Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Risks of Remembering: More Research on Why Memories Can Be False

"When you are 80 years old, remembering your kindergarten days, it's really the memory of a memory of a memory." — Gayatri Devi, a neuropsychiatrist who specializes in memory problems in New York City

The Wall Street Journal's new Health Journal columnist, Melinda Beck writes about memories, particularly those from childhood. While One Doc a Day doesn't deal with childhood memories per se, it does consider one man's view of a particular time and political movement -- really, Norwood Allman's life in China, cribbed together through his autobiography, his personal records, and the various third-parties, from the CIA and State Department records to journalist writings. Thus, memories, both his and from others, do come into play. And, of course, the accuracy of these memories are always to be considered. As Beck points out, when "a distorted memory is repeatedly recalled, it can be very difficult to tell is the memory is or isn't real." And that's for the person "remembering" the memory and the person hearing and recording the memory as potential fact.

"It's possible to have a very detailed and vivid memory and be wrong about the details," explains psychologist Judith Hudson of Rutgers University, also interviewed for Beck's article. Researchers, according to Beck, are finding cultural differences, too: "In a study published in Child Development in 2009, Dr. Carole Peterson at Memorial University of Newfoundland and colleagues asked 225 Canadian children and 113 Chinese children, aged 8, 11 and 14, to write down as many early memories as they could in four minutes. The Canadian children were able to recall twice as many memories from their early childhoods, going back six months earlier, than Chinese children. What's more, the Canadian children's memories were much more likely to be about their own experiences, whereas the Chinese children focused on family or group activities."

The article goes on to explain that the difference isn't in memory skills. Rather,the difference comes from "how experiences are encoded in children's brains," and that's significantly affected by the attention others pay to them. In this case, according to Beck, researchers concluded that "Western parents were more likely to savor and tell stories about moments when a child said something funny or did something unusual, underscoring their individuality, while Asian cultures value collective experiences."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Allman in the U.S.'s First 'Wartime Agency' to 'Collect Secret Intelligence […] by Means of Espionage‘

As the chief and initial hire of the OSS's Far Eastern Secret Intelligence desk, Allman helped launch the United States' first "wartime agency" created to "collect secret intelligence […] by means of espionage and counterespionage, and evaluate and disseminate such intelligence to authorized agencies." In a letter to his friend George Sokolsky, Allman joked that he was busy writing his own job description. In reality, though, the Shanghai lawyer was using his new role to promote his Third Force political views. But Allman was worried: The new agency lacked personnel, organization, and a shared touchstone that would help him succeed.

Allman complained to his boss William J. Donovan, the agency's director, that the OSS "was too new for the task at hand." The agency, he believed, needed to tap into an existing infrastructure that allowed easier access to sources and acted as a role model for intelligence officers. As he wrote in an early OSS memorandum, the agency was starting from scratch, and there were "not a great number of Americans in the United States who have the necessary experience and language qualifications." Intelligence work, Allman pointed out, required more than a roomful of young cadets with two years of language training in Beijing. Allman also wanted the agency to have an overarching modus operandi that was somehow tied to the tenets of the Third Force. Mere marching orders, along the lines of "defeat the Japanese," he explained, would not be enough.

In typical Allman fashion, his questions and concerns came with answers. He suggested to Donovan and General John Magruder, deputy director of the Secret Intelligence branch, that the organization follow the lead of the British in intelligence gathering and work with his friend and fellow newspaper owner Cornelius V. Starr, a long-time Shanghai resident who founded and ran the American International Group (AIG), as well as Da Mei Wan Bao and the Shanghai Evening News and Mercury in China. Conveniently, Starr was already known to Donovan, as he had recommended Allman to him as an intelligence officer. But perhaps more conveniently, Starr already worked in espionage with the British and was a well-known proponent of the Third Force, having worked in the newspaper industry alongside Shen Bao editors and writers (most notably Shi Liangcai).

