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The career and death of Herbert Norman


Thecareer and death of Herbert Norman

Thecareer and death of Herbert Norman

Thelife and death of Herbart Norman has remained a mystery till today.Whenever his name is mentioned, many questions are raised invitingdebate on what could have caused a well talented public servant inthe position of an ambassador commit suicide. Although intelligenceofficers asserted that Herbart was pro-communist who supported USSRcountries during the cold war, there was and there is still noevidence on his pro-communist characters. Herbart Norman was born inKaruizawa, Japan, in 1909 (Great Unsolved Mysteries in CanadianHistory, 2008). Like any other child, he possessed his own beliefsand traits, which were subject to reorganization and reshaping by thelife experiences. The background of Herbart indicates that he grew inJapan until he was seventeen when he migrated to Canada. He was bornof a missionary father and reports indicate that he was extremelysecretive about his own life. This was a significant factor that madehim to be appointed the legation officer of Japan.

Herbartwas largely known and attributed to his huge interest in education.It is said that he had the masterly of the Japanese language andcould write and speak the language as he did with English. There areinstances where Herbert supported communist nations, and there areother instances, where he vividly opposed the communist nations. Forinstance, during the Korean War, Herbert supported the interventionof United States on communist countries. Before joining thedepartment of external affairs, Herbert seemed to be a pro-communist.However, when he initially joined the external affairs department,the officials thought and believed that he was the most qualifiedcharacter to be hired (Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History,2008). Since he had worked in America for several years, he haslargely been regarded as an American rather than a British-Canadian.He was a historian who took deep interest in the politics of Japanalthough he was not politically active. His popularity with hisfamily is largely social as opposed to political.

Herbertwas great admirer of Hitler and many historians argue that hesupported authoritarian rule or form of governance. There are alsoinstances during the economic depression of the 1930s that Herbertconfessed to his brother that he hated capitalism. These wereindications that he partly supported communism. During these times,the communists were viewed as strongly opposing and as a threat tocapitalism.

Theart of spying during the cold war was a common affair. Theinvestigators in the west spied on the communist members in theSoviet Union and even recorded messages. The communist party inCanada was being spied by the federal bureau of investigations andthe Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Soviet Union defector IgorGouzenko pointed out to the FBI and the RCMP that the communist partyin Canada was recruiting people who were willing to supplyinformation regarding the west to the Soviet Unionists. After spyingon the communist party in Canada for several years, the name ofHerbert Norman’s appeared in the list of one of the suspects of thecommunist party in Canada (Great Unsolved Mysteries in CanadianHistory, 2008). His suspicion by the security officials was largelybased on media reports at the time. It is also evident from thereading the security officials in Canada doubted the loyalty ofHerbert since has had an association with the communists a decadeearlier. Herbert had also worked closely with the FBI in UnitedStates, and therefore it was argued that he might have had secretinformation about American intelligence. As a consequence, Herbertbecame a target for the security officials. The role of Herbertduring the Cold War also made the security officials doubt hisloyalty. In addition, the security officials suspected Herbert due tohis double standards in regard to communism. It is evident that thereare instances as discussed in this paper where Herbert had supportedboth communist countries and capitalist countries.

TheCanadian officials argued that Herbert had been mentioned by theSoviet Union defector, Igor Gouzenko, and was also mentionedseverally in the media as one of the communists in Canada. In his ownwords, Herbert had expressed his ultimate hatred for capitalism,which placed him under the scrutiny of the security officials. It isimperative to point that during the cold war and in the 1950s,communist was viewed as an extremely huge threat to capitalism andthat any person who was thought of favoring communism, was regardedas not loyal to America or Canada in this case. The Canadianofficials suspected the loyalty of Herbert after reports werereleased by the US government and security agencies, linking thediplomat to communism (Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History,2008). The Canadian officials relied heavily on innuendoes andhearsay to suspect Herbert as being a communist spy in Canada for theSoviet Union countries. In addition, the Canadian officials arguedthat Herbert had been a self-proclaimed communist a decade earlierand as such he was judged based on principle. Consequently, theCanadian officials argued that Herbert was known to be communist onpopular convention.

From1951 to 1957, the United States and the Senate Internal SecuritySub-Committee investigated the loyalty of Herbert to Canada andAmerica through calling witnesses to the committee. It is howevervital to note that the senate subcommittee was largely influenced bypoliticians who wanted favors or influence to destroy other people’scareers. The senate subcommittee also relied heavily on witnesseswhile investigating Herbert (Great Unsolved Mysteries in CanadianHistory, 2008). Such witnesses included Eugene H. Dooman, a formerU.S. Foreign Service Officer, who linked Herbert with the 1945episode of Japanese communism.

