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Did Army Tape Eleanor Roosevelt Having an Affai…</A>

Did Army Tape Eleanor Roosevelt Having an Affair?
FBI Files Show FDR Ordered Her Alleged Lover Sent Overseas in WWII
Jan. 31, 2000
By Janon Fisher

On the stand before the Dies Committee are Agnes Reynolds, college secretary
of the American Student Union, and Joseph P. Lash, the group's executive
secretary. Lash is seen just after singing a ditty skewering the committee's
chief, Rep. Martin Dies.

NEW YORK (APBnews.com) -- Recent inquiries into Hillary Clinton's sex life
may have left many wondering where the invasion of her privacy is going to
stop. But life for former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt makes the indignities
suffered by Clinton look mild.

FBI files show that in 1943 the U.S. Army taped Roosevelt, Clinton's role
model, allegedly having sex with a young Army sergeant named Joseph Lash.
According to documents obtained by APBnews.com, the tapes were then played to
President Roosevelt, who ordered Lash to be sent "outside the United States
and on his way to a combat post within 10 hours."

Lash was indeed sent into service at that time, his son confirmed, but as a
weather observer, and he saw little combat. Lash survived the war and
eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography about the first lady.

How the two met

Lash was an ideological man; he often immersed himself in big causes, and as
a college student he was active in a number of student organizations.

"My father was a radical student leader," Jonathan Lash told APBnews.com.

In 1939, after Lash returned from fighting fascists during the Spanish Civil
War, he went before the House Un-American Activities Committee to answer
questions about left-wing activities in student organizations nationwide. At
the time, Lash was the executive secretary of the American Student Union.

Related Documents:

Read the FBI Files

Historians consider these committee hearings to be the precursor of Sen.
Joseph McCarthy's attempts to expose communists within the federal

It was during the Dies Committee meetings that Lash and Roosevelt met, said
Blanche Wiesen Cook, a John Jay College professor working on the third volume
in her biographical series on Roosevelt.

Mocked committee chairman

During the testimony, Cook said, Martin Dies, the Texas representative
heading the hearings, had been grilling Lash on his leftist politics and the
prevalence of communists in the American Student Union when Lash, who had
been holding up well under questioning, broke into song.

"If you see an Un-American lurking far or near, just alcoholize with Martin
Dies and he will disappear," he sang. According to the files, the audience
erupted in laughter.

And he caught the attention of the first lady.

"Dies had been giving the students a hard time; he had been very rude to
them. Eleanor had been sitting at the back of the audience knitting, but when
she heard Lash speak, she was very impressed. He was very bold and brave,"
said Cook.

"She moved to the front of the committee room so that [Dies and committee
members] would be more respectful in their questions. She sort of came to his

After the meeting, the two began to correspond, and a friendship blossomed
out of a common political ideology that lasted to Roosevelt's death.

Lash's insolence also brought out the ire of those who took the Dies
Committee seriously and who considered socialism and communism in any form to
be a threat to national security.

'Young campus cutie'

Roosevelt was accused of "commercializing her office as wife of the President
and had forfeited the respect people are accustomed to giving one of her
position" by Washington Post columnist Westbrook Pegler.

Pegler wrote of Roosevelt's attachment to "a young campus cutie who had been
infected by the Moscow principles." The bureau presumed the man in question
was Lash.

It appears that Roosevelt did intervene on Lash's behalf on several
occasions. When he was turned down for a Navy commission, she wrote to the
attorney general to inquire "if it would be possible for you to run down for
me through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Colonel Donovan's Naval
Inspectors and the Dies Committee, what they really have on Joe Lash."

Roosevelt felt Lash had been wrongly turned down and wanted to see if the
Navy had justification. "He's a Jew. Perhaps that is one more reason why I am
concerned not to see him unjustly treated," she wrote.