Starr ran an "ambitious" "private espionage ring" called the "Counter Japanese Division of COI," or Center of Information in Shanghai. How formally Starr's COI was tied to the U.S. government's agency of the same abbreviation (referred to as the Office of the Coordinator of Information and run by Donovan) is unknown, but the goals and efforts of the organizations clearly overlapped and flowed into Allman's early intelligence work and efforts to promote the Third Force. It is also quite possible that Allman dabbled in Starr's COI outfit prior to his internment with the Japanese.

Donovan openly associated with Starr, and both men consulted British intelligence officials prior to launching their COI agencies. Together, Starr and Donovan would greatly influence Allman's intelligence work and his political views. After several trips to London, Donovan returned with an "admiration for British commando units" and a conviction that "there was a place for aggressive, small mobile forces which might greatly increase the enemy's misery and weaken his will to resist." Donovan, working with Allman, modeled the OSS on much of what he saw in London and elsewhere in Britain. For Allman, this was ideal, as — in his view — the British clearly promoted the principles and approach of the Third Force. Both Allman and Donovan worked to establish direct ties with the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and Special Operations Executive (SOE), and they maintained these relationships after the shuttering of the OSS in 1945.

In today's document, we see the banal from this time frame: Allman's reimbursement for $28 in "entertainment" from the OSS, a document classified by the CIA until November 1987, nine months after Allman died.

Albert C. Wedemeyer. "Joint Chief of Staff Directive Functions of the Office of Strategic Services," Box 80, File 1, Hoover Institution Archives; editor. "Preface," Central Intelligence Agency's Center for the Study of Intelligence, posted March 7, 2007 [https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/directors-and-deputy-directors-of-central-intelligence/preface.html. Accessed February 21, 2010.].

Albert C. Wedemeyer. "Joint Chief of Staff Directive Functions of the Office of Strategic Services," Box 80, File 1, Hoover Institution Archives; Caldwell Secret xviii-xix.

Albert C. Wedemeyer. "Joint Chief of Staff Directive Functions of the Office of Strategic Services," Box 80, File 1, Hoover Institution Archives; editor. "Preface," Central Intelligence Agency's Center for the Study of Intelligence, posted March 7, 2007 [https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/directors-and-deputy-directors-of-central-intelligence/preface.html. Accessed February 21, 2010.]; Norwood F. Allman Papers. "Shun Pao," Box 22, File 29, Hoover Institution Archives; J. Arthur Duff Papers, "Bibliographical file," Box 1, File 2, Hoover Institution Archives; Yu OSS in China 60, 12.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Allman's Early Days in the OSS

Allman left the cramped quarters of Stanley Prison on June 15, 1942, and by August 1942 — less than two months after a Presidential military order issued by Franklin D. Roosevelt created the OSS — Allman was aboard the Navy's Gripsholm, sailing to New York from China. While en route to the States, Allman contemplated his life, and he wondered about his Chinese friends still working for the Third Force. Had they "survived" the Japanese occupation? Allman wrote that he would "not soon forget the help they gave while [he] was interned in Hong Kong" — "all at great personal risk." Later in life, Allman would indeed return the favor, helping relocate and establish many of these individuals as overseas Chinese in the United States and elsewhere. Whenever possible, Allman worked to protect and aid his social network, particularly those tied to the Third Force. Over the next few weeks, this blog will begin to build out this particular nextwork of Allman's.

While aboard the Gripsholm, Allman tackled two writing projects: an outline for a book about his life as a lawyer in Shanghai and a report for the U.S. government. The report explained the situation surrounding propaganda and the Chinese press, and the extensive document included information about Japanese propaganda in Hong Kong and Latin America. In a separate confidential cover letter to the document, Allman explained that Shanghai was home to a number of small newspapers published for propaganda purposes by Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese, and he wanted to make clear his relationship to these publications. Allman explained that he "was not connected with any of these and [did not] wish to be confused with them." This appeared to be a genuine concern and one that would follow Allman throughout his life. Allman also defended his ties to Shi Liangcai, the former editor and publisher to the Shen Bao, who he called a true patriot of China. Whether Allman provided his report as a volunteer show of civic responsibility or as part of a paid position is not known. However, two months later, on October 1, 1942, Allman was receiving letters addressed to him at the "Office of Strategic Services" in New York City.

