240.1122/4–450: Instruction

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom

No. 199

The Secretary of State encloses herewith copies of letters dated March 20 and April 4, 1950, from Mrs. Hermann Field, 82 Corringham Road, London N.W. 11, England, concerning the Department’s efforts to press the case of her husband with the Czechoslovak and Polish Governments, and refers to the Embassy’s despatches No. 1648 of April 6 and No. 1911 of April 17 on this subject.1

In this connection the Officer in Charge or the Consul General of the Mission is requested to call in Mrs. Field and transmit to her personally a copy of the following statement:

“The Department of State has given careful thought to the points which you raise in your recent communications to the Embassy and [Page 21] to the Department with reference to the disappearance of Mr. Hermann Field and the efforts of the United States Government in his behalf. It appears that the chief matters of concern to you in these communications are the following:

The question of replies by the Department to your letters;
the Department’s view of information presented by you to indicate that Hermann Field’s disappearance is connected with developments in Czechoslovakia;
possible differences between the representations of the United States Government to Poland and those to Czechoslovakia in relation to this case;
the question of the efficacy of public statements on the matter; and
the Department’s policy concerning this subject.

“The Department wishes to state that in regard to the question of your letters serious attention has been given to each of them and an endeavor has been made to reply to the specific inquiries in your correspondence by instructions to officers of the Embassy on the replies to be made. Replies of this type represent in no way an attempt to treat the matter lightly or to be evasive. The Department’s purpose was to answer you through the Embassy in a manner customarily used in communicating with American citizens and local nationals in a foreign country.

“With respect to your information on your husband’s connection with developing events in Czechoslovakia, the Department has valued the light which you were able to shed on such questions as Hermann Field’s acquaintance with Vilem Novy and Evžen Loebl2 and on the reference in Kopriva’s3 statement of February 25 to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia on revolutionary vigilance concerning the relationship between Novy and a national of a Western state. It would have been even more useful if a full account of Hermann Field’s connections in Czechoslovakia might have been supplied in the beginning.

“As to possible differences in the representations of the United States Government to Poland and Czechoslovakia, representatives of the Department have noted from your communications and from conversations with Dr. Elsie Field4 here that the Field family seems to [Page 22] have gained an impression that for some unexplained reasons of general policy the Department has pressed the case many times with the Polish authorities but has dealt far less energetically with the Czechoslovak authorities. It is maintained that the Polish Foreign Office made an official statement to Chargé d’Affaires Lyon on September 22, 1949 that Hermann Field was not in Poland, was in no Polish prison and had not been taken by the Polish police.5 The question has been raised why the Department had not accepted this reply as definitive and had considered the Czechoslovak note of January 66 as satisfactory. The question has also been asked why the Department did not immediately follow up the Polish statement of September 22 with a demand to the Czechoslovak Government for proof that Hermann Field did not arrive in Czechoslovakia.

“The Department considers that this interpretation is not warranted by the facts. As the letter of Ambassador Douglas, dated March 31, 1950,7 indicates and as it is now desired to reaffirm, the United States Government has repeatedly pressed this case with both the Czechoslovak and Polish Governments and has had no reason to deal with one government less urgently than the other. The American Embassy in Prague approached the local authorities in Czechoslovakia early in September concerning the question of your husband’s whereabouts and sent, on the instructions of the Department, the first of this Government’s notes to the Czechoslovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this subject in early October.8 Since that time the United States Government has made a series of representations to the Czechoslovak Government, both oral and written, with respect to the three Fields.

“In the opinion of the Department the Polish Government has never responded in any definitive way to its approaches; the Poles have failed to reply to the formal notes of the Embassy in Warsaw; and they have always indicated orally that the investigation is continuing. The statement to Mr. Lyon on September 22 was made only informally by Szeminski, the Acting Director of the British-American Department of the Polish Foreign Office, and contained the reservations that ‘so far as the Polish authorities have been able to ascertain’ and ‘so far as the Foreign Ministry could ascertain’, Szeminski would not agree that Mr. Lyon reveal to the press the statement that Hermann Field was not in Poland and insisted that any more definite report must await the outcome of the investigation still in [Page 23] progress. He also informed the Embassy later that there was nothing to report and that the investigations were continuing.

“The Department wishes to confirm the statement in the letter of Ambassador Douglas that the Polish Government made no written reply to a note presented to the Polish Foreign Office by the American Embassy in Warsaw on September 13, 1949.9 It is also desired to confirm that the Polish Government has never made a reply to any of the American notes unless a formal Polish note of October 319 refusing to accept one of the Embassy’s notes might be considered a reply. In the absence of any written reply to the Embassy’s notes the United States Government has continued to press the Poles in order to pursue every avenue which might yield any information.

