Below is an article and interview that I did with Milo which was published in the American Srbobran early last year:
Murrow, McCarthy and
An Interview With
By Melana V. Pejakovich
I had known Milo Radulovich for nearly fifteen years before we finally sat down for this interview on February 23,2006 at Milo’s home in Lodi, CA -- but I must confess that for thirteen of those fifteen years that I hadn’t a clue about “The Case of Lt. Milo Radulovich A0589839” or its place in changing the course of American history. Instead, for all those years, Milo Radulovich”was – at least to me -- just “good old Milo”; “the smiling guy I went to Liturgy with in Jackson”; “the guy with the grandson he adored”; “the guy who worked hard for the Jackson church”; someone fun and interesting to talk to, but who always seemed more interested in talking to you about your history than he did in talking about his own.
In fact, the way I actually discovered “the case” (as Milo refers to it) was only because Milo came to me at a Sabor two years ago, curious as to whether my husband was related to a “John Pejakovich” who Milo had been in the Army with. As it turned out, John Pejakovich – FBI Agent and later second-in-command at the
In fact, it was an article in the
As a result of that episode, called “The Case Against Lt. Milo Radulovich A0589839”, McCarthy took Murrow’s bait and within six months, the fall of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his anti-communist witch-hunts in
The film “Goodnight and Good Luck” (now on video) and two books (“To Strike at a King” by Michael Ranville and the companion book to the GNGL film) have been produced about
And yes, the man being talked about on my computer screen that day was the “
A few days before our interview,
I guess that I am lucky that
MP: Have you always gotten this kind of “personal attention” in town or has it been mainly since the film?Milo: (Laughing) Since the film, mainly. Well, the book (“To Strike at a King”, published in ‘97) kind of started it but the film really changed things. Before that, I’d get a phone call once or twice a year from some newspaper or a student doing some kind of “Whatever happened to…”. Otherwise people rarely knew about “the case”.
MP:: Yes, I can imagine that “Goodnight and Good Luck” has been a real “whirlwind” for you. Has it been fun?
Milo: I was lucky in that the whole "production team" were really nice people to work with, and they were very kind to me.
I guess that it truly amazed me that, as they were filming, they wanted to know what I had to say about the look and feel of what they were doing. When I saw David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow, I told him that as far as I was concerned, it really was as though Edward R. Murrow had been “resurrected” in another body – it was actually a little eerie. You know, David Strathairn isn’t even American – he’s Welsh – and to get Ed Murrow’s voice so perfectly was a stunning feat.
MP: OK. I have to ask – what was it like to work with George Clooney?
Milo: I have to be honest – when George Clooney first called me, I had no idea who “George Clooney” was. I am not a television-watcher and I never saw ER, so at first, I thought that this was just going to be “some little unnoticed film” – especially when I heard the words “very low budget”, “93 minutes”, “limited release”, all of which it was. But I had no idea the kind of attention that this film was going to get. “Oscar contender” never entered my mind at the time.
But, George Clooney, personally was very kind. I remember when my daughter and I were flown in for the premiere. And George Clooney was there with his parents – I smiled “hello” from a distance because he looked very busy with all the people around him, and I started to move on. The next thing I know, I hear him calling, “Milo Radulovich, come here and meet my parents!” He gave me this big hug and triple kiss (I told him that we were going to make “a Serb” out of him yet! He said that this triple kiss was also Italian & he has a house in
MP: Yes, he was. Edward R. Murrow set the standard for television news reporting. Yet of all the stories that Murrow did in his life, he considered your story to be one of his “proudest moments”.
MP: So fifty years later, are you enjoying all of the public attention that you are getting again now?
Milo: Sure. But I can’t take all of this too seriously. Life is what it is – and it can turn on a dime. Your family are the ones who really matter --I think that this is one of those things that is very “Serb” – a sense of family that transcends all reason and distance.
Next week I am going to
MP: You are a Montenegrin Serb American, correct?
Milo: Yes, and I like the way that you said that -- “Montenegrin Serb”. That is exactly what I am “Montenegrin Serb” American. There are so many Montenegrins today who say that we aren’t Serbs at all, we are just “Montenegrins”, a different people. I don’t see it that way.