According to Allman's records, he became director of the Far Eastern bureau of the OSS around this time. By 1943, according to a declassified OSS document that outlined the Secret Intelligence Branch and all its — largely personnel — woes to the State Department's "Mr. Lyon," Allman was with the Counter Intelligence branch, overseeing the Far East Desk.

The file — today's document of the day — critiqued many OSS branch officer, both personally and professionally. F. D. Duke, the South Eastern European chief, "appear[ed] to lack drive"; Charles Katek, the Hungarian and Czech chief, was "a big man physically with not enough to do"; and Gordon Loud, the Near East chief, was "easy going and not too effective." D. G. Stampado, the Topographic Desk chief, was "a good man though a little too cocky" and R. L. Brittenham, of the Swiss desk, was "a bit on the romantic side."

Unlike most of the other sixty-seven "personalities" in the document, Allman and his counter-intelligence partner, James Murphy (who led the X-2 Counter Espionage Branch), came out unscathed (and, thus, generally uninteresting). Allman was referred to as "[f]or many years Judge of the Mixed Court, Shanghai. Well known throughout the Far East." Murphy was identified as a lawyer and "General Donovan's right hand man; has a phenomenal memory and great ability."

On this page, you'll find excerpted images from the OSS document. The full, now declassified OSS document can be found on the CIA website.

This document raises all sorts of questions for me regarding Allman. Primarily, I'd like to know more about his relations with the China desk's R. A. Henningson and the comment in the document that the Far Eastern Section "has until recently been under a man who had great knowledge but no organizing ability. The situation has now changed. It has also been hampered by the lack of cooperation on the part of the Theater Commander in the Pacific Area." So, was Henningson part of the problem or part of the solution? What about Allman? And how closely did Allman work with the top brass of the OSS, particularly General William J. Donovan, John Magruder, deputy director Intelligence Service, and Whitney Shepardson, director of Secret Intelligence Branch? Based on Allman's personal records at the Hoover Institution, quite closely. But one wonders when a person such as Allman offers up his papers to posterity, what as been lost, removed, or altered along the way.

Oh, and who exactly was Mr. Lyon at the State House?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Shanghai Lawyer: How Allman Presented Himself

Allman's social network had humble and unexpected beginnings, and a preview of key moments in his life show that he rode the tide of Sino-American history from 1916 on into two cold wars — America's conflict with the Soviet Union and Taiwan's on-going tension with the People's Republic of China. A mentioned before, one can follow Allman's journey through a variety of original source material now available, most notably his personal records housed in the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the CIA records both online and in Washington DC. But nearly as interesting is Allman's autobiography, Shanghai Lawyer, written of his life in China from 1916 until 1942.

But the real gist of Allman's autobiography was his seven-month internment on Hong Kong Island by the Japanese. For Allman, this was an internment long in the making. Beginning in 1937, Allman worked as the editor and publisher of the Shen Bao, a Chinese-language paper. Through personal connections made at the paper, Allman became an active proponent of the Third Force. But his political views and use of the newspaper to criticize the Japanese occupation of Shanghai landed him on a list of ninety-one journalists who faced execution if they remained in China, which Allman did. The day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, he was arrested by the Japanese occupiers in China and interned in a prison camp.