“The representatives of the Czechoslovak Government have been more definite than the Polish Government in their informal statements disclaiming that your husband was in their country. A Deputy Vice Minister (Hajdu) stated to Ambassador Briggs on November 30 in the presence of acting Foreign Minister Siroky that it was certain none of the Fields were in Czechoslovakia.10 The Czechoslovak Ambassador here also stated on January 5 in a conversation with Assistant Secretary Perkins that communications from his Government indicated that it had no evidence of the Fields being in Czechoslovakia.11 The Czechoslovak Government had at least made formal written replies to the United States’ notes on January 6 and February 17.12 The Department did not regard these replies as satisfactory but the Czechoslovak Government made it clear that it had nothing to add at the time.

“In regard to public statements the Department shares the view of Ambassador Douglas that it is difficult, if not indeed impossible, to advise any general rule to follow. It is uncertain whether public statements would have an effect on those whom the statements are intended to influence. It is believed, however, that no harm is done by publicity and that your statements to the press in relation to Kopriva’s reference in this connection may have been advisable. This [Page 24] appears to be a question which you will have to decide yourself in the specific circumstances that arise.

“The policy of the Department in the cases of the three Fields is to make every possible effort to obtain information which might help in locating them; to continue to press the matter of your husband’s disappearance with both the Polish and Czechoslovak Governments and of the disappearance of Noel and Herta Field with the Czechoslovak Government; and to assist in any other feasible way. No means, however, are seen of charting an exact course in advance which could be followed step by step in the settlement of these cases. Whether it can be demonstrated that Hermann Field arrived or failed to arrive in Czechoslovakia on August 22 by the plane on which he was scheduled to leave Warsaw, he may well have been detained in, or brought to, Czechoslovakia at a subsequent date. If he is now in Czechoslovakia, it is considered likely that the Czechoslovak authorities may eventually hold a trial with which he will be used in some connection. The Department will therefore not cease in its efforts to make the Czechoslovak authorities realize that this Government is not satisfied with the replies that have been given so far.

“Reference is made in this connection to the question which you raised with Ambassador Douglas whether the Department would be prepared to issue a public denial should your husband be charged with espionage on behalf of the United States Government. The Department could not state what its position would be in such circumstances without knowing the exact nature of the charges involved. The Department would, however, make clear that your husband was never employed by the United States Government.

“In line with the foregoing policy the American Embassy in Prague, acting on instructions from the Department,13 reopened on April 17 with Czechoslovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs the question of the Fields with specific reference to your husband. A representative of the Foreign Office stated that he was afraid all information on the three Fields had already been given but that he would have renewed inquiries made.14 Later, on the same day, the Embassy transmitted a formal note15 on the subject stressing the importance which is attached to locating the Fields and asking what new information the Czechoslovak authorities had obtained since their notes of January 6 and February 17. The note dealt with the reference of Kopriva to a connection between Vilem Novy and a national of a Western state as an apparent allusion to Hermann Field and requested information on his present whereabouts in view of that reference. The note also mentioned the statement of the Polish official on September 22 and in the light of that statement asked for answers to the following definite questions:

Was Hermann Field arrested at the Prague airport on August 22 before passing through Customs?
Will the Czechoslovak authorities after further search state definitely whether or not Hermann Field is in Czechoslovakia?
If Hermann Field is now being detained in Czechoslovakia, would the Czechoslovak authorities inform the Embassy of any charges against him and permit him to be visited by an American consular official?

“At the same time the Department instructed the American Ambassador in Warsaw to take up the case again with the Acting Foreign Minister in Poland. The latter indicated that there was nothing to report. The Ambassador then reminded the Minister that for eight months the United States Government had been trying to get a report from the Polish Government on Hermann Field’s disappearance. He made it clear that the continued failure of the Polish Government to supply any information about Hermann Field was causing the greatest concern in the United States and led the Department and the United States to take an increasingly serious view of the case. In reply to the question whether it was really possible that the investigation was still going on the Minister stated that it was continuing; that he could not state when it would be completed; and that as soon as he had some information he would transmit it to the Ambassador.16

“The Department believes that these two examples are typical of its endeavor to assist in this case through representations to both the Czechoslovak and Polish Governments. The Department will continue to do whatever it can in behalf of your husband.”17

