Welcome to the second installment in my examination of the life and times of the notorious World War II-era fascist William Dudley Pelley, a man convicted of sedition in 1942. Pelley is most well known in this day and age for his founding of the Silver Shirts, an outfit with paramilitary trappings that self-consciously echoed Hitler's Brownshirts even if it was not remotely as militant. During the first installment of this series the founding, structure, and violence associated with the Silver Shirts was considered as well as a few key points from Pelley's pre-fascist days. As was noted there, the trip he made to Harbin, Manchuria, China, in the midst of the Russian Revolution was likely a far more significant event in the former screenwriter's life than is generally acknowledged.
In this installment I want to finish fleshing out the role Pelley played in both the pre- and post-World War II fascist scenes. With that in mind, let us first consider one of the longstanding charges concerning Pelley: that he was an agent of Nazi Germany. Pelley's biographer, Scott Beekman, found this charge to be a rather murky one.
"Despite Pelley's vocal championing of Hitler in early 1933, the Silver Shirts had no sustained contact with Nazi Germany until the middle of the decade, and even then he did not receive direct financial support. Still, reporters took Pelley's pronouncements as evidence of official connections between Pelley and Hitler. Pelley did nothing to correct these reports, believing they only increased his stature in extremist circles here and abroad. While Pelley's reputation among rightist may have improved by celebrating and imitating Hitler, it also gained the attention of authorities. Concerned over these purported linkages between domestic fascists and Nazi Germany, various state and federal governmental agencies began investigating American extremists in 1934. This proved to be the beginning of a costly battle that would land many domestic Nazi sympathizers, including Pelley, in prison."
(William Dudley Pelley: A Life in Right-Wing Extremism and the Occult, Scott Beekman, pgs. 99-100)
Beekman would later expand on this point, noting:
"Pelley's relationship with Nazi Germany also intensified at the end of the decade. The Germans approach Pelley with some trepidation, not wanting a potential ally to be branded an enemy agent. Pelley's religious thinking also contributed to this arm's-length relationship. Although the Nazis invited Pelley to the Third Reich's Erfut Anti-Comintern Congress in 1938, the Silver Shirt leader's espousal of Christianity and spiritualism gave the Nazis pause. Pelley exchanged large amounts of material with German propaganda outlets, including the German World Service and, in particular, Oscar Pfaus of the Fichte Bund, but these Third Reich agencies specifically requested only his anti-Semitic works (and never directly sent him cash payments). This relationship (and Pelley's vocal championing of Hitler) aside, claims that the Silver Shirt leader was an agent of Nazi Germany, as the federal government announced in 1944, were clearly erroneous."
(ibid, pg. 123)Other researchers believe that Pelley was much more than a mere fellow traveler of Nazi Germany. Consider, for instance, the curious working relationship that developed between Pelley and a human being known as Sidney Brooks.
"By 1934, the Nazis had only been in power for less than a year, but already were active in placing their agents or pro-Nazis in positions of power. On Feb. 22, 1934, Sen. Daniel Hastings of Delaware and Rep. Chester Bolton announced the Republican Party had merged their Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees into a single organization, independent of the Republican National Committee. Just before the merger, the two campaign committees hired Sidney Brooks, longtime head of research at International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT). ITT was one of many American corporations that went to extraordinary means to continue trading with the Nazis after war broke out.
"Brooks soon made a frantic visit to New York. On March 4, 1934, he went to Room 830 of the Hotel Edison, rented to Mr. William Goodales of Los Angeles, who was actually William Dudley Pelley. The meeting ended with an agreement to merge Brooks' Order of 76 with the Silver Shirts. Then Brooks stopped at 17 Battery Place, the address of the German Consulate General.
"The Order of 76 was a pro-fascist group. Its application form required the fingerprints and certain biographical details of applicants. Brooks' application revealed that he was the son of Nazi agent Col. Edwin Emerson, and that he chose to use his mother's maiden name to hide his father's identity. Emerson was a major financial backer of Furholzer and his paper. The Republican Party was employing Nazi collaborators and pro-fascist groups at a high level."
