Quotations: McCarthyism and the 1950s

This page contains a collection of Cold War quotations, made by political leaders, notable figures and historians, pertaining to McCarthyism and the 1950s. These quotations have been researched and compiled by Alpha History authors. We welcome contributions and suggestions for these pages. If you would like to submit a quote, please contact Alpha History.

“Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity. The modern champions of communism have selected this as the time, and ladies and gentlemen, the chips are down, they are truly down.”
Joseph McCarthy, US senator and communist hunter, 1950

“The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because the enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer…¬†While I cannot take the time to name all the men in the State Department who have been named as members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”
Joseph McCarthy, February 1950

“This is the first time in my experience… that I ever heard of a Senator trying to discredit his own Government before the world… Your telegram is not only not true and an insolent approach to a situation that should have been worked out between man and man – but it shows conclusively that you are not even fit to have a hand in the operation of the Government of the United States.”
Harry Truman, in a telegram to Joseph McCarthy, February 1950

“Real and active communists in Australia present us with our immediate problem. Not the woolly-headed dupes, not the people who are pushed to the front in order to present a respectable appearance, but the real and active communists. We have a clear choice and we must make it clearly. We can attack these communists frontally or we can adopt inaction.”
Robert Menzies, Australian prime minister, April 1950

“If we let Korea down, the Soviet will keep right on going and swallow up one [nation] after another.”
Harry Truman, June 1950

“What we are doing in Korea is this: we are trying to prevent a third World War.”
Harry Truman, US president, April 1951

“I suppose that history will remember my term in office as the years when the Cold War began to overshadow our lives. I have hardly a day in office that has not been dominated by this all-embracing struggle. And always in the background there has been the atomic bomb. But when history says that my term of office saw the beginning of the Cold War, it will also say that in those eight years we have set the course that can win it.”
Harry Truman, 1953

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocked fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children… Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
Dwight Eisenhower, US president, 1953

“I will not get into a pissing contest with that skunk [Joseph McCarthy].”
Dwight Eisenhower to his brother Milton, 1953

“When the wind is right, a faint odour of kerosene is exhaled from Senator McCarthy.”
Ray Bradbury, US author, 1953

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
Dwight Eisenhower, April 1953

“We [the US and Soviet Union] may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own life.”
Foreign Affairs, US journal, July 1953

“The junior Senator from Wisconsin, by his reckless charges, has so preyed upon the fears and hatred of uninformed and credulous people that he has started a prairie fire, which neither he nor anyone else may be able to control.”
J. William Fulbright, US senator, 1954

“Until this moment, Senator [McCarthy], I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness… Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
Joseph Welch, attorney at the McCarthy-Army hearings, June 1954

“The trouble with free elections is that you never know how they are going to to turn out.”
Vyacheslav Molotov, 1954

“In Russia I felt for the first time like a full human being. No colour prejudice like in Mississippi, no colour prejudice like in Washington… You are the non-patriots, you are the un-Americans, and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”
Paul Robeson, American singer, testifying before HUAC, June 1956

“Because my father was a slave and my people died to build this country, I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like you, and no fascist-minded people will drive me from it.”
Paul Robeson, African-American singer, testifying at HUAC in June 1956

“The only way to win World War III is to prevent it.”
Dwight Eisenhower, September 1956

“If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the shit out of them before they take off the ground.”
Curtis LeMay, US Air Force general, 1957

“The individual comes face-to-face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists. The American mind has not come to a realisation of the evil which has been introduced into our midst. It rejects even the assumption that human creatures could espouse a philosophy which must ultimately destroy all that is good and decent.”
J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director, 1956