American University
thesesdissertations_2342_OBJ.pdf (30.29 MB)

Treasonable doubt: The Harry Dexter White case, 1948-1953

Download (30.29 MB)
posted on 2023-09-06, 02:59 authored by Bruce Craig

This dissertation traces the life and times of Harry Dexter White, a high-ranking Treasury official during the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the co-founder of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and an accused Soviet spy. The study seeks to explore the issues surrounding White's alleged subversion of American foreign policy when he was a key assistant to Treasury Secretary Morgenthau. It seeks to determine whether White was, in the words of Dwight Eisenhower's Attorney General Herbert Brownell, "Russian spy."; Drawing upon both American and recently opened archival sources in the former Soviet Union and based upon the primary source documentation available as a result of the declassification of the National Security Agency's VENONA decrypts, the study traces White's early years, his relationship with ex-Communist couriers Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley and other alleged "members" of the so-called Silvermaster espionage group. The study assesses a number of allegations against White: that he sought to subvert American foreign policy by placing Communists in key positions in the Treasury and other Executive departments; that he was responsible for the "quarter billion dollar German occupation currency scandal"; that he played a central role in the founding of the Bretton Woods United Nations twin financial institutions (the IMF and World Bank) with the intent of having these internationalist institutions help serve the interests of the Soviet Union; that he authored the draconian Morgenthau Plan for postwar Germany on direct orders from the Kremlin in order to push Germany into the Soviet orbit; and that as a consummate Communist he played a key role in precipitating the "fall" of China. The dissertation concludes that these charges of policy subversion against White are without merit. Nevertheless, through an examination of the direct and corroborating documentary evidence, including the so-called "White Memorandum" and damning details revealed in the VENONA decrypts, the study advances the thesis that there remains little doubt that White was involved in what Canada's Under-Secretary for External Affairs, Norman Robertson, characterized as "a species of espionage." Despite the denial by a high-ranking former Soviet KGB official that White "was never in an agent relationship with us," the study finds that White did hold some special status within the hierarchy of Soviet intelligence. In the concluding chapter, the dissertation argues that White probably felt no remorse as a result of his espionage activities since he believed his motives were pure---that through his actions he did not seek to harm U.S. interests but sought only to advance Soviet/American cooperation in the World War II and postwar eras and thereby bolster the cause of world peace.







Ph.D. American University 1999.


Media type


Access statement

Part of thesis digitization project, awaiting processing.

Usage metrics

    Theses and Dissertations


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager