Fifth column

A fifth column is any group of people who undermine a larger group from within, usually in favour of an enemy group or nation. The activities of a fifth column can be overt or clandestine. Forces gathered in secret can mobilize openly to assist an external attack. This term is also extended to organised actions by military personnel. Clandestine fifth column activities can involve acts of sabotage, disinformation, or espionage executed within defense lines by secret sympathizers with an external force.

"Appreciate America Stop the Fifth Column" - NARA - 513873
World War II poster from the United States


During the Siege of Madrid in the Spanish Civil War, Nationalist general Emilio Mola told a journalist in 1936 that as his four columns of troops approached Madrid, a "fifth column" (Spanish: Quinta columna) of supporters inside the city would support him and undermine the Republican government from within.[1]:126–127

The term was then widely used in Spain. Ernest Hemingway used it as the title of his only play, which he wrote in Madrid while the city was being bombarded, and published in 1938 in his book The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories.[2]

Though Mola's 1936 usage is widely regarded as the origins of the phrase, historian Christopher Clark quotes a February 1906 letter by Austrian military attaché Joseph Pomiankowski using the phrase, "...the fifth-column work of the [Serbian] Radicals in peacetime, which systematically poisons the attitude of our South Slav population and could, if the worst came to the worst, create very serious difficulties for our army."[3][4][5]

Some writers, mindful of the origin of the phrase, use it only in reference to military operations rather than the broader and less well defined range of activities that sympathizers might engage in to support an anticipated attack.[a]

Contemporary usage

By the late 1930s, as involvement in the war in Europe became more likely, the term "fifth column" was frequently used to warn of potential sedition and disloyalty within the borders of the United States. The fear of betrayal was heightened by the rapid fall of France in 1940, which some blamed on internal weakness and a pro-German "fifth column". A series of photos run in the June 1940 issue of Life magazine warned of "Signs of Nazi Fifth Column Everywhere". In a speech to the House of Commons that same month, Winston Churchill reassured the members that "Parliament has given us the powers to put down Fifth Column activities with a strong hand."[7] In July 1940, Time magazine called fifth column talk a "national phenomenon".[8]

In August 1940 the New York Times mentioned "the first spasm of fear engendered by the success of fifth columns in less fortunate countries".[9] One report identified participants in Nazi "fifth columns" as "partisans of authoritarian government everywhere," citing Poland,[10] Czechoslovakia, Norway, and the Netherlands. During the Nazi invasion of Norway, the head of the Norwegian fascist party, Vidkun Quisling, proclaimed the formation of a new fascist government in control of Norway, with himself as Prime Minister, by the end of the first day of fighting. The word "quisling" soon became a byword for "collaborator" or "traitor".[11]

John Langdon-Davies, a British journalist who covered the Spanish Civil War, popularized the term "fifth column" by publishing an account called The Fifth Column in 1940. The New York Times published three editorial cartoons that used the term on August 11, 1940.[12] In November 1940, Ralph Thomson, reviewing Harold Lavine's Fifth Column in America, a study of Communist and fascist groups in the U.S., in the New York Times, questioned his choice of that title: "the phrase has been worked so hard that it no longer means much of anything."[13] In the US an Australian radio play, The Enemy Within, proved to be very popular, though this popularity was due to the belief that the stories of fifth column activities were based on real events. In December 1940 the Australian censors had the series banned.[14]

British reviewers of Agatha Christie's novel N or M? in 1941 used the term to describe the struggle of two British partisans of the Nazi regime working on its behalf in England during World War II.[15]

In Frank Capra's 1941 film Meet John Doe, newspaper editor Henry Connell warns the politically naïve protagonist, John Doe, about a businessman's plans to promote his own political ambitions using the apolitical John Doe Clubs. Connell says to John: "Listen, pal, this fifth-column stuff is pretty rotten, isn't it?", identifying the businessman with anti-democratic interests in the United States. When Doe agrees, he adds: "And you'd feel like an awful sucker if you found yourself marching right in the middle of it, wouldn't you?"[16]

Seuss cartoon
Dr. Seuss cartoon in PM dated February 13, 1942, with the caption 'Waiting for the Signal from Home'

Immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox issued a statement that "the most effective Fifth Column work of the entire war was done in Hawaii with the exception of Norway."[17] In a column published in the Washington Post, dated 12 February 1942, highly respected columnist Walter Lippmann wrote of imminent danger from actions that might be taken by Japanese Americans. Titled "The Fifth Column on the Coast," he wrote of possible attacks that could be made along the West Coast that would amplify damage inflicted by a potential attack by Japanese naval and air forces.[18]

