INGA ARVAD : THE SCANDALOUS SCANDINAVIAN

BY ANN MARIAGER

Inga Arvad – the Scandalous Scandinavian is a biography of the life and times of the beautiful and adventurous Danish born newspaper columnist in Washington. In 1941-42, she was suspected by the FBI to be a Nazi spy while having a romantic affair with John F. Kennedy, a young ensign at the Office of Naval Intelligence.

Arvad, a former Miss Denmark and world explorer, was a young, enterprising freelance correspondent in Berlin in the mid-30s and covered Hermann Göring’s wedding and interviewed Adolf Hitler twice for Danish newspapers. The Fuehrer called her a “perfect Nordic beauty”. In the Spring of 1936, a Berlin news agency distributed an unfounded news item to American newspapers announcing that Hitler had appointed Inga as his propaganda chief in Denmark. Five years later, this mysterious announcement resurfaced in Washington and dogged Inga Arvad’s life as the U.S. entered WW II.

In a war hysterical Washington, Arvad’s past and her affair with Jack Kennedy raised the FBI’s suspicion and J. Edgar Hoover and his staff embarked on a relentless surveillance of her, encouraged by President Roosevelt’s animosity towards Arvad’s newspaper, isolationist Washington Times-Herald, and Arvad’s connection to blacklisted Swedish tycoon, Axel Wenner-Gren. Young Kennedy was relocated to Charleston, S.C. Their affair continued, closely watched by the FBI.

Arvad eventually had to leave Washington. She moved on to work as a reporter for the North American Newspaper Alliance in New York. A year later, she took over Sheilah Graham’s column in Hollywood. In the Summer of 1945 she was engaged to a prominent British politician, Robert Boothby. But the 1936 news item came back to haunt her and their engagement was cancelled.

Inga Arvad became an American citizen in 1945 and married Western actor Tim McCoy in 1947. She retired from public life to take care of their two sons while McCoy toured the US to support them. Inga Arvad McCoy died in Nogales, AZ, in 1973.

Ann Mariager (born 1953) is a freelance journalist with degrees from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York and the Danish School of Journalism, and is the author of two books on New York. She is also a columnist, writes for theatre and television and is a popular public speaker.