December 1, 2014

1944. Anonymous Postcard Calls Downs a "Russian Agent"

The Anonymous Threats

On February 19, 1944, soon after his return from Moscow, Bill Downs went on a lecture tour and soon received a rambling postcard from an individual in Kansas City, Missouri. It is mentioned in the book The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism, by authors Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud (pp. 195-196), who write that:
"Downs was haunted by what he had seen in Russia. He told friends that 'coming back . . . is something like stepping out of a St. Valentine's Day massacre into a Sunday school classroom.' Over and over he described what he had witnessed but soon discovered that not everyone shared his strong feelings for the Russian people and the horrors they had experienced. Some looked at him curiously. Others expressed pity. Still others said he was a liar. On a lecture tour of the United States before returning to London, he even received an anonymous postcard calling him a Russian agent and threatening his life."
He was not the only one to receive such a letter. Downs forwarded the note to the FBI, who in turn wrote up a report:

KANSAS CITY, 3-10-44.


Post card received 2-19-44 by BILL DOWNS, KCK, signed Ed. Hale, _______, Kansas City, Mo., apparently the handwriting of an unknown subject.


Report of Special Agent JACK E. SHAW, Jr., Kansas City, dated 1-21-44

Letter from Kansas City Field Division to the Bureau dated 3-7-44

At Kansas City, Kansas

BILL DOWNS telephonically communicated with the Kansas City Field Division and stated that he had received a post card which he felt would interest the Kansas City Office, and he was thereafter interviewed at his residence, ________ Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas.

DOWNS stated that he had recently returned from Russia where he had served as a CBS correspondent for approximately two years. In a February issue of NEWS WEEK MAGAZINE there is a full page spread of a story by BILL DOWNS concerning the Russian Army and the present course of the war. As a result of this article, DOWNS stated that he was interviewed by a reporter from the KANSAS CITY STAR, and on February 17, 1944, there appeared in that newspaper a feature story captioned, "No Need to Fear Reds."

DOWNS stated he has only been in the United States a few weeks, and...he intended to proceed to New York, where he could be reached care of CBS until he goes on a new assignment. However he stated he can always be located through his parents at _______ Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas.

DOWNS had no idea as to who might have written the post card, and furnished it to reporting agent. However, it is noted he would like to have this card returned to him when the investigation in this case is completed. The card is postmarked February 18, 1944, _______ Kansas City, Missouri, and is set out as follows:
Is your right name Abe Spitsky or did your Mother have a Jew boy friend 9 months before you were born?

C.B.S. is a lot of lousy Russian Jews.

We'll take care of all the Jews & their hired men.

/s/ Ed. Hale
This card has been submitted to the FBI Laboratory for comparison with the post cards received by the victims in this case, and it is being included in this file, inasmuch as it appears to be obviously identical with the handwriting on the other two post cards.
The handwriting on this and two similar postcards were ultimately found to be a match.