During the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in December 1941 said the indigenous Moro Muslims were "capable of dealing with Japanese fifth columnists and invaders alike".[19] Another in the Vancouver Sun the next month described how the large population of Japanese immigrants in Davao in the Philippines welcomed the invasion: "the first assault on Davao was aided by numbers of Fifth Columnists–residents of the town".[20]

Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur features Robert Cummings asking for help against "fifth columnists" conspiring to sabotage the American war effort. Soon the term was being used in popular U.S. entertainment. Cartoons of Porky Pig asked any "fifth columnists" in the audience to leave the theater immediately.[21] In Looney Tunes' Foney Fables, the narrator of a comic fairy tale described a wolf in sheep's clothing as a "fifth columnist".[22] There was even a Merrie Melodies series that ran in 1943 titled The Fifth-Column Mouse.[23] Comic books also contained references to the Fifth column.[24]

Graham Greene, in The Quiet American (1955) famously uses the phrase, "Fifth Column, Third Force, Seventh Day" in the second chapter.

Later usage

  • German minority organizations in Czechoslovakia formed the Sudeten German Free Corps, which aided the Third Reich. Some claimed they were "self-defense formations" created in the aftermath of World War I and unrelated to the German invasion two decades later.[25] More often their origins were discounted and they were defined by the role they played in 1938–39: "The same pattern was repeated in Czechoslovakia. Henlein's Free Corps played in that country the part of fifth column".[26]
  • In 1945, a document produced by the U.S. Department of State compared the earlier efforts of Nazi Germany to mobilize the support of sympathizers in foreign nations to the superior efforts of the international communist movement at the end of World War II: "a communist party was in fact a fifth column as much as any [German] Bund group, except that the latter were crude and ineffective in comparison with the Communists".[27] Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., wrote in 1949: "the special Soviet advantage—the warhead—lies in the fifth column; and the fifth column is based on the local Communist parties".[28]
  • North Koreans living in Japan, particularly those affiliated with the organization Chongryun (which is itself affiliated with the government of North Korea) are sometimes seen as a "fifth column" by some Japanese, and have been the victims of verbal and physical attacks. These have occurred more frequently since the government of Kim Jong Il acknowledged it had abducted people from Japan and tested ballistic missiles.[29]
  • Some Israeli Jews, including politicians, rabbis, journalists, and historians, who believe that Israeli Arabs identify more with the Palestinian cause than with the state of Israel or Zionism, have referred to them, who compose approximately 20% of Israel's population, as a fifth column.[30][31]
  • Counter-jihad literature has sought to portray Western Muslims as a "fifth column", collectively seeking to destabilize Western nations' identity and values for the benefit of an international Islamic movement intent on the establishment of a caliphate in Western countries.[32] Following the 2015 attack by French-born Muslims on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage said that Europe had "a fifth column living within our own countries".[33] In 2001 Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn talked about Muslim immigrants being a "fifth column" the night he was dismissed as leader of Liveable Netherlands.[34]
  • The term was frequently used by some Russian media during 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine to describe any form of criticism of Russian policy in Ukraine. Aleksandr Dugin came up with a concept of "sixth column" describing those members of Russian elite who do not demonstrate sufficient enthusiasm in supporting the official policy and thus indirectly support the enemy.[35]

See also


  1. ^ Madeleine Albright, for example, in a lengthy account of German sympathizers in Czechoslovakia in the first years of World War II, does not use the phrase to describe their actions until she considers their possible response to a German invasion: "Many, perhaps most, of the Sudetens would have provided the enemy with a fifth column".[6]


