Spies and the Red Scare The Case of Alger Hiss



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Spies and the Red Scare

The Case of Alger Hiss

  • He was a clerk for the Supreme Court (in State Department)

  • He was an advisor to Roosevelt at the Yalta conference

  • He helped found the United Nations

HUAC – House of Un-American Activities Committee

  • Founded in 1938

  • Created to investigate disloyalty among private citizens, public employees, and organizations suspected of having Communist ties

  • 1969 it was renamed House Internal Security Committee

  • 1975 it was abolished

August 1948

  • Alger Hiss is accused of being a member of the Communist party by a friend

  • He is accused be Whitaker Chambers who claims on many occasions in the 30’s they met in each other’s houses to discuss communism

  • Whitaker was a self-professed communist

  • He was also an editor for Time Magazine

  • Hiss testifies before HUAC and says, “I don’t know Whitaker Chambers, I am not a communist and I don’t know any communists.”

  • He denies all allegations

  • The testimonies are so different that HUAC sets up a subcommittee and puts freshman congressman Richard Nixon in charge

  • Nixon interviews Chambers and he is able to describe in great detail Hiss’s house – where the furniture is, what he calls his wife etc.….

  • Chambers says that Hiss passed on secrets on micro-fiche to the Soviets. He even says he knows where the papers are hidden.

  • Nixon, armed with photographers, locates the “pumpkin papers” which was micro-fiche hidden in a pumpkin

  • They are never connected to Hiss but because of all the other information that Chambers has given Hiss is found guilty.

  • Found guilty of perjury because Hiss admits that he knows Whitaker because he bought a car from him using an assumed name.

  • Hiss spent 44 months in jail

  • Hiss spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name

The Truth

  • 1996 Venona Files are released from the U.S.S.R. and they proved that Hiss was guilty.

  • The Venona Intercepts were messages from spies in the U.S. to those in Russia. The one that was damming occurred in 1945 and it described Hiss to a tee. His spy name was ALES and it stated that ALES had gone to Yalta with Roosevelt it also inferred that ALES had been 1 of 4 people to go from Moscow to the U.S. after the conference.

Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare

  • Weeks after Alger Hiss is found guilty McCarthy gives his Wheeling West Virginia speech. He refers to the “enemy from within”

  • He is in fact trying to put his name on the map and this cause is a way to make himself famous

  • The speech causes people in the country to react strongly and momentum builds.

  • He accuse Dean Acheson the Secretary of State of knowing about communists in the State Department and not doing anything about it

“I have here in my hand a list of 205 people that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party, and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”

  • Dean Acheson asks for the list. McCarthy turns over the list which was created in 1947 by a private investigator by the name of Robert Lee

  • McCarthy turns over the list but he has edited the list to be more dramatic and controversial.

  • Tydings Committee is set up to look more deeply into the matter and investigate McCarthy’s list

  • Of the 205 names on the list there is one particularly interesting name – Owen Lattimore

  • Committee says “this is a hoax and willfully inaccurate.”

  • McCarthy accuses the committee of being communists and begins to focus on Owen Lattimore

  • Owen Lattimore is a Far East Scholar and was an advisor to Chian Kai-shek

  • He was also an advisor to the State department

  • McCarthy accuses him of being a communist

  • It was never proven but it ends his career – was never allowed to advise the State Department again

  • This makes McCarthy famous for being tough on communism

  • All he needed to do was point his finger at someone and accuse them of being communist and their lives were never the same.

  • Republicans began accusing democrats of “shielding traitors to the nation in high places.”

  • 30,000 books suspected of supporting communism are removed from shelves – books were burned during this time and banned from schools

  • Teachers were fired and curriculum about communism being evil was developed and taught

  • State department employees and applicants were made to sign a loyalty oath.

  • Hollywood actors and writers were blacklisted because they were influential and could sway public sentiment

  • “Communist sympathizer” was the worst thing you could be called

  • If you were courageous enough to fight back your career would be over

McCarthy’s Downfall

  • McCarthy gets overly confident and goes after the army. He accuses soldiers of being communist

  • 35 days of trials are televised

  • McCarthy appears on television drunk, slurring his words and using brutal tactics.

  • America was horrified that this was who they were following

  • McCarthy is censored and dies three years later from liver disease


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