Lionel Heymann: His Other Life

In my earlier post, I wrote about the three sons of my great-great-aunt Rosalie Schoenthal and her husband Willy Heymann:  Lionel, Walter, and Max.  All three had left Germany and settled in Chicago by 1939.

The oldest brother, Lionel, had arrived first in the 1920s and had consistently reported on passenger manifests and census records that he worked as a hotel waiter.  So I was quite surprised when I found this obituary written when Lionel died in November, 1966:

 

Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

Chicago Tribune, December 2, 1966, Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

According to the obituary, Lionel Heymann had had a long and distinguished career as a photographer.  The obituary states that he had retired in 1964 after 40 years as a photographer in Chicago, including 25 years as the photographer at the Blackstone Hotel.  That is, although Lionel consistently listed his occupation as a waiter on various government forms, if the obituary is for the same man, he had been working as a photographer since 1924—in other words, since his very earliest days in Chicago.

But was this in fact the same Lionel Heymann?  The name and age and residence in Chicago certainly made it seem so, but there were no named survivors in the obituary, just an unnamed sister living in Brazil.  Could this be my cousin?

I then found a death notice for Lionel Heymann on the same date in the same paper that contained further information about his surviving family:

 

Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

Chicago Tribune, December 2, 1966, Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

This obviously was my cousin, whose two sisters-in-law were named Frieda and Lucy (or Lucie).  He was in fact the photographer described in the first obituary.

And he was not just a hotel photographer taking snapshots of guests. When I Googled his name and “photographer,” a number of links popped up, listing Lionel as an artist whose works are still being  auctioned by various art houses, online and elsewhere.  Lionel also wrote articles about photography and lectured frequently about the art of portrait photography. His works include portraits, nudes, architectural works, and highly stylized artistic photographs.

Here are two examples of the work done by Lionel Heymann; see the links above for others:

"The Shell", photograph by Lionel Heymann, April 1932 Camera Craft Magazine, accessed at http://s3.amazonaws.com/everystockphoto/fspid30/72/22/91/5/vintage-photograph-cameracraft-7222915-o.jpg

“The Shell”, photograph by Lionel Heymann, April 1932 Camera Craft Magazine, accessed at http://s3.amazonaws.com/everystockphoto/fspid30/72/22/91/5/vintage-photograph-cameracraft-7222915-o.jpg

 

Photograph by Lionel Heymann of Robert Maynard Hutchins, University of Chicago president (1929-1945) and chancellor (1945-1951), with team members of the Manhattan Project, the program established by the United States government to build the atomic bomb. Standing, from left: Mr. Hutchins, Walter H. Zinn, and Sumner Pike; seated: Farrington Daniels, and Enrico Fermi. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, [apf digital item number, e.g., apf12345], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. accessed at http://photoarchive.lib.uchicago.edu/db.xqy?one=apf1-05063.xml

Photograph by Lionel Heymann of Robert Maynard Hutchins, University of Chicago president (1929-1945) and chancellor (1945-1951), with team members of the Manhattan Project, the program established by the United States government to build the atomic bomb. Standing, from left: Mr. Hutchins, Walter H. Zinn, and Sumner Pike; seated: Farrington Daniels, and Enrico Fermi. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, [apf digital item number, e.g., apf12345], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. accessed at http://photoarchive.lib.uchicago.edu/db.xqy?one=apf1-05063.xml

 

Why hadn’t Lionel claimed on the census records and World War II draft registration that he was a photographer? Why wouldn’t he have wanted to reveal that information?  Was it just an avocation, not his livelihood?  Did that change after the 1940s?

UPDATE:  In the course of looking for a print of one of Lionel’s photographs to purchase (which I’ve not yet been able to locate), I found this bit of information about Lionel online, quoting from the catalog of  the Sixteenth Detroit International Salon of Photography, Photographic Society of Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1947.

“Started photography as a hobby by joining Fort Dearborn Camera Club in Chicago in 1928. Started professionally January 1945, and conducts a portrait studio in Blackstone Hotel. Conducts a weekly photographic class on portrait and paper negative process. Associated professionally with a photographer in Detroit, 1937-38.”

This explains so much.  First, it explains what Lionel was doing in Detroit when his brother Walter arrived in 1938.  Second, it explains why Lionel did not list photography as his occupation on the 1930 or 1940 census or on his World War II draft registration.

