Morris Childs

Project 59 of 74

Morris Childs - spymuseum.comBorn Moishe Chilovsky in Kiev in 1902, grew up in Chicago, changing his name to Morris Childs and taking part in a growing left wing movement within the city. Became one of the charter members of the American Communist Party in 1919.

In 1929 was selected by the Soviet Communist Party to attend the prestigious Lenin School in Moscow where he learned about the concepts of developing revolution and the fundamental principles of Communism. Among his schoolmates were future Soviet premiers Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev and Morris Ponomarov who would go on to serve as a member of the politburo and as the international head of the Communist Party.

Childs headed the Illinois district of the American Communist Party, a key position and ran for the United States Senate seat under the political wing of the Communist Party. He gathered only 1,000 votes. Served as the editor of the Daily Worker, the leading communist publication in the United States. Was considered one of the leading figures in the he Communist movements in the United States. Was replaced in his position as editor of the Daily Worker due to political machinations between rival components of the American Communist Party. Was devastated by the movement and crumbled under the stress and strain, suffering a debilitating heart attack in 1947. Felt abandoned when no one from the Communist Party offered aid or comfort. A deep resentment over his ouster from his prominent position within the American Communist Party combined with his feelings of abandonment during his medical crisis caused an overwhelming sense of betrayal to brew within him.

After numerous raids on American Communist Party leaders in the United States by the FBI, the Justice Department sought to destroy the party from within by seeking disillusioned members of the group. Because of his ill health and his loss of his position, the FBI targeted Morris and his brother Jack as ideal candidates to work as informants. Morris was approached by FBI agent Carl Freyman who found that Morris was not only angry over his betrayal by the American Communist Party, but has also become disillusioned with the Communist mantra, especially in light of the egregious actions of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Morris agreed to work with the FBI to gather information about the Communist Party. The U.S. Government provided medical treatment for Morris and he soon regained his health. Was assigned the title Agent CG5824S but was referred to internally as “58.” Because the hope was that Morris would travel alone into the Soviet Union in a quest for information, the involvement was deemed “Operation Solo.”


Morris Childs Standing Next to Leonid Brezhnev - spymuseum.comAfter two years of working his way back into the American Communist fold, Morris was summoned to a meeting where he was instructed to travel to Russia to arrange for financing of the American Communist Party by the Soviets. Traveled to the Soviet Union in April 1958 and met with his old friend Morris Ponomarov who deemed Childs the real United States ambassador. The two devised a plan by which to smuggle Soviet funds into the United States, using Morris’ brother Jack as a courier. Over 30 years, the Childs brothers would facilitate the transfer of more than $30 million, which was then disbursed by Morris throughout the United States to different American communist causes (with the FBI, of course, monitoring the activity. The FBI took an inventory of the money and traced its origins, determining that a significant amount of it flowed in from Cuba).

In 1959, Childs Traveled back in to the Soviet Union to attend a meeting of all heads of state of communist nations. Serving as the U.S. delegate, he was elected recording secretary and was thereby privy to top secret documents. One night while filing away some of these documents in his safe, he slammed the door on his little finger, cutting the tip of it off. Fearful that under sedation he might reveal that he was working on behalf of the FBI, he refused an anesthetic and had the doctors stitch him up. The next day, Premier Khrushchev acknowledged the incident, boasting that Morris was so committed that he refused the anesthetic because he was so protective of the Soviet documents that he would endure the great pain rather than possibly betray the state secrets. Khrushchev called Childs to the podium before a crowded assembly and affectionately announced him to the “the last of the true Bolsheviks.” This solidified his role as a highly trusted member of Khrushchev’s inner circle and legitimized his position within the Kremlin. Because of the heights within which Childs had ascended within the Soviet power-base, Operation Solo was one of the most protected secrets within the Department of Justice. Only 12 people knew of Childs role and of the operation. In fact, not a single President of the United States knew about it until Gerald Ford was in office.


Morris Childs - spymuseum.comMarried Eva Lieb in 1962 and revealed his role as an agent of the FBI. Eva participated in the clandestine activities as well as providing moral support to Morris who often found himself under overwhelming stress. Morris Traveled back to Moscow in November 1963 and was visiting with Ponomarov when news arrived of the assassination of President John Kennedy. Childs, who understood Russian fluently (a fact that he kept from the Soviets) listened in to a conversation between Ponomarov and a KGB official. From this Childs learned that the Soviet Union had nothing to do with the assassination. While in Moscow, Childs would bring home sensitive files which he and Eva would copy in the dark of night. Eva then smuggled these copies inside her blouse back to the United States.

Chambers faded from the public eye and died in July 1961. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan awarded Chambers the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

John Barron on Morris Childs: Operation Solo
 


American Spies

Category: ,