The Corner

Henry Wallace, Oliver Stone’s Unsung Hero

In a recent interview with Rock Cellar magazine, Oliver Stone spoke of his upcoming HBO series on the “secret” history of the United States. True to obsessive form, Stone spoke of Vietnam and found its origins in the early Cold War. For Stone, whose penchant for conspiracy is infamous, the biggest one of all — dwarfing even the Grassy Knoll — was the Cold War. Stone laments that this conflict ever came about, and blames its rise on FDR’s veep pick in 1944 — had Roosevelt kept Henry Wallace (“one of the unsung heroes” of the HBO series, according to Stone) on the ticket, there would have been no Cold War. 

Stone claims to have devoured all the history books he could get his hands on regarding the early Cold War. But somewhere along the way he must have overlooked — or, following his metier, edited out — all the information that doesn’t fit his thesis. He certainly doesn’t seem to have read the most recent book on this period, David Pietrusza’s 1948: Harry Truman’s Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America.

Stone is correct that there might never have been a Cold War if Wallace had been in charge, but only because Wallace would have assured an even greater Soviet empire. He supported Stalin’s aggression in Europe, including the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the attempt to take over Berlin during the Berlin Airlift, and wanted Poland — a country whose sovereignty the allies went to war over in 1939 — to stay in the Soviet orbit. Small wonder that William Z. Foster, head of the American Communist Party, endorsed his candidacy.

Even worse, Wallace had among his advisers not only card-carrying Communists but also more sinister elements. Speechwriter Charles Kane and campaign manager C. B. Baldwin were NKVD agents. Campaign filmmaker Carl Aldo Manzani was a KGB agent code-named Kollega. 

Stone may not know all of this, but I suspect he does. A man who has fond relationships with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez would certainly not spurn Wallace, who represented the closet American Stalinists ever got to capturing the White House.

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