1947 March 12

Cold War Begins: Truman Doctrine Announced


President Harry Truman gave a major speech on foreign policy on this day, announcing the Truman Doctrine, which held that the U.S. would oppose Communism around the world. The speech is generally regarded as marking the beginning of the Cold War. Nine days later, on March 21, 1947, he issued Executive Order 9835, establishing a federal Loyalty Program that required loyalty investigations of all federal employees.

The Cold War resulted in innumerable violations of civil liberties at home and abroad. Truman’s Loyalty Program, which operated on the principle of guilt-by-association, led to violations of freedom of speech and association. (The domestic Cold War is often referred to by the shorthand term “McCarthyism.” But in fact, Truman’s program preceded the appearance of Senator Joe McCarthy by three years.) Overseas, meanwhile, the CIA engaged in covert actions that violated standards of human decency and American democracy.

Excerpt from Truman’s Speech: “I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”

Read Truman’s Speech: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=12846

Learn more at the Truman Presidential Library: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/doctrine/large/index.php

Learn more about the ACLU in the Cold War and other Times of National Crisis: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history-rooting-out-subversives-paranoia-and-patriotism-mccarthy-era

For an overview of the international Cold War Read: John L. Harper, The Cold War (2011)

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