Ted Pierce sits in his Falls Church home, wondering if the truth will ever be told.
His living room is filled with FBI files stamped “secret,” posters that trace the lives of people he claims are American traitors and newspaper clippings that he believes support his theory.
Pierce, or “Coach” as he likes to be called, holds two deep-seeded frustrations that keep him charged at 88 years old. Telling the stories of what he believes really happened during World War II, Pierce’s eyes turn from those of a sweet old man to those of a soldier still fighting his last battles.
Pierce fought to uncover the truth about the 1939 U.S. Embassy in Moscow, a place he said was filled with traitors, and he informs people of injustices surrounding the American poet Ezra Pound, whom he once arrested.
Pierce began working for the State Department as an entry-level messenger in July of 1930. As an 18-year-old, he made $50 a month and attended night school at GW.
After winning a few State Department tennis tournaments, Pierce said he was sent to Cairo, Egypt, for four months as a “reward for beating all the diplomats in tennis.” Pierce said his time in Cairo made him believe foreign service “was the life,” so he promptly began looking for more places to go.
In 1939, Pierce was sent to Russia, which he said was considered the worst foreign-service job to have. He said he later found out that two high-ranking State Department employees sent him there to “break this arrogant young man.”
Pierce said at least 12 of the high-ranking diplomats he worked with in Russia were traitors, sometimes blackmailed by Russia because they were homosexuals.
“It was a different world 60 years ago,” Pierce said. “If you were gay, and anyone found out, your career would be over.”
Pierce’s athletic abilities soon put him in close company with important people in Moscow. In 1939, he won a diplomatic tennis tournament, defeating Charles Bohlen, who later became the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and France.
Count von Schulenberg, the German ambassador to the Soviet Union, presented the tennis trophy to Pierce. Later that summer von Schulenberg would sign the Russo-Nazi pact.
Pierce said a young John Fitzgerald Kennedy came to Moscow that summer on a tour of world capitals and borrowed tennis shoes from Pierce to play him in a doubles match.
Although Pierce’s team won the match, he said Kennedy did not walk away empty-handed.
“Kennedy was unhappy, but a good sport,” Pierce said. “The son of a bitch never gave me my shoes back!”
But lost tennis shoes are not the source of anger for Pierce these days. After piecing together FBI files, newspaper clippings and personal memories, Pierce said he now knows what really happened during the summer of 1939.
“The FBI had the goods on at least six of the men who worked at the embassy,” Pierce said. “They turned their heads and marked the files (`No Further Action’). How they let these men go on and pursue careers as ambassadors is absurd. They were traitors.”
Compounding his frustrations, Pierce, the only living person who worked in the Russian embassy in 1939, does not have anybody to help him tell his story.
Pierce said he found yet another World War II absurdity after leaving Moscow. He returned home and voluntarily joined the Army’s Counter-intelligence Corps in 1942. Pierce said his biggest brush with fame came during the final days of clearing out stray snipers on rooftops in Genoa. Down the road walked a wanted man, Ezra Pound, the American poet who spent the war in Italy broadcasting anti-American and anti-Semitic radio messages. Pierce said he cuffed Pound to be arrested and sent him back to Washington for harsh punishment.
Pierce said the treasonous poet returned to Washington and spent time in a psychiatric institution, leaving Pierce fuming.
“The man should have been executed for his crimes,” Pierce said. “But he knew too many secrets about high-level American politicians and socialites that they were afraid to touch him.”
Pierce wrote a screenplay about Pound, and, though he said it needs some work, he said it will be a movie one day.
“There is a story here,” he said. “Someday this is going to be big.”
For now, Pierce sits in his living room, continuing to dig through his papers and putting together the story of the past.
World War II made the “Coach” who he is today – a man proud of himself, his family and his country. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) presented Pierce with the Bronze Star award for service in August.
“Our nation is indebted to you for your commendable service. We thank you,” Warner wrote longhand over the typed letter of congratulations to a soldier still in battle.