July 25, 1944: Pearson leak

  • On July 25, Drew Pearson, a popular political columnist for the Washington Post, published excerpts from a leaked copy of Phillips’ final report to Roosevelt on his mission, in his daily column, “Washington Merry-Go-Round.”

Kux, Estranged Democracies (1993)

  • “The story created a sensation in India and in Britain–although it cased little reaction in the United States” (36)
  • “The U.S. refusal to repudiate Phillips angered the British, boosting U.S. further in India” (36)
  • Phillips attempted to retire in August 1944, but Roosevelt did not accept his request in an attempt to not add to the hoopla (36)

Gould, Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies (2006)

  • Gould frames his text around the Pearson leak and exposing Robert Crane as the leaker “Deep Throat”
  • marks the leak as a milestone in the relations between the US and India because, as according to Phillips, it “created a great commotion in England, a favorable impression here, and a burst of enthusiastic acclaim in India” (qtd. on 37)
  • the leak and aftermath cast a favorable glow on the US as being opposed to British imperialism for Indians, as well as strengthening the hand of the Indian-American lobbyists (38)
  • describes the leak as being “consummated in a David-and-Goliath propaganda war” between the British and the Indian lobbyists, who were committed to convincing “the American people that both colonialism and racism contradicted the principles upon which the American republic was erected, as well as the ideals fro which World War II was allegedly being fought” (39)

Aldrich, Intelligence and the War Against Japan (2000)

  • describes Pearson as “probably the most widely read political commentator in the United States” (148)
  • While the leak created “flap” in Washington, the uproar did not extend to India or Britain: most Indian nationalists had lost hope of any American intervention in favor of their independence, and Churchill believed the leak would keep Roosevelt from raising the question of Indian independence, calling Phillips “nothing more than ‘a well-meaning ass'” (149- assessment based on intelligence papers and a letter from Churchill to Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden)
  • Focuses more material on British intelligence reaction to subsequent August 1944 leaks of telegrams between Eden and the Government of India, which Pearson also published (149-150)

Hess, America Encounters India (1971)

  • “the British response was immediate and definite”– wanted the U.S. gov’t to disavow Phillips’ report (143)
  • “virtually ignored in the American press” but received a significant amount of attention in India (144- cites major Indian newspapers)

Phillips, Ventures in Diplomacy (1952)

  • Phillips implies that he was about to facilitate discussions between the U.S. and Britain on the India issue at the time of publication, which in turn, dashed the possibility of revisiting the subject (413-414)
  • The publication of Phillips’ report: “created great commotion in England, a favorable impression here, and a burst of enthusiastic acclaim in India” (389).

White, A Rising Wind (1945)

  • Describes the leak as having “the highest significance” because it elucidated the arguments made by advocates of Indian independence (148)

Walter White (1893-1955)

Image Courtesy of the New Georgia Encyclopedia

  • Executive secretary of the NAACP from 1931-1955
  • Advocate of Indian Independence
  • Member of U.S. delegation to UN Conference in San Francisco, 1945

Online Reference Source:

Walter White, American National Biography


Janken, Kenneth Robert. White: The Biography of Walter White, Mr. NAACP. New York: The New Press, 2003.

  • “Before World War II the NAACP had exhibited only limited interest in the international dimensions of race.” (278)

Primary Sources

  • Papers located in the James Welldon Johnson Collection at Yale University
  • A Rising Wind. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Dorian and Company, Inc., 1945

White’s account of his information-gathering trip on the conditions of African-American soldiers in England, North Africa, the Middle East and Italy from January to March 1944.

  • At a London dinner party, White notes that none of the dinner guests made a connection between, “the American attitude toward Negroes whose skins were black or brown and the British attitude towards Indians whose skins were brown” (31).
  • “World War II has given to the Negro a sense of kinship with other colored–and also oppressed–peoples of the world” (144)
  • “If already planned race riots and lynchings of returning Negro soldiers “to teach them their place” are consummated, if Negro war workers are first fired, if India remains enslaved… World War III will be in the making before the last gun is fired in World War II” (154).
  • “Can the United States, Britain, and other ‘white’ nations any longer afford, in enlightened self-interest, racial superiority?” (154)
  • “The United States, Great Britain, France, and other Allied nations must choose without delay one of two courses–to revolutionize their racial concepts and practices, to abolish imperialism and grant full equality to all of its people, or else prepare for World War III” (154)
  • A Man Called White, The Autobiography of Walter White. New York: Viking Press, 1948.
  • Papers of the NAACP, Library of Congress