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The book “Operation Solo”: The FBI’s Man in the Kremlin was written and narrated by John Barron with the help of Eva Childs, the wife of the main character, Morris Childs. It is a soft bound copy of 400 pages and is the paperback (second) edition published in 1996 by the Regnery History, an imprint of the Regnery. The book tells the story of Morris and Eva Childs and Jack Childs on how they infiltrated the Communist party from the United Stated until the Soviet and the setting of the book took place during the recruitment of Morris Childs into the American Communist Party from 1932 until his death in 1991 and was focused mainly on the operational areas of the Childs at Chicago and New York, U.S.A.; Kremlin, United Soviet Socialist Republic; China; and parts of Cuba.
John Barron was an American Journalist born in 26 January 1930 Wichita Falls, Texas. He was a former investigative journalist and a seasoned author and was known for writing KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, Murder of a gentle land: the untold story of a Communist genocide in Cambodia, MiG Pilot: The Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko, “The KGB’s Magical War for ‘Peace'” in Ernest W. Lefever and E. Stephen Hunt, KGB Today: The Hidden Hand, and Breaking the Ring: The Bizarre Case of the Walker Family Spy Ring. His works mainly focus on Communism and the Soviet Espionage particularly the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB) which is very similar with his work and investigation on Operation SOLO and all other books he has written. The book conveys the message about the ideological premise of Communism and the atrocities that it brought not only to a single person but to a large number of populace particularly the people living in Soviet Russia. On how these ideologies brought terror to the locals that led to the change of belief of Morrison Childs who in his younger years was a full time communist.
The story starts in 1992 with a phone call to FBI Assistant Director James Fox that a friend already died and was asked to make a eulogy. Morris Childs or CG-5824S as listed in the Federal Bureau of Investigation Operation Solo that was designed to conduct clandestine operation against the Communist Party in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. The operation was classified and the identities of the agents were locked to protect their families. The author was given a chance to talk to Eva Childs, the wife of Morris, by the FBI to write a book about their adventure into the world of espionage. However, it did not materialize due to some security factors, however, when Morris died, Eva insisted on talking to the author and made a story about them. As per Eva and Morris’ perspective, that everybody will know what the Childs have done to take down the Communist Party of USSR.
Morris Childs was born in 10 June 1902 Kiev, Ukraine from Josef and Nechame Chilovsky. During the time that the Czarist Police were fond of beating Jews, his father disdained the cruelties they did and went against the Russian Czarist Police. Josef was arrested and was exiled in Siberia. He then left the country and landed at Galveston, Texas and started to settle. In 1911, after earning and saving money, he got his family to go to the United States and in December 1911, Morris together with his mother and brother arrived at Ellis Island, New York and in 1913, they formally settled at Chicago. His father was cobbler and made sure that the education of their kids is prioritized. During Morris college days, he joined the protest and became a charter member of the American Communist Party. Being hardened member of the party, Childs was sent 1921 to the Lenin School, Moscow, USSR to undergo political doctrines and communist doctrines. Here he met and was mentored by communist figures that will shape USSR in the future. After which, he will be sent back to the United States and hold key positions in the American Communist Party in Illinois. Childs even ran for Senatorial Race under the Communist group but lost during the election but this did not hinder his prowess to continue on with his ideological movement on Communism.
During the Second World War, Morris’ youngest brother, Phillip, was killed in action in France, and these sent grief into their family. In 1945, Morris suffered a heart attack and was not able to monitor that a coup had undermine the American Communist Party and a certain Eugene Dennis, also a Lenin School graduate took over the party. When Morris recuperated from the attack, he was given the position as the Editor in Chief of the Daily Worker even though some of the party members loyal to Dennis oppose of the move. In 1947, Morris was sent by Dennis to Moscow, as requested, as a Daily Worker correspondent to cover the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers. After the conference, Morris visited his brother’s tomb at France. When he came back to New York City, he was faced with ridicule from his party members and accusing him of “Broderdism” and was not defended by Dennis. In 1947, Morris’ health was worsening and consulted a doctor and was advised to temporarily stop working, he then asked Dennis for a short leave of absence to recuperate, however, during the National Committee in June 1947, Dennis proposed that Morris be replaced as editor of the Daily Worker and granted indefinite leave of absence, which was a simple term that he will be fired and purged of party leadership.
Earlier, his wife left him with their son, who added to his dismay and the reality that he doesn’t have anything to include his party, income, house and savings, and it also resulted to his worsening health. When he rented a room in Greenwich Village boarding house, Morris experienced heart attack that almost killed him and left him incapacitated. Only his brother, Jack, and a friend, Sonny Schlossberg, took care of him. This was the start when Morris asked why his ideology left him like that. In September 1951, two (2) FBI agents approached Jack Childs and was recruited as an Agent. Jack approved but said that he was only a worker and Morris is the ones who should be recruited since he is a party member. Morris was under bed rest when the FBI Agents together with Jack accosted him and asked him if he would like to help the FBI. The FBI then told him that they would do anything to help him recuperate, and with this and on what happened to him, Morris Childs became CG-5824S* and Jack Childs became NY-694S*.
The first mission for the Childs came in 1954 and the result was successfully accomplished in 1956 when they got a copy of Nikita Khrushchev’s speech denouncing Stalin and stating the atrocities that Stalin made to the Soviet populace. Thereafter, Jack Childs became a courier for the party, carrying large sums of money from the Soviet Union to the American Party, while Morris got in deeper into the Communist Party, by involving himself on all the party movements and becoming more active and charming to the leaders of the Communist Party in Moscow and even the Chinese Communist Party in China. In 31 May 1962, Morris Childs married Eva Lieb and was recruited and became CG-6653S.
In 1959, during a national meeting wherein Communist Leaders attended, Morris was elected to recording secretary and was given the task to store information. He was given a safe for the task, but on one occasion, his pinky finger was caught in the door safe and severed his finger. The doctors immediately attended him but Morris told them not to put anesthesia for he might give vital information of his mission, and just told them to stitch the finger up. With this, the leadership of the Communist Party lauded him with respect thus earning more influence.
In 22 November 1963, United States President John F Kennedy was assassinated by a former United States Marines Lee Harvey Oswald, and the subsequent murder of Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Headquarters after his arrest. Morris was given the task on identifying if Oswald was given the go signal to assassinate President Kennedy by the Soviets and through Morris analysis, the Soviets does not have any doings with the assassination.
In 1964, a leak from the National Headquarters of Federal Bureau of Investigation almost compromised the mission and put the Childs and their families in great danger. A Senior Assistant to J. Edgar Hoover had seen the reports of the SOLO Mission, specifically the smuggled cash from the USSR to New York, and talked to a press correspondent for personal gains. The move of the Senior Assistant had a great impact on the Childs mission, the result of this was the fund support for the American Communist Party was temporarily cut-off and the lives of the Childs were put in grave danger. However, the issue died down and the activities went on normally, but the Childs became extra cautious.
Despite what had happened, the Childs continued with their mission and the FBI changed and implemented new security measures to avoid such leaks. In October 1964, a change in leadership at the Soviet Union happened when Khrushchev was deposed but the new leadership still adhered with the same ideology, and with this, the ties with China were still in futile relationship. This relationship affected their cooperation with the Vietnam War. Morris and Eva still continued as casual with their affairs with Soviet Union and China and exploiting every detail to their advantage, while Jack continued in transiting funds and in building relations with Fidel Castro in Cuba. However, the leader in-charge of the mission, Freyman, retired, however, he made a dossier of Operation SOLO and gave it to the FBI leadership before his retirement. Even though the FBI lost Freyman, the mission still continued with Boyles as the lead in-charge and the activities became routine to the characters.
