The OTHER report: How I think Doc Switzer spent the summer of ’52

On February 18, 1952, a Monday no less, H. Marshall Chadwell was fuming. The previous Friday, Chadwell, who was no slouch—he was the assistant director of the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI), for heaven’s sake—had been summarily snubbed by his contact for Army intelligence, and, needless to say, he was piiiiiiiiissssssed.

The issue had to do with Project Artichoke. Since March 1951, OSI had been placed in charge of this highly confidential, wildly controversial project, which was all well and good, except for one thing. As far as Chadwell was concerned, they didn’t have access to the necessary brainpower with which to lead such a project. In April 1951, several members of the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC) agreed to assist the CIA with its program. These included Army intelligence, whose shorthand name is G-2; Naval intelligence, or ONI; and Air Force intelligence, or A-2. For nearly a year, the CIA representatives and IAC designees had been meeting on an as-needed basis on Artichoke matters. An advisory panel of outside experts was also created, but the panel lacked direction and momentum. Chadwell felt as if OSI could use more help.

His reasoning was that Project Artichoke was way out of OSI’s bailiwick. It was focused on studying phenomena related to the human mind, including the feasibility of a little-understood technique called brainwashing that was appearing in news stories about U.S. prisoners of war. Because this was new territory for the OSI, Chadwell thought it would be beneficial to obtain guidance from people who understood how brains actually worked. He wanted to pick the brains, so to speak, of the Research and Development Board’s Committee on Medical Sciences. As we’ve discussed in another blog post, the Research and Development Board, or RDB, was the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) powerful arm that directed all research and development for the entire military.

The RDB’s Committee on Medical Sciences “is the only group with the requisite security clearance which has the technical competence to advise on this problem,” Chadwell wrote.

But this couldn’t be done with a phone call. The CIA and the DoD were sprawling bureaucracies.  Chadwell would need to navigate the correct path in order to get the green light. Their agreed-upon plan was that the OSI would draft a memo from the director of central intelligence (DCI), who was Walter Bedell Smith, to the chair of the RDB, who was Walter G. Whitman. Once the draft was written, they’d run it by various CIA offices, getting their needed approvals. After that, they’d pass the memo to the IAC’s designees for G-2, ONI, and A-2, who would take it to their superiors for their OK as well. Then, once eeeeeeeeveryone had given their blessing, Walter Bedell Smith would sign the memo and off it would go to Walter Whitman, who hopefully, fingers crossed, would say OK, and, bada bing, bada boom, Chadwell would get some long-needed help from the medical specialists. 

WELL, everything was going along as planned, the memo was making its way up the chain, when the G-2 designee decided that he needed more input from on high. Instead of handing off the memo to his boss and maybe his boss’s boss, he decided to give it to the Joint Intelligence Committee, or JIC, which was an intelligence advisory committee to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and 100% unrelated to the question at hand. It would be as if you were attempting to get your driver’s license renewed and your local DMV insists that you need to have your application approved by your auto mechanic before your renewal form can be processed. 

So now Chadwell was faced with this ridiculously unnecessary new step that the G-2 had inserted that would only slow things down.

Moreover, Project Artichoke was highly classified. As in C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T-I-A-L. As in the fewer the number of people who knew about it, the better. He didn’t want people to be passing Artichoke memos around willy nilly, especially to groups outside the CIA. 

Of course, Chadwell wasn’t having it. In his February 18 memo, he asked Walter Bedell Smith to kindly ignore the goofball from G-2, not to mention the JIC, and sign the memo, which eventually happened on March 5, 1952. On March 13, 1952, RDB chair Walter Whitman agreed to provide assistance, although, rather than committing his Medical Sciences committee, he offered to create an ad hoc study group which he felt could devote their full attention to the issue. 

So hooray, right? One big hurdle had been cleared. Not so fast. They now had to find a study group chair, plus some members, plus obtain the necessary security clearances for those individuals before they could actually start meeting in person, which, it turns out, was no easy prospect. That seemingly straightforward task would wind up taking months.

There was something else going on at the CIA. At the same time in which representatives were pulling together the ad hoc study group, the reins for Project Artichoke were being handed over from OSI to the Inspection and Security Office (I&SO) whose director was Sheffield Edwards. The I&SO Technical Services Staff (TSS), which was overseen by Willis Gibbons, would be responsible for working with the new RDB ad hoc study group. This change was made official in September 1952. 

