Image: Isadore Bernstein’s name appears on a list of undesirables. Credit: The National Archives at Riverside.
To recap briefly, I have been digging into the historical basis of the movie “Zoot Suit,” which I saw this summer in the Last Remaining Seats series. The Times ignored the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots for several days, in what must be one of the worst news decisions the editors ever made, so I was forced to dig into the government records at the National Archives in Riverside for further information.
The problem of subversives is one of the recurring themes in the reports on the 11th Naval District, which included the Los Angeles area. This figures into the Navy’s analysis of the Zoot Suit Riots, alleging that various communists and sympathizers (author Carey McWilliams, newspaper publisher Charlotta Bass and ACLU attorney A.L. Wirin among them) are trying exploit the incidents to further their presumed agendas.
On the jump, more about the Navy’s program to root out subversives, from documents found at the National Archives in Riverside. Notice that in the case of Helmuth Mundkowski, even though his Americanism was unquestioned, his father’s activities were enough for him to be dismissed from a secret Navy project.