Army Signal Corps Subversion and Espionage - Testamony of EDWARD J. FISTER
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EXECUTIVE SESSIONS OF THE SENATE
PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON
INVESTIGATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE
ON GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS

The Army-McCarthy
1953-1954

Communist

Witch Hunt

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 8, 1953
New York, N.Y.

Click on photo for larger image

October 20, 1953

In the Camp Evans Administration

building (9001), the former

Marconi Wireless Station Staff Hotel.

(The building to the right)--->
evans logo


    Over 47 persons from Camp Evans (aka Evans Signal Laboratory) testified at the Army Signal Corps Subversion and Espionage hearings.

Volume 3: begins on Paper page 2178 - adobe page 378.

STATEMENT OF EDWARD J. FISTER (1908Ė1995);

Mr. COHN. Will you give us your full name, please, Mr. Fister?
Mr. FISTER. Edward J. Fister.
Mr. COHN. And where are you employed?
Mr. FISTER. At Fort Monmouth, Evans Signal Laboratory.
Mr. COHN. How long has Evans been in existence?
Mr. FISTER. Since around í41 or í42.
Mr. COHN. Under the name of Evans?
Mr. FISTER. Yes.
Mr. COHN. What do you do there?
Mr. FISTER. Right now, chief of the Meteorological Branch.
Mr. COHN. And do you know Aaron Coleman?
Mr. FISTER. Yes.
Mr. COHN. Do you know Harold Ducore?
Mr. FISTER. Yes.
Mr. COHN. Now, were you a reference for either one of these, a reference for employment for either Coleman or Ducore?
Mr. FISTER. With the government?
Mr. COHN. Yes.
Mr. FISTER. Not before they got their job. I didnít know them before they started to work for the government. If they have filed any applications for examinations since they came there, my name may have been used.
Mr. COHN. But you feel you would not be on the original applications, since you didnít know them?
Mr. FISTER. I didnít know them prior to my working for the government.
Mr. COHN. How about Bernard Martin?
Mr. JONES. Bob Martin?
Mr. FISTER. Bob Martin. I didnít know his name was Bernard.
Mr. COHN. Could you have been given as a reference for him?
Mr. FISTER. I donít think so. I didnít know him very well.
Mr. COHN. You knew none of these persons before?
Mr. FISTER. That is right.
Mr. COHN. How well do you know Aaron Coleman?
Mr. FISTER. I would say very well.
Mr. COHN. Do you know him socially?
Mr. FISTER. I perhaps know him most socially from spending about six weeks in England with him, when we both were sent over to a conference.
Mr. COHN. When was that?
Mr. FISTER. I think it was in 1950.
Mr. COHN. Have you ever been to his home?
Mr. FISTER. Yes, I was to his home once.
Mr. COHN. I see. Who else was present at his home when you were there?
Mr. FISTER. My wife and his wife.
Mr. COHN. Nobody else?
Mr. FISTER. No. His wife went with him, and my wife went with me, when we went to England. So when we come back we visited him.
Mr. COHN. How about Mr. Ducore? What is the extent of your acquaintance with him?
Mr. FISTER. I have only known him through working with him.  I have been at a couple of lab parties that he attended and I attended, branch parties. But I didnít spend any other time with him.  I never visited in his home.
Mr. COHN. How about Mr. Martin?
Mr. FISTER. Martin I only know casually. I know him to see him.  I have seen them several times, but I never had any relations with them at all.
Mr. COHN. The reason we asked you to come down is that you were given as a reference at some step along the line by Coleman, and we are checking out everybody who was given as a reference by him.
Mr. FISTER. That could be.
Mr. COHN. Have you ever discussed politics with Mr. Coleman?
Mr. FISTER. Yes.
Mr. COHN. What about his political views?
Mr. FISTER. I think that Coleman believes in our system of government.
Mr. COHN. I see. Has he ever said anything to you to indicate that he didnít?
Mr. FISTER. No. We used to have quite a lot of discussions on political matters, such as socialized medicine, social security, things of that nature. He believed very strongly in socialized medicine and social security. But from all the conversations I have ever had with him, I would think he would be loyal to the government.
Mr. COHN. Did you ever discuss Russia with him?
Mr. FISTER. Yes.
Mr. COHN. How about that?
Mr. FISTER. He was against her way of doing things.
Mr. COHN. When was that?
Mr. FISTER. Oh, ever since I have known him. He hasnít changed any since I have known him. He has always been the same.
Mr. COHN. Do you know whether or not he knew Julius Rosenberg?