MP: Well, the “Old Serbs” saw themselves through the eyes of Orthodox Christianity and very much in the structure of Orthodoxy. Like you are “Montenegrin”, and he is “Lican” and he is “a Serbianac”, but we are all “Serbs” in much the same way that Orthodoxy has the Greeks, the Russians, the Serbs who are all different parts of the same whole -- all parts of “The Body of Christ” in Orthodoxy. Some are “the hands”, some are “the feet” – different yes, but part of an undivided whole. So you had Serbs with different nationalities, but who all saw themselves as “one”.
But, after so many years of communism, the newer generations don’t always see it that way. They often see only the physical “reality” of politics and geography. Serbian Orthodoxy is just some kind of “optional add-on” to their identities as “Serbs”, instead of the very essence of that identity. These newer generations often identify themselves as “Serbs”, based solely on “language”, “history” and “culture”, instead of on what actually created that history and culture. “There was a time when if you weren’t a steadfast Serbian Orthodox Christian, then you weren’t “a Serb”. Instead you were what your religious identity (and not your family history) said you were. And with people trying to constantly kill you for that religious identity, there wasn’t room for a lot of “fence-sitting”, “I don’t knows” and “does it really matter?” kind of questions that we American Serbs have the luxury of considering.
Milo: Precisely. Convert to Islam? Then you were “a Turk”. Convert to Catholicism? Then you were “a Croat”. Convert from something else to Serbian Orthodoxy? Then you were “a Serb” and no different from any other Serb – an equal to the “purest Serb lineage”. In that way, we were never “racists”. Bloodlines didn’t really matter for anyone other than royalty.
Many of our priests are still like that. God, love them. “Race” is not even a factor – and I have always admired them for that.
Where I grew up in
MP: Yes, I have mentioned before that I knew that they also used to have these Serb “literary clubs” all over.
Milo: My dad actually belonged to one. “The Montenegrin Educational Club of
You know that my father was very bright despite his station in American life. He read and wrote poetry. He knew about ancient Greek civilization. I have no idea where he learned it, but he knew about it.
Some of those men in that educational club were neighbors and were very dear to me. Blazo Kalabich saved my life when I fell into the creek at Dusan Kasom’s farm. I was about four years old and we were at the farm for a picnic. I remember going down into the water and I was bobbing up and down gasping for air. The next thing I know Blazo –a big ex-football player for Carnegie Tech – jumped in and saved me, clothes and all. They put some woman’s scratchy wool bathing suit on me because those were the only dry clothes available in my size and I had to wear that stupid thing for the rest of the day. Funny that I still remember that!
MP: Your parents were from
Milo: My dad, “Jovan” (John), was from a place in “the middle of nowhere” in
My mother was Ikonija Mijatovic from Krna Jela, a few valleys over from where my dad came from, and Dad didn’t even know her before they married. Dad had met her brother who was in the
My mother did not want to come to
My mother had been this beautiful 23-year-old young woman, alone in
Mom & Dad were finally married in
MP: How did your folks get to
Milo: Well, Dad was a really hard worker. He used to say that he had “a back made for a Number 9 shovel” (that was the shovel they used to pick up and load the coal into the bins) But mining was a hard and terrible life, underground all the time, breathing that dust and coming home covered with the stuff everyday. Finally, one day Dad said, “What am I doing here? I am going to
You know our people always got the worst jobs. These jobs were necessary for building and maintaining the growth of the
MP: What was life like for you growing up?
Milo: We were poor as church mice. Dad bought a little house, and we were almost thrown out of it a few times. When the auto industry strike came in the 1930’s, Dad didn’t work for five years – but that strike made it possible for people to earn a basic living with some reasonable living conditions later, so it was a good thing in the long run. But it was really hard back then. Luckily, Dad was pretty inventive, so during those years, he built an icehouse on a vacant lot and sold ice, then he sold candy on the street – anything legal to put food on the table for us. He had an old Model T car that required all the neighborhood kids giving it “a push” in order to start it. The only good part about those years was that it was during the Depression, so we weren’t alone --everyone around us was totally broke, too.
MP: Was your family religious?
