Prescott Bush,
the Union Banking Corporation
and The Story—Part Two

by Kris Millegan

"Hidden in the tides of economic warfare now surging over the world" is how the front page article in the Washington Post began on July 31, 1941. The very first word, the length and the headlines of the news article were the only things different from the original article that broke the news about the Bush/Nazi financial scandal in that morning's New York Herald-Tribune.

The changes weren't much, but they do deserve some notice.

The first change, provided by some anonymous eloquent editor at the Postadded the word "Hidden." The original Herald-Tribune article, and Herald-Tribune attributed ones—printed that same day, as the Post was—like the Charleston Daily Mail began with the words, "In the tides ..."

The second change was quite substantial, The Post only ran the first twelve paragraphs of over fifty in the original, cutting out and cutting off any mention of "the private bank banking house of Brown Brothers Harriman" and "Prescott S. Bush and ... are directors of the Union Banking Corporation …" from the "news" proffered in the nation's capital that day.

The third change was the headline, which is something that is almost always done. For headlines are a part of each individual newspaper's presentational and rhetorical style, with many newspapers having their own headline editors and staff. Not really ominous.

The significance comes understanding how lies are crafted for the "official" accounting of history presented by the mainstream press, pseudo secret society exposers and Bush family hacks. The basic story is told in part one of this tale, but this new information can expand our understanding of the actual events and subsequent "cover-ups."

In putting together, John Buchanan's new book, Fixing America: Breaking the Stranglehold of Corporate Rule, Big Media, and the Religious Right for release this fall by TrineDay, I was looking at John's copies of a file at the National Archives. One of the first on top of the stack of papers was a copy of a news article. According to the stamp the item had been declassified on September 17, 2003, the very day John went to the archives to view the documents. What stood out to me was the headline, a headline that I had been searching for many years.

Hitler's Angel Has 3 Millions In N. Y. Bank, read that headline. Interesting, I thought, there is the headline that Boston Globe scrivener Michael Kranish on April 23, 2001 reported thusly:

Prescott Bush was surely aghast at a sensational article the New York Herald Tribune splashed on its front page in July 1942.

"Hitler’s Angel Has 3 Million in US Bank," read the headline above a story reporting that Adolf Hitler’s financier had stowed the fortune in Union Banking Corp., possibly to be held for "Nazi bigwigs." Bush knew all about the New York bank: He was one of its seven directors. If the Nazi tie became known, it would be a potential "embarrassment," Bush and his partners at Brown Brothers Harriman worried, explaining to government regulators that their position was merely an unpaid courtesy for a client. The situation grew more serious when the government seized Union’s assets under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the sort of action that could have ruined Bush’s political dreams.

So, why did Mr. Kranish choose to lie, to misdirect? And about so many things? He lied about the date of the article, changing the real press date of July 1941 to July 1942, giving Prescott falsely the "honor" of "enhancing his stature" serving as chairman of the USO, before the "embarrassment" of his financial dealings with Nazis became front page news, and the subsequent October 1941 action of his property being sequestered under the "Trading With The Enemy Act." Property that Prescott, reportedly later received back and sold for $1.5 million in 1951.

Why did Mr. Kranish mix together the Washington Post and New York Herald-Tribune stories and headlines? And then continue to lie to, and misdirect authors, researchers and journalists who called Kranish to confirm his reportage, asking for help in accessing the original source materials? Mr. Kranish's subtle misdirections got inflated into a full-blown lie in the 2003 biography of Prescott Bush, Duty, Honor, Country. There, Mickey Herskowitz boldly creates "new" history for the ruling "caste," using Kranish's article as authority.

In everyone’s life there is a summer of ‘42; Prescott Bush spent his on Wall Street, where nostalgia and romance are not the hot commodities they were in the motion picture that made the phrase symbolic.

A headline that landed on the front page of the New York Herald Tribune in July of that year read: “Hitler’s Angel Has 3 Million in U.S. Bank.” The reference was to the Union Banking Corporation. Prescott may have been upset or alarmed by the disclosure he was one of its seven directors. A person of less established ethics would have been panicked.

The story claimed that the bank held $3 million in deposits for a German businessman, described as a “financier” for Adolf Hitler. There was speculation that the account may have been intended for the later use of “Nazi bigwigs.”

Buried in the databases that dealt with the Bush family political tradition, the article was rediscovered and reported in the Boston Globe, in April 2001, by Michael Kranish. He concluded in the article that the connection had represented a potential “embarrassment” for Prescott. No one actually knew what purpose the fortune had been meant to serve, or who controlled it. Possibly, the money had been socked away as a hedge against Germany’s defeat.

Bush and his partners at Brown Brothers Harriman informed the government regulators that the account, opened in the late 1930s, was “an unpaid courtesy for a client. The situation,” wrote Kranish, “grew more serious when the government seized Union’s assets under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the sort of action that could have ruined Bush’s political dreams.”

These two selections illustrate how lies are spun, grown and perpetuated. Kranish never says directly that the headline he quotes is from the Herald-Tribune and uses an "a" instead of a "the" when talking about the headline, "…the headline above a story…" But a casual read of Kranish's article might leave that impression— imagine that. And by mixing information up, Mr. Kranish makes it appear that certain information was much more widely disseminated (especially the info concerning "the government seized Union’s assets under the Trading with the Enemy Act, which had only been publicly reported in one sentence—with no mention of Bush as a UBC director—on page 25 of the December 16, 1944 NY Times in an article about NY Banking Department report) therefore minimalizing the cover-up, giving the impression that the exposure was benign, and was a "catalysts for a dramatic change in his [Prescott] life." (No more treason, no matter how profitable?)

The historical record begs to differ.


Here are the documents.

Washington Post article July 31, 1941
(1) From - archives
(2) From the National Archives
(3) From Microfilm

New York Herald Tribune article, July 31, 1941