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From Major Jordan's Diaries


The Black Suitcases

     After my return to Great Falls I began to realize an important fact: while we were a pipeline to Russia, Russia was also a pipeline to us.

     One really disturbing fact which brought this home to me was that the entry of Soviet personnel into the United States was completely uncontrolled. Planes were arriving regularly from Moscow with unidentified Russians aboard. I would see them jump off planes, hop over fences, and run for taxicabs. They seemed to know in advance exactly where they were headed, and how to get there. It was an ideal set-up for planting spies in this country, with false identities, for use during and after the war. *

     * Major General Follette Bradley, USAF (Ret.), winner of the Distinguished Service Medal for his pioneering of the Alsib Pipeline, wrote in the New York times on Aug. 31, 1951: “Of my own personal knowledge I know that beginning early in 1942 Russian civilian and military agents were in our country in large numbers.

     It is hard to believe, but in 1943 there was no censorship set-up at Great Falls. An inspector more than 70 years old, named Randolph K. Hardy, did double work for the Treasury Department in customs and immigration. His office, in the city, was four miles from the airfield. He played the organ in a local church, and I was often told he was practicing and could not be interrupted. I took it on myself to provide him with telephone, typewriter, desk, file cabinet, stenographer, interpreter and staff car.

     Finally I was driven to put up a large sign over my own office door, with the legend in Russian and English: “Customs Office – Report Here.” When Mr. Hardy was not present I got into the habit of demanding passports myself and jotting down names and particulars. It was not my job, but the list in my diary of Russians operating in this country began to swell by leaps and bounds. In the end I had the 418 names mentioned earlier in this book.

     Despite my private worries, my relations with Colonel Kotikov were excellent. I was doing all that I could do to expedite Russian shipments; my directives were clear, and I was following them to the best of my ability.

     Colonel Kotikov was well aware that a Major could do more expediting than a Captain. I was not surprised, therefore, to learn that Kotikov had painstakingly dictated in English the following letter to Colonel Gitzinger:


34th Sub-Depot

United Nations Unit

Great Falls, Montana

March 8, 1943.

Lt. Col. C.H. Gitzinger,

Third National Building,

Dayton, Ohio.

Dear Colonel Gitzinger:

Captain Jordan work any day here is always with the same people, Sub-Depot Engineering Officer, Major Boaz; 7th Ferrying Group Base Engineering Officer, Major Lawrence; Alaskan Wing Control and Engineering Office, Major Taylor; Sub-Depot Executive Officer, Major O’Neill; and Base Supply Officer, Major Ramsey.

He is much hindered in his good work by under rank with these officers who he asks for things all time. I ask you to recommend him for equal rank to help Russian movement here.


Col., U.S.S.R. Representative

     When my promotion finally came through, the gold oak leaves were pinned on my shoulder by Colonel Kotikov. This occasion was photographed and the picture is reproduced elsewhere in this book.

     Now two other occurrences began troubling me. The first was the unusual number of black patent-leather suitcases, bound with white window sash cord and sealed with red wax, which were coming through on the route to Moscow. The second was the burglary of morphine ampuls from half of the 500 first-aid kits in our Gore Field warehouse.

     The first black suitcases, six in number, were in charge of a Russian officer and I passed them without question upon his declaration that they were “personal luggage.” But the units mounted to ten, twenty and thirty and at last to standard batches of fifty which weighed almost two tons and consumed the cargo allotment of an entire plane. The officers were replaced by armed couriers, traveling in pairs, and the excuse for avoiding inspection was changed from “personal luggage” to “diplomatic immunity.”

     Here were tons of materials proceeding to the Soviet Union, and I had no idea what they were. If interrogated, I should have to plead ignorance.

     I began pursuing Colonel Kotikov with queries and protests. He answered with one eternal refrain. The suitcases were of “highest diplomatic character.” I retorted that they were not being sent by the Soviet Embassy but the Soviet Government Publishing Commission in Washington. He asserted that, whatever the origin, they were covered by diplomatic immunity. But I am sure he knew that one of these days I would try to search the containers.

