Figueroa Press, Los Angeles, Calif.,
with 12 photos
University of Southern California USC
About the Book
A part-time instructor in the University of Southern California (USC) vanished from a California beach in 1945. Several years later the U.S. Congress described him as an important Soviet spy whose true identity remained a mystery.
The recently declassified documents and publications bring to light many details of the events and reveal what happened to this rezident of the Soviet military intelligence in Los Angeles.
The story includes defection of a Soviet code clerk in Canada, the recruitment of agents by the spy and his achievements as a USC student, fraudulent passports and the Spanish civil war, FBI investigation, and secret messages. The Soviet homeland did not treat well the spy on his return. In the end, the state-directed anti-Semitism has brought him to a point of leaving the country that he had served so loyally all his life. The book provides numerous bibliographic references and quotes contemporary documents.
About the Author
Mike Gruntman is professor of astronautics at the University of Southern California. He is an accomplished space physicist, engineer, and educator, with nearly 300 scholarly publications, including four books, in various areas of space physics, engineering, and space education and history.
Mike's Blazing the Trail. The Early History of Spacecraft and Rocketry (published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2004) received the 2006 Luigi Napolitano Award from the International Academy of Astronautics. Another his book, From Astronautics to Cosmonautics, 2007, was nominated (2008) for the Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society. Mike's Intercept, 1961 (published in 2015) deals with the birth of missile defense.
USC VSOE News Story
Viterbi Astronautics Professor Writes Cold War Historical Study
On November 21, 1945, a 37-year old political science instructor in the University of Southern California ( USC)  mysteriously disappeared. This USC cum-laude graduate "vanished on a barren stretch of beach of the Pacific Ocean in southern California." The Trojans  knew him as Ignacy Samuel Witczak, the name under which the man had entered the United States. Two months later, Witczak’s wife Bunia with their one-year old son Dickie also disappeared from a street corner in Long Beach, California. Never to be seen or heard of again ...
In 1952 the U.S. Congress described the vanished Trojan as an important Soviet spy in a case that approached "the fantastic for to this day there is no information as to the identity of the false Ignacy Witczak and little more information as to his means of departure from this country or present whereabouts." The Los Angeles Times called him a "superspy" based on a report of the Canadian investigative commission. The true identity of Witczak remained a mystery.
Not until the 1990s did come to light new public information related to these Cold War events. First, a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI), Robert J. Lamphere, added a few details about Witczak. In his memoirs, Lamphere described the FBI struggle against Soviet spies in 1940s and early 1950s, including the pursuit of the Soviet spy Witczak. At the same time, the National Security Agency ( NSA) declassified its Venona project. The NSA and its predecessor agencies succeeded in breaking codes and deciphering many cables exchanged in 1940s between chiefs of Soviet intelligence organizations in the United States and their Moscow headquarters. At least three messages specifically mentioned Witczak and his wife under codenames.
Declassification of the related records of the British Security Service shed more light on the events.
Finally, the collapse of the Soviet Union provided additional glimpses of Soviet clandestine operations in the United States. New historical information surfaced in Russia during a brief period of relative openness in 1990s and early 2000s. An increasingly assertive and nationalistic Russia has now effectively shut this unique window.
The new materials allow us today to identify this enigmatic actor of the Cold War, a Soviet spy — an enemy — planted amongst the Trojans at the USC. We can even track what happened to him after he fled the United States back to the Soviet Union.
The never-ending attempts to rewrite the history and to twist the facts make this spy story a "teachable moment." George Orwell famously warned us in his 1984 about the use of history for ideological purposes,
"Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."
The struggle between the free world and radical brands of socialism, be it national socialism and fascism or Marxism, shaped the twentieth century. Some find it comfortable or expedient to view the world through the eyes of moral equivalency. They present the Cold War conflict as a game between two not very dissimilar teams rather than a clash between the forces of liberty and evil. The facts do not support such a revision of history. As the Senate of the United States reminded us , "Communism has claimed the lives of more than 100,000,000 people in less than 100 years." ...