[Dean Acheson]
  1. Neither the letters nor the despatches under reference in this paragraph are printed. They deal with the disappearance in Eastern Europe of Mrs. Field’s husband Hermann Haviland Field, Hermann’s brother Noel Haviland Field, and Noel’s wife Herta Katherina Field. For a brief sketch of the disappearance, see the note transmitted in telegram 99, August 3, to Moscow, p. 39. A more detailed review of the efforts of the United States Government during 1949 to determine the whereabouts of the Field family was recorded in a letter of late December 1949 from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thompson to the Consul General in the United Kingdom; see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. v, p. 56.
  2. Vilém Nový member of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, Editor-in-Chief of the Party newspaper Rude Pravo, and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Czechoslovak National Assembly. Evžen Loebl was Czechoslovak Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade. Both Nový and Loebl disappeared in October or November 1949. It subsequently became known that they had been arrested for alleged anti-Party activity.
  3. Ladislav Kopriva, member of the Presidium of the Czechoslovak Communist Party; from May 1950, Minister of National Security. Kopriva’s report to the Central Committee under reference here appeared in newspaper Rude Pravo on March 3, and a translation was transmitted to the Department of State as an enclosure to despatch 262, March 16, from Praha, not printed (749.00/3–1650).
  4. Dr. Elsie Field (Doob) was the sister of Noel and Hermann Field. Many of the points made in the policy statement quoted here were also made during the course of a conversation on April 7 between Dr. Field and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Llewellyn Thompson and Harold C. Vedeler, principal assistant to the Officer in Charge of Polish, Baltic, and Czechoslovak Affairs of the Office of Eastern European Affairs (memorandum of conversation by Vedeler, April 7, 1950: 240.1122/4–750).
  5. The statement to Chargé Cecil B. Lyon under reference here was reported upon in telegram 1249, September 22, 1949, from Warsaw, not printed (340.1115/9–2250).
  6. The Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry note under reference here was reported upon in telegram 30, January 6, from Praha, not printed. The note reviewed evidence which purported to demonstrate that Noel, Herta, and Hermann Field had all departed Czechoslovakia following visits there at various times in 1949. The note concluded with the assertion that the investigations of the Fields had been conducted with the greatest possible care and conscientiousness and were considered definitive (240.1122/1–650).
  7. On March 28, Mrs. Hermann Field, accompanied by Dr. Elsie Field (Doob), called on Lewis W. Douglas, the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, and discussed aspects of the Field case. In his letter of March 31 to Mrs. Field, not printed, Ambassador Douglas reviewed and responded to various points raised by Mrs. Field during the March 28 conversation. The text of the Ambassador’s letter was transmitted to the Department of State as an enclosure to desptach 1648, April 6, from London, not printed (240.1122/4–650).
  8. Not printed.
  9. Not printed.
  10. Not printed.
  11. The statement under reference here was reported upon in telegram 1784, November 30, 1949, from Praha, not printed. Other portions of the same conversation between Ellis O. Briggs, the Ambassador in Czechoslovakia, and Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Viliam Široký and Assistant Deputy Foreign Minister Vavro Hajdů were reported upon in telegram 1779, November 30, 1949, from Praha; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. v, p. 414.
  12. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs George W. Perkins called Czechoslovak Ambassador Vladimir Outrata to the Department of State and informed him that the American press and public were becoming increasingly concerned over the Field case, and increasing pressure to settle the matter could be expected. Ambassador Outrata was asked to convey to his government the deep concern of the United States Government over the matter. Outrata replied that his government had no evidence that the Fields were in Czechoslovakia, and he suggested that under current conditions in Central Europe there might be many reasons which cause people to disappear (memorandum of conversation by Charles W. Yost, January 5, 1950: 240.1122/1–550). Assistant Secretary Perkins also had a similar conversation with Polish Ambassador Jozef Winiewicz on January 5.
  13. Regarding the Czechoslovak note of January 6 under reference here, see footnote 6, above. Telegram 255, February 21, from Praha, not printed, reported the receipt of a Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry note of February 17 stating that further detailed investigations had failed to disclose any facts not already reported to the American Embassy (240.1122/2–2150).
  14. The instructions under reference were sent in telegram 274, April 13, to Praha, repeated to Warsaw as 178, not printed (240.1122/2–2550).
  15. The response referred to here was reported upon in telegram 549, April 17, from Praha, not printed (611.49/4–1750).
  16. The text of the note, dated April 17, was transmitted to the Department of State as an enclosure to despatch 452, May 4, from Praha, neither printed (240.1122/5–450).
  17. The conversation between Ambassador Waldemar J. Gallman and Polish Acting Foreign Minister Stefan Wierblowski commented upon here was reported in telegram 554, April 20, from Warsaw, not printed (123 Gallman, Waldemar J.).
  18. The statement quoted in this instruction was subsequently transmitted to Mrs. Hermann Field by the Embassy in London.