Matt Cvetic (1909 - 1962)
The character of Matt Cvetic that would be portrayed by the Saturday Evening Post articles, and later in the film and radio show, was in many ways not only fictionalized, but indeed larger than life, it is based on a real person. History asks who this real person really was. And that creates debate.
Matt Cvetic was indeed a born in Pittsburgh, PA, 1909, to parents who had emigrated from Slovenia. When he volunteered to serve his country he was denied entry into the Army because of his height. In 1941 he was contacted by agents of the F.B.I. and asked to secretly gather information on members of the Communist Party of the United States. Later he would testify before the HUAC, and be labeled as "Cvetic the Rat" by his former associates in the Party. Finally he would pass away largely unnoticed in 1962. It is the details that connect these facts that are argued.
Cvetic claimed that it was his unsuccessful attempt to join the Army that brought him to the attention of the F.B.I. He received a call from an Agent at his job in the Pittsburgh office of the United States Employment Service. His knowledge of Slavic languages made Cvetic uniquely qualified to infiltrate the Communist Party. Maintaining the secrecy of his mission would make it necessary for him to turn his back on his family, his Church, and his normal existence.
It took Cvetic two years to gain the trust of the Party leadership, and on Lincoln's birthday, 1943, he was sworn in as a full member of the Communist Party of the United States. He would attend over 3000 secret "Red" meetings, and would supply the F.B.I. with the names of hundreds of Soviet Agents and American Communists.
However there would be great personal toll for his activities. His mother would die believing that her son had betrayed her adopted country. He would claim that the pressures of his assignment would destroy his marriage (although he would also state that it was never a "happy marriage") and lead to estrangement from his twin sons.
Cvetic's relationship with the F.B.I. wasn't a mercenary one in the beginning. The agents who contacted him in 1941 stated that he would be working on a voluntary, no-pay basis. After he gained entry to the Party in 1943 he informed his F.B.I. contacts that he had spend approximately $200 pursuing his membership. These expenses stemmed from having to buy literature and subscriptions, as well as donations to various party causes. At the recommendation of his handlers, the Bureau began paying Cvetic weekly $15 compensation. Soon after the payments began Cvetic was informed there could be increases in the payments, to reflect the value of the information he provided. The Bureau must have been very happy with the information, because by 1948 the payments had been raised to $85 per week.
As time went by, Cvetic began to crave recognition for the service he was doing his country. He is known to have shared the story of his association with the F.B.I. with not only his priest, but with the manger of the hotel where he was living, various newspapermen that he met in different Pittsburgh watering holes, and "to more than one girl." This would lead the Bureau to become aware of his indiscretions. In 1947 Cvetic was pursuing Helen Newman, a young woman in her late 20s. Her father supposedly told Cvetic "We don't want any God-damned Communist in this house." When Helen became engaged to another Cvetic told her about his FBI ties. Desperate to have his story confirmed, he asked Bureau contacts to talk to Helen and her parents. The agents were aghast at this breach of security. The Bureau very seriously considered ending their relationship with Cvetic at this time, but Director Hoover himself made the decision to keep him on due to the value of the information he was providing. However Cvetic's behavior continually became more erratic.
Attitudes toward Communism changed and evolved during Cvetic's time with the party. He joined the Party in 1943 during the height of the War, when the Soviet Union was a valued ally to the U.S. By 1950 the Cold War was beginning and Communism had become "a menace to freedom." Life became steadily more difficult for Cvetic because of his ties to the Party. His supposed Communist loyalties seem to have been unquestioned until the time he surfaced publically. At the last minute he was able to snatch over eighty pounds of documents, "bank statements, check stub books, minute books of meetings, radio scripts, letters, credentials, and accounting statements" all of which would be turned over to the HUAC just prior to his first appearance before the Comitttee.