In response to:
The Bloodless War from the October 23, 1997 issue
To the Editors:
In Thomas Powers’s excellent review of Battleground Berlin [NYR, October 23] I hardly recognized myself in his description of the careers of the authors. I never had to do with the fifth corps of any army and the only General Huebner I know of was the official Austrian observer in the Russo-Japanese War. I never did any joining in Munich except with Radio Liberty in 1982 as director. My liaison activity with the CIA was confined to Berlin (1951-1954), three out of seventeen years in that wonderful city. But the most grievous error in Mr. Powers’s account is the statement that I, like David Murphy and Sergei Kondrashev, am deeply versed in espionage tradecraft. I knew the difference between “dead drop” and “drop dead!” but not from any operation acquaintance with either. In short, apart from the training I received in Military Intelligence, I never had a lesson in my life. I entered Germany not in 1945 but in 1944 with the Third Armored Division (Seventh Corps, First Army). And Czech is not one of the languages I speak with any confidence. As for the epithet “CIA writer”—I wrote few things for the agency in the early Fifties, including an essay on the illegal (Nazi) state and a satire reversing the Collier’s magazine hypothesis of an American occupation of the Soviet Union. These efforts never saw the light of day and proved irrecoverable. So my problem was not that I had anything to hide but rather that I had nothing to show. To correct this I became a journalist. It was in this capacity that I took part in writing Battleground Berlin.
Thomas Powers replies:
My apologies to George Bailey. I acquired my misinformation in the usual way—by calling up someone I thought might know. The facts (kindly supplied over the phone by Mr. Bailey from his home in Germany) are that he spoke both Russian and German, attended the US Army officers’ liaison school in Paris in the winter of 1944- 1945 (where he first met David Murphy, his CIA co-author on Battleground Berlin), that he spent two months with the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) at the time of the German surrender, that he moved on to Czechoslovakia as the liaison officer with the Red Army of occupation, and that following three years at Oxford he was recruited as a civilian contract employee of the CIA (by William Sloane Coffin, Jr.) and spent three years working for the agency in Berlin. His later career with Radio Liberty came a decade after the CIA had quit running the broadcast operation. It was Bailey’s long friendship with Murphy, combined with his deep knowledge of Germany and especially of Berlin, that brought the invitation to help write Battleground Berlin.