(The Nazi Hydra in America, Glen Yeadon & John Hawkins, pg. 184)
|Sidney Brooks' application of the Order of 76|
"Pelley developed connections to a number of these extremist groups. He cultivated relationships with, among others, C. Leon de Aryan of The Broom magazine, American White Guard leader and convicted forger Henry D. Allen, the 'Wichita Fuehrer' Gerald Winrod, Reverend Gerald L. K. Smith, Colonel Edward Emerson, Harry Jung, James True (the inventor of the patented 'kike killer' billy club), Royal Scott Gulden of the Order of 76, and various Bund leaders. Always jealous of his own status, Pelley frequently quarreled with other right-wing leaders. Usually these friendships ended either when Pelley tried to absorb their organizations into his own or when his esoteric religious beliefs became too much for his compatriots to stomach..."
(William Dudley Pelley: A Life in Right-Wing Extremism and the Occult, Scott Beekman, pg. 98)But in the case of the Order of 76, a pro-fascist organization founded by a former ITT executive with sway within the upper echelons of the Republican Party, the merger was pushed by both parties. That Pelley was in contact with "Overworld" figures such as Sidney Brooks, who in turn seems to have clearly been working on behalf of Nazi Germany, would seem to indicate that the Nazis viewed Pelley as something more than a rabble rouser. For this reason, they may have avoided forging direct ties with Pelley so that the Silver Shirt fuehrer would maintain some degree of "plausible deniability" throughout his decades-spanning career in various fringe movements.
Certainly Pelley was linked to any number of significant fascists and fascist organizations both before and after World War II. Of course there were the inevitable links to the German American-Bund, an organization linked directly to Nazi Germany.
"... Although his unorthodox religious beliefs gave concern to Bundists, Pelley's commitment to Hitler and anti-Semitism gave the Silver Shirt leader cachet among Nazi supporters in the United States. As a result the Bund (and, to a lesser extent, the Third Reich) began to cultivate a closer relationship with Pelley at the tail end of the decade.
"Rocked by defections, exposés, and government investigations, the Bund, beginning at its 1938 convention, adopted a 'Free America' approach as a means of self-preservation (which included changing the name of its newspaper to Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter and the Free American). Nazi Germany ended all official ties with the organization that year, and the Bund inaugurated a campaign to reach out to other domestic supporters of Hitler, including Pelley. Beginning in the summer of 1938 the Bund began purchasing large quantities of Silver Shirt literature – thirty to fifty copies of every pamphlet Pelley issued and twenty-five to thirty copies of each issue of New Liberation."
(ibid, pgs. 122-123)
|the banner of the German-American Bund|
|William Potter Gale, a former military intelligence officer|
|"Christ of the Ozarks"|
"A representative example of Pelley's difficulties in dealing with other right wing leaders was his relationship with Gerald L. K. Smith. A highly active 'nationalist' fundamentalist minister of the era, Smith had connections to Huey 'Kingfish' Long, Father Francis Coughlin, and William Lemke. Pelley actually contacted Smith to organize a deep south outpost of the Silver Shirts in 1933; the two, however, rapidly turned on each other over finances and Pelley spiritualist system. Smith then left Pelley's organization and began ingratiating himself to Long."
(William Dudley Pelley: A Life in Right-Wing Extremism and the Occult, Scott Beekman, pgs. 98-99)Smith's chief biographer, one Glen Jeansonne, did not believe the two men's relationship, or lack therefore, was this simple, however.
"There is strong evidence that Smith at least considered forging an alliance with Pelley. Avedis Derounian, for his exposé Under Cover, examined the files of Reverend Leon M. Birkhead, whose Peoples' Institute of Applied Religion investigated Smith. Birkhead wrote Pelley directly, asking if Smith had ever been connected with his movement. On August 5, 1936, H. E. Martin, then executive director of Pelley's Weekly, sent the following letter on Pelley's stationary:
Answering your letter on the 3rd regarding Mr. Gerald L. K. Smith's connection with the Silver Shirts, which you say he denies, we have on file certain letters and telegrams from him received during July and August 1933. The letters are all written on Silver Shirts of American letterheads and signed by him. His registration number as a member of the Silver Shirts was 3223 and his wife's number was 3220...
"Among the extracts was one from a letter Martin claimed Smith sent to Pelley on August 15, 1933: 'By the time you receive this letter, I shall be on the road to St. Louis and points north together with a uniformed squad of young men composing what I believe will be the first Silver Shirt storm trooper in America.
