O. Edmund Clubb, a United States Foreign Service officer who became a major target of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy's investigation of supposedly disloyal Americans in the State Department in the early 1950's, died of Parkinson's disease Tuesday at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. He was 88 years old and lived in Manhattan and in Palenville, N.Y.
Mr. Clubb served for more than two decades in the Foreign Service. He was the last American diplomat stationed in Beijing after the Communist takeover in 1949, and it fell upon him, as Consul General , to haul down the flag there in April 1950. Returned to Washington, he was named chief of the China desk at the State Department, only to be suspended a year later as a security risk.
One of his many character witnesses, and army colonel, wrote of him, "I always thought you were secure to the point of being boring." He was nevertheless condemned by a loyalty board. Cleared on appeal, but assigned to an obscure job, he concluded that his career was finished and submitted his resignation.
Those Who 'Lost China'
Mr. Clubb, along with other Government officials, was stigmatized as having "lost China." Unlike the others so treated, he had not been involved in the wartime dispute over policy toward Chiang Kai-shek. Mr. Clubb's misfortune came long before, in a brief encounter with Whittaker Chambers in 1932.
Home on leave that year, Mr. Clubb carried letters of introduction, one of them from Agnes Smedley, a well-known left-wing journalist in China, to an editor of New Masses, a Communist magazine in New York.
The editor was no longer there, but Mr. Chambers was. Mr. Clubb's diary entry for that day in 1932 told of a visit to "a horrible rag" and an encounter with "one Wittaker Chambers, a shifty-eyed unkempt creature."
The young diplomat wrote that he was unable to show "revolutionary enthusiasm" because "I was out of my bailiwick -- masquerading under false pretenses."
When investigators questioned the authenticity of the diary, Mr. Clubb gave it to his superiors, on their pledge to protect his privacy. The contents nevertheless leaked, and the diary circulated among several Government agencies, Mr. Chambers was by ten a fervent anti- Communist who had become the accuser of Alger Hiss.
Mr. Clubb was not permitted to confront his accusers or to learn what they had alleged except by inference from questions put to him. He thus inferred that a consular official with whom he had had some friction had accused him of being "pink" during the 1930's.
In 1932, Mr. Clubb had reported form China that the Communists were strong and popular in the regions they controlled and that the Nationalists were corrupt but that they might force the Communists to flee to the west. His prediction foreshadowed the Long March, and was later to be cited by his critics as evidence of his pro-Communist leanings.
Suspension Is Lifted
In the climate of the Korean War and Senator McCarthy's attacks on the State Department, his reports were viewed as disloyal. The careers of most of the "China hands" suffered, and four of them, including Mr. Clubb, were dismissed or resigned under a cloud.
He appealed the findings of a State Department loyalty board. It was brought out that the case against him rested entirely on the suspicion that he had lied about he visit to New Masses and that he had doctored his diaries. He was upheld on both counts, and his suspension was lifted on Feb. 7, 1952.
Mr. Clubb was not restored to the China desk but was transferred to the division of historical research, with no work assignment. He resigned five days later.
In a 1975 book recalling this experience, "The Witness and I," Mr. Clubb wrote, "I felt that the Government of which I had long been a part had been disloyal to me."
Son of a Cattleman
Oliver Edmund Clubb was born on Feb. 16, 1901, in South Park, Minn., the son of a cattle raiser. During World War I he enlisted in the Army at age 17, later working his way through college, first at the University of Washing, then at the University of Minnesota.
He had majored in international law, but had been fascinated by some courses on China. In 1928, he qualified for the Foreign Service and was sent the next year to Beijing.
Two days before Pearl Harbor, Mr. Clubb, then in Indochina, was seized by occupying Japanese forces and was held for two months in solitary confinement and six months more with other internees, then exchanged for Japanese held by the Allies.
With the exception of a brief period in Washington, Mr. Clubb spent the rest of the war and the immediate postwar period in the Soviet Far East, Manchuria and China.
Last modified: Thursday, 31-May-2007 09:42:41 EDT