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Schoenfeld, Clay (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 49, Number 10 (Aug. 1948)

Cold war,   p. 14

Page 14

ROBERT MAGIDOFF, '32: From Moscow to the Memorial Union.
    THE SHADOWY threads that
 tie the University of Wisconsin
 to the headlines of the current
 "cold war" have leaped into focus
 in the last few months, as that
 chilly conflict approached t h e
 freezing point.
   Few   pe'rsons realized that the
 tragic suicide of Jan Masaryk in
 Prague would have any ripples in
 Madison. Yet the death of Czech-
 oslovakia's foreign minister hit
 close to home, for he is related by
 marriage to the H. C. Bradley
 family and three of his nephews are
 campus figures at the University:
 Charles Bradley, '35, geology teacher;
 Joseph Bradley, '41, art history instruc-
 tor; and William Bradley, '49, student.
   Masaryk, son of the first president of
 Czechoslovakia, was a former husband
 of Mrs. Frances Crane, sister of Mary
 Crane (Mrs. H. C.) Bradley, x'08. He
 had visited them in Madison some nine
 years before, had spoken at the Memo-
 rial Union, predicted the eventual de-
 feat of the Nazis, the inevitability of
 the then-impending war, and the fu-
 tility of the then-current isolationist
 tendencies in the US. Masaryk's death
 was just a prelude, however.
 Wilhelm T. Morgenstierne, Norway's
 longtime ambassador to the United
 States, visited the Wisconsin campus
 March 31 and spoke in connection with
 the International Club's celebration of
 Norway Week. His speech hit an a-Il-
 time interest high in the history of
 such functions. He made his Memorial
 Union appearance the occasion to warn
 Russia that the Norwegians "will die
 on our feet rather than live on our
 *"We shall stand up against any ag-
 gressor," he declared. "We shall fight
 with everything we have, against any
 attempt by foreign or domestic enemies
to destroy our freedom."
   April 15 saw    two more threads
 emerge when the French cultural at-
 tache from Washington used the cam-
 pus for a sounding board in favor of
 "a strong Western federation" as a
 bloc against Communism, and when a
 graduate of the University was ex-
 pelled from Moscow on a trumped-up
 espionage charge.
   Rene Escande de Messieres was visit-
 ing Madison to attend a dinner cele-
 brating the 30th birthday of the French
 House on campus. Victim of the spy
 charge was Ro b e rt Magidoff, '32,
 former Zona Gale scholar at the UW,
 an American citizen, native of Russia,
 and Moscow correspondent for NBC,
 the McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., and
 the British Exchange T e leg r a p h
 Agency. The nuances of the story had
 all the earmarks of a pulp-magazine
   It seems that Magidoff's Moscow
 secretary accused him in a letter to
 Izvestia, the government newspaper, of
 being a spy. The Soviet government
 ordered Magidoff to leave within three
 days, which he made haste to do. May
 20 he visited Madison and told the
 University students all about it:
 Letters from McGraw-Hill asking
 for information on military science for
 publication in one of the company's
 science magazines were responsible for
 the uproar. In her letter, his secretary
 (who quit the day she wrote it) said:
 "The capitalists are preparing a new
 war, and espionage data collected by
 Magidoff about the USSR undoubtedly
 constitutes part of the dirty work."
 Magidoff said he was sorry for the
 girl, was convinced that she didn't
 actually write the letter-but was used
 as a front for it. US Ambassador
 Walter Bedell Smith branded the Soviet
 charges as "false"; NBC and McGraw-
 Hill did likewise.
 "These charges," said the editor of
the McGraw-Hill World News Agency,
"are based on a normal routine news
assignment sent to Mr. Magidoff in
June, 1947. The same assignment-
part of a world-wide survey of ad-
vances in military science-was sent
to o u r correspondents in England,
France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Italy,
Germany, Austria, and Japan. Our cor-
respondents were able to produce re-
ports from all countries except Russia."
   Said Magidoff:
   "It was all propaganda. Because I'm
 Russian-born and my wife is Russian,
 they figured that if they could brand
 me as a spy, they could then say to the
 people, 'Well, if he's that bad, you can
 imagine how much worse those other
 foreigners are.' "
   Editorialized t h e Racine Journal-
   "The story is so preposterous that
 only a public brought up on hermet-
 ically-sealed education would ever go
 for it . . . it would probably never
 occur to a Russian reader that the Mc-
 Graw-Hill queries w e r e legitimate
 news. American correspondents write
 stories about British military aviation
 and that isn't spying."
   The Magidoff story was then shoved
 to the back pages of the newspapers by
 follow-up stories of the Bogota riots,
 which had taken place the week before.
 From tWo Badger alumni came eye-
 witness accounts of the rioting in the
 Columbian capital city.
   Mrs. Jose Rubio (the former Pris-
 cilla Bolger, '49-), whose husband works
 for the Texas Oil Co. in Bogota wrote:
   "It. happened so fast. Alicita came
 home from school in the middle of the
 day saying Gaitan had been assassi-
 nated. He was shot at 12:30 and by
 early afternoon all the government
 buildings were afire ... Jose was still
 downtown at the oil company and there
 were no taxis, street cars, or anything.
 Only trucks lumbering by full of men
 with guns and machetes. There were
 others swarming down the street, wear-
 ing red ribbons and whirling long
 knives above their heads. All were
 armed and looking tough and angry.
 "Jose went to the printing plant to
 get his father without getting hurt
 because he waved his arms and yelled
 'Long live Communism' a n d 'Viva
 Gaitan' and the mob let him through.
 Everyone is saying 'Communist plot'
 and it is true that everything was ter-
 rifyingly well organized. Fifteen min-
 utes after Gaitan was shot everything
 in the. capital building was destroyed."
 Mrs. Edna Miller Almen, '27, was in
 Bogota with her husband, a foreign
 correspondent c o v e r i n g the Inter-
 American conference, when the rioting
 broke out. She wrote:
 "Outside the doors of the Granada
 three or four soldiers in steel helmets
 stood guard and prevented the rioters
 from entering, but nothing was done to
 curb their looting. Countless times
 hoodlums would come up to the doors of
 the hotel and be turned away by our
 guards, but several times they came in
 such numbers that our soldiers rushed
 inside and lay at the top of the stairs
 to the entrance, their guns ready.
 Every time that happened the crowd
 inside surged, trying to find shelter
 away from the windows. I cannot re-
member how many times that day I ran
up and down the stairs to get away
from the firing."

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