  1. ^ Holland, James. The Battle of Britain: Five Months That Changed History; May–October 1940. ISBN 9780312675004.
  2. ^ "The Fifth Column and Forty-Nine Stories". The Literary Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
  3. ^ M.,, Clark, Christopher. The Sleepwalkers : How Europe Went to War in 1914 (First U.S. ed.). New York. p. 58. ISBN 9780061146657. OCLC 795757585.
  4. ^ Günther., Kronenbitter, (2003). "Krieg im Frieden" : die Führung der k.u.k. Armee und die Grossmachtpolitik Österreich-Ungarns 1906-1914. München: Oldenbourg. p. 327. ISBN 3486567004. OCLC 53805594.
  5. ^ Letter from Austrian military attache in Belgrade, Serbia, Joseph Pomiankowski to Beck, cited and quoted from reference #2, Günther Kronenbitter: Krieg im Frieden. Die Führung der k.u.k. Armee und die Großmachtpolitik Österreich-Ungarns 1906–1914 ("War in Peace. The Leadership of the Imperial and Royal Army and the Great Power Politics of Austria-Hungary 1906-1914"), Verlag Oldenbourg, Munich, 2003, ISBN 3-486-56700-4, p. 327
  6. ^ Albright, Madeleine (2012). Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948. NY: HarperCollins. p. 102.
  7. ^ "We Shall Fight on the Beaches". Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  8. ^ Richard W. Steele, Free Speech in the Good War (St. Martin's Press, 1999, 75-6)
  9. ^ The New York Times: Delbert Clark, "Aliens to Begin Registering Tuesday," August 25, 1940. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  10. ^ Polish Ministry of Information (2014). The German Fifth Column in Poland. Washington, D.C.: Dale Street Books. pp. 3–6. ISBN 9781941656099.
  11. ^ Tolischus, Otto D. (June 16, 1940). "How Hitler Made Ready: I - The Fifth Column" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  12. ^ Barkley, Frederick R. (August 11, 1940). "Nation Shapes Defense against Foes at Home" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  13. ^ Thomson, Ralph (November 27, 1940). "Books of the Times" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  14. ^ Loeffel, Robert (2015). The Fifth Column in World War II: Suspected Subversives in the Pacific War and Australia. Palgrave. p. 85.
  15. ^ The Times Literary Supplement, November 29, 1941 (p. 589); The Observer, December 7, 1941 (p. 3)
  16. ^ Riskin, Robert (1997). McGilligan, Patrick, ed. Six Screenplays. University of California Press. pp. 664, 696. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  17. ^ Niiya, Brian. "Frank Knox". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 27, 2014.
  18. ^ Niiya, Brian. "The Fifth Column on the Coast". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 27, 2014.
  19. ^ "80 Japanese Troop Ships Are Sighted Off Luzon (Continued From Page1)". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 22, 1941. p. 7. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
  20. ^ Curtis, Herbert (January 13, 1942). "Japanese Infiltration Into Mindanao". Vancouver Sun. p. 4. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
  21. ^ Meet John Doughboy on IMDb
  22. ^ Foney Fables on IMDb
  23. ^ The Fifth-Column Mouse on IMDb
  24. ^ Goodnow, Trischa. The 10 Cent War: Comic Books, Propaganda, and World War II.
  25. ^ Robert G.L. Waite, Vanguard of Nazism: The Free Corps Movement in Post-War Germany, 1918-1923 (1952), 88
  26. ^ Yale Law School: Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 4, 215, December 20, 1945. Retrieved July 19, 2012
  27. ^ Thomas G. Paterson, Meeting the Communist Threat: Truman to Reagan (Oxford University Press, 1988), 10
  28. ^ Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Politics of Freedom (Heinemann, 1950), 92-3
  29. ^ "North Koreans in Japan have long been vilified as a communist fifth column" (Hans Greimel, "Test sparks N. Korea Backlash in Japan", Associated Press dispatch, October 24, 2006 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 5, 2007. Retrieved January 9, 2007.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link))
  30. ^ "... they hurl accusations against us, like that we are a 'fifth column'." (Roee Nahmias, "Arab MK: Israel committing 'genocide' of Shiites", Ynetnews August 2, 2006)
  31. ^ "... a fifth column, a league of traitors" (Evelyn Gordon, "No longer the political fringe", Jerusalem Post September 14, 2006)
  32. ^ Akbarzadeh, Shahram; Roose, Joshua M. (September 2011). "Muslims, Multiculturalism and the Question of the Silent Majority". Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. 31 (3): 309–325. doi:10.1080/13602004.2011.599540.
  33. ^ Bordelon, Brendan (January 7, 2015). "UKIP's Farage: Multiculturalism Creating 'Fifth Column' in West". National Review. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
  34. ^ "Fortuyn: ramp voor politiek en vaderland" (in Dutch).
  35. ^ Александр Дугин (May 21, 2014). За Ахметова грудью встала российская шестая колонна. (in Russian).

