The Senate Committee investigating the National Defense Program, headed by Sen. Harry Truman (D-Mo.), recently unveiled massive misuse of government funds at a major housing project in Linden, NJ.

The Winfield Park Defense Housing Project has been in the works for over a year, but the builders are now claiming the 700-home project to be “finished” even though more than half of the homes are uninhabitable. The Truman Committee has opened public hearings to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

The government financed this project to house war workers from the nearby Kearny, NJ shipyards. According to the Truman Committee, the US has spent nearly $4.5 million on the housing complex. But when the committee assigned former FBI agent H.G.  Robinson to the investigation, he found that it could not have cost that much money.

According to Robinson, a good wind would rip off the tarpaper roofs, and the Board of Health has condemned the cellars. Only a few hundred of the bungalows are inhabited, and because of the harsh conditions many tenants have refused to pay rent.

These harsh conditions include a bathtub in the basement that is held up in the air in order to make the drain work. You have to walk up steps to even get in the bathtub, however because it is raised it is too close to the steaming hot furnace exhaust pipe. The front stoop has to be propped up with stones in a makeshift fashion because the grounds were not leveled off before building the house. The cellars are filled with anywhere from four inches to four feet of water because of faulty construction. The ceilings are wet and leak because of improper drainage. The list goes on.

Senator Harry Truman, head of the committee investigating war spending. Photo by John S. Savage, Omaha World-Herald, from Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.

The Truman Committee, established in April 1941, has been a champion in seeking out negligence and disorganization in the U.S. war effort. The committee describes itself as “frequently investigating the adequacy and competency of the nation’s defense program”.

The Linden housing project is a key example of the kind of work the Truman Committee conducts. Compiled of eleven counsels and investigators, the team is constantly keeping government projects in line. The group is a government-sponsored watchdog for the government, making sure all U.S. funded efforts are going as planned.

The Winfield Park project had many hands on it, making it difficult to trace who is responsible. Clifford T. Macevoy of Newark was identified at the first hearing as the original principal contractor. Charles S. Moses of Edgewater then took over parts of the work later. Finally, John T. Rowland of Newark was identified as the architect.

The public hearings will set out to find who has fixed responsibility for the mismanagement of government funds and contracts. After that, the Truman committee says the case will be handed over to the Justice Department for prosecution.



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