"According to Martin, Smith wrote Pelley two days later from Hot Springs, Arkansas: 'We have held three mass meetings, two street meetings, and appointed key men for literature in six towns; no, seven towns.'
"Clearly, Smith had some contact with Pelley. There are, however, some discrepancies. Derounian's account of Martin's letters to Birkhead places Smith in Pelley's employ in August 1933. However, an article by Pelley himself in the Weekly, in the files of the American Jewish Committee, indicates that Smith did not appear at his General Headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina, until August 1934. This date appears more likely: Smith had by this date recently left the Kings Highway Church, whereas the Derounian account puts him with Pelley prior to his resignation from the church.
"In the article in his Weekly, Pelley describes his relationship with Smith in some detail. According to him, Smith appeared uninvited and asked to become the Silver Shirt leader, claiming the sponsorship of a prominent Shreveport man, Major Luther Powell. Elna also applied for membership, as did her brother. Major Powell and a mutual friend from Dallas served as character witnesses, and Pelley issued membership cards to Smith, his wife, and her brother.
"Smith signed an agreement that, in return for an advance oo expenses, he would proselytize in Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa for the Silver Legion. He would hold open-air recruitment meetings throughout the Midwest and would keep the money he collected by passing the hat. Smith started from Shreveport, and soon sent Pelley several telegrams advising him of his progress. After only a few days, however, Smith became discouraged and return to Shreveport, abandoning the followers he had recruited. Pelley swore that this account was true and could not understand why Smith denied it.
"Smith gave different accounts at different times. In 1946 he told the House Un-American Activities Committee that the Silver Shirts had issued him an unrequested 'complimentary' membership card, which he had returned within six weeks. In 1942, however, Smith wrote former U.S. Senator Robert R. Reynolds the following account: 'In 1933 William Dudley Pelley made overtures to Huey Long and me. At the suggestion of Huey Long, I investigated Pelley for about six weeks, at the end of which time I repudiated his organization and shortly after that he wrote an article repudiating me. This was about nine years ago. I have not seen the man from that day to this.'
"In 1950, when both men were middle-aged, Smith and Pelley reconciled. Pelley wrote that he was over any ill feeling and understood that Smith had left him because he had seen better opportunities with Huey Long. This seems to verify that a relationship existed. Pelley wrote in response to a letter from Smith stating that he was happy Pelley had been paroled after spending time in prison for sedition. Pelley invited Smith to visit him and to discussed how they could support their common cause. He specified, however, that he did not want Smith to publish anything linking them publicly."
(Gerald L.K. Smith: Minister of Hate, Glen Jeansonne, pgs. 28-30)
|Gerald L.K. Smith|
Before wrapping up with Smith, its interesting to note Smith's membership number in the Silver Shirts: 3223. His wife's number was 3220. 322 is of course the number long associated with the notorious Yale fraternity commonly known Skull and Bones. Some researchers such as the great John Bevilaqua in his classic JFK -The Final Solution have suggested that the Smiths number may well have been linked to Skull and Bones. As outlandish as this may sound, this researcher is convinced that Skull and Bones is far more bizarre than the Hegelian fever dreams that researchers such as Anthony Sutton have long put at the heart of the order. Such a topic is far beyond the scope of this article, however, but the curious reader may wish to consider my examination of the role Skull and Bones played in the Kennedy assassination for more curious information about the order. But moving along...
Another notorious, if little known, mid-twentieth century fascist who came within Pelley's orbit was Francis Parker Yockey. Suspected of being an agent of Nazi Germany during the war years, Yockey's 1948 book Imperium would have an enormous influence on the post-WWII fascist underground despite being little read by mass audiences. This was especially true in Europe while Willis Carto and his Liberty Lobby embraced Yockey's writings on this side of the Atlantic. Yockey died via cyanide capsule after being arrested by the FBI in 1960. It is now virtually certain that Yockey had done some work for Czech intelligence before his death and its curious nature has led to much speculation in recent years that Yockey was an agent of a widespread and well-funded international fascist group.
But before all of this Yockey became involved with the Chicago branch of the Silver Shirts in the late 1930s, an especially militant wing of the organization.
