On the steps of Widener Library in 1947, front row, from left: Laird Bell, Class of 1904; Massachusetts Gov. Robert F. Bradford ’23; R. Keith Kane ’22; Harvard President James B. Conant; and honorary degree recipients George C. Marshall, Gen. Omar N. Bradley, and Sen. James W. Wadsworth.
When Secretary of State Marshall accepted an invitation from Harvard University to receive an honorary degree during the first week in June 1947, the State Department informed the president of the Alumni Association that Marshall would make a speech for the afternoon meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association but that Marshall did not want it to be a major speech of the occasion. There were no discussions with representatives of other governments; there were no notifications of the American press that an important speech was to be delivered, and even Harvard President James B. Conant did not expect a major address from General Marshall.
The speech was drafted by Chip Bohlen, a Russia specialist and interpreter who used memoranda from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff George F. Kennan and from Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs William Clayton. Bohlen especially benefited from Clayton’s graphic oral descriptions of Europe’s situation. In the memorandum he wrote, “Millions of people in the cities are slowly starving,” if the standard of living continued to deteriorate, “there will be revolution.”
On the day of the speech the capacity crowd of 15,000 in Harvard Yard did not expect to see history made but simply to see one of the most admired public servants in America. However when Secretary Marshall began to read his speech there was a recognition that the carefully worded remarks on the political and economic crisis in Europe marked an important event. In that speech, Marshall outlined the need for an economic aid plan to help the devastated nations of Europe and their citizens to recover from the ravages of World War II. When Marshall said, “It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace,” the Secretary of State committed the United States to consider a European recovery plan that would be developed by the Europeans and presented to the United States. Thus was launched The Marshall Plan for which George C. Marshall would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
Ronald W. Pelton, a former communications specialist for the National Security Agency, Thursday was found guilty of selling U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union.
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated almost 13 hours over two days. Pelton was convicted on four of five conspiracy and espionage counts and will be sentenced July 28.
Three of the counts carry maximum life sentences and the other calls for a 10-year sentence and $10,000 fine. Fred Warren Bennett, Pelton’s attorney, said he will appeal.
When the verdict was read, Pelton, who showed little emotion throughout the seven-day trial, remained motionless, leaning slightly to the left in his chair. One of the women on the jury sobbed.
Later, Bennett, looking weary and disappointed, said that Pelton had thanked him for his help but that he had said little else. “He was trying to maintain his composure,” Bennett said.
The verdict closes a five-year episode that began Jan. 14, 1980, when Pelton telephoned the Soviet Embassy in Washington and offered to discuss something “that would be very interesting to you.” He had left his job at the National Security Agency six months earlier.
The next day, Pelton visited the embassy and subsequently made three trips to Vienna, twice staying at the Soviet ambassador’s home, where he recounted from memory sensitive information about how the United States collects and decodes Soviet military communications.
For his efforts, Pelton, who was earning $24,500 when he quit the agency after 14 years, was paid $35,000, plus expenses. The government introduced as evidence records showing that Pelton made cash deposits of about $12,000 in 1983, after traveling to Vienna.
He was arrested last November in Annapolis, Md., after five hours of interrogation, during which he told two FBI agents about his spying.
Pelton’s disclosures severely damaged U.S. national security, a top National Security Agency official testified at the trial. But Pelton suggested that the greatest harm was the expense caused the United States when it had to track down Soviet communications that were changed because of the disclosures.
The proceedings provided looks at the inner workings of the super-secret agency, the interrogation methods of the FBI and at a man whose defense included an assertion that he was in the throes of a “severe mid-life crisis.”
How the two FBI agents–David E. Faulkner and Dudley F. Hodgson–conducted their two-part interview of Pelton last Nov. 24 became the focus of much of the testimony, as Bennett–Pelton’s court-appointed attorney–contended that his client’s constitutional rights were violated and asked the jury to disregard any statements Pelton made during the questioning.
Pelton insisted that he thought he was being recruited for a counterespionage mission. He said the agents discouraged him from contacting a lawyer and waited until just before his arrest before informing him that he did not have to talk to them.
His appeal will be based on these assertions, Bennett said.
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