     They had grown to such importance in the eyes of the Russians that they asked for a locked room. The only door in the warehouse with a lock was that to the compartment in which the first-aid packets were kept. I put it at Colonel Kotikov’s disposal. The couriers took turn about. First one and then the other slept on top of the suitcases, while his companion stood guard. Perhaps unjustly, I suspected them of stealing our morphine. They were the only persons left in the storeroom without witnesses.

     At four o’clock one cold afternoon in March, 1943, Colonel Kotikov said to me: “I want you dinner tonight.” Then he doubled the surprise by whisking from his ulster pockets two slender bottles with long, sloping necks. “Vodka!”

     The invitation was accepted with pleasure and also curiosity. For almost a year now I had associated with Colonel Kotikov and his staff, but I had never dined with them. As a matter of routine they lunched with us at the Officers’ Club. But at night they disappeared, wondering off by themselves to other restaurants or the dining-room of the Rainbow Hotel, where they were quartered. So far as I knew, this was the first time they had bidden an American to an evening repast. It reminded me of my meal with Mr. Anisimov, who had wanted something from me.

     At the Officers’ Club we had noticed that the Russians were extremely absent-minded about picking up bar checks. These oversights were costing us around $80 monthly, and we decided to remedy the situation. In the club were several slot-machines, for which the Russians had a passion. We decided to “set aside” one machine to cover their libations. Thanks to the one-armed mechanical bandit, we contrived after all to make them settle for their liquor.

     Now, of a sudden, they asked me to dinner and were offering vodka, free, as an allurement. I could not help wondering why. Acting on a hunch, I excused myself from riding to town with Colonel Kotikov in his Pontiac. I decided I would take my staff car, which had a soldier driver; in case of need, I preferred to have mobility. I was directed to join the party at seven o’clock at a restaurant in Great Falls know as “Carolina Pines.”

     There was not much time, so I hastened to ask our maintenance chief whether the Russians were planning any flights. He answered yes; they had a C-47 staged on the line, preparing to go. It was being warmed up with Nelson heaters – large canvas bags, fed with hot air, which were made to slip over motors and propellers. (Winter temperatures at the airfield could be as severe as at Fairbanks, ranging from 20 to 70 degrees below zero. Oil would sometimes freeze as hard as stone, and two to four hours were required to thaw out an engine.)

     The Russians wielded a high hand at the airbase, but I had one power they respected. Though Lend-Lease planes were delivered to them at Great Falls, they were flown by American pilots as far as Fairbanks. No American pilot could leave without clearance, and I had authority to ground any plane at any time. In m absence, permission was given by the flight Officer of the Day. I called the control tower, gave the telephone number of the restaurant, and issued a positive order than no cargo plane was to be cleared for Russia except by myself.

     Occupied by these thoughts, I drove to “Carolina Pines.” It was on the second floor of a big frame structure, with an outside stairway like a fire escape. The gathering consisted of five Russians and a single American, myself. Colonel Kotikov acted as host, and among the guests was Colonel G.E. Tsvetkov, head of the fighter-pursuit division of the Soviet Purchasing Commission.

     When Colonel Kotikov produced his vodka bottles, I decided it would be only civil, in this minute corner of Russia, to do as the Russians did. I am practically a total abstainer; my yearly ration would average no more than one bottle of Scotch. Lucky for me, the vodka supply was limited. Small wine glasses were handed about, instead of the usual goblets.

     Our host offered the first pledge “to the great Stalin.” We tossed the liquid fire into our throats, and I imitated the others by holding my glass upside down, at arm’s length. The refill was instantaneous, and the second toast was to “Novikov.” I asked who he was. “The great Field Marshal A. Novikov,” I was told. “Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army Air Forces.” The third name was “Pokryshkin.” I had never heard of him either, and fond he was Colonel Alexander Pokryshkin, Soviet ace, with 48 German planes to his credit.