Mr. FISTER. Only from what he told me.
Mr. COHN. And what did he tell you?
Mr. FISTER. He told me that he went to one class with Rosenberg; that Rosenberg sat next to himóI think it was a mechanical engineering classóand insisted that he go to a Communist youth meeting with him; that Coleman was not interested in going, but, however, to silence him, he went, and he found out that rather than a place where people could express their own views, they werenít allowed to say anything, and they were just sort of given a line to follow. This disgusted him, and he never attended another meeting, nor bothered with Rosenberg, other than seeing him in class.
Mr. COHN. When did he tell you this?
Mr. FISTER. About a week ago.
Mr. COHN. He told you about a week ago?
Mr. FISTER. Yes. I will tell you how it happened. After he got a copy of his charge, he came to me and asked me if I would give him a letter of character reference. I told him that I would write a letter explaining my contacts with him and what I thought of him, that I would do this. He said he wanted me to see the charges against him. So one of the charges in there was that he was friendly with Julius Rosenberg, and I asked him how about that, and he told me that this was what it amounted to.
Mr. COHN. How about Morton Sobell?
Mr. FISTER. He went to school with Sobell, knew him in class, never bothered with him socially, hadnít seen Sobell until one day he went to the General Electric Company, with whom he had a government contract, that is, he had charge of it through his section.  He met Sobell there, talked to him, and that was about all
the contact they had had.  Sometime later he said he went to the Reeves Instrument Company and found Sobell working in the Reeves Instrument Company.  And again he talked to him. He talked to him there. And later on, some of the equipment that Sobell was working on for Reeves was procured by the radar branch, so he came in closer contact with Sobell at that time. But it was all strictly on a business basis.
Mr. JONES. Mr. Fister, do you know Alan Sterling Gross?
Mr. FISTER. I know of him. I know him to see him and know him to say ĎĎhello.íí
Mr. JONES. What do you know about him?
Mr. FISTER. Nothing, I have met him at work, and I just know him to say, ĎĎHello, Al,íí and that is about the only contact I have ever had with him.
Mr. JONES. What is his position?
Mr. FISTER. He was working in the Applied Physics Branch. Exactly what he was doing, I donít know. I donít know whether he was working in the project they call Diana, which made contact with the moon by radar, or not. He may have been. I donít know.
Mr. JONES. When did you see Mr. Gross last?
Mr. FISTER. Gee, I donít think I have seen Gross in a couple of years, not even to say ĎĎíhelloíí to. It must be that long anyway.  Maybe longer.
Mr. JONES. Did you know that there was a meeting held last night at which all of those who were suspended out there attended?
Mr. FISTER. No, I did not.
Mr. JONES. In a lawyerís office here in New York?
Mr. FISTER. No, I did not. I havenít had any contact with the people who have been suspended except Coleman, who visited at my house Saturday morning, and Ducore, who called me up Friday night and asked if I would give him a character letter. That is the only contact I have had with any of the people.
Mr. JONES. Do you know Jerome Corwin?
Mr. FISTER. Yes.
Mr. JONES. What do you know about Mr. Corwin?
Mr. FISTER. I consider Corwin a very loyal American, a very hard worker, who has done a lot of good for the government in a development sort of way, a very steady worker. I know nothing but good about him.
Mr. JONES. You say you know Bob Martin. How did you meet Mr. Martin?
Mr. FISTER. I donít exactly remember, but I think that I met him in a restaurant, where a number of the fellows who worked at the lab used to eat, and he was introduced to me byóit could have been Corwin or Coleman. I donít recall.
Mr. JONES. It could have been Aaron Coleman, you say?
Mr. FISTER. It could have been Corwin, could have been Coleman, could have been one of the other people who ate there. I donít recall. It didnít impress me that much that I would remember how I knew him.
Mr. JONES. Do you know a Mr. Ullmann?
Mr. FISTER. Ullmann? The name sounds familiar, but I donít place the individual.
Mr. JONES. Would the name William Ludwig Ullmann mean any more to you?
Mr. FISTER. No. I canít connect the thing with him.
Mr. JONES. Tell me, Mr. Fister: What is your personal evaluation of the security system out there at Fort Monmouth?