"... The action faction was particularly strong in Chicago. Chicago Daily Times reporter John Metcalfe attended a Silver Shirt rally on 8 August 1938, where he heard the group's 'Field Marshal,' Roy Zachary, tell some 200 followers that the Roosevelt administration was on the brink of setting up a full-scale Communist dictatorship. Zachary claimed that the day was soon coming 'when the Silver Shirts will succeed to the point that no orthodox Jew will be permitted to testify in court or cast a ballot in America,' and advised his supporters 'to go out and get guns' and 'plenty of ammunition' to 'prepare for the Communist revolution that is coming to America.'
"The ties between the Bund, the Silver Shirts, and Newton Jenkins became especially evident after Jenkins took up the cause of four Chicago Silver Shirts who had been arrested in late October 1939 for painting swastikas and smashing windows at a Jewish-owned department store. The incident generated considerable notoriety because it reminded many Americans of the horrors of Kristallnacht ('The Night of Broken Glass,' when German mobs destroyed Jewish stores and in a pogrom-like outburst) just a year earlier. In his book I've Got the Remedy, Jenkins minimized the department store incident as a late-night prank that occurred after the men had attended 'some sort of anti-Jewish Halloween dance...'
"In the late 1930s, Yockey became a regular speaker at far-right functions in the Chicago area. In a 13 December 1951 FBI summary of Yockey's activities, an informant (described as 'having considerable contact' with the Bund), reported that in 1940 Yockey 'traveled under the name of Francis Parker and lectured under that name and post as an international law authority at meetings where he lectured.' The source also said that in 1939 he 'had attended a meeting of the Silver Shirts at WILLIAM A. WERNECKE's farm near Chicago at which meeting FRANCIS PARKER YOCKEY was the speaker. The source advised that YOCKEY had told him that he was the author of several articles for Social Justice.'
(Dreamer of the Day, Kevin Coogan, pg. 93)
"Yockey's legal career came to a halt on 20 May 1942, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Kalamazoo, Michigan. Private Yockey then spent part of his basic training at Camp Custer, Michigan, where he taken ROTC classes in the summer of 1936. Enlistment, however, did not signal a change in Yockey's these political convictions. One FBI report noted that a 'confidential informant' had met 'a FRANCIS YOCKEY... at Camp Custer, Michigan, while on a tour of duty,' and remembered him as 'a young radically minded individual who was constantly stirring up discord and was an admirer of WILLIAM DUDLEY PELLEY.'"
(ibid, pgs. 107-108)Clearly there seems to have been some type of contact between Yockey and Pelley's organization, but how involved Yockey was with the Silver Shirts and what influence they had on his later career is impossible to say. Still, its interesting to note that Yockey seems to have been devising some type of occult doctrine around the time of his death that was meant to sever as a spiritual counterpart to the political sentiments of Imperium.
"The extent and nature of Yockey's own belief in the occult remains unknown because we lack access to his writings on the subject. What seems clear, however, is that occultism played a real role in his thinking, as the titles to his essays on 'polarity' strongly suggest. The FBI discovered that he was caring in his suitcase a list of book titles like Cosmic Rays, Your Second Body, and Reincarnation. His Oakland friend Alexander Scharf also recalled his alluding to paganism, telling him that he believed not in one god but in many gods.
"Equally interesting is a cryptic reference to item 23 in the FBI catalog of Yockey's possessions that reads: 'One page captioned Theosophical Forum 6/37.' This was the June 1937 issue of the Theosophical Forum, an American Journal of the use of the Theosophy Society. Although the FBI summary does not say what extract Yockey had from the publication, it was almost certainly from an essay called 'Central Asia: Cradleland of Our Race' by 'G. de P.' – Gottfried de Purucker, the leader of the Point Loma, California, Theosophical Lodge."
(ibid, pg. 291)
|the banner of the Theosophical Society|
For now let us examine two final instances from the fascist underground where William Dudley Pelley appears. The first concerns a bizarre organization known as the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta (SOSJ), sometimes known simply as the Shickshinny Knights of Malta. This organization did in fact claim descent from the Medieval Knights Hospitaller order, but via the Russian line of succession, and was thus distinct (in theory) from the far more well known Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM, the "official" Knights of Malta). The peak of the SOSJ's influence occurred in the 1960s when it featured several high ranking and fanatically far right former military officers as members. The SOSJ played an enormous role in shaping the modern day "Patriot movement" all the while aiding and abetting the Pentagon and US Intelligence community. Much more information on the SOSJ can be found here and here.
