The John Birch Society’s namesake, Captain John Morrison Birch was born on May 28, 1918, making this May 28, 2018 his centennial “birthday.” Ultimately the framework of his legacy lies in his murder in 1945 at the young age of 27, but his life signified so much more. This Memorial Day, set some time aside to understand and appreciate who John Birch was and why his story must be told.
John Birch’s Life
Growing up on the family farm, John Birch was the oldest of seven children from a humble, God-centered family. At an early age he committed his life to serving God by displaying interest in becoming a missionary in China. When talking with his pastor he said, “I know the big enemy is Communism, but the Lord has called me. My life is in His hands, and I am not turning back.”
And he did not turn back. Jumping in with both feet, John filled an urgent need as a Baptist missionary in China. His tenacious energy led him to become fluent in the Chinese language. Becoming more involved in his surroundings he was able to help save the lives of Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle and his crew. He was then motivated to enlist as an intelligence officer for the Army. Continuing making an impact with his already established connection with the Chinese, he helped supply General Claire Chennault (“Flying Tigers”) with vital information during the war.
Ten days after the end of the war, a party of twelve men (four Americans, six Chinese, and two Koreans) were on an official Army mission to Suchow when they were stopped by a group of Chinese Communists. Two men (one American and one Chinese) were taken away behind some buildings where they were shot. The shots were heard by the rest of their party.
The Chinese, Lieutenant Tung, lived (minus a leg and an eye) to tell what happened. He related that Captain Birch said before his death, "It doesn't make much difference what happens to me, but it is of utmost importance that my country learn now whether these people are friend or foe."
The evidence at his autopsy showed that, after he was shot in the leg, his arms and legs were tied behind his back. He was made to kneel as he was shot in the back of the head — Chinese execution style — and his face was violently disfigured by bayonets and knives.
The murder of Captain John Birch was covered up. No reporter mentioned it, and neither did the State Department or the War Department. The State Department didn't want the American people to learn that Mao's Chinese were Communists, not agrarian reformers.
After all of that, Birch’s parents were told that he was killed by a stray bullet. But George and Ethel Birch knew that something was wrong with the story that they had been fed. Eventually, Ethel was able to find his “Top Secret” file and discovered the cover-up.
John Birch’s Legacy
About 10 years later, The John Birch Society Founder Robert Welch learned of John Birch’s sacrifice and labeled his death as the first American casualty of the Cold War. Forming The John Birch Society, Mr. Welch realized that Birch’s life represented so much more. It showcased communism vs. capitalism, freedom vs. tyranny, and Americanism vs. globalism.