Platt previews excerpt from his book on Virginia intelligence

February 8, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Buies Creek, N.C. -- The life of a low profile barrister takes an intriguing turn when he volunteers for intelligence operations with the Army Air Corps during World War II. In his presentation at the Campbell Government and History Department's Luncheon Learn session on Wed., Feb. 4, Dr. Rorin Platt explained how then future Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell became a "Barrister in Cloak," or intelligence spy, for the Allied forces and played a major role in obtaining the German's "Ultra Secret Code" for the Allies. Platt is a professor of history at Campbell.

Platt's section on Powell is part of a comprehensive study of Virginians who served America's World War II intelligence services titled "Cavalier in Cloak: Virginians in the Secret War, 1941-1945."

Lewis F. Powell rose from First Lieutenant to full colonel in just two years in the Army Air Corps during the Second World War. He spent 33 months overseas in the European and North African Theaters as a combat and staff intelligence officer. In 1944, he became a Special Branch Ultra officer involved in breaking the highest level German codes. Powell and his British colleagues successfully broke the code which saved thousands of lives. After the war, Powell returned to his law career. He was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971.

"Powell is a wonderful example of a code of conduct that was embedded in Virginia's culture since before the Civil War, said Platt. "He volunteered for service when he didn't have to. He felt duty-bound to serve his country and was willing to risk his life to do so."

A native of Virginia, Platt received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He earned a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland at College Park. He has also studied at Georgetown University and at the University of Virginia and taught at a number of institutions.

A diplomatic historian who specializes in American intelligence history, Platt has authored two books and a number of articles and book reviews, including the book "Virginia in Foreign Affairs, 1933-1941."

Platt has served as a book review editor for "American Diplomacy," the on-line journal based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1999-2006, served on the board of directors for American Diplomacy Publishers since 2000, and in 2007, was named to the editorial board of Brill Publishing's book series, "History of International Relations, Diplomacy and Intelligence."

Platt has been a consultant for the College Board in both AP European and American history since 1992 and has served in a number of extracurricular capacities, including assisting with the Campbell Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, Luncheon Learn and the George C. Marshall Undergraduate Scholar's program which he inaugurated in 2002. Platt is a member of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.