In April 1967, the KGB in the United States, Vladimir Kazakov evaluated Jack Childs on how he was handling the money he was transiting from the Soviet Union into the United States. He was questioned with his dealings with the money and how he handles it. The most excruciating question that almost caught him off-guard was about the microfilm, wherein he was asked on how he deals with the microfilm and the list inside. One that almost incriminated was the handwritten list that he gave the KGB which should have been typed written. This rose suspicions in the KGB and thought of him as a spy. But during his 60th Birthday, he was given a dinner party wherein top leaders were present and introduced Karakov to his friends. With this, Karakov was caught off-guard and lied low.
In the 70s, after J. Edgar Hoover, the FBIs Director died, a congressional hearing headed by Senator Frank Church, a pro-Communist Senator, wanted to know the existence of the missions of the FBI particularly those under the Counter Intelligence Program or the COINTELPRO, it questioned the FBI about some prominent personalities and their association with the Communist such as Martin Luther King and his adviser, and all this came from Operation SOLO and Senator Church wanted to know about SOLO but the agents are silent about it since the Childs are still operating and this inquiry will become a danger to their lives. The Assistant Director of the FBI then confronted Senator Church privately and told him about SOLO and even gave him some pictures about the asset with some Communist Leaders in Moscow. He told Church that he will be destroying one of the most successful operations of the FBI and killing the most important hero that the United States ever have, with this, Senator Church assured that he will keep this a secret.
In 1977, an unexpected event took place when they were going back to the United States from Moscow and was ordered to go back to Moscow. This incident became a turning point in their lives as spies and talked to each other that they will already put an end to their espionage activities. This was then given weight by their handlers. After which, they were given false identities and moved to an undisclosed location that nobody will ever know until their death. The works of the Childs was even realized when the Soviet Union was dissolved and the Berlin Wall between East and West Germany was dismantled.
In 1980, Jack Childs died at the age of 73. Morris Childs died in June 2, 1991 with Eva Child by his side while Eva died in June 1995.
As a seasoned intelligence operative, the book is very interesting especially on how the FBI team recruited and made to operate Mr. Childs in infiltrating the Communist Party in USSR and even recruited his wife and brother for the same purpose. It was also interesting enough on how Mr. Childs and his family operated not only at USSR but also in China and Cuba without being discovered for 20 full years. The book was very well written with the smallest details given emphasis to really show how their team operated professionally. As previously mentioned, the book was narrated by the author in the 3rd person with the help of Mrs. Childs in remembering facts and events. Further, the book doesn’t only show how they operate but also gave some evidences through documents recovered, stolen and passed on to the FBI by the Childs which supported the story of Mrs. Childs thereby making a very realistic book.
Further, the author accomplished his main task of bringing the facts about communism, the ideologies that made the populace deprived of their needs especially on medical needs. It became an eye opener to hardened communists not only on the Western Countries but also in the Eastern Countries such as the Philippines. The Childs through Mr. Barron showed how a person can use the ideology of Communism in their own advantage, to be corrupt, without disregard on the hardships of the people working for the cause of Communism
Lastly, this book by John Barron is highly recommended for future reading because there are three aspects that this book presents, that is the Clandestine Operation, Handling of Agents and on how an agent work. To explain further, in the clandestine operation, the FBI Agents handling the operation demonstrated clearly their devotion and expertise during the whole extent of the operation such as secrecy and compartmentation. Second is on how the FBI Agents recruited and handled their agents (i.e. the Childs), that every detail of their personal information were withheld and guarded for it not to leak even after the operation. And on how the Childs operated with judiciously without ever burning their selves and their handlers even until the day they died.
Max Lerner said “There are some who become spies for money, or out of vanity and megalomania, or out of ambition, or out of a desire for thrills. But the malady of our time is of those who become spies out of idealism.” The Childs never wanted money or fame in becoming a spy against the Communists but did all of these for idealism and patriotism and vowed to crack down Communism and fan out all of its unprincipled activities.
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