Mr. FISTER. I think that they have tried to make as safe a security system as they possibly can, and that if anything the effort that has gone into trying to maintain it secure is overdone rather than underdone.
Mr. JONES. Have they recently changed the security system out there?
Mr. FISTER. There has been a slight modification.
Mr. JONES. How long ago was that modified?
Mr. FISTER. About three or four months ago.
Mr. JONES. In what areas were the modifications made?
Mr. FISTER. All areas.
Mr. JONES. All areas?
Mr. FISTER. Yes. A new supplement to ARĖ380Ė5 which is the security army regulation, came out, which stipulated a different way of handling material than the way it had been handled in the past.  They had a system which lived up to 380Ė5 prior to this new one coming out, but it had to be modified somewhat to fit Supplement
No. 1, which came out in June, I believe. That was in June it came out, and they applied it somewhere around July, so it was about four months ago.
Mr. JONES. You are saying, then, in effect, that the security system now is a fairly good system, a fairly effective system.
Mr. FISTER. I canít see that they could do anything more without not getting any work done at all. The security system now interferes with getting work done.
Mr. JONES. You have access to top secret, secret, and classified.  You have clearance; is that right?
Mr. FISTER. That is right.
Mr. JONES. How long have you had that top secret clearance?
Mr. FISTER. I really donít know, but it must be in the nature of four years or five years. Somewhere around there. I donít just know exactly.
Mr. JONES. Do you have any films made of your work?
Mr. FISTER. We have had a film made, showing the Raywin, R-a-y-w-i-n, system.
Mr. JONES. Have you ever had films made of top secret materials?
Mr. FISTER. Not film, no. We have had reproductions made, photostats.
Mr. JONES. Photostats?
Mill. Fister. Yes. We donít take the film ourselves. We go to a reproduction center.
Mr. JONES. Out here at Long Island?
Mr. FISTER. No. We have our own reproduction center at the labs.
Mr. RAINVILLE. That is for stills; not for motion pictures?
Mr. FISTER. They do some motion picture work, too, but not as they do in Astoria.
Mr. JONES. Who is the official photographer out there?
Mr. FISTER. I guess Jack Catelli is chief of the Reproduction Branch right now.
Mr. JONES. Do you know a Leo Fary?
Mr. FISTER. Slightly. I know Leo to see him. I donít know him real well.
Mr. JONES. Has he ever done work for you?
Mr. FISTER. I donít know for sure, but he must have. He is a photographer there, and he may have been involved in one or two of the projects. I donít know.
Mr. JONES. Now, I asked you just a moment ago, sir: Do you have or have you ever had stills or pictures made of any top secret or secret material in action?
Mr. FISTER. You are not talking about in my present position.  You mean: Did I ever have? I was assistant chief of Radar Branch up until two years ago.
Mr. JONES. Did you ever have?
Mr. FISTER. Oh, yes.
Mr. JONES. When was the last time that you had them made?
Mr. FISTER. I wouldnít remember.
Mr. JONES. Within the last three months or so?
Mr. FISTER. Not that I recall.
Mr. JONES. Now, did Leo Fary ever do any of that work for you?
Mr. FISTER. He may have been the photographer that was called in to take pictures of equipment.
Mr. JONES. What would happen to these pictures after they were made and developed?
Mr. FISTER. They were filed in reproduction. They are stamped with their classification. And they are treated the way they should be treated for that type of document. A certain number of copies are sent to Washington, to the chief signal officer. A certain number of copies might go to the field forces if it is a piece of equipment that they are interested in.
Mr. JONES. You are talking about still pictures, a copy of still pictures?
Mr. FISTER. Yes.
Mr. JONES. What about moving pictures?
Mr. FISTER. The moving pictures are usually kept in a laboratory and are used as phases of research, either to demonstrate to other people something that has been accomplished, or to be used for your own people, and sometimes they are taken around to other laboratories, and shown to them, the same as we get pictures from
other laboratories at our place, for interchange of information in fields where we have a common interest.
Mr. JONES. Have you any reason to believe there may have been any subversive activity at Monmouth within the past three or four years?
Mr. FISTER. None at all.
Mr. JONES. You have no knowledge whatsoever of any subversion?
Mr. FISTER. None whatsoever.
Mr. RAINVILLE. And do you think your security system is adequate to check any such subversion if they tried it?