The obituary and death notice not only revealed that Lionel was a well-known photographer, but also provided more clues about his family.   First, who was this sister in the death notice named Henny Mosbach Rothschild? And was she the one described as living in Brazil in the obituary? And second, who was the nephew named Robert Heyman?

Since only one of Lionel’s brothers had had a child, I assume that this had to be Klaus Heymann, the son of Lionel’s brother Max. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to yet find out more about Klaus Heymann/Robert Heyman, but I have requested the military records of a Klaus Robert Heymann from the national archives and hope that those records will relate to my cousin.  If so, I will provide an update.

As for the sister named Henny Mosbach Rothschild, I will address her in my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

Morton Tinslar Seligman 1895-1967: A Hero’s Life Subject to Ongoing Questions

Did my cousin Morton Tinslar Seligman leak classified information to a reporter during World War II?

In my last post, I summarized the background to the story of Chicago Tribune reporter Stanley Johnston and his article about the Battle of Midway that revealed that the US Navy had had advance knowledge of the names and locations of various Japanese ships, helping the US Navy to secure victory in that battle.  One of the key issues in that story was the question of how Johnston had obtained that information and whether he had obtained it from my cousin, Morton T. Seligman, from a secret dispatch from Admiral Nimitz.  Michael Sweeney and Patrick Washburn’s excellent monograph on this topic, “ ‘Aint Justice Wonderful’ The Chicago Tribune’s Battle of Midway Story and the Government’s Attempt at an Espionage Indictment in 1942,” Journalism & Communication Monographs (2014), provides a thorough and carefully researched analysis of this matter.

As I wrote last time, the first government document mentioned in the Sweeney and Washburn article that names my cousin Morton T. Seligman as a possible source of Johnston’s access to classified information was a July 14, 1942 memorandum to the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Navy by William D. Mitchell, the chief prosecutor for the government’s case against the Tribune and its employees.  Mitchell’s memorandum claimed that two unnamed officers had seen Commander Morton Seligman writing down a list of the Japanese ships located in the area near Midway.  The Mitchell memorandum then noted that Seligman had stated that he did not remember making such a list, but that he might have done so.  Sweeney and Washburn, p. 48.

In their research of this matter, Professors Sweeney and Washburn found that Seligman was also mentioned in files from the Tribune’s own internal investigation, files Sweeney and Washburn obtained from the Tribune and its attorneys, Kirkland and Ellis.  According to Sweeney and Washburn, “only one officer is repeatedly mentioned in its internal investigation documents as being linked to Johnston—Commander Morton Seligman….Aboard the Barnett, the two of them had bunks that opened onto a common room and the Barnett’s mess set up coffee urns there that made it a popular place for men to gather.” Ibid. at 53.

According to Sweeney and Washburn, “[e]xtensive notes in the legal archive [of the Tribune] make it clear that Seligman shared sensitive information with Johnston aboard the Barnett, but memory problems cause by battle injuries on the Lexington may have prevented him from remembering the details.  The memoranda underscore Johnston’s desire to avoid harming the career of any naval officer and they make it clear that he specifically tried to cover for Seligman.”  Ibid., at pp. 53-54.

The Tribune/Kirkland Ellis files contained information indicating that Seligman had called the Tribune at least three times between July 17 and August 11, including twice in the days shortly after his meeting with Mitchell.   The memoranda describing these phone calls, cited as “Dear Howard, Memorandum”  and “Maloney-Seligman Phone Conversation” in the Kirkland and Ellis files, are probably the most damning evidence against Seligman in the Sweeney and Washburn article, albeit quite circumstantial and not originating with Seligman.

In the memoranda describing these phone calls, Seligman is depicted as anxious about the investigation, having been questioned by the Navy and then by the FBI several times in June while he was in the hospital recuperating from his injuries.  He called the Tribune to speak with Johnston, and according to these memoranda, was assured by both a Tribune editor and by Johnston that his name had not been revealed to any of the authorities and that they would protect him.  According to the memoranda, Seligman told the Tribune that he had told the FBI that he could not remember the Nimitz dispatch or any of the other details they were investigating as a result of his injuries and their effect on his memory.  Ibid. at 55.  The impression left is that Seligman had revealed something to Johnston or that he feared he had, but could not remember the details.

A final memorandum from the Kirkland and Ellis files dated August 11 that has no named author or recipient and that does not even name Seligman specifically but refers to “S,” a person who appears to be Seligman, also refers to Seligman’s memory problems and his statement that he neither remembered seeing the Nimitz dispatch nor discussing the planned Japanese attack on Midway.  Sweeney and Washburn at pp.55-56.