While Allman wrote of the interplay among the minority parties and groups that made up the Third Force, as well as the Nationalists and the Communists, that storyline is secondary to Japan's war on China. The country's smoldering civil war between the Nationalists and the Chinese Communists — whether declared or not — was ever present in Allman's writing, but it too was background to the more concerning Sino-Japanese conflict. Allman's one hope and expectation, as seen in the pages of Shanghai Lawyer, was that internal strife would resolve naturally once China's people and leaders united to battle the Japanese. After that, though, China — in his mind — would need America's help.

Allman's hope with Shanghai Lawyer was to show that China, particularly his beloved port city, was a "resilient place," even if the Japanese "burn[ed] it to the ground," what he considered a likely scenario at the time. China, Allman wrote, survived wars, both internal and external, and it would inevitably "rise again." The country, with its "tradition and perfect geographical location," could not be destroyed. Still, Allman argued, "China needed both technical and financial help from Americans." But the Chinese needed to know, wrote Allman, that "they will be safe in accepting such assistance." They needed assurance that America, its people and leaders, "hold no unnecessary political strings."

Yet, more than Allman's call to the American people to help the Chinese rebuild after the Japanese attack, his storytelling simply resonated with readers. The Michigan Law Journal named Shanghai Lawyer among "the best law books of the year [1943]," adding "[f]ew who take it up will put it down without finishing it."  The New York Times Book Review called Shanghai Lawyer a "refreshing" break from "the stuff to feed the troops." In the article, Burton Crane wrote, "It is honest. Its author has not bothered to edit history for our supposed benefit. He tells his story of twenty-seven years in China with good nature, humor, and a matter-of-factness which is far more palatable than all the wishful-thinking-in-retrospect to which we have been treated." Harley Farnsworth MacNair, a writer with The Review of Politics, highlighted Allman's "comings and goings over many routes" and "innumerable bits of amusing and worthwhile information not gleanable elsewhere." For him, Allman and his social network appeared at the center of a clash of cultures in an intriguing, readable way.

While clearly pleased with the reviews, Allman saw his autobiography as a window into a peculiar time and place both in his life and China. He also came to down play the significance of the book, as he defended his numerous relations with Russians in China. R. Harris Smith suggested that Allman became a supporter for Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists as a "defensive reaction against lingering suspicion of his 'Bolshevik sympathies.'"  For Allman, who would go on to work for another two decades, Shanghai Lawyer lacked the twenty-twenty hindsight and revisionist history afforded most autobiographies. Still, his book captures a moment and holds well in the light of history, as it reveals Allman at his most charming and relaxed, if not honest. As a result, Shanghai Lawyer has seen a resurgence of interest in recent years, with Jeffrey Wasserstrom calling it "fascinating" in At the Crossroads of Empires: Middlemen, Social Networks, and State-Building in Republican Shanghai, from 2008.

Going forward in this blog, I'll refer often to Allman's Shanghai Lawyer, but not without some skepticism. Although I have spent a year researching much of Allman's life, I still have unanswered questions about his covert work prior to 1942, the year he joined the OSS.

Clearly, Shanghai Lawyer  acted as an interesting precursor to the next stage of Allman's career as an intelligence officer. His 1915 plan to "get a job with the United Fruit Company," so as to earn enough to finish his university studies, suggested no sense of irony in the pages of the Shanghai Lawyer. In fact, I've always wondered if it was a hint or even back then code words for CIA?

Allman, through his eventual work with the CIA in Guatemala during 1953, would indeed come to work with the United Fruit Company, which lobbied its deep ties in the CIA for the U.S. to overthrow the democratically elected president of Guatemala. While such moments in Shanghai Lawyer seem innocent, there is no way — as with so much in history — to know the written word's true intent. By the book's release, Allman was specializing in "psychological warfare," or "the planned use of propaganda," within the OSS.  Clearly, as a historical source, Allman cannot be trusted entirely, but his commitment to the Third Force, established well before his work as an OSS officer, seemed genuine — or genuine enough.