The person whose role seemed to be the least affected by the changeover was Morse Allen, whose position was with I&SO as part of the Security Research Staff (SRS). (Yeah, I know, the CIA’s organizational structure gets confusing.) While everyone else was busy bringing their successors up to speed, Morse could go on doing what he was already doing. 

Interestingly for us, the transition hadn’t yet occurred before OSI’s project coordinator for Artichoke, Commander Robert J. Williams, had been informed by Morse Allen that two of Clark Hull’s protégées, St. Clair Switzer and Griffith Wynne Williams (no relation to the commander), would make excellent scientific consultants for Artichoke. Oh, sure, the names Clark Hull, St. Clair Switzer, Griffith Williams, and even Morse Allen are redacted, but I’m confident that those individuals were indeed mentioned. Hopefully, one day, the CIA will finally reveal the names of those men, all of whom have been dead for ages and whose disclosure would have zero effect on anyone’s safety and security. As you’ll recall, Morse Allen’s memo was dated March 25, 1952, which was 12 days after Whitman had given Chadwell the OK for an ad hoc study group for Project Artichoke.

On August 15, 1952, six months after Chadwell’s draft memo, the Ad Hoc Medical Study Group had their first meeting. The members were:

Haha. Just kidding. The CIA still won’t let us see the membership of the ad hoc group for the same reason they won’t let us see the names on the March 25 memo. They don’t feel like it.

By the time of the ad hoc group’s first meeting, Project Artichoke had evolved. Although it had originally been created to focus on special interrogations concerning POWs, its purpose was now broader.

As someone in Chadwell’s OSI operation put it in a July 1952 memo, “in spite of various interim definitions, the scope of Project Artichoke is research and testing to arrive at means of control, rather than the more limited concept embodied in ‘special interrogations.’”

So the goal was now control.

As for the RDB’s ad hoc study group, their purpose was: “to determine whether effective and practical techniques exist, or could be developed, which could be utilized to render an individual subservient to an imposed will or control.” Also: “Complete effectiveness of such techniques would require the individual to be subsequently unaware of their use.” 

So the goal is control, and P.S.: don’t let anyone know they’re being controlled.

The RDB Ad Hoc Medical Study Group Report

The RDB’s ad hoc study group met a grand total of four times—in August, October, November, and December of 1952. Although a summary report of their meetings is light on detail, it didn’t sound like they did much work between those meetings. The most productive meeting was the one in October, which included presentations and discussions on POWs, interrogation, LSD 25, and other redacted topics. They’d started producing drafts of their report in November, and by December, they felt they’d seen all they needed to see.

On January 15, 1953, the study group released their report, which turned out to be, in the viewpoint of Artichoke’s insiders at the CIA, a real clunker. Its 14 pages, two of which are the title page and the table of contents, take about 20 minutes to read. There’s also a 3-page appendix that includes a chart of pertinent military-funded projects, a membership roster (which, of course, is blank), and a meeting schedule. That’s it. That’s what four months of dialogue among a roomful of experts produced. 

Here ya go: Ad Hoc Medical Study Group Report

In all fairness, they weren’t given much material to work with. Their analysis was limited to six measly studies. Also, it can be difficult to get a group of people to agree on anything, so 14 pages may be a stunning feat in that regard. Still, they offer no citations to back up why they believe something to be true. With all due respect, their report possesses the in-depth analysis and higher-order thinking of a high school book report. One of my favorite lines—and it truly is only one line—addresses the extremely important question of how to safeguard information from being intercepted by an enemy. Here’s their esteemed response that occupies the entirety of section 1.7:

“The only sure method of safeguarding secret information is to limit the amount possessed by any one person and to prevent those who must know much from coming under the influence of the enemy.”


That’s it? Couldn’t they at least suggest, I don’t know, speaking in pig latin or something?

In a January 23, 1953, memo, a blacked-out name was reported as saying “the RDB study was not of optimum use in view of the fact that much information on classified work in progress had not been made available to the group.”

The chief of the Technical Branch, which is under SRS in I&SO (I know, I know—so confusing!) was less forgiving. Although his name is blacked out, I’m sure this person is Morse Allen, since I’ve found other documents corroborating that this was his job title at another point in time, though I haven’t yet found anything documenting his job title for this time period. 