 The University of Southern California (USC), the oldest and largest private university on the West Coast, opened its doors in Los Angeles in 1880.
 The Shameful Years, 1952, p. 28
 In 1912, The Los Angeles Times brought an analogy of the ancient Trojans to describe the fighting spirit of student athletes of the University of Southern California (Bird, 1912). Since those days, the Trojan has become the proud nickname for USC students, faculty, staff, and alumni. A bronze statue of a Trojan warrior is on a pedestal in the very center of the university campus in Los Angeles; the famous USC marching band calls itself the "Spirit of Troy;" and the student newspaper is "Daily Trojan."
Spy at USC
Soviet spy Ignacy Samuel Witczak (real name Litvin) received - cum laude - his Bachelor of Arts degree from USC in 1942. Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi elected him into their members honoring his scholarship in arts and sciences. In May 1943, the USC awarded him a Master of Arts degree in political science. The illegal resident (rezident) of the Soviet military intelligence in Los Angeles Witczak used his cover of a USC student and part-time instructor for conducting espionage operations against Japan and the United States. The defection of a Soviet code officer Igor Gouzenko in Ottawa, Canada, unmasked Witczak who then fled to the Soviet Union.
From Chapter 2
... The other category of Soviet intelligence officers [in addition to those under diplomatic cover] were those who entered foreign countries without any apparent connections to the Soviet state. They used false identities and background cover stories (legenda, or a legend, in the parlance of the trade), operated under aliases, and did not enjoy diplomatic immunity. In the United States, they most often posed as Americans. These deep-cover Soviet spies, the illegals, operated intelligence organizations known as an "illegal rezidentura." They usually entered the country illegally with forged identification papers in violation of law, hence the name. Illegals established and controlled their own networks of agents and they used communications channels independent from the intelligence officers under official cover who operated the legal rezidentura.
A GRU officer, posing as Ignacy Samuel Witczak, was such an illegal resident, or station chief, of the Soviet military intelligence operating a spy ring from Los Angeles, California.
Litvin’s position at USC offered him excellent opportunities for recruitment. He regularly participated in the seminars at the Department of Political Science. As Litvin wrote later in his unpublished recollections, "there were discussions of various topics at these seminars. Comments of students revealed their views, including their political orientation. I attentively observed and listened their comments and made conclusions with whom to get closer and who could be helpful in accomplishing tasks of the rezidentura [spy station]."
From Chapter 5
... Now we can close this page of the Cold War story.
The vanished Trojan had returned to his country. The Soviet Union did not treat well the former illegal resident of the military intelligence in Los Angeles. Litvin has become disillusioned with the realities of socialism to the point of considering emigration [from the USSR] to a land viciously maligned through decades by the Soviet state and by the Communist Party that he had so loyally served all his life.
One can only wonder what all those Americans who willingly helped Ignacy Samuel Witczak — Comrade Litvin — in espionage and subversion against their own country would have thought about these developments in the life of their master ... Or, all those of the new generations who decry the demise of socialism in the land of Russia and continue to admire and promote the ideology that, in the words of the U.S. Senate, "has claimed the lives of more than 100,000,000 people in less than 100 years."
Honor societies Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi
Honor societies elect into their ranks students of sound character and integrity. Will USC chapters of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi remove Witczak from their membership? Will student members demand it?
1. Code Clerk Chooses Freedom
Defection of Igor Gouzenko. Spy network in Canada. Canadian station of Soviet military intelligence GRU. Shocked and hesitating Canadian Prim Minister Mackenzie King. Forty harrowing hours. Protective custody by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police RCMP. Soviet espionage in North America. Drew Pearson's radio show breaks the story. Canadian Royal Commission. Arrests of spies in Canada. Trials. Fred Rose and Sam Carr. Protection for Gouzenko and his family.