The Gothic Revival Tribune Tower in Chicago

The Gothic Revival Tribune Tower in Chicago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the case went to the grand jury in August, 1942, Seligman was one of eight naval officers who testified, but I cannot find anything that describes his testimony or whether he was questioned about the Nimitz dispatch or about providing Johnston with any other information.  On August 19, 1942, the grand jury concluded that there was not enough evidence to indict the Tribune or its employees, and the case was closed.  Ibid., pp. 64-69.

Over 30 years later, a naval officer named Robert E. Dixon, who had been a lieutenant commander aboard the Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea and then had been aboard the Barnett after the battle, apparently confided to a newspaper editor named Robert Mason that Seligman had arranged to have decoded copies of Japanese radio transmissions delivered and that Seligman had regularly shown these messages to Johnston.  Dixon also told Mason that he had seen Johnston taking extensive notes on these decoded messages.  Dixon claimed he did not then immediately report this because Seligman was his superior officer. He claimed, however, that he did disclose all of this to the FBI once Johnston’s Midway story appeared in print.  Ibid., pp. 71-72.

This conversation, revealed by Mason in a letter to the editor in 1982 to a naval publication called Proceedings, is not corroborated by any other document in the FBI files or elsewhere uncovered by Sweeney and Washburn and thus remains a hearsay statement by Mason in 1982 about what he claims he was told by Dixon in 1975 about what Dixon claims he saw Johnston and Seligman doing aboard the Barnett in 1942.  It may in fact be true, but it is hardly very persuasive evidence at this point.  Sweeney and Washburn themselves pose the question in their conclusion:  “Did the FBI and Navy believe Dixon or did they believe Seligman?  Did they know what Seligman had done or merely suspect it?” Ibid., p. 73.  We will probably never know the answer to either question.

There thus remain even now numerous questions about how Johnston got the information and whether Seligman revealed it to him deliberately.  Since Seligman clearly was suffering from memory impairment in June and July of 1942, one has to assume that he was also suffering from some impairment in May while aboard the Barnett.  If he did reveal the information, it might have been due to carelessness resulting from his medical condition.  Even if he revealed it deliberately, it might have been due to some confusion caused by the shock and the injuries he had just suffered.  Johnston, who was apparently known even by the Tribune to have been investigated by several governments in Europe for some questionable behavior as a journalist there before he came to the US, might have taken advantage of Seligman’s trust and his impairments to get this information from him.  Ibid., at pp.18-21.

Another possibility is that Seligman revealed the information to Johnston off the record, assured that Johnston would not reveal it.  One of the quotes from a conversation that Seligman had with Maxwell, a Tribune editor, is consistent with this theory.  According to one of the memoranda from the Kirkland and Ellis files, Maxwell stated that Seligman had said to him, “I told [Stanley Johnston] he’d get me in trouble if he used anything we talked about.” Sweeney and Washburn, p. 55.  Thus, perhaps Seligman had confided in Johnston, but with the express agreement that it was all off the record and not to be disclosed publicly.  Johnston’s disclosure might have been in bad faith or he might have assumed that the Navy censors would block any classified information; it’s not clear whether Johnston knew that the article was not going to be submitted to the Navy for clearance before publication.

Since all the principal actors in the story are no longer alive, all we can do is speculate about the actual events.  I certainly do not know what happened, and I admit to some bias in favor of my long-lost cousin.  But everything else in his record reflects integrity and honor.  He was a man who had already served in the Navy for over twenty years.  He had risked his own life a number of times in the course of that service.  Why would he ever have done anything deliberately that could be seen as a betrayal of the Navy, an institution to which he had devoted his life, and of the United States during wartime?  It makes no sense to me.

US Navy Cruise book from Fold3 dated 1943

From Pinfeather, US Navy Cruise Book (1943) for US Naval Air Station Bunker Indiana, p. 3 , at http://www.fold3.com/image/303178517/

After his hospital stay, Morton Seligman continued his naval service.  He was assigned to the Naval Air Station in Peru, Indiana, where he was welcomed as a war hero.  Nothing in the press coverage suggests that there was any public knowledge of the accusations made against him.  (“Captain Seligman Will Command U.S. Navy Base,” The Kokomo Tribune (September 19, 1942), p. 1; “Lexington Officer to Command Air Post,” Washington Evening Star (September 26, 1942), p.13.)

