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As Long as We Remember...

January 15, 2013

Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy’s “Glory Days”

Roy Meachum

Returning from Berlin in January 1949, the Cold War blazed hot with the Airlift. While still in the Army, I enrolled in Georgetown College. Announcer’s duties with The U.S. Army Band left most days free.


Those were pre-Kennedy years when the old houses were not fashionable; the rents were cheap. The once-separate village’s residents were mostly Black and Irish with a few New Yorkers in their midst. The Whites were generally gay; a fact unknown to me at that time. But in Germany’s American Forces Network, there were more than several homosexuals, male and female. In my New Orleans childhood, my blonde hair and blue eyes were accosted by “fags” occasionally.


In preparation for classes that fall I moved into one-room apartment on P Street, in the heart of Georgetown. On the eve of Christmas I took three-rooms in what was once the Imperial Russian Embassy. The Wisconsin Avenue real estate agent made sure I would be comfortable with the all-male renters, which I couldn’t fathom then. Next month Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy rolled out his list of “communists” working for the State Department.


The first full year out of Germany proved exciting. I had enough space to host parties. On one late morning I was suffering from a terrible hangover; the doorbell rang urgently. Two guys from the Criminal Investigation Division were on the porch. From their circuitous examinations – including a lie detector – I gather I was suspected of homosexuality, a crime in that Army.


Gen. Alexander R. Bolling intervened. We had been good friends when he commanded Germany’s Special Services and I served as emcee for their Sunday’s programs, “It’s All Yours!” In a real sense, he was responsible for my being in Georgetown; my plans all along were to return to Tulane, using the GI Bill.


When the general sorted the case out, it turns out I was accused of being gay by an Air Force lieutenant colonel, who didn’t appreciate my attention to what he considered “his girl.” In any event, he started the investigation. That happened before I relocated to the ex-Russian Embassy and the two men who rented there.


Tim was a Richmond-born State Department code clerk who invited me to have Seagram’s-and-Seven Up; he lived alone with a small fuzzy dog and had Danish Christmas plates on the walls. I don’t recall the guy’s name who lived in the apartment right below me; we shared a kitchen.


When I was told the investigation was over, being a very young 21 and feckless, I went on with life. Without warning, Tim appeared at my door one early afternoon, holding the beloved creature to his chest. Tears flowed down his cheeks. That morning he received dismissal from State; his hoped-for pension was taken away. The other guy I never saw later; he was a warrant officer in the Army chief of staff’s office. I gather he received a less than honorable discharge.


But he could have blamed me, as Tim did. In seeking to establish the truth behind the Air Force officer’s complaint, my fellow tenants had come under investigation. I got married that June, when the inquiry vanished. I continued to serve in the Army for almost three years.


When I was discharged, The Washington Post’s personnel director Elsie Carper offered me my first adult job. Senator McCarthy’s last day in town I covered for the newspaper, including the requiem mass at St. Matthews Cathedral. I reported later that his subcommittee’s chief of staff Roy Cohn was a sadistic homosexual, and the senator was suspected of “tendencies.” His later marriage was dismissed by the “knowing.”


The subject came up during the January breakfast.


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