2. Fifty-Ninth Annual Commencement
Commencement ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1942. USC President Rufus B. von KleinSmid. Cum laude graduate Ignacy Samuel Witczak. Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. Master's degree in political science. Doctorate candidate."Legal" and "illegal" spies. Secure communications. Radio transmitters in Soviet consulates. Intelligence officers under official cover and illegals. Recruitment of agents. Soviet representatives in the United States. False semblance of legality and mockery of scholarship. Purges in the Soviet Union. Soviet military intelligence - GRU - officer Zalman V. Litvin. Codename "Mulat." Assignment in Los Angeles. Attending seminars at the Department of Political Science;for recruitment of students as agents. Soviet espionage and subversive operations against the United States in World War II. Hollywood and defense industry.
3. Passport for "Our Man in America"
Task for GRU spy station in Canada. Colonel Zabotin's rezidentura. Walter Krivitsky explains passports. Civil War in Spain. Confiscated passports of volunteers. American passports: from Spain to Moscow. Fraudulent American passports. Failed passport bust in Paris. Alteration of American passports. American and Canadian passports for Soviet spies and assassins. Passport for Mercader, the murderer of Leon Trotsky. Passport for Litvin. Real Witczak goes to Spain. Communist organizer Sam Carr in charge of passport renewal. Replacing passport files. Agents in the Passport Office. Agents busted. Real Witczak works on farm; leaves for Poland. Defection of Gouzenko triggers hunt for the spy.
4. FBI on His Tail
Investigation by RCMP and British Security Service MI-5. Gouzenko reveals American connection. Soviet spy Kim Philby in British Secret Intelligence Service MI-6 tips the Kremlin. Philby's memo. FBI finds false Witczak in at USC Los Angeles. Apartment house on Gramercy Drive near the campus. Alien registration card. Soviet Vice-Consulate in Los Angeles. "Proletarian paradox" and "de luxe element in the social life" of Los Angeles. Under FBI surveillance. Intercepted correspondence. British Security Coordination report. Under orders not to touch Witczak. Spy vanishes. Contrast of societies. Venona intercepts: "R" and "wife of R." In a spare boiler of an ocean liner. Witczak's wife flees Los Angeles. SS Sakhalin. Sighting in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
5. New Life of Comrade Litvin
Return of the spy to Moscow. Military-Diplomatic Academy. Ethnic purification of Soviet intelligence services. Anti-Semitic campaigns and cleansing. No Jews in GRU. Institute of the World Economy and International Relations IMEMO. Home of prominent apparatchiks. A branch of special services? Donald Maclean and George Blake on staff of IMEMO. From milk factory Communist Party functionary to research fellow at IMEMO. Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. Anti-fascist committee and doctors' plot. Political machine of American imperialism. Jews in Soviet GULAG. Desire to leave the country he served faithfully all his life. Search for spy's son Dickie, born during the USC years in Los Angeles. Address on the Vavilov street. Associate professor of mathematics. What would they think about transformation of their spy master?
Appendix. Soviet Activities in the United States. Recruitment of Sub-Agents
1.1. Igor Gouzenko in 1948.
2.1. Photograph of Ignacy Samuel Wiitczak in USC's El Rodeo, 1942.
2.2. Cover page of the Master's thesis of Ignacy Witczak, 1943.
2.2. Signature page of the Master's thesis of Ignacy Witczak, 1943.
2.4. GRU officer Zalman V. Litvin in mid-1930s.
3.1. Photo of Zalman V. Litvin (MI5 file).
3.2. Photo of Litvin' wife Bunia and son Dickie (MI5 file).
4.1. Memo from a Soviet spy in MI6 Kim Filby.
4.2. Apartment house where Witczak-Litivin lived not far from USC.
4.3. Fingerprints of Witchak-Litvin.
4.4. Partially decoded KGB message about Witczak-Litvin.
4.4. Partially decoded KGB message about Bunia Witczak-Litvin.