The cold war was a pivotal era in the twentieth century. The term cold war itself, popularized in a 1946 speech by prime minister Winston Churchill of Britain, describes the ideological struggle between democracy and COMMUNISM that began shortly after the end of WORLD WAR II and lasted until 1991. For the foreign policy of the United States, the cold war defined the last half of the twentieth century. It was a war of ideas, of threats, and of actual fighting in the countries of Korea and Vietnam, pitting western nations against the Soviet Union and China and their Communist allies. The 1940s and 1950s saw the cold war bloom into a period of unparalleled suspicion, hostility, and persecution. Anti-Communist hysteria ran through each branch of government as the pursuit of U.S. Communists and their sympathizers consumed the energies of the EXECUTIVE BRANCH, lawmakers, and the courts. Rarely in the nation's history have constitutional rights been so widely and systematically sacrificed.
The cold war began in the aftermath of World War II. Although only recently allied against Germany, the United States and the Soviet Union saw their relationship quickly dis-integrate. The division of Europe, with the Soviet bloc countries sealed off behind what Churchill called the "iron curtain," had been the first blow. A fear that Communism would
A family sits in their bomb shelter, a common feature of many homes during the early years of the Cold War when fear of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union was intense.
undermine the security of the United States took hold of the nation's leaders and citizens alike. Measures had to be taken to safeguard the country from infiltration, it was popularly believed, and the government began a vigorous campaign against Communist activity. On March 21, 1947, President HARRY S. TRUMAN took a significant early step toward protecting the country from Communism by issuing an order establishing so-called loyalty boards within each department of the executive branch (Exec. Order No. 9835, 3 C.F.R. 627). These boards were designed to hear cases brought against employees "disloyal to the Government" and, on the evidence presented, remove disloyal employees from federal service.
The loyalty boards deviated from the traditional standard of presumed innocence. Instead, the boards made their determinations based on whether "reasonable grounds exist for belief"...