Cold War McCarthyism and Nuclear Weapons

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In 1949, the USSR created an atom bomb. President Truman was forced to make a stronger weapon. This started an “arms race.” In the USA, Scientists created an “H” (hydrogen) bomb and claimed that it was over 60 times more powerful than an atom bomb. In 1952, the USA detonated an “H” bomb. In 1953, the USSR also detonated an “H” bomb. President Eisenhower, elected in 1952, took strong stands against Communism. In the Eisenhower Doctrine, he promised to give military aid to any Middle East nation threatened by Communism. Secretary of state, John Dulles, claimed the only way to prevent Communism from spreading was to make the Russian USSR fear that the USA was ready to use nuclear weapons, if the time arose. Brinkmanship is the willingness to use your most powerful weapons, at any moment, to keep your enemy afraid.

In the USSR, Joseph Stalin died and a leader named Nikita Khrushchev was Stalin’s successor. Khrushchev thought Communism would take over the world, but peacefully and not in violence. In 1957, the Soviet Union became the first nation of Earth to launch a satellite into space, called Sputnik. Despite the reduced tension with Stalin’s death, many feared that the USSR had such advanced technology. The USA sent secret U-2 planes over Russia to get images of the USSR for military use. USA pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down and held in prison in Russia for two years for spying for the USA. Cold War fears remained for decades after this incident. Many feared all out nuclear war could erupt between the USA and the USSR.

In the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy, a Senator from Wisconsin, made countless, unsupported accusations asserting people were Communists. He ruined the lives of many. In 1954, Army investigations concerning Communism were televised; people saw McCarthy bully the witnesses and began to realize his assertions were simply false and based on delusional hysteria. McCarthy died due to difficulties with alcoholism and McCarthyism is forever remembered as unfair tactics of accusations

The Communist takeover of China shocked the world. Many found it unbelievable that the USA lost such a large nation to Communism. Republicans claimed Truman was weak on Communism. In response he formed the Federal Employee Loyalty Program to remove Communists from the government. According to FELP, if you supported Communism, you were fired from government service. Many saw this as a violation of the Constitution.



The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), in 1947, investigated the movie industry to determine if Communists were working in the industry. The Hollywood 10 was a group who refused to cooperate and went to prison. They claimed the investigations were wrong and unconstitutional. Many people were “Blacklisted,” after being accused of being Communist. For those accused, they were often fired from their jobs, abandoned by their families, and ostracized by their friends. Those associated with the accused avoided them to avoid being accused themselves.

So, were there spies in the USA? Yes, there were spies in the USA. Yet, the massive infiltration of spies that McCarthy fabricated never existed. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were Americans who helped leak information to the USSR to help them build an atom bomb. Julius worked for the Army as an engineer. Ethel and Julius were convicted for spying on the USA and both were executed for treason.

US History Lesson Plans Include
1) Bell ringer / opening activity
2) PowerPoint presentation
3) Guided notes worksheet for PowerPoint presentation
4) Bonus worksheet (vocabulary, crosswords, word search, etc.)
5) Daily quiz / assessment - exit slip!
6) Content reading handout
7) Compatible with ALL textbooks
8) Answer keys for all worksheets, handouts, & assessments
9) Editable documents (word, PowerPoint, etc.)
10) PDF copies for easy viewing & printing
11) Aligned to national standards
12) Works with Unit or as a stand alone lesson
13) Other bonus materials (videos, extra worksheets, etc.)
Most of our plans include the contents of this list. Please see the photo above for actual contents.
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Cold War McCarthyism and Nuclear Weapons