William Ludwig Ullmann was born in Springfield, Missouri, on 14th August, 1908. He graduated from Harvard Business School with an MBA in 1935. Ullmann then took a job with the National Recovery Administration. There he met Nathan Silvermaster and became associated with members of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) who were officials in the New Deal. This included Harold Ware, Alger Hiss, Nathaniel Weyl, Laurence Duggan, Harry Dexter White, Abraham George Silverman, Nathan Witt, Marion Bachrach, Julian Wadleigh, Henry H. Collins, Lee Pressman and Victor Perlo.
This group was connected to Joszef Peter, the "head of the underground section of the American Communist Party." It was claimed that Peter's design for the group of government agencies, to "influence policy at several levels" as their careers progressed". Weyl later recalled that every member of the Ware Group was also a member of the CPUSA: "No outsider or fellow traveller was ever admitted... I found the secrecy uncomfortable and disquieting." (1) Ullmann was recruited as a Soviet spy, his codename was Polo. (2)
In 1937 Ullmann was transferred to the Resettlement Administration. The following year he bought a house with Nathan Silvermaster and his wife, Helen Silvermaster. In 1939 Ulmann went to work for Harry Dexter White in the Department of the Treasury. His immediate supervisor in his new post was Frank Coe. Both White and Coe were Soviet agents. By 1941 Ullmann became White's Administrative Assistant.
At first, Jacob Golos was the main contact of the Silvermaster group but his failing health meant that he used Elizabeth Bentley to collect information from the house. Helen was highly suspicious of Bentley and she told Golos that she was convinced that she was an undercover agent for the FBI. Golos told her that she was being ridiculous and that she had no choice but to work with her. The Silvermasters reluctantly accepted Bentley as their new contact.
Kathryn S. Olmsted, the author of Red Spy Queen (2002), points out: "Every two weeks, Elizabeth would travel to Washington to pick up documents from the Silvermasters, collect their Party dues, and deliver Communist literature. Soon the flow of documents grew so large that Ullmann, an amateur photographer, set up a darkroom in their basement. Elizabeth usually collected at least two or three rolls of microfilmed secret documents, and one time received as many as forty. She would stuff all the film and documents into a knitting bag or other innocent feminine accessory, then take it back to New York on the train." (3) Moscow complained that around half of the photographed documents received in the summer of 1944 were unreadable and suggested that Ullmann received more training. However, Pavel Fitin, who was responsible for analyzing the material, described it as very important data.
Bentley became aware that Ullmann was having an affair with his host's wife." (4) When Iskhak Akhmerov also discovered what was happening he cabled Moscow: "Surely these unhealthy relations between them cannot help but influence their behavior and work with us negatively." (5) Akhmerov also reported that other members of the group had become aware of this ménage à trois and that it was undermining his relationship with the rest of the group. However, Ullmann continued to provide important information.
According to Elizabeth Bentley Ullmann had given her the "approximate schedule date of D-Day". (6) However, this has been questioned by the historian, Allen Weinstein, who has seen evidence in the Soviet archives that it was Donald Niven Wheeler who provided the information. (7) Ullmann also attended United Nations Charter meeting at San Francisco and to the Bretton Woods Conference as Harry Dexter White's assistant.
On 30th July 1948, Elizabeth Bentley appeared before the House of Un-American Activities Committee. Over the next two days she gave the names of several Soviet spies including William Ludwig Ullmann, Donald Niven Wheeler, William Remington, Mary Price, Victor Perlo, Harry Dexter White, Nathan Silvermaster, Duncan Chaplin Lee, Abraham George Silverman, Nathan Witt, Marion Bachrach, Julian Wadleigh, Harold Glasser, Henry Hill Collins, Frank Coe, Charles Kramer and Lauchlin Currie. Ullmann, Perlo, Kramer, Silverman and Silvermaster took the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer most of the HUAC's questions. (8)
Ullmann was never prosecuted and according to Allen Weinstein, the author of The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) that Nathan Silvermaster and "his faithful housemate, William Ludwig Ullmann, had become by 1951 prosperous home builders on the New Jersey shore." (9)
William Ludwig Ullmann died on 3rd February, 1993.
Nathan Silvermaster's wife, Helen, helped him spy. Unlike many of the Russian emigres who spied for Elizabeth, she was neither Jewish nor poor. Her father had actually been a baron in the old country, but he was called the "Red Baron" for his support of the Bolsheviks....
To complicate the Silvermaster menage, a sallow man in his mid-thirties, "Lud" Ullmann, lived with the couple. When Elizabeth met him, Lud worked at the Treasury Department. Later, with the help of a fellow spy, he would win a coveted job at the Pentagon. At first, Elizabeth was not clear about the relationship among the three members of the Silvermaster household. It soon became evident, however, that Ullmann was having an affair with his host's wife.
Elizabeth's job as Golos's assistant was to win the emigre couple's trust, but that was not as easy as it seemed. At their first meeting, Helen Silvermaster ushered her into their tasteful, spacious living room and chatted pleasantly for an hour. Yet Elizabeth sensed that the Russian woman was suspicious of her. Later, Helen protested to Golos that Elizabeth must be an undercover agent for the FBI. Angry with Elizabeth for "creating such an impression of distrust" and with Helen for her "idiocy," Golos told the Silvermasters that they had no choice. Helen and her husband reluctantly accepted Elizabeth as their new contact.
Every two weeks, Elizabeth would travel to Washington to pick up documents from the Silvermasters, collect their Party dues, and deliver Communist literature. Soon the flow of documents grew so large that Ullman, an amateur photographer, set up a darkroom in their basement. Elizabeth usually collected at least two or three rolls of microfilmed secret documents, and one time received as many as forty. She would stuff all the film and documents into a knitting bag or other innocent feminine accessory, then take it back to New York on the train.
The knitting bag soon bulged with critical documents from the U.S. government. Shortly after the Nazi invasion of Russia, Silvermaster stole secret estimates of German military strength. Later, when the United States extended its policy of Lend-Lease to the USSR, he gave Elizabeth secret memos about the program.
Silvermaster also passed along White House gossip, such as the rumors of frosty relations between the president and his secretary of state, Cordell Hull, and the arguments within the cabinet over financial aid to the Soviets.