      Since the Russians had failed to do so, I made bold at this point to suggest a toast to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was drunk with a will. So as the second pledge, in honor of my chief, General Henry H. Arnold, Commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces. With the vodka under our belts, we moved to chairs about the table. But at 8:30 o’clock when we were two-thirds finished, the waitress handed me a message in pencil. It notified me to call the control tower at once.

      At a public telephone, in the corridor, I learned that the C-47 had warmed up and that a couple of newly arrived couriers were demanding clearance. Without returning to the dining-room, I threw on my great-coat, scuffled down the stairs and ordered the driver to race full speed for the hangars, four miles away.

     It was mid-winter in Great Falls. Snow was deep on the ground, and stars glittered frostily in a crystal sky. The temperature that night was about 20 degrees below zero.

     As we neared the Lend-Lease plane there loomed up, in its open door, the figure of a burly, barrel-chested Russian. His back was propped against one jamb of the portal. An arm and a leg were stretched across the opposite side. I clambered up and he tried to stop me by pushing hard with his stomach. I pushed back, ducked under his arm, and stood inside the cabin.

     It was dimly lighted by a solitary electric bulb in the dome. Faintly visible was an expanse of black suitcases, with white ropes and seals of crimson wax. On top of them, reclining on one elbow on a blanket, was a second Russian, slimmer than the first, who sprang to his feet as I entered. They were mature men, in the forties, and wore beneath leather jackets the inevitable blue suits of Russian civilians. Under each coat, from a shoulder holster, protruded the butt of a pistol.

     It had been no more than a guess that a fresh installment of suitcases might be due. My first thought was: “Another bunch of those damn things!” The second was that if I was ever going to open them up, now was as good a time as any. With signs I made the Russians understand what I intended to do.

     Promptly they went insane. They danced. They pushed at me with their hands and shrieked over and over the one English word they appeared to know. It was “deeplomateek!” I brushed them aside and took from my pocket a metal handle containing a safety razor blade which I carry in preference to a pocket knife.

     Sensing its purpose, the lean courier flung himself face down on the suitcase, with arms and legs out-spanned to shield as much as possible with his body. I dragged one of the containers from under him, and he leaped up again as I started to saw through the first cord. At this sight their antics and shouts redoubled.

     While opening the third suitcase, I had a mental flash that brought sweat to my forehead. The Russians were half made with fury and terror. They were on both sides of me, in front and behind. Supposing, in desperation, one of them shot me in the back? There would be no American witness, and my death could be passed off as “a deplorable accident.”

     I called to a Yank soldier who was on patrol duty thirty feet away. He crunched over through the snow. Bending down from the plane, I asked whether he had had combat experience. He answered that he had, in the South Pacific. I stooped lower and murmured:

     ”I’m going to open more of this baggage. I want you to watch these two Russians. Both are armed. I don’t expect any trouble. But if one of them aims a gun at me, I want you to let him have it first. Understand?”

     After a moment’s thought, he looked me in the eye and said, “Sir, is that an order?” I replied that it was an order. He clicked the bolt of his rifle to snap a cartridge into the chamber and brought the weapon to ready. He was tall enough for his head to clear the doorsill. The muzzle was pushed forward to command the interior.

     One courier jumped from the plane and sprinted for the hangars, where there were telephones. The other, his face contorted as if to keep from crying, began reknotting the cords I had severed. There was little trouble getting into the suitcases because the Russians had bought the cheapest on the market. They had no locks, but only pairs of clasps. All were consigned to the same address. The entry on the bill of lading read: “Director, Institute of Technical and Economic Information, 47 Chkalovskaya, Moscow 120, U.S.S.R.”

      I decided to attempt only a spot check – one suitcase, say, in every three. I examined perhaps eighteen of fifty. Otherwise the search was fairly thorough, as I was looking for morphine. (Incidentally, none was found.) The light was so weak that it was impossible to decipher text without using a flash lamp. I had to take off my gloves, and my fingers grew numb with cold.

