In the years immediately after World War II, America had begun to reconstruct itself after many years of difficulties. For the first time since the 1920s, America had finally begun to regain its prosperity. Our country had just finished World War II victorious. Our troops were back home, the unemployment rates were down, and the economy was steadily improving. Circumstances seemed to be great, however, as the Cold War began, American people began to live in fear and uncertainty. In fact, there was a name for this specific time period: The Second Red Scare. Some of the greatest fears of Americans during this time were atomic weapons, communism, and threats from the Soviet Union.
As apparent in document B, this obsession with preventing communism in America had become something Americans were willing to sacrifice everything for. After World War II the era of McCarthyism became very popular. As stated in Document A, we were also fearful of what investigators would do to Americans. In fact, thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and were thouroughly investigated by the government. As also stated in Document B, due to this obsession and fear of communism, many people suffered loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and even imprisonment. McCarthyism was a widespread social and cultural phenomenon that affected all Americans and was the source of a great deal of debate and conflict in the United States. McCarthyism accurately represented the terror and fear Americans had of communism entering the country.
Document D speaks about the Public Law 627, that President Eisenhower enacted. Also known as The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 it was enacted on June 29, 1956, when President Eisenhower passed it.This law used $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles of Interstate Highways over a 20-year period, it was the largest public works project in American history to that point. This act directly related to our fears of the Cold War. Eisenhower stated that his purpose for passing this law was for national defense. In the event of an invasion by another country, our military would require good roads to be able to quickly transport troops around the country. He also insisted that one out of every twenty miles of road be laid straight so that it could be used as an airstrip in a state of emergency. Following completion of the highways the cross country journey that took the convoy two months in 1919 was cut down to two weeks.
Another thing that Americans feared during this era was the Soviet Union. According to document E, one of our greatest fears was an atomic bombing from the Soviet Union. In fact, this document speaks about the disadvantages that we face with the coming of the new missile age. And it asks a very controversial question: should we wait for the Soviet Union to bomb us, or should we do it first? The Soviet weapons program began in 1943 during World War II, under Igor Vasilievich Kurchatov. This program required reports collected by members about the Manhattan Project in the United States It was very successful because of the sympathies of many for the wartime Soviet Union fighting Nazi Germany. This fear that we had of Soviet Spies and atomic weapons leads us to Document F. A picture that depicts our governments only concern at the time; missile programs. By the early 1960s The Air Force's BOMARC air defense missile had seven squadrons along the nation's eastern and northern borders. We also wanted to establish a nationwide missile defense system, but after 15 years of controversy, the program was canceled in 1972 as a result of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed with the Soviet Union. Document H also discusses our obsession with defense spending. It greatly increased during the years of the cold war. In fact from 1949 to 1951 it went up by almost 20%. According Document G, important things like education had taken a backseat to our country’s defense and war against communism and the Soviet Union.
American’s fears at this time seemed to destroy their prosperity and excellent economy after World War II. Rather than distribute government spending equally, they placed all of their emphasis on our nation’s defense, in fear that the Soviet Union would attack. Americans constantly lived in fear of the Soviet Union. Whether it was their threats for a potential nuclear war, threat to spread communism, or Sputnik, their orbiting Satellite, this was an era in which we allowed the Soviet Union to control our actions.
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