The Political Career Of Richard Nixon

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A few weeks after the United States entered World War II a young man

named Richard Nixon went to Washington, D.C. In January 1942 he took a job with

the Office of Price Administration. Two months later he applied for a Navy

commission, and in September 1942 he was commissioned a lieutenant, junior grade.

During much of the war he served as an operations officer with the South Pacific

Combat Air Transport Command, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander.

After the war Nixon returned to the United States, where he was assigned

to work on Navy contracts while awaiting discharge. He was working in Baltimore,

Maryland, when he received a telephone call that changed his life. A Republican

citizen's committee in Whittier was considering Nixon as a candidate for

Congress in the 12th Congressional District. In December 1945 Nixon accepted the

candidacy with the promise that he would "wage a fighting, rocking, socking

campaign." Jerry Voorhis, a Democrat who had represented the 12th District

since 1936, was running for reelection. Earlier in his career Voorhis had been

an active Socialist. He had become more conservative over the years and was now

an outspoken anti-Communist. Despite Voorhis' anti-Communist stand the Los

Angeles chapter of the left-wing Political Action Committee (PAC) endorsed him,

apparently without his knowledge or approval. The theme of Nixon's campaign

was "a vote for Nixon is a vote against the Communist-dominated PAC." The

approach was successful. On November, 5 1946, Richard Nixon won his first

political election. The Nixons' daughter Patricia (called Tricia) was born

during the campaign, on February 21, 1946. Their second daughter, Julie, was

born July 5, 1948.

As a freshman congressman, Nixon was assigned to the Un-American

Activities Committee. It was in this capacity that in August 1948 he heard the

testimony of Whittaker Chambers, a self-confessed former Communist espionage

agent. Chambers named Alger Hiss, a foreign policy advisor during the Roosevelt

years, as an accomplice while in government service. Hiss, a former State

Department aide, asked for and obtained a hearing before the committee. He made

a favorable impression, and the case would then have been dropped had not Nixon

urged investigation into Hiss's testimony on his relationship with Chambers.

The committee let Nixon pursue the case behind closed doors. He brought Chambers

and Hiss face to face. Chambers produced evidence proving that Hiss had passed

State Department secrets to him. Among the exhibits were rolls of microfilm

which Chambers had hidden in a pumpkin on his farm near Westminster, Md., as a

precaution against theft. On December 15, 1948, a New York federal grand jury

indict ed Hiss for perjury.

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