Milo: My family was very spiritual, but we didn’t go to church every week -- we couldn’t afford it. The church was a long way away -- several streetcars worth. (Counting) With my mom & dad and four kids, it would have cost about $1.20 roundtrip – that was a huge amount of money per week during the Depression, especially for someone who was unemployed. But we were taught the Ten Commandments, and the value of love, honesty, loyalty and family.
As a little kid, I remember seeing the priest and his deacon coming down the alley on Slava. You know – beards to the waist in the long black mantijas – both of them looking like Rasputin. It used to scare my brothers and me. We’d hide under the bed! And my embarrassed mom would get a prut (switch) and whack us it under the bed until we came out. Then the priest, with his deep voice and a smile on his face, would laughingly say, “Ahhh…. You hide from me? You bad boys!” And that scared us even more! Luckily, we grew out of that fear.
But you know, in spite of how poor we were my mother always was able to create an incredible Slava every year. Hams and cakes, and a Kolach – don’t know how or where she got the money, but we never had a “poor Slava”. For one day a year, we ate like kings. It was always so good, that even when I grew up and went into the Army, I’d still figure out a way to get home for Arandjelovdan almost every year. (I must have listed each member of my family more than once as having been “sick” in order to get a pass!) Half the time, I had to cross a State or two and had no idea how I was getting there, but I made it.
MP: Your mother sounds like an “inventive” woman, too.
Milo: She was. Mom was very intelligent. She was a sort-of “psychologist” of the Serbian community. When other Serbs had a problem, they always came to my mom to settle it or to advise them. And Mom didn’t speak English for a very long time, but when she learned, she became much better at it than Dad ever was. My mother was also the one who disciplined us, Dad never did – he was pretty quiet and too tired when he came home to deal with that.
Truly, Serb women have always been the original “strong, independent females”. They may have lived in a patriarchal society and have been submissive to men in public, but privately they have always had this attitude, “You don’t like it, too bad for you!” They can be pretty tough.
MP: (Teasing) So, is that why you married an American and not a Serb woman?
Milo: No! (Laughing) It was because you couldn’t just date a Serb girl to see if you got along. “One date” and the families would already be planning the wedding! The pressure was too much to risk the rest of you life on “one date”. But I left home at age 17 anyway, to go into the Army – and I never lived with them again – so I wasn’t much around “young Serb women” after that anyway. By the time I moved back to the
But did you know that some of the Montenegrin clans were run by women? With the blood feuds, in some clans all the men would get wiped out, so the women would take over. The clan leaders were always elected. So if a woman was elected as “a clan leader”, she would remain single, dress and behave like a man in public for the rest of her life. And this is how the clan would survive until there were enough adult males again to take over running the clan.
Here in the
MP: From what I had read in the book at least, your sister Margaret, didn’t exactly become “a wallflower”.
Milo: (Laughing) No, she isn’t. She has definite opinions on things. And she was much less conservative than I was back then. But you know, she is a sucker for anyone or anything “in need”, even stray animals. She has a big heart – and a strong mind. She can’t stand to see others suffer without doing all she can for them. I can’t call that “a fault”. Politically, by today’s standards, my sister is considered “a liberal” – but back in 1953, that designation didn’t really exist.
MP: Knowing the background you came from, the allegations leveled at your father and sister regarding the case, this must have hit your family pretty hard.
Milo: Oh, it did. And I wasn’t sure what to do – or what I could do. If I accepted less than a full Honorable Discharge from the Air Force, then I couldn’t work in the profession I was trained for. Meteorology was very much a government-run field back then. But I also knew that if I fought, I’d have to drag my whole family through it all. I did ask my father what he wanted me to do, -- and he told me “Fight this,
MP: From what I have read and understood, Charlie Lockwood didn’t just “save you”. In some ways, your case “saved him”, too – he was pretty depressed about the law and what good he was doing in the world, when your case came along.
Milo: Yes, Mike Ranville (author of “To Strike at a King”) dug that up, but I didn’t know it at the time. I just knew that Charlie knew what he was doing, and he was willing to take the case. This case was not a “slam-dunk” by any means. It was always “a long shot”. The Air Force wasn’t very “open” to having its decisions questioned, and we had no idea at the time that Edward R. Murrow was going to eventual take up my cause. At the time, we just felt lucky that the Detroit News had taken an interest in it.
