to OSS two years later, and felt close enough to Donovan that, according to an email from Horace Schmahl, Jr. (Schmahl’s first child), Donovan was his godfather.

        12. Hiss filed his Coram Nobis petition on July 27, 1978. Until his death, Hiss believed Schmahl provided information to the FBI but knew nothing of his counterintelligence training, his relationship with Donovan, etc.

        13. The evidence that Schmahl was still working for U.S. counterintelligence while “helping” Hiss’s legal team seems compelling to me (and includes his telling the FBI in December 1948 of his “present employment in the Military Intelligence”) but is not otherwise easily summarized. In the essay on my website, I list 6 additional reasons for my belief. If readers search the text of my essay for footnote 32, they will find a discussion of the other six reasons and can judge for themselves.

        I welcome the opportunity to discuss my research findings and am happy to provide additional information if you or your readers would like.

        • Thank you for these details.

          For now, I would emphasize again that Chambers testified as follows:

          1. Before HUAC on August 3, 1948, he testified that espionage formed part of the Ware Group’s activities:

          The purpose of this group at that time was not primarily espionage. Its original purpose was the Communist infiltration of the American Government. But espionage was certainly one of its eventual objectives. Let no one be surprised at this statement. [link]

          I interpret “at that time” to refer to the time at which Chambers inherited the Ware Group, some time after Hal Ware’s death on August 13, 1935.

          2. Before the grand jury on October 15, 1948, he did perjure himself as you describe.

          3. As of pre-trial activities on November 18, by submitting the Baltimore Documents from his “life preserver” he de facto reverted to his earlier testimony and thereafter stuck to it.

          • Mr. David Chambers concludes: “As of pre-trial activities on November 18, by submitting the Baltimore Documents from his “life preserver” [Whittaker Chambers] de facto reverted to his earlier testimony and thereafter stuck to it.” This leaves the impression that with the one exception that I cherry-picked, Chambers had maintained all along that Hiss was an espionage agent. If so, then it would not have taken a PRECOGNITIVE feat for Army counterintelligence to anticipate that espionage was involved.

            But the fact is that Chambers steadfastly denied that Hiss had committed espionage. Let me quote at some length from an article by Fred Cook (March 10, 1984), which I am sending David as an email attachment. Cook writes:
            Chambers’s final tale—that Hiss had passed him secret State Department documents—contradicted everything he had been saying for years. In his first appearance before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, on August 3, 1948, Chambers charged only that in the mid-1930s Hiss had belonged to a Communist Party cell in Washington, D.C. He testified emphatically that espionage was NOT its purpose. In FOURTEEN [my emphasis] previous interviews with the F.B.I., he had said the same thing. Under all kinds of pressure he stuck to that story. Grilled on MEET THE PRESS on August 27, 1948, he repeated his charge that Hiss had been a Communist, but he ruled out espionage, saying, “That was a group not…for the purpose of espionage but for the purpose of infiltrating government policy.”

            Even after Hiss sued Chambers for libel in 1948, he did not change his story. [Cook then quotes the same grand jury testimony I quoted in my previous post in which Chambers, under oath, could not provide the name of anyone “positively guilty of espionage against the United States.”]

            In depositions taken for Hiss’s libel suit in Baltimore, he remained adamant. On November 4, 1948, Hiss’s attorney demanded that he produce documentary evidence, if he had any, to support his story. The next day, Chambers testified he had no such material, adding that he had never received any documents from Hiss…”

            Given Chambers’ repeated denials that Hiss had committed espionage, let us give our Counter Intelligence Corps the credit it deserves. To dispatch an elite “spy catcher” (the CIC’s own term for its special agents) to penetrate a legal team preparing a libel suit in a case where the charge of espionage was not to occur for another month must either be a feat of PRECOGNITION or, if you are a nonbeliever in clairvoyance, requires some other explanation.

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