For much of the twentieth century the Order featured a Grand Master known as Charles Pichel. The Order was active in the 1930s and Pichel claimed to be in contact with Nazi Germany during this time. During the same period Pelley was a close associate of a reputed member of the SOSJ.
"... According to the anti-fascist Friends of Democracy group, the Ancient and Noble Order of the Blue Lamoo of was a White Russian fascist organization, one of whose members was the 'Count V. Cherep-Spiridovich.' The 'Count' was born Howard Victor von Boenstrupp. A former patent lawyer, Boenstrupp was also known as 'the Duke of St. Saba,' 'Colonel Bennett' and 'J. G Francis.' A close associate of Silver Shirt leader William Dudley Pelley, he was indicted along with Pelley on sedition charges and 21 July 1942. Nor was this his first encounter with the law. In 1933, when he was just plain Howard, he was charged with grand larceny for allegedly stealing a valuable book and other crimes. During the House Committee on Un-American Activities questioning of Fritz Kuhn, Cherep-Spiridovich's name came up in connection with two publications, Intelligence and American Tribunal. He was also linked to 'the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem.'"
(Dreamer of the Day, Kevin Coogan, pg. 607)In theory the SOSJ was a hard line Catholic order but, as Ross Bellant notes in Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party, it was long accused of being a Masonic-like secret society with bizarre occult rituals. One of its most notable members during the 1960s was Colonel Philip J. Corso, a reactionary military intelligence officer who is best known today for his book The Day After Roswell.
Finally, we come to Henry Lamont "Mike" Beach. Beach, a Silver Shirt member in the 1940s, is best known in this day and age as the founder of the Posse Comitatus movement. This is inaccurate --Posse Comitatus was in fact devised by the above-mentioned William Potter Gale, as I noted before here. Still, Beach was the figure chiefly responsible for spreading the ideology.
"At the same time, whatever credibility Beach lacked among true believers, he more than made up for it in chutzpah and merchandising talent. After stealing Bill Gale's writings and ideas in 1973, making them his own, Beach spent the next three years marketing Posse paraphernalia and providing good copy for the press. In sharp contrast, Gale's disdain for the media virtually guaranteed that Beach would get the credit for originating the Posse Comitatus. Even the ADL, which prided itself on exposing the leaders of the radical right, described Beach as the group's 'apparent founder,' although it did acknowledge that Gale, whom he described as a 'veteran anti-Semite,' had established a 'second home base' for the Posse in California.
"Beaches appropriation of credit for starting the Posse was so complete that even when he wasn't identified by name, the media invariably followed his script when describing the organization's roots. According to the Washington Post, the Posse had started in Portland, Oregon, in 1968. And according to a widely reprinted Los Angeles Times article about the 'new vigilante group,' Beach was 'the man behind the movement who began chartering posses in 1969.' By 1976 erroneous descriptions of the origins of the Posse appeared so frequently they were tantamount to historical fact. And with the exception of the ADL, which was aware that Beach had been a Silver Shirt, this important fact is almost universally ignored in media reports about Beach and the history of the Posse. Instead, reporters relied on Beach's innocuous descriptions of himself as retired laundry-equipment salesman or a machinist."
(The Terrorist Next Door, Daniel Levitas, pg. 147)
While the organizational skills Beach learned with the Silver Shirts no doubt aided his efforts in spreading Posse ideology its entirely possibly that the theology of Pelley indirectly influenced it via Gale. Posse ideology was heavily influenced by Christian Identity theology, a proto form of which Gerald L.K. Smith preached. Smith, who as noted above was briefly a member of the Silver Shirts, associated with William Gale in California during the 1950s. Thus, its possible a Pelley influence was present in Posse ideology even before Beach became involved. What's more, the paramilitary nature of certain aspects of the Silver Shirts undoubtedly had a heavy influence on the post-war "Patriot" militias that first began to appear in the 1960s.
And it is here that I shall wrap things up for now. I hope these examples as well as my examination of Pelley's ties to "Count" Anastase Vonsiatsky and his All-Russian Fascist Organization in the first installment have put in perspective the scope and longstanding influence Pelley's far right activism had in such circles. In the next installment I shall begin examining the incredible metaphysical aspects of Pelley's career in earnest. Stay tuned.