Henry Jasik and the McCarthy Hearings

Today’s post is on an obscure side note in antenna history. Henry Jasik is perhaps best known in antenna engineering circles as the Editor of the indispensable Antenna Engineering Handbook. However, he also played a minor role as a witness in the McCarthy Hearings.

Transcripts of the McCarthy Hearings (1953-54 Volume 4), made public in 2003, show that Jasik’s clearance was suspended and he was subjected to extensive questioning in the course of an investigation into “subversion and espionage” in the Army Signal Corps. Jasik drew investigators’ attention because his wife, Esther Gerson Jasik, was the sister of a prominent and well-known Communist,  Simon “Si” Gerson.

Mr. Jasik.For the record I might state that in all my life I have met him [Gerson] at the most a half dozen times and these have been mainly on social occasions. Just a matter of one family visiting another, so that my association with him has been not what you call close by any means. I am not in sympathy with his views or ways of achieving them. I certainly don’t have any knowledge of what his part of the family is up to, that is, beyond what I read in the newspapers.

Investigator’s pressed Jasik for information on Gerson and to explain his wife’s political views. Here is a sample:

Mr. Schine. Where is he [Gerson] now?

Mr. Jasik. Frankly, I don’t know.

Mr. Schine. Is he still in Albany?

Mr. Jasik. I have not had contact with that part of the family actually prior to 1940. In my total married life I might have seen him a half dozen times. I don’t agree with his political philosophy although he seems to have a nice personality. I am afraid that is about as far as it goes.

Mr. Cohn. A Communist can be very charming.

Mr. Jasik. I know very few.

Mr. Schine. Is your wife in disagreement with her brother? I am referring to his Communist party views. Is your wife in agreement with his Communist party activities and views?

Mr. Jasik. Well, if she is in agreement she never tried to convince me of it.

Mr. Schine. Has she ever denied that she was in agreement with him?

Mr. Jasik. Has she ever denied that she was in agreement?

Mr. Schine. I will rephrase the question. Has she ever said she isn’t in agreement with him?

Mr. Jasik. Frankly, I don’t remember.

Mr. Cohn. Now look. Here is a man whose wife is the sister of one of the top Communists in the country. A man who has been the subject of public controversy for the past fifteen years, as you know very well; was one of the second string Communist leaders recently indicted and tried here in federal court and it is inconceivable, unreasonable, that there wouldn’t be frequent discussions between Mr. and Mrs. Jasik on the question of whether or not they were in agreement or disagreement with him. He was one of the top leaders in the Communist party. We certainly don’t want any views of hers except so far as it goes into other things we want to cover later. You would have to go a long way to convince me that this hasn’t been a source of frequent discussions, Mr. Jasik.

Mr. Jasik. We seldom discuss politics at home. I will be very frank.

Mr. Cohn. The question was: Has your wife been in disagreement with her brother’s Communist activities or views?

Mr. Jasik. From my discussions with her, I don’t think she is in agreement with his views.

Mr. Cohn. Has she ever indicated outright that she is in disagreement?

Mr. Jasik. Not directly.

Mr. Cohn. She knows he is a top Communist?

Mr. Jasik. I think that is obvious from reading the newspapers.

On the other hand, Jasik apparently kept his wife out of his business specifically to avoid concerns about her “remote association” to her Communist brother.

Mr. Schine. What does your wife do?

Mr. Jasik. She takes care of our two children Stephen, ten and Harriet, seven. At least they will be in two months. She takes care of our house. Because of her past associations, I have never allowed her to do anything in connection with my business. As a matter of fact, while we have a joint personal checking account, I am the only one who can sign signatures on the business account.

Mr. Schine. In other words, you feel that because of her associations with Communists, you wouldn’t want her to be involved in your business in any way?

Mr. Jasik. Because of what remote association there may have been. Because of what association there may have been, I certainly would not clear her to work in my organization. Even though there are times I could have used somebody to answer telephones or do typing.

Jasik was also acquainted with Martin Sobell, a college classmate of Julius Rosenberg. After proclaiming his innocence for a half century, Sobell finally acknowledged his espionage in a 2008 interview.

