Barron, John 1930–2005
Barron, John 1930–2005
(John Daniel Barron)
PERSONAL: Born 1930, in Wichita Falls, TX; died of pulmonary failure, February 24, 2005, in VA; married; wife's name Patricia; children: Lisa, Kelly. Education: University of Missouri, M.A.; studied Russian at Naval Postgraduate School.
CAREER: Washington Star, Washington, DC, investigative reporter, 1957–65; Reader's Digest, Washington, DC, reporter, 1965–91. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1953–57; served as an intelligence officer in Berlin, Germany.
AWARDS, HONORS: George Polk Award (with Paul Hope), 1964; Raymond Clapper Award, 1964; Sir James Goldsmith Award for international journalism, 1985; Attorney General's Award for Meritorious Public Service, 1987; Washington Newspaper Guild Award; American Political Science Association Award.
KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, Reader's Digest Press (New York, NY), 1974.
(With Anthony Paul) Murder of a Gentle Land: The Untold Story of a Communist Genocide in Cambodia, Reader's Digest Press (New York, NY), 1977.
MIG Pilot: The Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko, Reader's Digest Press (New York, NY), 1980.
KGB Today: The Hidden Hand, Reader's Digest Press (New York, NY), 1983.
Breaking the Ring, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1987.
Operation Solo: The FBI's Man in the Kremlin, Regnery Publishing (Washington, DC), 1996.
ADAPTATIONS: Breaking the Ring was adapted as an audiobook, Brilliance Corp. (Grand Haven, MI), 1987.
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist John Barron served in the U.S. Navy during the 1950s, and he spent two of those years in Berlin as an intelligence officer. With his cold-war spying experience behind him, Barron became an investigative reporter with the Washington Star. One of his early stories was on the scandalous ethics and financial dealings of Bobby Baker, advisor to then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, and he covered the 1960s civil rights movement. When his story on the arrest of White House aide Walter Jenkins for sexual activity in a YMCA bathroom was suppressed under pressure, Barron left the paper and joined the staff of Reader's Digest. Barron wrote many notable exposés, including coverage of the Internal Revenue Service abuse of taxpayers that led to Senate hearings. In 1980 his coverage of the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick was largely responsible for the end of Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy's presidential aspirations.
Barron's bestselling first book, KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, includes the names of more than 1,500 KGB agents worldwide. He wrote it over four years as he spoke with KGB defectors and Western intelligence sources. He was assisted by Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko, a KGB major who escaped first to Switzerland, then to the United States in 1964, and who offered his help to Barron.
Several years later, with coworker Anthony Paul, Barron wrote Murder of a Gentle Land: The Untold Story of a Communist Genocide in Cambodia, which docu-ments the mass murders committed by the notorious Pol Pot regime. Barron also became a leading expert on communism. He was sued and attempts were made to discredit him, but former Soviet agents visited him at his office to tell their stories, which aided Barron in writing articles for the publication, as well as providing additional background for his books. He traveled worldwide, and his reporting was considered judicious.
KGB Today: The Hidden Hand contains Barron's account of the career of double agent Stanislav Levchenko. Joseph Sobran wrote in the National Review that "Barron writes a narrative that sucks the reader in the way a vacuum sucks confetti. The story of Levchenko's work for the KGB in Japan and his tortured defection to the United States is a masterpiece of factual storytelling." Barron next wrote Breaking the Ring, about the members of the John Walker spy ring, which included Walker's brother, his son, and Jerry Whitworth, who had access to U.S. Navy secrets, including encryption methods. The ring stole Navy encryption codes and sold them to the Soviet Union. If the United States had gone to war with the Soviets during the 1970s, U.S. messages would not have been secure.
Barron retired in 1991 but continued to write. His Operation Solo: The FBI's Man in the Kremlin, called a "bombshell of a book" by National Review contributor William A. Rusher, is a biography of Morris Childs (1902–1991), an American Communist Party leader in the 1930s who became a double agent and worked for the Federal Burea of Investigation (FBI). Before he died in 1991, Morris was interviewed by Barron, who learned of the decades over which Morris, his wife, Eva, and his brother, Jack Childs, made more than fifty trips to the Soviet Union and other Communist countries and supplied critical information to the FBI. Morris became disillusioned with the party in 1945, when he was removed as editor of the communist Daily Worker newspaper. After a period of illness, he was recruited by the FBI and once again became active in the Party. He eventually came to know Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Mao, Chou EnLai, Castro, and other top communist leaders around the world. U.S. President Ronald Reagan bestowed the Medal of Freedom on Morris Childs and Jack Childs (posthumously) for their contributions on behalf of the United States.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 1996, Gilbert Taylor, review of Operation Solo: The FBI's Man in the Kremlin, p. 967.
National Review, July 8, 1983, Joseph Sobran, review of KGB Today: The Hidden Hand, p. 872; July 31, 1987, William Murchison, review of Breaking the Ring, p. 46; March 11, 1996, William A. Rusher, review of Operation Solo, p. 64.
Orbis, fall, 1996, William A. Rusher, review of Operation Solo, p. 627.
Publishers Weekly, February 5, 1996, review of Operation Solo, p. 74.
Human Events, March 14, 2005, p. 14.
Washington Post, March 9, 2005, p. B6.
National Review Online, (March 14, 2005), John J. Miller, "He Shot down Commies."