In the years after WORLD WAR II, the situation between the U.S.A. and the USSR turned to a crisis. The hostilities between the two camps consisted in threats and violent propaganda without any direct armed conflicts. This period was called "THE COLD WAR".
From 1950 to 1953, the two Republics of North and South Korea, which had been created in 1948, entered the civil war.America, along with some United Nations troops, led the effort to defeat the Communists of North Korea. It proved to be a difficult war. When Communist China sent in its own soldiers, the war ended in a stalemate. But Americans were more suspicious than ever of Communism.


In 1950, an obscure American Senator named Joseph McCarthy announced that he had a secret list of 205 officials in the U.S. State Department who were members of the Communist Party (later the list was found to be a fake). The news shocked America. McCarthy held a series of televised hearings that were like court room trials.Dozens of people were accused of being communists. Many lost their jobs and some were sent to jail, although there was often no evidence against them. Others accused their friends to save themselves. These hearings became known as the "witch hunt", a term that comes from the Puritan era, when witches were burned in public. It is portrayed in The Crucible by Arthur Miller.The McCarthy witch hunt extended even to Hollywood. People whose names were on the "black list" were accused of being communist or communist sympathisers. They were fired, or forbidden to work in the film industry. Even Charlie Chaplin was forced to move to England.
There was a feeling of paranoia in America during the McCarthy era. Americans thought of communism as the opposite of everything they believed in: God, individual freedom, private wealth, and the capitalist system.There were spectacular trials: Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were accused of being spies for the Soviets, and they were executed in 1953, although the evidence against them was very questionable. A city in Alabama passed a law that made it a crime even to be seen talking to a suspected communist!
Finally, after four years, senator McCarthy was exposed as a liar. He had built a reputation as a war hero, claiming he had flown in combat, but when his story was checked, it was found to be a lie. He later became involved in a political scandal, and was censored by the U.S. Senate in 1954. He died in disgrace in 1957.
The McCarthy era was known for its racism and anti-Semitism as well as its anti-communism. It shows how a single demagogue can exploit the negative aspects of the Puritan spirit in the American character, such as intolerance of different beliefs and fear and suspicion of foreigners. His name forever entered the English lexicon in the form of 'McCarthyism' to refer to political Witch-hunts. (demagogic attacks on the character of opponents and accusation of treason or disloyalty without sufficient evidence.)