Thursday, June 9, 2016

JOE MCCARTHY | June 9–Squelched by Welch

Sen. Joseph McCarthy
This day in 1954, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisc.) confronted Joseph N. Welch, special counsel for the Army. McCarthy claimed that a young associate in Hall & Dorr, Welch's law firm, had been a long-time member of an organization that was a “legal arm of the Communist Party.” Welch was stunned and said, famously:
Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? 
A few minutes later, the audience burst into applause. It marked the end of McCarthy’s power, which had steadily risen from his February 1950 claim that “hundreds” of “known Communists” were in the Department of State.

McCarthy led the Red Scare, convincing millions of Americans that communists had infiltrated America. Behind closed doors,  the McCarthy hearings smeared a wide swath of civil servants and private citizens, destroying many careers. Prior to 1953, the Republican Party tolerated him because his attacks were directed at Democrats, especially Harry S. Truman. When Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower entered the White House in 1953, however, McCarthy continued his increasingly erratic charges. This became unacceptable to his President and Party. Rather than taking on McCarthy directly, which might have backfired, Ike undermined the senator behind the scenes.

McCarthy was annoyed that the U.S. Army was taking away one of his staff members, who worked with Roy Cohn. So he charged in early 1954 that the U.S. Army was “soft” on communism. As Chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, he opened hearings on this subject. Joseph Welch, an outside lawyer from Hale & Dorr in Washington, represented the Army–and the President as well, since Ike had a special affection for the Army. During the hearings, Welch responded to all of McCarthy’s charges. The senator became bellicose, shouting “point of order, point of order”. He said that one highly decorated general was a “disgrace” to his uniform. Welch responded with the comment at the end of the first paragraph above.

One week later, the hearings closed. McCarthy was condemned by the Senate for contempt of his colleagues in December 1954. During the next two-and-a-half years, McCarthy succumbed to alcoholism and in 1957 died, at 48, in office.


Alexander Forest was hired by General Eisenhower to work on the Nuremberg trials and then on the McCarthy Hearings. His skill with both German and Russian as well as English made him valuable in dealing with international issues. His birth name was Goldberg and he took the surname Forest when he came to the United States, probably before the outbreak of war in 1939.

His sister Anya Goldberg (Anna Ormont after she emigrated to Canada) remained in Holland and was sheltered by Bob Boissevain and his family along with her parents. The Boissevains were given a Yad Vashem award after the war; the father of the family died in concentration camp but his guests all survived. The wartime story is told here.

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