John Edgar Hoover was born on New Years Day, 1895 in Washington DC. As the son of a civil servant, he enjoyed a typically middle-class upbringing, was extremely close to his mother and by all accounts, was deeply religious.
Hoover studied law, and joined the Department of Justice in 1917 as a clerk. He was quickly promoted however, and inside his first year with the Department he was selected to head up the Enemy Alien Registration Section, whose duties consisted of identifying and keeping tabs on 'Enemy Aliens' living in the United States.
After the war, and following the revolution in Russia, America experienced an upsurge in radicalism. A spate of strikes and a rash of often ill-fated terrorist actions prompted Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer to set up the General Intelligence Division, which was tasked with the somewhat unconstitutional work of collecting and organising information on suspected radicals and subversives. Hoover's war work made him the obvious choice to head up the new section, a task he took to with considerable zeal. By 1921, he had files on some 450, 000 US citizens. This was the time of 'the Red Scare', and the sensationalism and scare mongering in the media seemed to permanently colour Hoover's thinking on the Communist issue. In 1920, he wrote 'The Revolution in Action' - in which he envisioned legions of armed communists in every country, quietly awaiting the order from Moscow to begin world revolution.
In 1921, Hoover took on the position of assistant chief of the Bureau of Investigation, under William J. Burns. At this point in time, the Bureau administration was characterised by a great deal of corruption, un-professionalism and inefficiency. Burns himself was guilty of using Bureau agents to run his own private detective business, whilst other agents, such as Gaston Means, used their position to peddle political influence and fix criminal cases. Hoover quietly made himself indispensable to Burns, and in his free time, became heavily involved with his Masonic Lodge.
Eventually incoming Attorney General Harlan Stone, alarmed at the extent of corruption in the Bureau, offered Hoover the job of director - ordering him to both cut costs and eliminate corruption. Hoover took on the position in May 1924, and took to this new challenge with his usual tenacity. In his first year in charge, Hoover fired sixty-one agents he deemed 'unsuitable' for the new Bureau he wanted to create. He also closed five of the fifty-three field offices. He raised the hiring standards of the Bureau, insisting that new agents have professional experience in either law or accounting. He also provided training for old and new hands alike. Promotion was now based on efficiency and performance. Hoover remade the Bureau in his own image - his standards became the Bureau's.
It was in the late twenties and early thirties that the public at large became aware of Hoover and his new-look Bureau - the depression years had led to a sharp rise in crime, and a number of high-profile crooks and gangsters enjoyed a celebrity status in the press. This was unacceptable to Hoover, who saw it as a "challenge to law and order and civilisation itself". His high-profile pursuit of celebrity criminals such as John Dillinger and 'Ma' Barker afforded Hoover celebrity status himself. Hoover, however, ever the self-publicist, was unwilling to share this limelight. Press for the Bureau had to be press for him. This jealousy of publicity led him to hound high-profile agents like Melvin Purvis out of the Bureau for 'daring' to hog his headlines. It also saw him personally 'lead' several major investigations, so there would be no doubt as to who got the credit at their climax. Several radio and film theatre serials attempted to cash in on the G-men's popularity and profile, much to Hoover's delight. He attempted to personally influence the storylines of several of these, invariably to their detriment
Whilst the Bureau was grabbing the headlines and capturing the public's imagination, Hoover's political manoeuvring off-camera saw the power and scope of his organisation increase dramatically in the 1930's. As well as the very public expansions of jurisdiction, in 1936 President Roosevelt privately authorised Hoover to resume the activities of the General Intelligence Division. It was this presidential mandate to spy on US citizens that allowed Hoover to build his infamous collection of 'personal files'.
During wartime, the Bureau continued its usual activities to their usual degree of competence, but their effectiveness as a counter-intelligence agency was questionable. Hoover did not enjoy co-operating with other intelligence agencies (the heads of which he saw as political rivals rather than allies), and generally disliked working with their agents, often citing ethical reasons for his animosity towards them (although he was happy enough for them to work for him). He was generally considered to have too much of a 'policeman mentality' towards the job - which was fine when tracking down armed robbers, but not for breaking up spy rings.
Regardless of this, because of the war Hoover saw his budget and personnel escalate dramatically during this period. Off the back of the Bureau's intelligence work in South and Central America, Hoover hoped to further expand his organisation during peacetime, by assuming responsibility for US intelligence activities world-wide. Incoming President Harry Truman, however, did not welcome the idea of an even more powerful Bureau, and vetoed the idea. Hoover, typically, took this as a personal slight.
The darkest night of Hoover's life is often thought to have been the night his mother died in 1938, but actually occurred in the winter of 1927/1928, when he personally led a raid on the Marsh refinery in Innsmouth, Massachusetts, during the Navy's Project COVENANT. Hoover was there to provide the legal authority required to seize the suspected subversives, and of course, to personally make his mark in the war against liquor. Of course, the wretched inhabitants of Innsmouth proved to be something far, far worse than mere bootleggers.
Hoover glimpsed the horror bubbling at the edges of his closeted world and coped by retreating further into his already somewhat delusional belief system. His already marked paranoia increased post-Innsmouth to rampant extremes, although he managed to channel it into more mundane fears about communists and other political 'subversives'. He spent the rest of his career desperately trying to avoid and ignore all thought of the supernatural, diverting cases with a "paranormal bouquet" that passed across his desk to out of favour agents who would conduct under-resourced, often ineffective and mostly inconclusive investigations. Presumably, he reasoned that if he didn't know about it, then it didn't exist. Hoover's irrational lack of co-operation was to seriously hinder Delta Green's domestic activities until his death, in 1972.
Role Playing Notes: Hoover tends to be curt, abrupt and generally humourless. He is quick to take offence and will take anything that deviates from what he would consider required behaviour as a personal slight. As one of the most powerful men in America he defers to no one who is not a ranking superior (in situations where a conflict with such an individual occurs, his attitude can best be described as "I'll fix *you* later").
|Escape from Innsmouth||pp.146-154|
|Spyclopedia - Richard Deacon|
|The Crime Library|
|STR: 11||DEX: 12||CON: 15||SIZ: 12||INT: 16|
|APP: 12||POW: 13||EDU: 17||SAN: 40||HP: 14|
Written by Nick Brownlow
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