The early 1950s was the era of McCarthyism. At that time there was a great fear of communist infiltration. In 1946 Winston Churchill announced that an 'iron curtain' was descending across Europe. Puppet communist regimes were installed in Eastern Europe in countries like Hungary and Bulgaria. However in Czechoslovakia elections were held. For a time democratic government ruled the country. Yet in 1948 it was overthrown by a communist coup. Fear was fanned by the case of Alger Hiss. He had been a high- ranking government official. In 1948 a former communist called Whittaker Chambers told the House Un-American Activities Committee (which investigated 'un-American' activity) that Hiss was a spy for the Soviet Union. Hiss denied the charge. He could not be arrested for spying because of a statute of limitation. However he was charged with perjury and he was convicted in January 1950. The case increased fears of communist subversion. Furthermore in 1949 the Russians exploded an atomic bomb. The American people were shocked to hear that spied had helped the Russians to develop a bomb by leaking them information. Into this atmosphere of fear stepped Senator Joseph McCarthy 1908- 1957. In February 1950 McCarthy claimed that he had a list of communists employed by the State Department. McCarthy then began a witch-hunt in which many people lost their jobs. However eventually McCarthy overreached himself and he began to accuse too many important people. Public support ebbed away and in December 1954 McCarthy was finally censored by the Senate. Despite McCarthy the 1950s were a prosperous period for America. Unemployment was low, living standards rose and TV. became common. The USA launched its first satellite in 1958. However the prosperity was not shared by everyone.
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