[Marxism] John W. Powell
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 17 07:37:49 MST 2008
N.Y. Times, December 17, 2008
John W. Powell, 89, Dies; Writer in Sedition Case
By MARGALIT FOX
John W. Powell, an American journalist who in 1959 was tried for
sedition in a rare and highly public case after he asserted in print
that the United States had used biological weapons in the Korean War,
died on Monday in San Francisco. He was 89 and had lived in San
Francisco for many years.
The cause was complications of pneumonia, his son John S. Powell said.
Mr. Powell’s case was one of the rare federal prosecutions for sedition
— inciting resistance to the government — in the decades since World War
I. Though the government eventually dropped all charges against him, his
case dragged on for five years and became a cause célèbre.
The case against Mr. Powell centered on articles he wrote during the
war, in the early 1950s, in The China Monthly Review, the
English-language magazine he published and edited in Shanghai. In the
articles, Mr. Powell reported claims by the Chinese government that the
United States military had used germ weapons against Chinese troops in
The United States government charged that Mr. Powell had violated
wartime sedition laws by printing false statements. It also charged that
his articles were used to undermine the loyalty of American troops in
North Korean prisoner-of-war camps, who were forced by their Communist
guards to read them.
In April 1956, a federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Mr. Powell
on 13 counts of sedition. Mr. Powell’s wife, Sylvia, and an associate,
Julian Schuman, both editors at The China Monthly Review, were indicted
on one count each. Each count carried a penalty of 20 years in prison, a
$10,000 fine or both.
John William Powell, known as Bill, had family roots in Shanghai. His
father, John Benjamin Powell, had helped found The China Weekly Review,
as it was then known, in 1917. In the late 1930s, during the Second
Sino-Japanese War, the elder Mr. Powell was an outspoken supporter of
China amid the Japanese occupation there. In December 1941, after Japan
attacked Pearl Harbor, John Benjamin Powell was thrown into a Japanese
prison camp. He lost both feet to gangrene there; he died in 1947 at 60.
Bill Powell was born in Shanghai on July 3, 1919, and spent his boyhood
with relatives in Hannibal, Mo. He studied journalism at the University
of Missouri and in World War II worked in China for the United States
Office of War Information.
After the war, Mr. Powell took over his father’s magazine. When the
Chinese Communists came to power in 1949, he publicly supported their
cause, which did little to endear him to United States officials a
decade later. In 1950, citing financial difficulties, Mr. Powell turned
the magazine into a monthly. In 1953, it ceased publication, and Mr.
Powell returned with his family to the United States.
The trial of Mr. Powell, Sylvia Powell and Mr. Schuman opened on Jan.
26, 1959, in Federal District Court in San Francisco. On Jan. 30, Chief
Judge Louis E. Goodman declared a mistrial because of the attention the
news media had given to remarks about treason he made in court the
previous day. (With the jury out of the room, Judge Goodman had agreed
with the prosecutor that the evidence presented so far “would be prima
facie sufficient to sustain a verdict of guilty under the treason
statute,” according to the court record.)
As soon as the mistrial was declared, prosecutors filed a complaint of
treason against the three defendants. The government dropped the treason
charges in July 1959 after it failed to obtain indictments. In May 1961,
with the approval of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the remaining
sedition charges against the Powells and Mr. Schuman were dropped.
Unable to get work as a journalist, Mr. Powell made his living buying,
restoring and selling Victorian houses in San Francisco and later ran an
antiques business. Mr. Schuman, who returned to China, died there
several years ago, John Powell said. Sylvia Powell died in 2004.
Besides his son John, of London, Mr. Powell is survived by two other
sons, Thomas S. Powell of Albuquerque and William Campbell Powell of San
Francisco; and three grandchildren.
Mr. Powell returned to journalism, and to national attention, in the
1980s with two articles about Japanese biological experiments in World
War II. The articles, published in The Bulletin of Concerned Asian
Scholars in 1980 and The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1981,
reported on the special Japanese Army unit known as Unit 731, which
during the war carried out large-scale germ-warfare experiments in
China, killing hundreds of thousands of people.
The existence of Unit 731 was first reported in the Western news media
in the late 1940s. Mr. Powell’s articles, which drew wide notice,
further asserted that the United States government had agreed not to
bring war-crimes charges against Japan in exchange for medical data from
Unit 731’s experiments. And it was from these data, Mr. Powell’s
articles suggested, that the United States learned the germ-warfare
skills it would one day use in North Korea.
Even today, historians do not agree on whether the United States
actually used biological weapons in North Korea, as Mr. Powell contended
more than half a century ago.
“There’s no consensus,” Stephen Endicott, a retired professor of history
at York University in Toronto, said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
Mr. Endicott is the author, with Edward Hagerman, of “The United States
and Biological Warfare: Secrets From the Early Cold War and Korea”
(Indiana University, 1998).
Mr. Endicott added:
“Nobody has come forward to say, on the American side, ‘Yes, we did it,’
or on the Chinese side, ‘Yes, we lied about it.’ It remains one of the
controversial issues of the cold war.”
More information about the Marxism