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The Truman Presidency

Module 26
Part 2
Containment in Asia
- The United States was far less successful containing Communism. Asian
nations were still deeply distrustful of westerners as a result of their
experience with their European colonizers.
- Japan will be the most substantial US success.
- Under the leadership of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Japan will try and execute its top
military leaders and will write a new Constitution that made Japan a parliamentary
democracy. They also renounced war and became reliant on the United States for its
The Chinese Revolution
- During WWII the United States had
supported both the Nationalists and
Communists in China against Japan.
- After the War, Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communist
revolutionaries expected the United States would support his
claim to be leader of China.
- However the US backs Chiang Kai-shek, the nationalist
leader. Over $400 million in aid is not enough to save the
nationalists and China. The Communists take control and the
Nationalists retreat to Taiwan, which the US will recognize as
the legitimate government of China until 1979.
- China and the Soviet Union will sign the Sino-Soviet Pact.
Truman will take much of the blame for the Chinese failure.
The Korean War
- Korea was divided at the 38th
Parallel after WWII. After the US and
Soviets withdrew.
- North Korea invades the South in
June 1950 and initially successfully
drives a combined US/South Korean
force all the way to the tip of Korea.
- A surprise landing by US forces under
Douglas MacArthur allows the US to
destroy most of the North Korean Army
and push them all the way back to the
Chinese border.
- China warns the US it will intervene if the US continues closing on their
border. MacArthur fails to listen and in Nov. 1950, millions of Chinese soldiers
cross into North Korea, handing the US one of its worst military defeats in
- Eventually the fighting stabilizes at the 38th Parallel. MacArthur calls for
invasion of China, publically criticizing Trumans plan for limited war.
- Truman, with support of the Joint Chiefs, fires MacArthur.
Consequences of Korea
- Korea is proof that Trumans policy of containment works.
- However, failing to achieve total victory leads Republicans to criticize Truman
as being soft on Communism.
- Many Americans are alarmed at what they see as increasing success by the Soviet Union in
influencing world affairs.
The Second Red Scare
- Just as following WWI, Americans are
fearful of Communism. Many
Americans believed that Communists
had infiltrated our government.
- To pursue these allegation, Congress
created the House Un-American Activities
- They investigated politicians and
government employees, but also the
Boy Scouts and Hollywood - Many
actors and directors were called
before Congress to testify. Many
refused and were blacklisted from
working in Hollywood.
The Espionage Cases
- Alger Hiss - a high member of the State
department, Hiss is accused of passing
secret documents to a known Communist.
- Although there is little evidence, Hiss is convicted
and sent to prison. Many Americans wonder what
other high level members of government may be
secret communists.
- The Rosenberg Case - Julius and Ethel
Rosenberg are accused of helping smuggle
nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union - tried on
shaky evidence, but convicted and
- A senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy accuses
more than 250 government officials of being
communists. He takes advantage of anti-communist
hysteria to become one of the most powerful men in
- He constantly criticizes the Truman administration
- working class Americans love him because his
targets are often the rich and powerful.
- Eventually McCarthy goes to far. During a televised
Senate hearing on Communist infiltration of the army
McCarthy is seen by millions of Americans as a bully
and dishonest. Public support fails and the Senate will
move to censure him.