John Theodore Herrmann was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1900. He lived in Paris in the 1920s, part of the famous expatriate American writers' circle there, when he met his first wife Josephine Herbst. Josephine is enjoyed more success as a writer than her husband. The couple lived a few years in rural Pennsylvania, and were friends with Katherine Anne Porter, who had lived in Mexico for a time in the 1920s. They divorced in the early 1930s, and he went to work for the New Deal administration of Franklin Roosevelt in 1934. He became part of the Ware group, a Washington D.C. based secret apparatus of the CPUSA and Comintern and functioned as a courier to carry classified information to Soviet intelligence. Hermann worked within the Agricultural Adjustment Administration.
From early 1934 until the summer of 1935 Herrmann was a paid courier for the CPUSA whose job was to deliver to New York material emanating from the secret cells of sympathetic government employees being cultivated by Hal Ware. Herrmann introduced Whittaker Chambers to Alger Hiss.
Herrmann remarried, to Ruth Peck, and after serving during World War II in the U.S. Coast Guard at New Orleans, he went to Mexico and applied in March 1949 to Mexico City College as a speech and drama major. He attended for only two quarters, Fall 1950 and Winter 1951. A photograph in the Nov. 16, 1950 issue of M.C.C.'s student paper, the Collegian, shows Earl Sennett speaking to twelve students in his "Studio Stages" drama group; among them are Frank Jeffries, Alice Hartman, and John Herrmann.
The Ware group's activities were investigated in the late 1940s by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and Herrmann was monitored and questioned many times in Mexico by the FBI in connection with the HUAC inquiries, but never arrested. He died near the Pacific Ocean in April 1959, at the Hotel Navidad, in Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, from chronic alcoholism.
Books by John Hermann
- What Happens (1928)
- Summer is Ended (1932)
- The Salesman (1939)
- Stephen Koch, Double Lives: Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War of Ideas Against the West (Free Press; 1994) ISBN 0-02-918730-3