Put simply, John Birch was a devoted Christian missionary who heroically served in World War II and was killed by Chinese Communists 10 days after the end of the war, when he was only 27. Communists that were supposedly WWII allies with the U.S.
Birch’s parents had been told that he was killed by a stray bullet, but only after accidentally seeing details of his death due to the carelessness of a young military officer. George and Ethel Birch knew that something had gone terribly wrong, and they didn’t even know that there had been an official investigation. For five years, Ethel traveled the country grilling those men who served with John, from fellow soldiers to commanding officers.
Finally, she wrote to California Senator William Knowland who finally was given access to John Birch’s file that was marked “Top Secret.” He was so moved by what he saw that he gave a speech on the floor of the Senate on September 5, 1950, berating the government for its cover-up, as the result of bringing John Birch’s death to light could have led to different relations with China and North Korea.
Nearly ten years after Birch’s death, JBS Founder Robert Welch discovered that the death of Captain John Birch had been covered up after reading Knowland’s speech. Welch wrote and had published The Life of John Birch in 1954.
John Birch was a simple, but highly intelligent man, who worked hard to serve God, spread God’s word, and fought for the freedom to do so. During his service in the war, he longed for the day when he could once again work the land, raise a family and dutifully serve God, as seen in the prose he wrote four months before his death called “The War Weary Farmer.”
I should like to find the existence of what my father called “Plain living and high thinking.” I want some fields and hills, woodlands and streams I can call my own. I want to spend my strength in making fields green, and the cattle fat, so that I may give sustenance to my loved ones, and aid to those neighbors who suffer misfortune; I do not want a life of monotonous paper-shuffling or of trafficking with money-mad traders. I only want enough of science to enable fruitful husbandry of the land with simple tools, a time for leisure, and the guarding of my family’s health. I do not care to be absorbed in the endless examining of force and space and matter, which I believe can only slowly lead to God. I do not want a hectic hurrying from place to place on whizzing machines or busy streets. I do not want an elbowing through crowds of impatient strangers who have time neither to think their own thoughts nor to know real friendship. I want to live slowly, to relax with my family before a glowing fireplace, to welcome the visits of my neighbors, to worship God, to enjoy a book, to lie on a shaded grassy bank and watch the clouds sail across the blue. I want to love a wife who prefers rural peace to urban excitement, one who would rather climb a hilltop to watch a sunset with me than to take a taxi to any Broadway play. I want a woman who is not afraid of bearing children, and who is able to rear them with a love for home and the soil, and the fear of God. I want of government only protection against the violence and injustices of evil or selfish men. I want to reach the sunset of life sound in body and mind, flanked by strong sons and grandsons, enjoying the friendship and respect of neighbors, surrounded by fertile fields and sleek cattle, and retaining my boyhood faith in Him who promised a life to come. Where can I find this world? Would its anachronism doom it to ridicule or loneliness? Is there yet a place for such simple ways in my own America or must I seek a vale in [Chinese] Turkestan where peaceful flocks still graze the quiet hills?
Robert Welch explained at the founding meeting of The John Birch Society why he had chosen John as the namesake for the organization. He said,
” …the young man I admire most of all those America has produced was a fundamentalist Baptist missionary named John Birch. My own obsession with this fight against the increasing forces of evil in the world, which … has caused me to give up business career and income and any prospect of ever having any peace or leisure again during my lifetime, is due in large part to my admiration for John Birch; to my feeling that I simply had to pick up and carry, to the utmost of my ability and energy, the torch of a humane righteousness which he was carrying so well and so faithfully when the Communists struck him down.”
Robert Welch discussed the idea with John’s parents, and they agreed to grant permission. They became Life Members of the Society.
To learn more of John Birch, read The Secret File on John Birch by James & Marti Hefley and The Life of John Birch by Robert Welch. Members can download The Life of John Birch for free.
Two videos about John Birch, Who Is John Birch? and The Adventures of Captain John Birch are also available online.