TheUnited States and the senate security subcommittee also relied onbooks such as “Eighteen Years in Prison,” written by YoshioShiga, which argued that Herbert once visited prisoners who werecommunists. These were indications that the man in question mighthave been a pro-communist spy in Canada working for the Soviet Unioncountries. It is also apparent that the investigations on Herbertfrom 1951 to 1957 relied heavily on the events of 1945, whichindicate that there were possibilities that Herbert was a communist(Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History, 2008). Theinvestigations were also carried out by the senate security committeethrough the association with the FBI who provided vital informationin regard to suspected communists. It is also apparent that Herberthad confessed of being a communist a decade earlier, and that was astrong basis upon which the committee carried out its investigations.It is therefore apparent that the committee used both principle andpopular convention to investigate Herbert. It is also vital to pointout that the chairpersons who led the committee at that period werestrong against communism and thus did everything they could toeliminate anyone suspected to be pro-communist.

Theinternational political climate was tense and anything was expected.During the height of the cold war in the 1950s, the world had justcome out of the World War II and every nation wanted peace or it wasthought so. However, Russia and other USSR countries had declared waragainst the western countries. This brought about instability andlack of trust amongst various countries. In the Suez Crisis of 1956in Egypt, the United States, Canada and the United Nations wereagainst the invasion of the country by Britain, France and Israel.This brought about political tension between these countries. Asagreement to send United Nations peace keeping troops in the regionwere not received kindly by the then Egyptian president Abdel Nasser.It was the role of Herbert, as Canada ambassador to convince him thatthe UN troops were for the good of the country (Great UnsolvedMysteries in Canadian History, 2008). It has largely been argued thathis gesture saved the reputation of Canada Prime Minister Pearson,who in turn was said to have saved the world.

Duringthis era, countries were divided based on the type of governance thatexisted. That is, communist countries and capitalism countries. Thecapitalist countries viewed the communist countries as a threat andthis created political tension between them. The internationalpolitical climate was that the countries trying to establish theirpowers. Every country, especially the western countries were tryingto show their supremacy against the Soviet Union countries. However,it is vital to note that the United States and Russia emerged as theworld’s superpowers.

Theposts in which Herbert was posted recorded tremendous success.Herbert had tremendous knowledge on the history and politics ofvarious countries including Japan. He saw and aided the attainment ofdemocracy in Japan, which saw him being appointed the Canadianambassador to Japan. Herbert was a keen observer and he analyzed thepolitical landscape of the countries he was posted and sent backinformation to Ottawa.

Thetrajectory trend of Herbert was enhanced by the fact that he wasaccused of being a communist in Canada, but he was later relieved ofthe charges. This only made him strong and created enormousconfidence in the department of external affairs. It can, however, beargued that his role and duties in Japan were critical in ensuringhis success until he was appointed the Canadian ambassador to Egypt.It is also apparent that the knowledge that Herbert had in thepolitical and governance arena of various countries ensured that herose up the ladder to the position of an ambassador. It is also vitalto point out that Herbert had huge interest in learning differentlanguages. It was therefore clear that once he is posted as anambassador in Egypt, he would learn the language and represent Canadaeffectively. Therefore, it can be argued that his interest inlearning ensured that he quickly progress through his trajectorytrend to a level of a Canadian ambassador.

Therehave been numerous speculations on the reasons as to why Herbert tookaway his own life. The branding of Herbert as a communist is viewedas the key factor that contributed to the demise of Herbert. It isvital to point out that during the cold war and World War II, italmost an abomination for any westerner to be regarded as acommunist. Any communist would receive criticism and damnation fromthe public and from the political arena (Great Unsolved Mysteries inCanadian History, 2008). It was evident that Herbert was branded as acommunist by some members of the senate security subcommittee, andtherefore many people argue that this might have made him commitsuicide.

Thedeath of Herbert sparked outrage from the Canadian government whoaccused the United States for the death. They argued that the UnitedStates released information regarding Herbert that was damaging. Theinformation was published by the media as evidence that Herbert wasindeed a communist, which was not the case. On the other hand, MPs inAmerica was throwing accusations to each other over the death of theambassador. They viewed the death as a murder by slander (GreatUnsolved Mysteries in Canadian History, 2008). It is evident thatboth countries were angered by the death of Ambassador Herbert. TheCanadian officials believed that the United States had no authorityof releasing confidential security information to the media withoutconsulting them. This was for the sole reason that the media had usedthe information as evidence to incriminate Herbert. It was alsoevident that the release of the information would jeopardize therelationship between the two countries.

Althoughhistorians argue that Herbert left notes behind, it is evident fromthe readings that the notes contained contradictory information.However, in one of the notes addressed to Howie &amp Gwen, heasserts that he was innocent and that he was a victim of forces benton his destruction. This does not give sufficient information thatmight give clues as to why he killed himself. He however says thathis wife Irene would disclose more on the life of illusion he claimsto have lived.


GreatUnsolved Mysteries in Canadian History. (2008).Themodule: Death of a Diplomat: Herbert Norman and the Cold War.Retrieved from: http://www.canadianmysteries.ca/sites/norman/home/indexen.html