His service there was marked by further heroic efforts.  In May, 1943, there had been a major flood in Kokomo, Indiana, and Commander Seligman was commended for his help in rescuing citizens from th flood waters.  The Kokomo mayor praised his leadership, saying, “The commander and his boys, without sleep or rest, braved the dark and cold throughout many long hours until the job was done.”  (“Flood Rescue Brings Praise for Coronadan,” San Diego Union (June 24, 1943), p. 1, Section B)

Not long after the flood, Seligman must have returned to San Diego where he was assigned to the post of executive officer of the Alameda Naval Air Station in Long Beach, California.   (“Flood Rescue Brings Praise for Coronadan,” San Diego Union (June 24, 1943), p. 1, Section B; photograph, Long Beach Independent, August 31, 1943)

lng beach indep aug 31 1943

Long Beach Independent, August 31, 1943

 

As of November 1, 1944, he was retired from the Navy and was granted a retirement promotion to Captain.  Morton lived the rest of his life in the San Diego area with his wife Adela.  Morton Tinslar Seligman died from a stroke on July 9, 1967; he was 72 years old.  He was survived by his wife and his mother; he had no children.

Seligman obit

San Diego Union, July 11, 1967, p. A9

When I look back at Morton’s life, I feel a deep sense of sadness.  He was a man who dedicated his life to service and faced incredible dangers; he lost his sister at a young age, he lived far from his family from the time he was 18 years old, and his first marriage ended in divorce.  The Navy must have been the most important part of his life as an adult.  Some might say he got away with leaking classified information; I would say he got away with nothing.  He suffered both physically and professionally after the Battle of the Coral Sea.  The premature end to his military career at age 49 must have been very painful for him.  Since there is no evidence of any malicious intent on his part, I believe that he paid a big price for acts that were perhaps caused by injuries he suffered in the line of duty or by the betrayal or carelessness of a reporter he thought he could trust.  Whatever the truth, he deserved better after his many years of faithful service.

Morton Tinslar Seligman:  A Heroic Career Ending in Accusations and Controversy, Part II

As I wrote last time, my cousin Morton Tinslar Seligman was a naval hero, both in wartime and in peacetime.  He served in World War I, clearing mines from the North Sea and earning a Navy Cross for his efforts.  He risked his life in an attempt to rescue two Navy pilots who were killed in a plane crash during peace time.  He again risked his life during the Battle of the Coral Sea in May, 1942, serving as executive officer of the USS Lexington and being among the last two to leave the ship when it was destroyed by the Japanese. For his efforts, he was again recognized by the Navy and was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Navy Cross.

According to various reports, he also suffered severe injuries in the course of the Coral Sea battle as the Lexington exploded around him.[1]  Stanley Johnston, who would later play a critical role in the events that damaged Seligman’s career, was a reporter who had been aboard the Lexington with him during the battle.  According to an article in the Albuquerque Journal on June 18, 1942, Johnston had written in the Chicago Tribune that Commander Seligman had several times been “blown through open doors and out of scuttle holes like a cork out of a bottle.” (“Commander Morton Seligman of Santa Fe, Lexington Hero,” Albuquerque Journal (June 18, 1942), p. 1.)[2]

English: The Aircraft Carrier USS Lexington on...

English: The Aircraft Carrier USS Lexington on fire during the Battle of Coral Sea, Public domain photo from history.navy.mil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the Lexington sank, Commander Seligman was assigned to two different ships.  First, he was on the USS Astoria as of May 13, 1942. [3]  As of May 16, 1942, he was assigned to the USS Barnett, [4] a ship that also carried the war correspondent for the Chicago Tribune Stanley Johnston, the same reporter who had described Commander Seligman’s heroism aboard the Lexington.[5]  These facts are not disputed and can be seen from the documents depicted below:

Morton Seligman on the USS Barnett National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, United States; Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 01/01/1939 - 01/01/1949; Record Group: 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798 - 2007; Series ARC ID: 594996; Series MLR Number: A1 135

Morton Seligman on the USS Barnett
National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, United States; Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 01/01/1939 – 01/01/1949; Record Group: 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798 – 2007; Series ARC ID: 594996; Series MLR Number: A1 135

Stanley Johnston on the USS Barnett

Stanley Johnston on the USS Barnett

At some point before June 7, Stanley Johnston obtained information revealing that the Navy had been able to decrypt Japanese code and learn the location of various Japanese ships.  Breaking the code had helped the US Navy during the Battle of the Coral Sea, but more importantly, would help during the Battle of Midway, which took place during the first week of June, 1942, one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea.

