The Red Scare,McCarthyism, andthe Impact of the Cold War
Context Following the Second World War, the combatant nations largely separated into armed camps defined by ideology. The Cold War began nearly as soon as the fighting stopped. The twelve Western democracies, dominated by the United States, founded NATO as a mutual defense organization in 1949. In response, the communist nations, dominated by the Soviet Union, formed the Warsaw Pact in 1955. This alignment would serve as the basic framework of the Cold War over the next fifty years.
Communist Expansion in Asia Shortly after the defeat of Japan in the Second World War, China resumed its civil war. In 1949, communist forces, led by Mao Zedong, expelled the government of Chiang Kai-Shek to the island of Taiwan and formed the Peoples’ Republic of China. In the United States, the adoption of communism in China was viewed as evidence of Soviet expansionism, though later documents showed that the Soviets Chairman Mao had little to do with it. Truman’s unwillingness to fight a larger war with China fueled attacks from the right that he was soft on communism.
The Rosenbergs Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a young couple living in New York, were arrested for conspiracy to commit treason in helping Soviet agents ferret atomic secrets out of the United States. While they were both members of the Communist Party, the espionage charge was far more dubious. All the same, they were convicted of treason, largely on the strength of the vigorous prosecution presented by Roy Cohn. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in the electric chair on 19 June 1953.
Alger Hiss Alger Hiss was a bright up and coming State Department attaché. Time Magazine editor Whittaker Chambers accused him of passing secrets to the Soviets. At trial, Hiss was twice acquitted of treason, though he was convicted of perjury. This distinction did not matter to many of Hiss’ critics on the right, who continued to label him a traitor.
House Un-American Activities Committee HUAC was an investigative committee of the US Senate. In 1947 HUAC investigated alleged communist infiltration of the motion picture industry. Hearsay, innuendo, and rumor were perfectly acceptable forms of evidence. HUAC decided the Fifth Amendment did not apply in its hearings so those refusing to testify, branded the “Hollywood Ten”, were imprisoned for contempt. Through pressing witnesses toRonald Reagan testifies to HUAC. “name names,” HUAC claimed to have identified 324 communists working in the motion picture industry.
Senator Joseph McCarthy Elected to the Senate from Wisconsin in 1946. Rabid anti-communist and alleged communist infiltration into the American government. On 20 February 1950, McCarthy made a six hour Senate speech claiming that the Democratic Party had been engaged in twenty years of treason. In 1952, the Republicans gained control of the Senate. The Republicans named McCarthy as Chairman of the Senate Sub- Committee on Investigations.
McCarthy Hearings In the Senate Sub-Committee for Investigations, Senator McCarthy applied the methods of HUAC to the American government, military, and defense industry. According to McCarthy’s own numbers, his investigations drove 400 suspected communists from the American government, though, in reality, few were guilty of anything more than liberal politics or associations
Opposition to McCarthyism Senator Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican from Maine, criticized his tactics as being detrimental to individual freedom. In March 1954, McCarthy began to investigate Annie Lee Moss, a middle aged African American woman who worked for the Army Signal Corps. For this, Moss lost her job with the Army, was dragged before McCarthy’s hearings, and publicly interrogated on national television. Senator Symington pointed out that there were four Annie Lee Mosses listed in the Washington D.C.Margaret Chase Smith phonebook and that there was no indication that this was the proper one.
"See it Now" The downfall of Senator McCarthy would begin on 20 October 1953 on Edward R. Murrow’s CBS television newsmagazine “See it Now.” After “See It Now” exposed the Air Force for using secret evidence and guilt by association in the firing of an officer whose father and sister were suspected communists, Murrow and Friendly’s next attack on McCarthy was not nearly as oblique. On 9 March 1954, “See it Now” took on McCarthy directly. Using his own words against him, Murrow and Friendly demonstrated McCarthy’s inconsistencies and fabrications.Edward R. Murrow CBS News offered McCarthy equal airtime to refute the charges, an offer the Senator took advantage of on 6 April 1954. McCarthy’s rambling, incoherent diatribe- like defense of himself was devastating.
Army McCarthy Hearings In 1953, McCarthy began an investigation of the automatic promotion of an Army dentist with leftist political views. On 11 March 1954, the Army released a memo detailing the efforts that McCarthy and Cohn made to secure an Army commission for drafted McCarthy staffer David Schine. With such an allegation of improper use of his office, the Senate Sub- Committee on Investigations was now turned onto McCarthy. McCarthy now alleged that theMcCarthy at the Army Hearings investigation was a conspiracy to protect communists including FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and President Eisenhower.
Censure On 2 December 1954 the Senate voted 67-22 to censure Senator McCarthy. The Republican leadership stripped McCarthy of his committee chairmanship. When the Democrats took control, McCarthy was marginalized further; when McCarthy would enter a room, any other Senators present would leave. McCarthy continued to serve in the Senate until his death in 1957 at the age of 49 from complications of alcoholism.