Further reading

  • The German Fifth Column in Poland. London: Polish Ministry of Info. 1941.
  • Bilek, Bohumil (1945). Fifth Column at Work. London: Trinity.
  • Loeffel, Robert (2015). The Fifth Column in World War II: Suspected Subversives in the Pacific War and Australia. Palgrave.
Aleksandr Dugin

Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin (Russian: Алекса́ндр Ге́льевич Ду́гин; born 7 January 1962) is a Russian political analyst and strategist known for his fascist views.He has close ties with the Kremlin and the Russian military, having served as an advisor to State Duma speaker Gennadiy Seleznyov and key member of the ruling United Russia party Sergei Naryshkin. Dugin was the leading organizer of the National Bolshevik Party, National Bolshevik Front, and Eurasia Party. He is the author of more than 30 books, among them Foundations of Geopolitics (1997) and The Fourth Political Theory (2009).

Caroline Azar

Caroline Azar is a director and playwright of both Sephardic Jewish (Lebanese, Italian and Spanish) and Ashkenazi Jewish (Russian) extraction. She was the lead singer, keyboardist and co-lyricist/composer of the band Fifth Column.

Ernest Hemingway bibliography

This is a list of works by Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961). This list includes his novels, short stories and non-fiction as well as film and television adaptations of his works.

Fathers and Sons (short story)

"Fathers and Sons" is a short story by Ernest Hemingway published 1933, in the collection Winner Take Nothing. It later appeared in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories and The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories.

The story is a personal narrative that follows the path of Nick Adams as he drives through his hometown with his son. Most of the story is told through memories of Nick's childhood and Father. The story chronicles the relationships between three generations of men.

Important themes in "Fathers and Sons" include father–son relationships, Nick's homecoming, growing up, and role models.

Fifth Column (V franchise)

The Fifth Column is a subgroup of alien Visitors in the 1980s science fiction franchise V. They are depicted as Visitors who oppose the current leadership and plot to rebel against them.

Fifth Column (band)

Fifth Column was a Canadian all-female experimental post-punk band from Toronto, formed in the early 1980s.

List of V (2009 TV series) episodes

V is an American science fiction television series that ran for two seasons on ABC, from November 3, 2009 to March 15, 2011. A remake of the 1983 miniseries created by Kenneth Johnson, the new series chronicles the arrival on Earth of a technologically-advanced alien species which ostensibly comes in peace, but actually has sinister motives. V stars Elizabeth Mitchell and Morena Baccarin, and is executive produced by Scott Rosenbaum, Yves Simoneau, Scott Peters, Steve Pearlman, and Jace Hall. The series was produced by The Scott Peters Company, HDFilms and Warner Bros. Television.

During the course of the series, 22 episodes of V aired over two seasons.

Liwa Dawud

Liwa Dawud (Arabic:لواء داوود, liwa' dawud, The David Brigade) was an armed group in the Syrian Civil War headquartered in Samrin in the Idlib Governorate and originated as a subunit in Suqour al-Sham then later became an independent faction then joined the Jaysh al-Sham coalition until 2014 when the group along with its leader defected to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant during the course of the Inter-rebel conflict during the Syrian Civil War.

In an interview the group's leader Hassan Aboud stated that the rebels were corrupt profiteers. Other rebel groups were suspicious of Aboud and Liwa Dawud for being extremists and Islamic State affiliates in Idlib. Aboud and one of his brothers fought American forces during the Iraq War, according to locals. Some suggested that the pair returned to Syria as a sleeper cell tied to Al Qaeda in Iraq. Prior to the foundation of Liwa Dawud Hassan Aboud joined Suqour al-Sham in 2011. Other members of Jaysh al-Sham saw Liwa Dawud as a fifth-column element, Abboud also made frequent meetings with ISIL's leadership in 2013. After the 2013 meetings a campaign began of secret operations to sabotage other groups and it was during this period Aboud assumed leadership over Liwa Dawud. Also in 2013 Abu Ali al-Anbari met with various rebel leaders in the Idlib Governorate including Aboud and gave $2 million and weapons to Aboud and Liwa Dawud. The brigade has also been accused of assassinating Ahrar al-Sham leaders and of holding James Foley before turning him over to ISIS.

Through the course of the group's existence its members carried out assassinations against rivals and individuals who betrayed the group as part of their secret operations campaign. In early 2014 Aboud announced that Liwa Dawud was to join Jaysh al-Sham during this time he received instructions from ISIS. In July 2014 he declared his loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Liwa Dawud officially defected and the remaining members of Liwa Dawud numbering 1,000 departed to Raqqa.

Aboud along with remnants of the group fought in multiple battle for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant including the battle of Kobane and Palmyra Offensive after which some of the staff in the courts were from Liwa Dawud.