Though Lash's FBI file contains hundreds of pages listing his alliances and
activities that had caught the bureau's attention, an internal memo shows the
attorney general was told by the bureau that there was no investigation.

Hoover's secret file alleges hotel romp

However, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover kept a file on Lash in his personal
"Official and Confidential" files. These files allege that the relationship
between Roosevelt and Lash had been fully realized.

In a memorandum dated Dec. 31, 1943, FBI agent George C. Burton relayed to
Hoover his discovery of a possible love affair between Lash and Roosevelt
from conversations he had with a colonel in the Army Counterintelligence
Corp. After Lash enlisted in the Army, he remained under surveillance because
of his socialist sympathies and his close relationship with the first lady.

According to the memo, two other Army colonels were called to the White House
by the president concerning the surveillance conducted on Lash. The officers
played a recording, from a microphone that had been hidden in Lash's hotel
room, that they felt was of a tryst between Lash and Roosevelt.

"This recording indicated quite clearly that Mrs. Roosevelt and Lash engaged
in sexual intercourse during their stay in the hotel room," Burton wrote.

President orders 'purge'

"[Col.] Forney advised [Col.] Bissell that after this record was played Mrs.
Roosevelt was called into the conference and was confronted with the
information and this resulted in a terrific fight between the President and
Mrs. Roosevelt. At approximately 5:00 a.m. the next morning the President
called for General Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Corps, and upon his arrival
at the conference ordered him to have Lash outside the United States and on
his way to a combat post within ten hours."

Finally, in a move that illustrates Franklin Roosevelt's jealous rage, the
president may have wanted the entire Army Counterintelligence Corps
disbanded. "The President had ordered that anybody who knew anything about
this case should be immediately relieved of his duties and sent to the South
Pacific for action against the [Japanese] until they were killed," Burton

Experts doubt truthfulness

Burton, who eventually moved to Sun City, Ariz., died four years ago; his
widow knows nothing of the memo. The tapes of the alleged affair have never
been found, and some key details in the story don't hold up under scrutiny.

Chic Hecht, a former senator of Nevada and ambassador to the Bahamas, said
the Army Counterintelligence Corps was never disbanded, and that it played a
key role in establishing normalcy in Germany after World War II. Hecht was a
member of the corp in the early '50s, spending some 18 months in Soviet

"That is certainly not true; it certainly did not disband, it grew," Hecht

Jonathan Lash said his father had obtained the file through the Freedom of
Information Act before his death in 1987, and had shown him the memo.

"He said that he didn't know whether to laugh or be mad. He was mostly
amused," Lash said. "He was amazed that they'd gone through all this

Cook is more emphatic that the liaison had never occurred. "The idea that
they had sex is just bizarre," said Cook. "It was in my opinion a 'mother and
son' relationship."

Cook said Roosevelt persuaded Lash's wife to leave her first husband to marry

The file, in fact, shows that around the time of the alleged affair, Lash and
his soon-to-be-wife, Mrs. Trude Pratt, had shared a hotel room. There is also
a lengthy transcript of the hotel room conversation between Pratt and Lash,
and according to the memorandum concerning the surveillance, "Subject and
Mrs. Pratt appeared to be greatly endeared to each other and engaged in
sexual intercourse a number of times during the course of their stay at the
Urbana Lincoln Hotel."

It is possible the recordings referred to by Burton are not of Lash and the
first lady, but of Lash and Pratt.

Cook admits that Roosevelt had affairs of the heart with others beside her
husband, and she lists Lorena Hickok, Bernard Baruch and Earl Miller as the
most well known. "I don't think that any of [the affairs] were physical after
Lorena Hickok," Cook said.

"Every woman in public life has to develop skin as tough as rhinoceros hide,"
Roosevelt once said -- words Clinton likely knows only too well.

Janon Fisher is an APBnews.com staff writer ([EMAIL PROTECTED]).

 ©Copyright 2000 APB Multimedia Inc. All rights reserved.

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