Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Apple #126: Milo Radulovich

Recently I saw another movie, this one Good Night and Good Luck, about Edward R. Murrow taking on McCarthy during all the anti-Communist crap in the 1950's. Here's what happened, in the movie and in real life.

  • An Air Force Reserves lieutenant, Milo Radulovich, was working as a meteorologist in the Air Force. The Air Force had found out that his father subscribed to a Communist newspaper and his sister was "left-leaning" and opposed segregation.
  • Radulovich's father was from Yugoslavia and could not speak English, only Serbian. So he subscribed to a Serbian-language newspaper from his home. The Air Force assumed this meant all sorts of nefarious things about him.
  • Radulovich's sister had picketed a hotel when it had refused to give a room to Paul Robeson, an African American singer and actor and civil rights activist. The Air Force thus assumed all sorts of subversive things about her, too.
  • So the Air Force told Radulovich he was dismissed from the service and would lose his rank, pay, and benefits.
  • Radulovich decided he wanted to fight the charges at a hearing. After a difficult search, he found an attorney from Detroit, Charles Lockwood, who took his case pro bono.
  • Radulovich said much later that, at one point during those hearings, the Air Force's legal counsel took him aside and told Radulovich, "You're embarrassing us. Disown your father and sister, and everything will be all right."
  • But Radulovich did not do as the legal counsel suggested. Despite his and his attorneys' best efforts, the Air Force stripped Radulovich of his rank, pay, etc.
  • The Air Force's decision was reported in the Detroit News. Folks at Edward R. Morrow's show, See it Now, read the newspaper story and decided to produce a show on Radulovich's case.

If you haven't seen the movie and you don't want to know what happened next, stop reading now and go rent the movie. Otherwise, read on below.

Milo Radulovich, 1953
photo from The Detroit News

  • CBS didn't want to fund the show, so the producers paid to air it themselves. Everybody was nervous about how the public would receive a documentary that was clearly critical of the Air Force and McCarthyism.
  • But immediately after the show aired, the switchboards were flooded with calls in support of Radulovich. Viewers sent thousands of letters to CBS and Alcoa, the show's sponsor.
  • One month after the show was aired, the Air Force reinstated Radulovich.

After seeing the movie, I wanted to know what became of Radulovich after the Air Force reinstated him. Did he stay in the Air Force? What's he doing now?
  • Though the Air Force had reinstated him, he had trouble finding work. Several employers had blacklisted him.
  • His marriage was cracking under the strain, and he and his wife decided to leave Ann Arbor. He was pursuing a degree in physics at the University of Michigan at the time, but he and his wife thought he would have better luck finding work if he relocated.
  • They moved to California, but the move did not mend the marriage. He and his wife divorced.
  • Without a degree, he still had trouble finding work. But finally, Radulovich found a job working for a small weather-research firm in the San Francisco area.
  • Later, he was hired by the National Weather Service and reported on weather conditions specifically for firefighters.
  • In November of 2007, he died from complications related to a stroke. He was 81.
So it cost Radulovich much, much more than his Air Force Reserves salary to fight their dismissal. But because the See it Now program about him was one of the first public revelations of the truth about McCarthy's anti-Communist vendetta, his case is largely considered to be the beginning of the end of McCarthyism. And for that, those of us who might like to read newspapers in other languages or from other countries, and those of us who stand up against repressive practices owe Milo Radulovich our gratitude.

Kendall Wingrove, "The 50th Anniversary of the Case of Milo Radulovich, Victim of McCarthyism," George Mason University's History News Network, October 13, 2003
Jack Lessenberry, "Murrow, McCarthy, and a Michigan man named Milo," Toledo Blade, October 21, 2005.
Jack Lessenberry, "Radulovich's brave stand helped end McCarthy witch hunt," Toledo Blade, November 23, 2007.
Julie Morris, "The man who fought McCarthy's red smear," The Detroit News, May 5, 2004.
Douglas Martin, "Milo Radulovich, 81, Dies; Symbol of '50s Red Scare," The New York Times, November 21, 2007.
Kathlen Gray, "Milo Radulovich: He had a pivotal role in U.S. history,", November 20, 2007.
Rick Boeck, "The case against Milo Radulovich," Sacramento News & Review, October 20, 2005

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you're a spammer, there's no point posting a comment. It will automatically get filtered out or deleted. Comments from real people, however, are always very welcome!