The Battle of Midway is considered to be one of the most significant battles of World War II and a turning point in the war against the Japanese.  According to the official Naval History and Heritage website, “The Battle of Midway, fought over and near the tiny U.S. mid-Pacific base at Midway atoll, represents the strategic high water mark of Japan’s Pacific Ocean war. Prior to this action, Japan possessed general navalsuperiority over the United States and could usually choose where and when to attack. After Midway, the two opposing fleets were essentially equals, and the United States soon took the offensive.”  One of the key factors leading to the United States’ success in this battle was the Navy’s ability to read Japanese coded communications and learn their strategy and ship locations.[6]


English: PACIFIC OCEAN (May 2, 2011) In commem...

English: PACIFIC OCEAN (May 2, 2011) In commemoration of the Battle of Midway, fought June 4-7, 1942. The U.S. Navy effectively destroyed Japan’s naval strength by sinking four of its aircraft carriers. It is considered one of the most important naval battles of World War II. Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) created posters for a Battle of Midway Remembrance Dinner. (U.S. Navy photo illustration/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

After the Battle of Midway was successfully concluded, Stanley Johnston wrote a first page article for the Chicago Tribune, describing the victory and alluding, albeit somewhat indirectly, to the fact that the Navy had been able to break Japanese coded communications to learn the locations and identity of the Japanese ships.  The Navy and President Roosevelt himself were livid about the fact that the newspaper had revealed this government secret, and an investigation was conducted to bring a legal action based on the 1917 Espionage Act against Johnston, a Tribune editor, and the Tribune itself.  Just as the grand jury was to begin proceedings, however, the Navy decided that it did not want to pursue the matter if doing so would result in more disclosures that would jeopardize the war effort.  Without the critical testimony of Navy witnesses regarding the impact of the disclosure on the US war effort, the case before the grand jury was weakened, and ultimately the grand jury failed to issue an indictment against the Tribune or its employees.[7]

One key question raised during the investigation and afterwards by journalists and naval historians was the question of how Johnston had obtained the information about the Japanese ships and about the code-breaking in the first place.  Many concluded that Commander Seligman had been the source of the information. At least one writer suggested that Seligman had intentionally leaked the information to Johnston; others just concluded that Seligman, whether intentionally or not, had provided Johnston with access to the information.  Whatever their view of his state of mind, the majority of sources concluded that Seligman, whether directly or indirectly, was the key source of Johnston’s information about the code-breaking that revealed the names and locations of the Japanese ships. [8]

USS Barnett

USS Barnett

The most recent and most comprehensive and scholarly analysis of how Johnston obtained the information is in the 2014 article by two Ohio University professors, Michael Sweeney and Patrick Washburn, “ ‘Aint Justice Wonderful’– The Chicago Tribune’s Battle of Midway Story and the Government’s Attempt at an Espionage Act Indictment in 1942,” Journalism & Communication Monograph (2014).  I was very fortunate to be able to obtain a copy of this article from Professor Sweeney and will do my best to summarize their findings regarding Morton Seligman’s role in this matter.  I am not attempting to review all the writings on this issue, but the Sweeney and Patrick article itself summarizes much of the literature and cites to all the important sources, both primary and secondary, and I am largely relying on it though I have read some of the other sources as well.

First, some background: Stanley Johnston, the Tribune’s war correspondent, was “the only journalist at the Battle of the Coral Sea….No American journalist was at the crucial Battle of Midway in the following month.” Sweeney and Washburn, p. 18.  The Navy required any reporter in the war zone to be accredited, which included signing an agreement requiring the reporter to conform to the security regulations regarding what could and what could not be revealed to the public and what had to pass through Navy censors before publication.  Although Johnston did not sign such an agreement because he shipped out on the USS Lexington before he had a chance, no one disputes that he was aware of these restrictions and agreed to follow them. Ibid., p. 21.

