Banana yellow on rain-soaked loam.

The very safety of the Free World hung in the balance, or so it was said about a covert operation waged extra especially for Allied Fruit. And in 1955, Sam Delaney, the Russian immigrant who discovered the nightmare that comes after the dream, was still Allied Fruit, and Allied Fruit was Sam Delaney. Anything the company was, he was to blame. He’d had twenty-two years to flush out the influence of the Boston brahmins.  Now Sam’s go-to man for propaganda mojo, Bernie Lukasey, supplied the ammunition. In 1955 at the ripe age of 60, Bernie’s arsenal of both subliminal and visceral manipulative techniques was lavishly stocked.

Bernie had a plan for spying. The plan involved putting in place a network of moles, one plan for waging psychological warfare, and another for seducing the press. He even had a plan for contrasting his Godless enemy’s outlook on thirty-three vital issues with those of Christianity. The sheer brilliance of this plan lay in Bernie’s way of seeing a level of reality that was in plain sight that everybody else and their mother could see, but Bernie saw it first. While Carneyism and the witchhunt, all directed at the Soviet Union, Bernie in his presentation of the plan to the New York office of Allied Fruit, brought out the map, the pointer and the slide show, and said:

“They said it can’t happen here. BUT IT ALREADY DID,” Bernie said, while his rapt audience was absorbing that. He wielded the pointer, “The country is experiencing a Red Scare primarily construed as the Soviet threat.” He took the red tip of his pointer, pointed to the enormous land mass shaped like a Brahman bull, that stretched from Poland to Japan. “Gentlemen,” Bernie said and slid the pointer with an ominous soft glide, “the communists already have a beachhead in our own hemisphere.”

The red pointer came to a stop in one of the small Bananaland republics that some of the gentlemen on the board of directors had to step up and peer. Guatemala.

“Everybody in the company hated Bernie, didn’t trust him, didn’t like his politics, didn’t like his fees,” a publicist Harley Granger recalled, “But my sense is we were getting our money’s worth, very definitely.”

Maybe somebody in the U.S. Government remembered what happened with Sam’s Co. Chamelecón in 1911 when the Secretary of State dismissed him. They in fact reacted with alacrity…

Few shots were fired in this covert operation that some would call an undeclared war. A young go-go publicist, Granger, joined the company in ‘52, just about the time Gastón made his big move to expropriate our land, and I saw a complete turnaround in the reportage as a result of what Bernie did. … There is absolutely no question that Bernie played a significant role in changing public opinion on Guatemala. He did it through manipulation of the press.

“He was very, very good at that until the day he died.”

“He was. He really was.”

Bernie Lukasey himself said it in his auto-hagiography, ‘How to Make Money and Grow Rich’:

He denied that he charged fees. It was a consultation, “The sky’s the limit when you’re consulting.” As for politics cynics cynically charged that Bernard “Bernie” Lukasey was essentially apolitical.

All this for an undeclared war waged on behalf of Allied Fruit. A war fought by the US government on behalf of its silent partner, Allied Fruit Co., on foreign soil, against the elected government of Guatemala. A war that, in the mid-1950s when the Cold War seemed ready to boil over, was seen by those waging it as a crusade to keep Moscow from expanding their beachhead a thousand miles south of New Orleans.

It was guttural, it was shocking to be digested and yet you ate it up—it bore the signature of Bernard Lukasey, almost bloodless, imperturbable persevered like an ancient turtle.

Bernie masterminded that war tailor-made for Allied Fruit, drawing on every public relations tactic and strategy he had refined since giving birth to the profession forty years before. Historians have written extensively about that propaganda campaign, but always relied on the sketchy account Bernie provided in his autobiography and the limited materials available from the American and Guatemalan governments. Upon Bernie’s death in 1995, however, Library of Congress made public forty-three boxes of his papers on Allied Fruit that vividly paint his behind-the-scenes maneuvering and show how in 1954 he helped topple Guatemala’s left-leaning regime. Those papers offer insights into how the Allied States viewed its Latin neighbors as ripe for economic exploitation and political manipulation—and how the propaganda war Bernie waged in Guatemala set the standard for future US-led campaigns in Cuba and, much later, Vietnam.

“This whole matter of effective counter-Communist propaganda is not one of improvising,” Bernie noted in a 1952 memo to Allied Fruit’s young publicity chief. “What is needed,” he added, is “the same type of scientific approach that is applied, let us say, to a problem of fighting a certain plant disease.” What a knack Bernie had even to the choice of metaphor for plant disease. Ah, the atrocities of the poisonous spray, waggishly named Bordeaux mixture, that saved or at least postponed the extinction of the species of the banana trade, so replicable, the yellow phallus is easily foisted on gullible Americans as something right out of a factory almost to as suffer amnesia it was something that grew out of something that grew out of the ground.

To be continued…

Grady is the Wizard of Fiction.

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. ( His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (