America has had its’ moments where we come together in moments of tragedy and eventually overcome any obstacle. Unfortunately, we have had our moments that actions were taken out of fear instead of from fact and logic.
During the era of the Cold War, events occurred due to the fear that communism was influencing and infiltrating the United States and certain events happened that demonstrated how realistic this was. One such occurrence was when Senator Joseph McCarthy accused university professor and prior State Department consultant Owen Lattimore was an upper level Soviet spy in the United States. This resulted in three prior secretaries of state and Secretary of State Dean Acheson denies that Owen had influenced anything regarding U.S. foreign policy. The Owen Lattimore incident was one of the well-known episodes of what the United States considered as the “red scare.”
Senator McCarthy delivered a speech in February of 1950 in which he declared that in the Department of State, there existed over 200 of what he called “known communists.” Due to this accusation, McCarthy was requested to be present before a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in order to show proof that supports his allegations. During the hearing, the senator accused Owen Lattimore as being a major spy of the Soviet Union as well as being “the principal architect of our Far Eastern policy.” McCarthy’s implication that he made in his testimony was obvious: Lattimore created a policy that would result in the communists taking control of China in 1949 because he was in fact an agent of the Soviet’s. The fact is that Lattimore is a specialist that is well-known regarding the field of Chinese history; actually, he basically served in the Department of State as a consultant during and after World War II had concluded.
Like many others, he came to conclude that the Nationalist government of the Chinese known as Chiang Kai-Shek was utterly corrupt and inefficient; for the U.S. to continue to show support for this government would be useless. Unfortunately, within the harsh Cold War atmosphere of America, the “loss” of China to communism increased suspicion that sympathizers and spies were to blame.
McCarthy’s accusation had forced a response where the chair of the subcommittee, Senator Millard Tydings, sent a correspondence to Secretary of State Dean Acheson, inquiring if the accusations were correct. The correspondence was also sent to three former secretaries of state such as George C. Marshall, Cordell Hull and James Byrnes. The response from the men was that Lattimore, in no absolute way, had an impact on foreign policy from the U.S. toward Asia. Actually, all of them went out of their way in being transparent that none of them had even met with Owen.
Marshall and Byrnes went further as they declared the charges made by McCarthy were particularly hazardous to foreign relations of America. Although a congressional investigation in 1950 cleared Lattimore of the accusations, renewed accusations against the professor in 1951-1952 would have Lattimore be charged with committing perjury in connection to his testimony given in 1950. Again, Owen would eventually be cleared of the charges but would not escape this time unscathed; Lattimore’s career in academics had been destroyed within the United States.