     Using one knee as a desk, I jotted notes with a pencil on two long envelopes that happened to be in my pocket. There was usually one entry, or phrase of description, for each suitcase inspected. These scrawls were gathered within the next few days into a memorandum, after which I discarded the envelopes. A page of the memorandum is reproduced in this book on pages 80, 81.

     The first thing I unearthed made me snort with disgust. It was a ponderous tome on the art of shipping four-legged animals. Was this the kind of twaddle American pilots were risking their lives to carry? But in the back I found a series of tables listing railroad mileages from almost any point in the United States to any other.

     Neatly packed with the volume were scores of roadmaps, of the sort available at filling stations to all comers. But I made a note that they were “marked strangely.” Taken together, they furnished a country-wide chart, with names and places, of American industrial plants. For example, Pittsburgh entries included “Westinghouse” and “Blaw-Knox.”

     The next suitcase to be opened was crammed with material assembled in America by the official Soviet news organ, the Tass Telegraph Agency. A third was devoted to Russia’s government-owned Amtorg Trading Corporation of New York. One yielded a collection of maps of the Panama Canal Commission, with markings to show strategic spots in the Canal Zone and distances to islands and ports within a 1,000-mile radius.

     Another was filled with documents relating to the Aberdeen Proving Ground, one of the most “sensitive” areas in the war effort. Judging by their contents, various suitcases could have been labeled under the heads of machine tools, oil refineries, blast furnaces, steel foundries, mining, coal, concrete, and the like. Other folders were stuffed with naval and shipping intelligence. There seemed to be hundreds of commercial catalogues and scientific magazines.

     I noted that there were letters from Yakov M. Lomakin. Afterwards, as Soviet Consul General in New York, he played a part in the Mme. Kasenkina “leap for freedom” incident which forced him to quit the country. There were also sheafs of information about Mexico, Argentina and Cuba.

     There were groups of documents which, on the evidence of stationery, had been contributed by Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and State. All such papers had been trimmed close to the text, with white margins removed. I decided this was done either to save weight, or to remove “Secret,” “Confidential” or “Restricted” stamps that might have halted a shipment, or for both reasons.

     I distinctly remember five or six State Department folders, bound with stout rubber bands. Clipped to each was a tab. The first read: “From Sayre.” I took down the words because it ran through my head that someone of that name had recently been High Commissioner to the Philippines.

     Then I copied the legend: “From Hiss.” * I had never heard of Alger Hiss, and made the entry because the folder bearing his name happened to be second in the pile. It contained hundreds of Photostats of what seemed to be military reports. There was a third name which I did not copy but which stuck in my mind because it was the same as that of my dentist. The tab read: “From Geiger.” I did not list and cannot remember the names on other State Department folders.

* In my Fulton Lewis broadcasts it was decided to use the designations “Mr. X” and “Mr. Y” for Sayre and Hiss, since the trial of Alger Hiss was then in progress and mention of his name might have prejudiced it.

     From the radio transcript of Dec. 2, 1949:

“LEWIS: Now careful, don’t mention any name… One folder said ‘From X’ and the other said ‘From Y’. And Mr. X and Mr. Y were well-known State Department officials, one of them particularly prominent in the news? JORDAN: That’s right.”

     In one was an account by an American Army officer of a tour in the Near East. I read it hurriedly. Turkey and Iran were among the countries he had reviewed, unconsciously, for the Kremlin’s enlightenment. Glancing through the document, I found passages dealing with Soviet military strength in and about this area.

     Bewildering, to say the least, was the discovery of voluminous copies of reports which American attachés in Moscow had forwarded trustfully, in diplomatic pouches, to their superiors in Washington. I asked myself what these officers would think if they knew their most secret dispatches were being returned to the Soviet capital, for perusal by the very individuals whom they had discussed and possibly denounced.

     A suitcase opened midway in the search appeared to contain nothing but engineering and scientific treatises. They bristled with formulae, calculations and professional jargon. I was about to close the case and pass on when my eye was caught by a specimen of stationery such as I had never before seen.

