The Cold War had an important impact on the American home front. The United States became worried about the growing power of the Soviet Union (in the size of the land it was conquering, the size of its army, and its new nuclear weapons). In order to stay ahead of Russia, the United States began to rebuild its military; creating newer and more weapons and technology (especially nuclear weapons). The government created the Department of Defense (in charge of the army and defending the nation) and the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA (which was in charge of gathering information and carrying out top secret missions. The cold war also caused fear of communism to grow. The government also began investigating Americans and had special Congressional and Senate committees which investigated people and charged them with treason (crimes against the government) and spying.
1) How did the American Government react to the growing power of Russia?
2) Do you believe these actions will help spread freedom and/or contain communism?
Document #2 – The House Committee of Un-American Activities (HUAC)
The United States government was worried about communists trying to infiltrate the government and spy and created the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). HUAC) was a committee in Congress set up to investigate fascist and communist groups within the United States as well as to investigate possible Soviet spies. HUAC held a series of hearings to question the political ideas of the members of many different groups, including unions, peace organizations and even the movie industry. In 1947, after a group of film directors and writers refused to answers HUAC’s questions, they were thrown in jail. HUAC “black-listed” (put them on lists which said they shouldn’t/couldn’t be hired) many Hollywood actors.
The HUAC also investigated individuals who were thought to be spying for the Soviet Union. Average people as well as members of the governments were questioned and thrown in jail for being sympathetic to the communists. The most notable trial was when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted in court of giving the Soviets secrets about atomic weapons and sentenced to the electric chair.
“McCarthyism”'>1) What were the two roles of HUAC?
2) Do you agree with HUAC’s actions? Why/why not?
Document #3 – Senator Joseph McCarthy and “McCarthyism”
Senator Joseph McCarthy was a Republican Senator from Wisconsin from 1947-1957. Senator McCarthy began an anti-Communist crusade to investigate American institutions and people to find communists. He would bring them before the Senate and interrogate them. Between McCarthy’s Senate Hearings and HUAC’s actions, hundreds of people were imprisoned and thousands more lost their jobs (black-listed). “McCarthyism” became the term used in describing going after communists and those disloyal to America.
At the time Americans were scared because the Soviet Union was growing stronger in Eastern Europe, had successfully tested the atomic bomb, China had been taken over by Communists and the investigations and convictions by HUAC. Due to all of these factors, many Americans rallied behind Senator McCarthy and he became very powerful as he went after the State Department, other politicians, regular Americans and eventually the Army. Everyone who Senator McCarthy endorsed in the 1952-53 elections even won. For a few years, Senator McCarthy was the most powerful (and feared) politician in America.
“Five years after a world war has been won, men should be expecting a long period of peace, and men’s minds should be free from the worries of war. But this is not a time-period of peace. This is a time of the ‘cold war’ . . . the reason why we find ourselves in a position of weakness is because of the actions of traitors within our own country. This fact is obviously true in the State Department. In my opinion, the State Department is completely infested with communists. I have in my hand 57 cases of people who are suspected members of the Communist party, yet they are still part of our government – in the State Department.”
1) What did Joseph McCarthy do in the Senate?
2) How did Joseph McCarthy become so powerful?
3) What does Joseph McCarthy’s speech mean?
4) Why would Joseph McCarthy’s speech scare people?
Document #4 - Fall of Senator McCarthy
When Senator McCarthy tried to investigate the army, Americans began to doubt Senator McCarthy and his evidence. Edward R. Murrow in his news broadcast, “See it Now,” attacked McCarthy. Murrow stated
“His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent (disagreement) with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, of one another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason…
We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it—and rather successfully.”
McCarthy’s Senate hearings stopped shortly after, and the public and his fellow Senators turned against him (even voting to condemn him in 1954). He in office a few years later in 1957. Today many people compared Joseph McCarthy’s actions to the “Salem Witch Trials,” for the way he accused people and brought them to trial (sometimes unfairly). Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible (about the Salem Witch Hunts and Witch Trials) in 1953 as a metaphor for McCarthyism.
1) List 3 criticisms by Edward R. Murrow of the McCarthy hearings. 2) What does Edward R. Murrow mean when he said it wasn’t McCarthy’s fault?
3) Why are the McCarthy hearings compared to the Salem Witch Trials?