We're not sure what he did but he's our hero just the same
from "The John Birch Society" by Michael Brown
Seventy one years ago today, just days after the end of World War II, a group of Chinese communists captured then killed a 27-year-old American Baptist missionary -- who also was working for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services -- named John Birch.
Birch, who spoke fluent Mandarin, had been sent, along with a group of Chinese Nationalist and American officers to accept the surrender of a Japanese base in eastern China.
According to a review in the Wall Street Journal review of the biography John Birch: A Life by Terry Lautz (2016, Oxford University Press) Richard Bernstein talked about Birch's career in China:
Birch bravely spent weeks and months at a time behind enemy lines helping to select targets for American bombers. After the Japanese surrender on Aug. 15, 1945, he was sent on a mission to scout territories in eastern China being evacuated by the Japanese. There, he and his men ran into a detachment of Communist guerrillas who, after a heated verbal exchange, shot and killed Birch. The date was Aug. 25, 1945.
He was a missionary. He was an officer in the OSS. But one thing John Birch never was: a member of The John Birch Society.
In this book review, Bernstein wrote about what happened to Birch's name after his death:
As a devout Christian, Birch would have found Communist values and practices deeply objectionable, but he didn’t live to witness Communist rule in China and was never an anti-communist fanatic. Yet in 1958, Robert H.W. Welch Jr., a wealthy candy manufacturer, founded the John Birch Society, seizing on the notion that the noble American war hero Birch was the first victim of a war declared against America and Christian civilization by the international Communist conspiracy. This was a war aided and abetted, in Welch’s post-McCarthyite view, by a coterie of highly placed American traitors. Dwight Eisenhower, he wrote, was “a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy
... his untimely death [was] followed by his involuntary enlistment in a paranoid club that reduced a cause that might otherwise have gained his sympathy to a jokey kind of historical footnote.
Indeed, in the world of popular music you only hear Birch's name in a couple of jokey songs -- jokey folkie songs -- from the early 1960s.
Those songs are below. But remember when listening to them that the John Birch Society is not John Birch.
First there's "The John Birch Society," as performed by The Chad Mitchell Trio.
Then there is Bob Dylan's "Talkin' John Birch Society Blues."
Ironically, this song proved that paranoia was not the exclusive property of the Birchers. Dylan was going to sing this on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1963,
According to Today in History:
Dylan had auditioned “John Birch” days earlier and had run through it for Ed Sullivan himself without any concern being raised. But during dress rehearsal on the day of the show, an executive from the CBS Standards and Practices department informed the show’s producers that they could not allow Dylan to go forward singing “John Birch.” While many of the song’s lyrics about hunting down “reds” were merely humorous ... others that equated the John Birch Society’s views with those of Adolf Hitler raised the fear of a defamation lawsuit in the minds of CBS’s lawyers.
Dylan refused to alter the lyrics or play another song. So he gave up his chance to appear on Ed Sullivan. Sullivan himself later denounced the idiotic decision by the CBS suits.