     Its letterhead was a magic incantation: “The White House, Washington.” As a prospective owner of an 80-acre tract alone the shore of Washington State, I was impressed by the lordly omission of the capitals, “D.C.” Under the flashlight I studied this paper with attention. It was a brief note, of two sheets, in a script which was not level but sloped upward to the right. The name to which it was addressed, “Mikoyan,” was wholly new to me. (By questioning Colonel Kotikov later, I learned that A.I. Mikoyan at the moment was Russia’s No. 3 man, after Premier Stalin and Foreign Commissar Molotov. He was Commissar of Foreign Trade and Soviet bass of Lend-Lease.)

     A salutation, “My dear Mr. Minister,” led to a few sentences of stock courtesies. One passage, of eleven words, in the top line of the second page, impressed me enough to merit a scribble on my envelope. That excerpt ran thus: “ – had a hell of a time getting these away from Groves.”

     The last two words should not be taken as referring to Major General Leslie R. Groves himself. What the meant, probably, was “from the Groves organization.” The commander of the Manhattan Engineer District, later the Manhattan Project, was almost unique in the Washington hierarchy for his dislike and suspicion of Russia.

      I shall tell here, for the first time, that the verb before “hell” was preceded by a name, which stood at the end of the last line of the opening sheet. Its initial was either a capital “O” or “C” (since it was slightly open at the top), after which came four or five characters that rushed away in half-legible flourish. After pouring over it minutely, I came to the conclusion that the word had to be either “Oscar” if the initial letter was an “O”, or “Carrie” if the initial letter was a “C.” The full quotation would therefore read: “Oscar (or Carrie) had a hell of a time getting these away from Groves.”

     The first thing I had done, on finding the White House note, was to flip over the page to look for a signature. I penciled it on my envelope as “H.H.” This may not have been an exact transcription. In any case, my intention is clear. It was to chronicle, on the spot, my identification of the author as Harry Hopkins. It was general usage at Great Falls or elsewhere to refer to him as “Harry Hopkins,” without the middle initial. *

     *President Roosevelt, incidentally, adopted the same abbreviation as mine in December, 1941. The President’s notation, in his own handwriting, was as follows: “H H – Speed up! FDR.” A reproduction of this note can be seen on page 400 of the Robert Sherwood book.

     At the time of this episode I was as unaware as anyone could be of Oak Ridge, the Manhattan District and its chief, General Groves. The enterprise has been celebrated as “the best guarded secret in history.” It as superlatively hush-hush, to the extreme that Army officers in the “know” were forbidden to mention it over their private telephones inside the Pentagon.

     General Groves has testified that his office would have refused to send any document to the White House, without authority from himself, even if it was requested personally by the President. I am certain that this is true, and I have never asserted anything to the contrary with respect to General Groves.

     I admire General Groves very much and I think that his testimony at the Congressional hearing was one of the impressive things that occurred there. The fact that he testified that he had never met Hopkins or even spoken to him seemed to convince some people that I was lying, but of course for Hopkins to write that “Oscar had a hell of a time getting these away from Groves” in no way implies that Hopkins knew about Groves.

     General Groves did confirm in the following testimony that pressure was definitely felt in his organization even though he would not specify its source.

Mr. Harrison: You said there was a great deal of pressure on Lend-Lease to ship uranium to Russia. Can you tell us who exerted the pressure?

General Groves: No; I can’t tell you who exerted the pressure on Lend-Lease. Of course it could have been internal pressure. At any rate, we saw every evidence of that pressure, and I believe your files of the Lend-Lease diaries will show how they repeatedly came back. It was evident from reading the diaries that we didn’t want this material shipped, yet they kept coming back and coming back…

I believe it is fair to say that… (General Wesson’s) subordinates were fully aware that we did not want this material to be shipped abroad, and this continual pressure to ship it was certainly coming from somewhere. Either it was coming internally, from ambitious souls, or it was coming externally.