Image and text: Harvard Law Review Association. Harvard Law Review, Vol. 57, Harvard Law School, 1944, 265 [Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1334819]

A. I. Meyer. "That Rebel Allman!," China Monthly Review, Vol. 102-103, 1946, n. p.

Robert Gale Woolbert. "Review: Recent Books on International Relations," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Apr., 1944) 489-503

Anon. "Shanghai Lawyer," Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. 26, 55.

Norwood F. Allman Shanghai Lawyer (New York: Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1943), 280-383.

Coffey R. Hobart. "Review: Law Books of the Year (1943-44)," Michigan Law Review, Vol. 42, No. 6. (Jun., 1944), 1097.

Norwood F. Allman Papers. "Testimony," Box 6, Files 2, Hoover Institution Archives. Collected news clippings (The New York Times, n. d.).

Harris R. Smith. OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1972 and New York: Lyons Press, 2005), 252-253.

Nara Dillon and Jean C. Oi, editors. At the Crossroads of Empires: Middlemen, Social Networks, and State-Building in Republican Shanghai (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2008), 211.

Norwood F. Allman Papers. "Shun Pao" and "U.S., Office of Strategic Services." Boxes 22, 29, Files 29, 16, Hoover Institution Archives.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Norwood Allman: Fewer than One-hundred Americans

In his book The Chinese Connection, historian Warren I. Cohen wrote that from 1900 to 1950 "there were fewer than one hundred Americans who were knowledgeable about Asia," and they "constituted an opinion-making elite concerning policy toward the region." Allman was among this group, and it is likely that he personally knew all of the other China experts, individuals generally called "old China hands."

While such a small circle shows America's limited and arguably superficial understanding of China at that time, it does place Allman at the center of Sino-American dealings. On his 1950 curriculum vitae, Allman — in characteristic boldness — included among his list of references "any former American resident of China."

Allman's list of references indeed mapped out a vast intertwined network of alliances, and the following biographical sketch reveals a life that thrived through such connections. Allman acts as a window into U.S.-China relations, from the 1930s through the 1960s — a difficult period for many Americans to understand. The seemingly minor details of one man's life point to the many challenges, passions, and contradictions of America's efforts to maintain an open door — or foot — in China, and Allman offers a view into this Sino-American scene.

And so, here is where this blog starts: a consideration of Allman and his network of alliances and, even, enemies. My hope is to research and consider his network and efforts around the Third Force with the goal of finding some resonance today.

As Hanchao Lu suggested, Allman, though "virtually unknown" today, helped form "a particular type of social network" and "one that warrants further study." Such study, as this blog aims to show, reveals Allman's social network as vast, powerful, and intrinsically tied to the Third Force, a movement that began as an organic effort in China to combine the best elements of the Nationalists and the Communists with the will of the people in China but became a largely U.S.-backed anti-communist political warfare crusade.

In this particular image, we see Allman — our man in the middle. He is in Shanghai, at an all-but forgotten party, filled with ex pats, OSS operatives, and Flying Tigers. The image doesn't come from Allman's personal files; rather, it comes from a man whose grandfather was a Flying Tiger based in Shanghai. However, in Allman's personal records at the Hoover Institution and his bestselling autobiography, Shanghai Lawyer, he wrote about how he despised such events. They were dull (and if not dull, trouble the next day for someone), and they offered little chance to mingle with the local Chinese. Still, he joined them. And he never really looked miserable in the photos.

Cohen, Warren I. The Chinese Connection: Roger S. Greene, Thomas W. Lamont, George E. Sokolsky and American-East Asian relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978). 293-303.

Lu, Hanchao. "Review of At the Crossroads of Empires: Middlemen, Social Networks, and State-building in Republican Shanghai." The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 68, Issue 01, February 2009, 263-265.

Pinkele, Carl F. "Review of The Chinese Connection by Warren I. Cohen," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 448, The Academic Profession. (Mar. 1980) 151-152.

Tuchman, Barbara Wertheim. Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911–1945 (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1985) 501.