As stated above, Seligman was on the Barnett as of May 16, 1942, along with Johnston, and the ship arrived in San Diego on June 2, 1942.  A few days later Johnston was back in Chicago at the Tribune and was there to report on the Battle of Midway, which took place between June 4 and June 7, 1942.  Ibid., p. 22-26.  On June 6, Johnston wrote an article that identified which Japanese ships had been destroyed during the battle, information that was not publicly available according to the Navy, and known by no more than ten men in the Navy.  The Navy became immediately suspicious about Johnston’s knowledge of these facts.  In addition, the headline to the story (apparently written by someone other than Johnston) suggested that the Navy had obtained advance notice of the Japanese battle plans, saying “Navy Had Word of Jap Plan to Strike at Sea.”  The Navy also realized that the Tribune had not submitted the article to the Navy for clearance before publication. Ibid., 27-28.[9]

Chicago Trbune June 7, 1942

Chicago Tribune June 7, 1942

An internal investigation by the Navy led to the discovery that Johnston’s article was strikingly similar to a coded dispatch that Admiral Nimitz had sent to the Navy’s Pacific fleet outlining Japan’s plan to attack Midway and the list of Japanese ships that would be involved in that attack.  Ibid., p. 29.  On June 8, Johnston met with the Navy and was interrogated about his sources.  Johnston insisted that he had learned these facts while on the Lexington and the Barnett just by overhearing conversations among the crew. He denied ever seeing the Nimitz dispatch or any written list of Japanese ships.  After the first meeting, however, Johnston changed his story when he next was questioned by the Navy, claiming that he had found a writing with the list of Japanese ships and had copied it.  He explained why he had not initially admitted this by saying he had not wanted to get any of the brave servicemen aboard the ship into any trouble.  Ibid., pp. 33-34.

Meanwhile, the commanding officer of the Barnett, W.B. Phillips, reported to the Navy that one of the Lexington commanders on the ship told the Barnett’s communications officer that he had been authorized to show decoded messages to Johnston.  Phillips said the Lexington officers had thought that these disclosures were permissible since Johnston had been a witness to the Coral Sea battle and was already familiar with naval operations as a result.  Ibid., pp. 34-35.  The specific officer or officers were apparently not named by Phillips.

The Navy’s investigation was followed by an investigation by the Justice Department and the FBI, as directed by President Roosevelt.  Johnston was interviewed again, this time by William D. Mitchell, Attorney General under Hoover who was appointed by the Attorney General, Nicholas Biddle, to lead the prosecution of the case.  Johnston again insisted that he had obtained the information from conversations on board the ship.  Ibid., p. 45.  He downplayed the importance of the written list of ships that he had mentioned in his second interview with the Navy a month earlier.  Mitchell asked him to explain the striking similarity between his report and the Nimitz dispatch, and Johnston said he had no idea how that happened and denied seeing any secret dispatch.  Mitchell was unpersuaded and believed that Johnston must have seen the Nimitz dispatch.  Ibid., pp.  45-48.

William_D._Mitchell_cph.3b30394

William D. Mitchell, former US Attorney General

In a July 14, 1942 memorandum to the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Navy, Mitchell wrote that two officers, who remain unnamed, saw Commander Morton Seligman working at a table in the quarters he shared with Johnson, writing down a list of the Japanese ships.  The Mitchell memorandum then noted that Seligman stated that he did not remember making such a list, but that he might have done so.  Ibid., p. 48.  This is the first mention of Seligman in the Sweeney and Washburn article, and it suggests that Seligman was questioned by Mitchell sometime on or before July 14, 1942, but nothing more specific is provided in the text or in the footnotes about that interview or about the two unnamed officers.  Thus, by mid-July, Morton Seligman had become a key part of the government’s investigation.

In the third part of the story, I will address more specifically what Sweeney and Washburn found out about my cousin Morton Seligman’s role in this matter of state secrecy versus freedom of the press.

 

 

[1]    Michael S. Sweeney and Patrick S. Washburn, “Aint Justice Wonderful” The Chicago Tribune’s Battle of Midway Story and the Government’s Attempt at an Espionage Act Indictment in 1942”, Journalism & Communication Monograph“(2014), at 53-55;

[2] Other newspapers also carried the story.  E.g., “Morton Seligman Emerged as Hero of Last Hours of Lexington,” Clovis News-Journal, June 18, 1942, p.1.

[3] National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, United States; Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 01/01/1939 – 01/01/1949; Record Group: 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798 – 2007; Series ARC ID: 594996; Series MLR Number: A1 135

[4] Ancestry.com. U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011.

