David Ignatius Walsh was the hometown hero, a lion of the pre World War II Boston Irish community. He had served as Governor of Massachusetts followed by five terms in the U.S. Senate, the first Irish Catholic to hold the post. He was a confirmed bachelor, somewhat of a dandy with a penchant for flashy clothes, but he was also a political bulldog unafraid to take tough positions. Throughout his career he had taken a stance against the Ku Klux Klan, stood in favor of Woman’s Suffrage, advocated the advancement of Jews within American political society, and most notably took a hard position in support of American isolationism and anti-imperialism. He contested America’s authority over the Philippines in the wake of the Spanish-American War, and as we raced towards conflict with Germany for a second time he worked tirelessly to avoid entanglement with what he viewed as a foreign war.
Time magazine published a detailed account of Walsh in 1929:
“A bachelor, he is tall and stout.A double chin tends to get out over his tight-fitting collar. His stomach bulges over his belt. He weighs 200 lbs. or more. Setting-up exercises every other day at a Washington health center have failed to reduce his girth. He is troubled about it. His dress is dandified.He wears silk shirts in bright colors and stripes and, often, stiff collars to match. His feet are small and well-shod. Beneath his habitual derby hat his hair is turning thin and grey. Society is his prime diversion. Of secondary interest are motoring, sporting events,the theatre. In Washington he occupies an expensive suite of rooms at the luxurious Carlton Hotel on 16th Street. A good and frequent host himself, he accepts all invitations out, is one of the most lionized Senators in Washington.”
Though Walsh was a Democrat his positions often put him at odds with the Roosevelt administration through the 1930′s. He advocated for American neutrality during the Spanish Revolution and was outspoken in his opposition of an alliance with Great Britain in the form of“Lend-Lease”. Addressing the Senate in 1940 he denounced the administrations plans to provide arms to the British Empire:
“I say it is too risky, too dangerous, to try to determine how far we can go tapping the resources of our own Government and furnishing naval vessels, airplanes, powder and bombs. It is trampling on dangerous ground. It is moving toward the edge of a precipice–a precipice of stupendous and horrifying depths….I do not want our forces deprive of one gun, or one bomb, or one ship which can aid that American boy whom you and I may some day have to draft. I want every instrument. I want every bomb. I want every plane. I want every boat ready and available. So I can say when and if it becomes necessary to draft him: ‘Young man,you have every possible weapon of defense your Government can give you.’”
Despite these conflicts with the Roosevelt White House and that “…their relations were none too good, it was reported that "He is not of the insurgent type….At heart, observers [in Boston] say, he dissents from many of the policies of the New Deal," but "he will stay on the reservation" and "he will avoid an open break." When the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came Walsh would fall into line in the interest on national unity…but only to a point.
British Prime Minister Churchill had been in and out of the United States for sometime up until this point to drum up interest in an American entrance into the war in Europe. Though Roosevelt was ostensibly on board,there was a huge sticking point in the form of a very popular isolationist movement in favor of neutrality with Walsh as its spokesman in the Senate. This was not the first time Churchill had been made aware of Senator David Walsh. As Governor of Massachusetts he had been outspoken in his support of the Irish Republican break from Britain, introducing Irish Republic President Ãamon de Valeraat Fenway Park on June 29, 1919. Though in the wake of Pearl Harbor Walsh recognized that war had come to America’s shore whether he liked it or not, he did have a major problem with Roosevelt and Churchill’s plan’s for a dealing with “Germany First” strategy.After all despite Hitler’s rather bizarre declaration of war immediately after the attacks it was Japan who had sunk our fleet in Hawaii, not Germany. Walsh saw Japan and the war in the Pacific as the threat on our doorstep, let England deal with it’s own problems,and when the time or need came for America to deal with Germany it would…but not on London’s timetable. Yes Churchill was very much aware of the good gentleman from Massachusetts, and in his mind as well as President Roosevelt’s, Senator David Walsh was a problem that needed to be dealt with…with prejudice.
And seemingly like magic that opportunity arose in the timeliest of manners. The New York Post had started running sensationalist articles through the spring of 1942 regarding a “Nazi Spy Nest” in Brooklyn. A homosexual brothel and frequent hangout for Nazi sympathizers who both catered to American Navy personnel and had been infiltrated by undercover German intelligence agents. As shocking as these storied were, the Post upped the ante by inferring that an unnamed U.S.Senator, referred to only as “Senator X”, was among the regular patrons.
The Office of Naval Intelligence had for some time retained the services of “Lucky”Luciano’s criminal organization to keep order on New York’s waterfront. Subsequent to a mysterious fire that broke out on the SS Normandie in New York Harbor, Luciano’s right hand man Meyer Lansky was directed by ONI to keep an eye on a certain Nazi Sodomite brothel ostensibly to sniff out a sabotage plot. Lansky smelled a rat from the start. Rather than looking to their “field agents” to ascertain a situation, the story was coming from the top down.Intelligence merely needed Lansky and his men to fill in the details on a story that had already been written.
“Right in the middle of the war the Navy was worried…and so were some big shots in Washington…about some senator named Walsh. For some reason, he had gotten in the habit of coming up to New York, and there was a strong suspicion that he was a regular patron of a brothel over near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was a homosexual joint but it was not the senator’s preference that was upsetting people. Everybody knew it was a hangout for Bundists…That’s why [Commander] Haffenden was asked to find out about this particular senator…It sounded like Walsh was more dangerous than the other politicians who dropped in from time to time. He had a big say in the Naval Affairs Committee…”
Lansky began placing his men within the brothel…and then Haffenden asked them to step aside and that Naval Intelligence would handle the situation from there on out. Lansky did not trust the Navy and while seeming to cooperate he kept his men around to keep an eye on matters.
“I was curious. I didn’t want the Navy doing something without my knowing what they were up to…it’s always worthwhile knowing what’s going on.”
“The brothel owner was sent to prison to protect him from a revenge killing. He had talked a great deal…Haffenden did not want to discuss the case at all. I got the impression he was gagged by his superiors. Mikey’s boys and I heard that some of the Washington press corps knew the story, but it was pretty much hushed up.”
Lansky did not believe the leaked accounts pushed by Haddenfeld and ONI. His men never encountered Walsh nor could connect him to the brothel. His overall impression was that directives were coming straight from Washington. Perhaps Haddenfeld did not even know the true story himself.
The trial of brothel owner Gustav Beekman opened with all the trashy tabloid accouterments of spies, Nazi’s and gay orgies a public could ask for.The New York Post continued to fan the flames by running the headline“Links Senator To Spy Nest” with David Walsh’s silhouette. Beekman cut a deal with the prosecution,telling them what they wanted to hear and signing an affidavit which identified Walsh.
With the affidavit signed, The Post ran the headline “The Naming Of Senator X” in full page font. They described Walsh as “one of Hitler’s chief espionage agents in the country” and“the suave Nazi agent who freely gave of liquor and food to sailors”. With regards to his career, Senator David Walsh’s death warrant was signed in the pages of The New York Post on May 4,1942.
The Post continued it’s attacks through that spring of 1942, Walsh himself did not refer to the case at all expecting call it a “diabolical lie” and call for a full investigation. He just went about his work as if it was business as usual.
That investigation came later that season and they found…nothing. Senator Walsh was allowed to finish out his term, but he was effectively neutered with no power nor respect. His views certainly no longer posed any sort of roadblock to Roosevelt or Churchill. The formerly untouchable Senator was defeated in 1946 by Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. He died seven months later in the June of ’47 if not forgotten by the community which had held him such high regard, than certainly reviled.
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