Don and I were political junkies – he far Left, me far Right. He loved sparring with me and I loved being told that I was the only 19-year-old he’d ever met who could quote Calvin Coolidge. Since Don had worked as a newsman in Washington and New York, he was full of “what really happened” stories of major historical events. And, since he was gay, he gave me the lowdown on which celebrities and politicians of yesteryear had been on the downlow. He also clued me to the fact that homosexuality was endemic in the worlds of espionage and intelligence.
Don was the annoying type who did The New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. No mistakes. He was a whizz at all word games. No surprise that during World War Two, he worked in the cryptography unit of the US Army. But, he didn’t spend much time code breaking. Turns out, Don could do a brilliant imitation of President Roosevelt that Army intelligence exploited.
India was on the fence in World War Two because it wanted independence from the British Empire. It’s a little-known fact that a sizable Indian army fought for the Axis against Britain. But, the Indian people loved FDR. So, every day, Don read Allied propaganda to India over the radio doing his best impersonation of FDR. He never said that he was FDR but he sure sounded like him. The hope was that giving the Indians a daily dose of FDR’s smarmy, fireside-chat charm could turn the tide in the Allies’ favor. Even Don didn’t know if or how much this trick worked.