On the Quai at Smyrna

"On the Quai at Smyrna" is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway, first published in the 1930 Scribner's edition of the In Our Time collection of short stories, then titled "Introduction by the author". Accompanying it was an introduction by Edmund Wilson. Considered little more than a vignette, the piece was renamed "On the Quai at Smyrna" in the 1938 publication of The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. When In Our Time was reissued in 1955, it led with "On the Quai at Smyrna", replacing "Indian Camp" as the first story of the collection.

Ronald Guttman

Ronald Guttman (born 12 August 1952) is a Belgian actor, theatrical producer and film producer.Guttman was born in Uccle. He has appeared in TV shows such as Lost, Lipstick Jungle, Heroes, The West Wing, Star Trek: Voyager, Sex and the City and Mad Men. He had a recurring role as Alexander Cambias, Sr. on the daytime soap opera All My Children and spots on Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Guttman's performances also include a production of The Fifth Column, a play by Ernest Hemingway, and movies such as The Tollbooth, 27 Dresses, The Guru and August Rush.

His company, Highbrow Entertainment, has produced stage and film projects including The Tollbooth, Masked, The Fifth Column, DAI and New York Street Games.

Samsung i780

The Samsung SGH-i780 or Samsung Mirage is a Windows Mobile-based smartphone manufactured by Samsung.

The SGH-i780 has a candy bar-style design and a 320×320 resolution screen. A qwerty keyboard with the

numeric keys overlaid on keys in the third to fifth column of the keyboard and the touch sensitive screen is used for input. In addition it's got a small touchpad, which moves a cursor on the screen.

The Fifth-Column Mouse

The Fifth-Column Mouse (later reissued as Fifth Column Mouse) is a 1943 Warner Bros. animated cartoon in the Merrie Melodies series. Directed by Friz Freleng, the cartoon features a band of mice who engage in war against a cat. The short was given a Blue Ribbon reissue.

The Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War

The Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War is a collection of works by Ernest Hemingway. It contains Hemingway's only full length play, The Fifth Column, which was previously published along with the First Forty-Nine Stories in 1938, along with four unpublished works about Hemingway's experiences during the Spanish Civil War.The four stories are about the Spanish Civil War: "The Denunciation," "The Butterfly and the Tank," "Night Before Battle," and "Under The Ridge". Chicote's bar and the Hotel Florida in Madrid are recurrent settings in these stories.

The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories

The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories is an anthology of writings by Ernest Hemingway published by Scribner's on October 14, 1938. It contains Hemingway's only full-length play, The Fifth Column, and 49 short stories.

Many of the stories included in the collection appear in other collections, including In Our Time, Men Without Women, Winner Take Nothing and The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Some of the collection's important stories are rather short. It also includes some longer stories, among them "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber".

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952 film)

The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a 1952 American Technicolor film based on the short story of the same name by Ernest Hemingway. The film version of the short story was directed by Henry King, written by Casey Robinson, and starred Gregory Peck as Harry, Susan Hayward as Helen, and Ava Gardner as Cynthia Green (a character invented for the film). The film's ending does not mirror the story's ending.Considered by Hemingway to be one of his finest stories, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" was first published in Esquire magazine in 1936 and then republished in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories (1938).

The film was nominated for two Oscars at the 25th Academy Awards, for Best Cinematography, Color and Best Art Direction, Color (Lyle R. Wheeler, John DeCuir, Thomas Little, Paul S. Fox).

The film has entered the public domain.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (short story)

"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is a short story by Ernest Hemingway. It was first published in Esquire magazine in 1936. It was republished in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories in 1938, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories in 1961, and is included in The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigía Edition (1987).

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (short story collection)

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by Ernest Hemingway, published in 1961. The title story is considered by some to be the best story Hemingway ever wrote. All the stories were earlier published in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories in 1938.

The collection includes the following stories:

"The Snows of Kilimanjaro"

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"

"A Day's Wait"

"The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio"

"Fathers and Sons"

"In Another Country"

"The Killers"

"A Way You'll Never Be"

"Fifty Grand"

"The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"

V (2009 TV series)

V is an American science fiction television series that ran for two seasons on ABC, from November 3, 2009, to March 15, 2011. A remake of the 1983 miniseries created by Kenneth Johnson, the new series chronicles the arrival on Earth of a technologically-advanced alien species which ostensibly comes in peace, but actually has sinister motives. V stars Elizabeth Mitchell and Morena Baccarin, and is executive produced by Scott Rosenbaum, Yves Simoneau, Scott Peters, Steve Pearlman, and Jace Hall. The series was produced by The Scott Peters Company, HDFilms and Warner Bros. Television. On May 13, 2011, ABC announced that V was canceled.

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