Mr. FISTER. I would say it is as adequate as it can be, and I donít think there is a security system that can guard 100 percent against such things. Because I think it is as nearly impossible as you can make it to get any classified information out of our place. However, an individual could remember things and take it out in his head, and there is no way of stopping that. As far as taking a physical document out, you donít stand much chance of getting away with that.
Mr. RAINVILLE. You donít think it could be done?
Mr. FISTER. I wouldnít say it couldnít be done, but I say they have tried to take every precaution that can be taken so you canít do that. You have a guard system at every gate. There is a barbed wire fence around the place which is ten feet high or something on that nature. They have guards stationed all along, so that if any-body
comes up to the fence they have a view of the fence and can see what is happening. At night time, it is adequately lighted around the periphery of the fence. People have to be cleared in order to get documents. The clearance of secret, for instance, will not allow you to see every secret document. It only allows you to see those secret documents that pertain to your immediate work.
Mr. RAINVILLE. How do you know that is the clearance they have?
Mr. FISTER. We are notified by the security officer.
Mr. RAINVILLE. Somebody calls you in advance?
Mr. FISTER. We get a paper.
Mr. RAINVILLE. You get a paper.
Mr. FISTER. Which is sent to us signed by the security officer, giving the clearance of each individual in our branch. As that security changes, and it does from time to time, mostly upóin other words, when a person starts, they are given an interim clearance of maybe restricted, or maybe no clearance at all, and we are so notified; that these people must be kept away from any classified work. As the clearance changes, you get a notification from the security officer immediately. People canít draw any information out of the library, or out of the mail and records files unless there is a card in there signed by the branch chief and the security officer.  The security officer signifies what their clearance is. The branch officer signifies what type of material they can draw out. Unless the type of material that they want is approved by the branch chief, they canít get it out. In other words, if one of my persons wanted to getóó
Mr. RAINVILLE. That would be from people who are actually employed.  What about people who just came in?
Mr. FISTER. Nobody can get anything, if they just come in.
Mr. RAINVILLE. You mean they can walk in and get a clearance as they come in, and that clearance precedes them? Or how do you handle that?
Mr. FISTER. When a visitor comes, he has been cleared by his own organization to discuss whatever the correct classification is.  Letís assume that somebody is going to come from the General Electric Company. In advance, this company will inform their laboratories that he is coming, that he is cleared for secret, or confidential, or whatever it is. When he comes, the receptionist checks his credentials to make sure who he is. They now have a system that when a man comes he is photographed, and his photograph goes on a file, which the receptionist keeps. When he comes back and he says that he is John Smith, she goes through the file and sees that it is John Smith by his photograph.  Then after she has made sure that he is the right person, the person whom he is visiting is called and is told that Mr. So-and-So of General Electric is there; to send an escort up to get them.  So an escort goes up and takes him back to wherever the meeting is supposed to take place. At no time is this individual to be left unescorted, and he is supposed to be brought back to the reception desk, and if he wants to go and see someone else in the laboratory, he is supposed to start out from the reception desk again. In other words they have taken precautions to stop people from just roaming around the laboratories.
Mr. RAINVILLE. But I understood that there were some people who would come in without an escort.
Mr. FISTER. There had been some people who had a clearance that did not require an escort. I donít know whether this is true under the new system or not. I am not a security expert.
Mr. RAINVILLE. You made a statement a few moments ago saying you thought security was overdone, and then you say that you donít think that we can ever obtain 100 percent security; that even if people do nothing more than walk out and remember things they can take it with them.  I donít quite follow. How could it be overdone, as long as there is still a chance?