On February 16, the branch chief wrote: “In general, the writer agrees in [sic] the overall statements set out by the BLANK group, but wishes to point out certain elements in the BLANK report that are subject to dispute.” He then went through his litany of grievances, which included that he didn’t think the group had been sufficiently informed about Project Artichoke and some of the techniques that were already in use; they were too focused on long-range planning versus short-term workable strategies; and he disagreed strongly with their assertions that “drugs, hypnosis, and brain-damaging processes” are “elaborate, impractical, and unnecessary” in interrogations or that hypnosis can’t make someone do something that goes against their beliefs. Who but Morse Allen would be this defensive about Project Artichoke—his beloved baby?

But honestly? I don’t think he was as upset as he comes across. Several months before the Ad Hoc Medical Study Group had issued their 14-page final report, another report had been making the rounds among a specialized audience in D.C. This report was far more detailed about Artichoke’s main interest areas. It exceeded 84 pages. It also included an appendix containing bibliographies—plural—that cited actual research studies that could support comments made within each chapter. Whereas the RDB study group report was likely already collecting dust on office shelves in Langley, this report was in high demand—so much so that people were having trouble hanging onto their personal copies. 

“Unfortunately, copies of the Report itself are so limited that I must request return of same when you have finished with it,” the Technical Branch chief (aka Morse Allen, I’m quite sure) instructed the chief of the Psychiatric Division on May 7, 1953. 

If you’re wondering why they didn’t make more copies on the agency’s photostat machine, I have no idea. But apparently this was exactly the kind of information that everyone affiliated with Project Artichoke was hungering for.

The OTHER report

The report that was surpassing expectations was produced on September 5, 1952, for the Psychological Strategy Board, or PSB. The PSB was created on April 4, 1951, by President Truman “to authorize and provide for the more effective planning, coordination, and conduct, within the framework of approved national policies, of psychological operations.” Any initiatives designed to influence the enemy psychologically were in their purview. This would include propaganda, like sending leaflets in balloons over enemy territory through Crusade for Freedom, for example. But it would include other activities too. Needless to say, Project Artichoke would have interested them quite a bit.

The PSB’s members were the undersecretary of state, the deputy secretary of defense, and the director of central intelligence or “their appropriate designees,” as well as other agency representatives as needed. Officials representing the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Mutual Security Agency took part, as did the PSB director, Gordon Gray, and his staff. The PSB reported to the National Security Council (NSC). 

How the PSB initially got involved in Artichoke is anyone’s guess. Here’s mine: when the chair of the RDB, Walter Whitman, was asked by CIA Director Walter B. Smith for some assistance, he likely told his boss, Robert A. Lovett, who was deputy secretary of defense. Lovett probably thought this sounded, um…pertinent?…to the PSB’s mission, and brought it before the group. 

“The military has been funding technical studies for a while now,” he may have said. “Let’s pay a consultant to produce a report of our own that summarizes the applicable studies in psychiatric and psychological research! All in favor?” 

“AYE!!,” they’d respond.

He might have followed up with: “Does anyone know someone good?”

A second possibility is that Walter B. Smith may have brought it up to the group instead. It really makes no difference. Two key players who knew that the CIA was in need of relevant background research in the PSB’s area of responsibility were seated in the same room. Whoever raised the topic first is almost a moot point.

We’ve discussed the PSB report before. Very little of it has survived: a title page, a preface, and a table of contents. The highly sought-after meat of the report and its accompanying bibliographies are long gone. The subjects in the table of contents are: hypnosis (narcohypnosis and narcoanalysis); comments on certain drugs; transorbital lobotomy; electric shock and memory; communism and communists (some thoughts in attempted analysis); psychology and psychiatry in the U.S.S.R.; prisoner treatment; and sleep deprivation.

Here it is: the PSB Report.

As some of you recall, I’ve theorized that the report was written by St. Clair Switzer—even going so far as to suggest that people back then used to call it “The Switzer Report” informally. The preface was what sold me. The verbiage just sounded as if it had been written by Switzer, especially the part about the assistance he’d received “so cheerfully given.” I know, on its own, that’s pretty weak. 

Today, I’m presenting several additional pieces of evidence regarding why I’m more convinced than ever that St. Clair Switzer was indeed the author. Moreover, I believe that Switzer was the only person on the planet with the ideal credentials for doing what the powers-that-be felt needed to be done. It was his moment to shine, and, apparently, shine he did.