MP: I can understand why –during that era-- your sister might have been “a target”, given that she did openly protest for some social change and especially for civil rights, which may not have been popular then. But I could not understand why or how they targeted your father.
Milo: I didn’t either. He was no “communist”. He read the Srbobran, along with reading that other Serbian paper. He simply wanted to know as much as he could about the country he came from in a language that he could read. As for being “a leader” or “organizer”, what a joke!
MP: Well, he was “President of the Montenegrin Educational Association (of
Milo: Oh, yeah that made him “a real leader” (chuckle). Truly those guys were all hardworking immigrants trying to make the American Dream work for them and their families – not “subversives” in any way.
As for the union, that wasn’t “communism” – that was the foundation of the United Auto Workers of America”. No one was suggesting that the other members of that union were “subversive”.
MP: Since it has been such a long time ago, did you ever use the Freedom of Information Act to find out who pointed the finger at your father?
Milo: My sister did, but the names of “the informants” were all blacked out. Besides which, it has been so long, I don’t really care who it was, specifically.
Yet there was one thing that has always bugged me a bit – whoever it was referred to me as “Milorad”. And only Serbs knew me as “Milorad” – everyone else knew me as “
Plus, postwar, Dad had mixed feelings about the Tito/Mihailovic issue and said so.
So it is not hard to do the math and come up with the main informant being “another Serb in
MP: Well, “jealousy” and “malicious envy” are certainly not unheard of among Serbs, but ultimately you did have the last laugh – hanging out around the pool in
Milo: I guess when you put it that way – I did. But it was pretty tough for a long time.
MP: It was a very hard long time for you, from what I understand.
Ultimately, you were re-instated by the Air Force, finished your education and were given a full “Honorable Discharge” on paper -- but unofficially you became “blackballed” from working on military contracts to private industry. Your case had embarrassed the military, so they made sure that there was “payback”.
Milo: Yes. And this was harder, because it was all behind closed doors and they wouldn’t admit it. But, what aggravated me most was that I always told them about “the case”, upfront, before they’d offered me the job and they’d say, “No problem”. Then when it came time to actually clear it with the military, the story would change. I’d get an “Ooops! Sorry we hired someone else for it yesterday and forgot!” One time, I actually saw a stamp on my application for the job that said “not eligible for work on military contracts” – the personnel officer got very angry that I had seen that stamp and ripped the application out of my hand.
I’d fought to get an Honorable Discharge”. Officially” I’d gotten a full Honorable Discharge, but “unofficially” I was still paying for standing up for myself and my family.
There was something that my father said to me many years ago that always stuck with me. Dad said, “The hardest thing that you will ever try to do,
Finally, I interviewed with a private weather service. They had contracts with power companies like Pacific Gas & Electric. I interviewed with the company president. As always, I told him about “the case” and part way through my story, he interrupted me. He said, “Yes, I am French – I know all about the stupid idea of ‘guilt by association’, so let’s forget about that. I only have one question for you: Can you do the job?” I said, “Yes, of course I can.” He hired me on the spot and I worked for that company for ten years. Until the National Weather Service finally offered me a job in 1964. It was ten years before my name was “OK” for hire to work with government. I took the offer and I worked for them until I retired in 1994.
MP: In retrospect, how do you regard your experience with “the case”, given that it was the first step in changing the course of American history? Do you see yourself as “an instrument of God” or “a victim of random chance” or what? Why you? Why Milorad Radulovich?
Milo: Have you ever heard the word “synchronicity”? Do you know what it means?
MP: Yes. (In fact, I barely had a clue what “synchronicity” meant until I looked it up at home the next day!)
“Synchronicity”: A term coined by famed psychologist Carl Jung meaning “unrelated coincidences that are perceived as having meaning when viewed through the eyes of human perception”; root word of the term “in synch”.