Original data: Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 01/01/1939-01/01/1949; A-1 Entry 135, 10230 rolls, ARC ID: 594996. Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group Number 24. National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.  National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, United States; Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 01/01/1939 – 01/01/1949; Record Group: 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798 – 2007; Series ARC ID: 594996; Series MLR Number: A1 135.

[5] National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, United States; Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 01/01/1939 – 01/01/1949; Record Group: 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798 – 2007; Series ARC ID: 594996; Series MLR Number: A1 135.  One source claims that Johnston had even been with Seligman aboard the Lexington and assisting him during those last critical moments before the ship sank in the Coral Sea. “Editorial: The Battle of Midway—A Secrets Storm,” Chicago Tribune, August 11, 2013, at http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-11/opinion/ct-edit-midway-20130811_1_tribune-tower-secrets-u-s-navy ;

[6] “Battle of Midway, 4-7 June 1942: Overview and Special Image Selection,” at http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-pac/midway/midway.htm ; Battle of Midway from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Midway .  See also  “Midway:  The Story that Never Ends,” by Thomas B. Allen (June 2007) at http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2007-06/midway-story-never-ends

[7]  Michael S. Sweeney and Patrick S. Washburn, “Aint Justice Wonderful” The Chicago Tribune’s Battle of Midway Story and the Government’s Attempt at an Espionage Act Indictment in 1942”, Journalism & Communication Monograph“(2014), at 65-71.  See also “Midway:  The Story that Never Ends,” by Thomas B. Allen (June 2007) at http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2007-06/midway-story-never-ends (“fearing disclosure of code-breaking secrets in an espionage trial, the Department of Justice quietly closed the case.”).   Allen also wrote that the impact of disclosing this information was substantial:  “Pearl Harbor code breakers believed that the damage had already been done. A key code, Japanese Fleet General-Purpose System, was changed on 15 August, only two months after an earlier change. Other alterations were made in “virtually all Japanese codes and ciphers,” and it took cryptanalysts nearly four months of around-the-clock work to crack the new version and once again penetrate the Japanese navy’s operational radio traffic.” Ibid., citing and quoting from Edwin T. Layton, USN (Ret.), with Captain Roger Pineau, USNR (Ret.), and John Costello, And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway—Breaking the Secrets (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1985), p. 453.

 

Much has been written about the aftermath of the Tribune’s publication of Johnston’s article and the reporting of government secrets.  In fact, the issue has taken on new relevance in recent times after Edward Snowden’s disclosures of the NSA’s surveillance activities and the publication of those disclosures by the press.  It is far beyond the scope of this blog to try and describe that aspect of the matter; my focus is on the alleged role that my cousin Morton Seligman had in the matter and its effect on him and his career.  For an excellent analysis of the other issues as raised by the case, see Sweeney and Washburn, op. cit.

[8] See, e.g., Carey Shenkman, “70 Years Later, Still Playing Politics with the Freedom of the Press, June 18, 2014, at   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carey-shenkman/freedom-of-the-press_b_5503196.html ; “Editorial: The Battle of Midway—A Secrets Storm,” Chicago Tribune, August 11, 2013 at  http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-11/opinion/ct-edit-midway-20130811_1_tribune-tower-secrets-u-s-navy ; Grant Sanger, MD, “Freedom of the Press or Treason?,” Proceedings Magazine, September, 1977 at   http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/1977-09/freedom-press-or-treason ; “Midway:  The Story that Never Ends,” by Thomas B. Allen (June 2007) at http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2007-06/midway-story-never-ends ; “Stemming the Tide of Japanese Expansion,” at http://www.microworks.net/pacific/intelligence/stemming_tide.htm .  The author with the harshest view of Seligman is Capt. Lawrence B. Brennan, U.S. Navy (Ret’d), whose anger undermines any sense of objectivity to his conclusions.  Brennan, “Spilling the Secret—Morton T. Seligman, U.S. Navy (Retired), U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1919,” Naval Historical Foundation, February 28, 2013, at http://www.navyhistory.org/2013/02/spilling-the-secret-captain-morton-seligman/#fn-9595-2 .  The most recent scholarship on this issue is found in the 2014 monograph of Professors Michael Sweeny and Patrick Washburn, cited and discussed above in note 7 and in the text.

[9] The failure to submit the story for clearance was an important element in the investigation and case against the Tribune, but is beyond the scope of my interest here.  For more on that, I recommend reading the full article by Sweeney and Washburn.