Mr. FISTER. Well, unless you can make a person forget, you canít stop that phase of his taking information out.
Mr. RAINVILLE. And when you say you canít have perfect security: The only way that they could get material out of the laboratory now would be to have a photographic memory and to memorize it and to walk out. You donít think that they could carry a small camera and do the same thing?
Mr. FISTER. Well, to say that a person couldnít would be making a broad statement. I donít think they have much of a chance of doing that. I donít know how small a camera you have in mind. I am not familiar with cameras.
Mr. RAINVILLE. Well, have you seen cameras that are about an inch wide and about three inches long?
Mr. FISTER. Yes, I have seen that size. The guards inspect the briefcases, and so forth, that they come in with. They have tried to discourage bringing briefcases in. However, if a person has to bring one in, sometimes they do. They check the contents on the way in, give them a briefcase pass listing what is in it, not in great
detail, but the classification of the highest thing in there, and then when he goes out they again check to make sure he hasnít acquired anything while he was there. Visitors are not left alone, so they shouldnít be able to get at any documents, if the escort system works, and I think everybody is paying attention to it.
Also, nobody leaves their office and leaves any classified information in there unattended.
Mr. RAINVILLE. You will pardon my smiling, but we have one gentleman who confessed that he was suspended a little while ago for doing just what you said they donít do.
Mr. FISTER. There are always slip-ups in everything.
Mr. RAINVILLE. We have another gentleman who said that there are two classes of visitors, those who can wander around without an escort and those who canít.
Mr. FISTER. At one time this was true. I donít know whether this is still true or not under the new system. However these people who were allowed to sort of wander around, as you say, were very thoroughly checked, and their being allowed to wander around didnít really give them access to any classified information. But in
general, I think I am right in saying that people do not leave and have not left any classified information in a room which is not attended.  This is something that has been ingrained into people ever since we have been working there, and they live up to it.  They live up to it, because there is a penalty. You never know when a guard is liable to come around or one of the supervisors, or an officer, and if he would see material on a desk, he would just pick it up and walk up to the front and let you sweat for a while before you asked where the thing was, and then call you to task for not watching it. That has happened, and it is very embarrassing, and I think people try to live up to security regulations.  What I meant when I said it was being overdone, that if any-thing, it is being overdone, was that it is so difficult now to get and to read a classified document that you spend a good percentage of your time that you would like to spend in working, so that you can read it. So a lot of information that should be passed around among the people working in the field is not being passed around, just because it is so difficult to get it.
Mr. RAINVILLE. Two quick questions.  One: What, then, is your explanation for the fifteen people that have been suspended?
Mr. FISTER. Well, I donít know. I donít know what charges you have against these people.
Mr. RAINVILLE. You donít believe it would be from infractions of that kind. It must be something more serious, or something less serious?
Mr. FISTER. It must be something more serious.
Mr. RAINVILLE. It couldnít be leaving papers out on the desk, because that has been trained out of them and they donít do it any more?
Mr. FISTER. Oh, no. This happens.
Mr. RAINVILLE. But it doesnít happen to all fifteen at once?
Mr. FISTER. No. It happens. We have penalties for this thing. If you leave a paper out, leave the safe open, or whatever it is, and classified material is in it, you get a two-day suspension, the first time.  The second time, I think it is a week, The third time they are fired.  In other words, you are a careless person that canít work with
classified material.
Mr. RAINVILLE. And the last question is: Do you have any feeling that there is in this mass action any anti-Semitism?
Mr. FISTER. No.
Mr. RAINVILLE. I think that is all.

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