Milo: Everyone has their own perception as to what the case “meant” -- to history or to any of it. There are a lot of ways in which you could spin the events, but the truth is that they just “happened the way that they did” -- other people made choices, I made choices and this is the way it worked out –“Who” or “what” was behind it is subject to anyone’s guess. I am not “de-emphasizing God”, but I am also not “emphasizing my own importance”. Theoretically, it could have happened to anyone, and they might have made the same or different choices than I did, and it might or might not have come out the same. I was just “in the right place at the right time” or “the wrong place at the wrong time” depending on how you look at it.
MP: Wow. You have obviously thought this through and philosophically come up with an answer that you are comfortable with.
Milo: Yes – and I have had a very long time to do it.
MP: So how is life for you now?
Milo: Pretty good, but busy! The last couple of years have flown by. Between the actual film production of “Goodnight and Good Luck”, then the publicity interviews and the awards ceremonies for the film, I have been traveling and speaking in public quite a lot. I am a little jet-lagged at the moment. I am 79 years old – not a kid anymore, you know!
MP: I am quite a few years your junior and just telling me about your schedule makes me “tired”, so don’t feel bad. But, I know even with all that you have going on; you have still made time to remain active in your church.
Milo: Yes, my grandson Scotty and I built the
And we have a great priest in Jackson – Father Tumbas. He and is wife are very spiritual people and are also very educated. Both he and his wife attended the Sorbonne and also speak French fluently, as well as Serbian and English.
MP: Any Serb or church issues that are on your mind at the moment?
Milo: Yes - the church language issue. Yet, I won’t say anything that many haven’t been saying for the last fifty years.
If we don’t start introducing more English in the church, we are going to lose our young people. We have already lost most of two generations -- including your generation – to the church spilt and the language issue. We can’t afford to lose another generation.
Every group of immigrants who have come here to the
Our people are going through a terrible time in the former
We lost this group of American Serbs, not because “they rejected us”, but rather because “we rejected them”. We basically told them that they were only “welcome” --if they were willing to learn two foreign languages and act like immigrants, --not like “who” and “what” they are. How crazy is that? Especially for “a church”!
MP: It’s very crazy – and very self-defeating.
The Slovenians and Croats never did this. Because they were Catholic, they automatically had an advantage at integrating into American society and in forming coalitions with other Catholics -- not only through their church, but also through Catholic universities.
We, on the other hand, were more “isolated” to begin with and we seem to be isolating ourselves even more now, since the wars. I think that we were so demonized, hurt and humiliated by the media and government in the US, that that we are becoming an “angrier people” than we ever were before – especially at all things “American”, including the English language. And this is a dangerous and slippery slope for us. This is our home.
Milo: We don’t get that so much in
MP: On a lighter note -- what do you do in your spare time?
Milo: I spend way too much time on the computer these days. You know --“where time stands still” – get on and forget where you are or what time it is. There is just so much to learn and to research. I burned some soup in the microwave the other day, because I accidentally set it for too much time and then I got on the computer and completely forgot about it. I came in here (the kitchen) and smoke was pouring out of the front of this thing. I’d actually begin to worry about myself; except that I have seen a lot of young people do exactly the same thing! It’s too easy to get lost in thought.
Speaking of “lost in thought”, I also write poetry.
MP: In English or Serbian?
Milo: In English! Serbian is very hard. I learned Serbian at home, but actually later took some formal courses on it after I was told that my Serbian was “quaint”. Language is a living thing, it changes over time and you have to change with it.
MP: What are you looking forward to next?
Milo: I am looking forward to things slowing down so that I can relax a little. After next weekend (The Oscars and The American Spirit Awards), everything on this film project will be pretty much behind me. And things should start getting back to normal again. I looking forward to some peace and quiet – maybe writing a little poetry again.
MP: I actually heard a rumor that you may not be able to “forget about
Milo: He’s thinking about it. But I don’t know if it will actually happen.
Because “Goodnight and Good Luck” was on such a small budget, they couldn’t afford to buy the film rights to the book, “To Strike at a King”. This book is less about Murrow and McCarthy and more about the personal story of my family, “the case” and me. So Robert Redford is probably looking at it more from that angle – “the personal little picture” story -- which ironically is actually how Edward R. Murrow told a story to illustrate a point.
MP: Anything else you are looking forward to?
Milo: Whatever happens, there is always something to look forward to if you look for it!