After World War II ended, life for most people in the United States was very good. Unemployment was low, the middle class rapidly expanded, and the United States become the most powerful country in the world. However, this advantage lasted just a few short years, until the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear weapon, four years after the war. By the 1950’s, both the Soviet Union and the United States were racing to stockpile more nuclear bombs then the other.
During that period, the citizens of the United States expressed two contrasting moods. First: They were fearful and paranoid, certain that a Soviet invasion or nuclear war was imminent. Second: They were successful and happy, finding new sources of leisure for their growing families and living the American Dream. Being prepared for nuclear war became a way of life. Many communities installed air raid sirens. Children is schools practiced duck-and-cover drill in which children hid under their desks, covering their heads.
There were many people who built and stocked bomb shelters in their suburban backyards. The government of the United States started construction of the interstate highway system. However, this road network had been proposed many years earlier. The approval of the interstate highways was given by President Eisenhower. He had pointed out that this road network could move troops if the United States was invaded. People in the United States lived in constant fear that nuclear bomb might drop at any minute.
There were many political figures who contributed to this paranoia and suggested that the spies of the Soviet Union were everywhere, constantly conspiring to overthrow the government of the United States. It didn’t take long before Americans started distrusting their neighbors. Thousands of people were forced to testify before the FBI or Congress due to many reckless accusations. Although many of the accusations were unproven, people still lost their jobs and some were even imprisoned.
Just being accused of being a sympathizer of communism could cause a person to be rejected by his whole community. Senator Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover were among the political figures who most exaggerated the threat of communism. McCarthy was coined the term McCarthyism, which is the act of accusing a person without strong evidence of a crime. During that period, Hoover was head of the FBI. These men, and many others like them, created an atmosphere of distrust, fear, and paranoia in the United States for both the enemy and the government of the country.
This was how those two men described life in the Soviet Union, had created the same environment which they were trying to convince the people of the United States to fear. During the Cold War, even Hollywood reacted to the mood of the country. Films about alien invaders were popular, and they poorly disguised the real threat of the Soviet Union. Other films took a different approach to the nuclear threat and benevolent alien visitors threatened our destruction.