The timing

We already know that Switzer’s name was likely being bandied about ever since he was mentioned in the March 25, 1952, memo from Morse Allen to Commander Robert J. Williams. That memo was written 12 days after the RDB had been asked for assistance with Project Artichoke. It could be that Commander Williams brought his name up to Marshall Chadwell, suggesting him for the RDB’s Ad Hoc Medical Study Group, and Chadwell alerted RDB chair Walter Whitman. That seems pretty feasible.

But you know what? Even if that’s how Switzer came to the RDB’s attention, I no longer think that Switzer was on their ad hoc study group. For a reason that I’ll be getting to in a second, I think there was something unique about him that made people in the DoD think that they could use him in a more productive way. Perhaps they thought he could help bolster whatever the RDB’s ad hoc group came up with. After all, more information can’t be a bad thing, can it? 

In addition, as any professor knows, one of the true perks of being in academia is to have summers off. Doc Switzer would have been free to work on this research project from early June until classes started back up in September. Interestingly, the PSB report was completed exactly two weeks before the start of classes at Miami, giving Switzer time to prepare for the 1952-53 academic year. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

His whereabouts

In the summer of 1952, Doc Switzer was in Oxford, Ohio, which seems as though it would have put him at a disadvantage for conducting research for the PSB. But the opposite was true.

In May 1951, Secretary of Defense George Marshall issued a directive to consolidate all military libraries into one agency, which he called the Armed Services Technical Information Agency, or ASTIA. He assigned oversight responsibilities to the U.S. Air Force and the RDB.

I’ll give you one guess where its headquarters was located. 

Yep! Wright Patterson Air Force Base. What’s more, it wasn’t even located on the base itself, but in downtown Dayton, at 4th and Main Streets. The building was known as the United Brethren (UB) Building at the time, which later became the Knott Building, and is now the Centre City Building. Whatever its name, it’s 42 miles from Oxford.

Although ASTIA had an office at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C., all technical resources were provided through the Dayton facility. According to a June 29, 1952, article in the Dayton Daily News, “More than 900 individual military and government agencies and industries depend on ASTIA to keep them abreast of developments in the field of foreign technical progress. During the past four years, the organization has abstracted, catalogued, and filed more than 150,000 highly technical documents, dealing with 65 fields of knowledge.”

Need more proof? In the preface, the consultant has this to say: “Several librarians have devoted from part to nearly full time in aiding various parts of the research.”

In 1952, there was exactly one library building that contained all of the military’s technical studies and that library was located in Dayton, Ohio. Whatever you’re inclined to believe about the consultant who wrote the PSB report, I think we can all agree on this: he was working out of the UB Building in Dayton, Ohio, during the summer of 1952.

The people he knew

The consultant closes his preface with this: “The helpfulness and many kindnesses from the P.S.B. staff are gratefully acknowledged.”

Before I knew about ASTIA, I thought the consultant might have been working in the offices of the PSB, but we now know this wasn’t the case. He was working out of a brick building in Dayton, and any interactions he had with the PSB staff would primarily be by mail or telephone. 

I’m sure the staff were helpful, since the PSB was paying the consultant for his services. But I also think that there was one more person who helped grease the wheels for him. 

That person was Sidney Souers, a 1914 graduate of Miami University (born in Dayton!), who’d maintained strong ties with the university. During WWII, Souers was an officer in the U.S. Navy, serving in increasingly responsible posts in Naval intelligence. In 1945, he was awarded the rank of Rear Admiral. 

In January 1946, Souers was named the first director of the Central Intelligence Group, forerunner to the CIA, a position he held for five months. He then served as the first executive secretary of the NSC from 1947 to 1950. From 1950 to 1953, he served as an adviser to President Truman. It was while he was working in this role that Souers helped create the PSB in 1951. He maintained a connection with the PSB at least through the spring of 1952, when he was consulted for a one-year report for President Truman on the group’s organization and achievements.

Switzer’s connection to the university that Souers loved, in a city that Souers also loved, could be a real boost to his dealings with the PSB—don’t you think?

What do you think? Did St. Clair Switzer write the PSB report?

0 0 votes
Article Rating

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 months ago

Everything you’ve presented sounds reasonable; I definitely buy it.

Incidentally, I think I discovered the digital age/Millennial Ron Tammen:

3 months ago
Reply to  jwenger

Yeah, not a 1 to 1, but since they’re cases are 60 years apart it’s probably about as similar as it gets…2 intelligent young men who are or feel disenfranchised and that they have something to prove…I definitely plan to find this book!