I am sure if you would check on the pressure on officers handling all supplies of a military nature during the war, you will find the pressure to give to Russia everything that could be given was not limited to atomic matters.

There was one incident that occurred later. I was reminded this morning by one of my former people of how delighted we were when we managed to get some materials away from the Russians. It was a major accomplishment. And the only thing we got away from them was time. We were very anxious, in connection with the gaseous diffusion plant, to get certain equipment. If it had not been obtained, that plant would have been delayed in its completion. The Russians had a plant on the way. Of course when I say they had it, you know who paid for it. That plant, some of it was boxed on the dock when we got it, and I still remember the difficulties we had in getting it.
One of the agreements we had to make was that we would replace the equipment, and use all our priorities necessary to get it replaced quickly… That particular plant was oil-refinery equipment, and in my opinion was purely postwar Russian supply, as you know much of it was. I give you that as an example of what people interested in supplying American troops had to contend with during the war.

Where that influence came from, you can guess as well as I can. It was certainly prevalent in Washington, and it was prevalent throughout the country, and the only spot I know of that was distinctly anti-Russian at an early period was the Manhattan Project. And we were – there was never any doubt about it from sometime along about October 1942. [1] [Italics added.]

     In short, it seems as clear as daylight that if anyone did try to get anything away from General Groves or his organization, he would really have had “a hell of a time”!

     “From the outset, extraordinary secrecy and security measures have surrounded the project,” declared Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, in commenting on the first military use of the atom bomb. “This was personally ordered by President Roosevelt.” Mr. Roosevelt’s orders, he innocently added, “have been strictly complied with.” [2]

     Yet Russians with whom I worked side by side at Great Falls knew about the A-bomb at least as early as March, 1943 and General Groves had reason to distrust the Russians in October 1942! In common with almost all Americans, I got the first hint of the existence of the atom bomb from the news of Hiroshima, which was revealed on August 6, 1945 by President Truman.

     In a later chapter I recount my futile visit to Washington in January, 1944 to bring to the attention of the highest authorities what seemed to be to be a treacherous violations of security in the Pipeline. I got exactly nowhere in the State Department or elsewhere. It was not until I head the announcement of the atomic blast in Russia on September 23, 1949, that I finally had the good fortune of meeting Senator Bridges and Fulton Lewis – but more of that later.

     It was after eleven o’clock and my checking job was virtually done, when Colonel Kotikov burst into the cabin of the plane. He wanted to know by whose authority I was committing this outrage and bellowed that he would have me removed. I answered that I was performing my duty, and just to show how things stood, opened two or three extra suitcases in his presence. I left the C-47 and with a nod of thanks dismissed my sentinel. As I crossed the field toward the barracks, Colonel Kotikov fell in beside me.

     No doubt he reflected that he was in no position to force an issue. He may also have realized that I understood the gravity of almost nothing I had seen. All that mattered to him was getting the suitcases off to Moscow. Anxiously he inquired what I intended to do.

If I had known what I do today, I should have grounded the transport, but in the end it went on its way to Russia.

     Colonel Kotikov asked me to open no more suitcases until instructions came from the War Department. He said he hoped he would not have to get me transferred. I expected to be fired, and went so far as to pack my gear. But I received no communications from the War Department, and gathered at last that Colonel Kotikov had made no complaint. Perhaps, I began to think, he did not dare.

     I reported to Colonel George F. O’Neill, security officer of the 34th Sub-Depot at Gore Field, about the fifty suitcases I had examined. He was interested enough to pass the story on to his superior officer in Spokane. There was no reply, even after Colonel O’Neill made a second attempt. Apparently it was not considered good form to cast reflections on the integrity of our ally.



The Black Suitcases

1. Hearings Regarding Shipments of Atomic Materials to the Soviet Union during World War II, House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, (U.S. Government Printing Office, testimony of General Groves, Dec. 7, 1949), pp. 947-50.

2. On Active Service in Peace and War, Henry L. Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, (Harper, 1947).

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