Mr. Cohn. Did you ever work with a man named Benjamin Zuckerman?

Mr. Jasik. Yes, I did.

Mr. Cohn. Would you say he was sympathetic towards communism?

Mr. Jasik. Judging from some of the arguments he had with some of the other people, I would say he was not.

Mr. Cohn. With whom did he have arguments?

Mr. Jasik. With some of the various members of the group there, one of whom you of course know, Morton Sobell. Mr. Cohn. Did you know Sobell?

Mr. Jasik. Yes, sir. I did.

Mr. Cohn. How well did you know Sobell?

Mr. Jasik. Oh, not as well as I knew Zuckerman. I met him on a number of occasions and I lost contact with him in 1942 or 1943, something of that sort, possibly even earlier and I did not see him again until 1949.

Investigators also questioned Jasik about involvement in subversive organizations:

Mr. Schine. Did you ever join any organizations listed as subversive by the attorney general?

Mr. Jasik. I don’t think the Institute of Radio Engineering is listed as subversive and the only organizations are professional organizations or in one case an honorary society.

At times, investigators baited Jasik, and he took umbrage at their insinuations:

Mr. Schine. Were you ever present when they held Communist meetings?

Mr. Jasik. I was not aware they held Communist meetings at that house.

Mr. Cohn. Were you present at any dinners?

Mr. Jasik. I was present at one or two dinners.

Mr. Cohn. Who else were at those dinners? Were there any other Communists present besides Rich, Sobell, Danziger, Elitcher and yourself?

Mr. Jasik. Please do not put me in the same category. I attended several times at their invitation.

It’s difficult to draw any conclusions from the isolated interview. Investigators questioned Jasik about his contacts and connections to Communists, and he denied any wrong doing. I was unable to track down any further information on the matter to see if it went any further or impacted his career.  I welcome any readers with additional information to comment.

    Mr. Schine. Where is he now?
    Mr. Jasik. Frankly, I don't know.
    Mr. Schine. Is he still in Albany?
    Mr. Jasik. I have not had contact with that part of the
family actually prior to 1940. In my total married life I might
have seen him a half dozen times. I don't agree with his
political philosophy although he seems to have a nice
personality. I am afraid that is about as far as it goes.
    Mr. Cohn. A Communist can be very charming.
    Mr. Jasik. I know very few.
    Mr. Schine. Is your wife in disagreement with her brother?
I am referring to his Communist party views. Is your wife in
agreement with his Communist party activities and views?
    Mr. Jasik. Well, if she is in agreement she never tried to
convince me of it.
    Mr. Schine. Has she ever denied that she was in agreement
with him?
    Mr. Jasik. Has she ever denied that she was in agreement?
    Mr. Schine. I will rephrase the question. Has she ever said
she isn't in agreement with him?
    Mr. Jasik. Frankly, I don't remember.
    Mr. Cohn. Now look. Here is a man whose wife is the sister
of one of the top Communists in the country. A man who has been
the subject of public controversy for the past fifteen years,
as you know very well; was one of the second string Communist
leaders recently indicted and tried here in federal court and
it is inconceivable, unreasonable, that there wouldn't be
frequent discussions between Mr. and Mrs. Jasik on the question
of whether or not they were in agreement or disagreement with
him. He was one of the top leaders in the Communist party. We
certainly don't want any views of hers except so far as it goes
into other things we want to cover later. You would have to go
a long way to convince me that this hasn't been a source of
frequent discussions, Mr. Jasik.
    Mr. Jasik. We seldom discuss politics at home. I will be
very frank.
    Mr. Cohn. The question was: Has your wife been in
disagreement with her brother's Communist activities or views?
    Mr. Jasik. From my discussions with her, I don't think she
is in agreement with his views.
    Mr. Cohn. Has she ever indicated outright that she is in
disagreement?
    Mr. Jasik. Not directly.
    Mr. Cohn. She knows he is a top Communist?
    Mr. Jasik. I think that is obvious from reading the
newspapers.

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