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THE JOHN BIRCH Society is a secretive, strongly anti-communist league formed in 1958. Founded by Robert H.W. Welch, Jr., the society was dedicated to the principles—as interpreted by Welch—of the life of John M. Birch, a captain in the U.S. Army who died on August 25, 1945, while on a military mission in China. The society was groundbreaking not only for its extremely conservative principles, but for its political organization as well.

Because of his fluency in speaking Chinese, Birch had been picked to head a mission into China just 10 days after Japan surrendered in World War II. As he moved across China with his party, they were stopped by Chinese soldiers. They took him and another leader of the group to a nearby village, ...

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