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McCarthy Hearings

Army-McCarthy Hearings Televised, 22 April 1954

On this day in 1954 the Army-McCarthy hearings were televised and witnesses began testifying. The purpose of the hearings was to investigate whether Roy Cohn, a member of McCarthy's staff, pressured the Army into giving preferential treatment to G. David Schine, another former staff member who had enlisted in the Army. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy used the hearings to investigate the United States Army, which he charged with being "soft" on communism.


McCarthy Hearings

McCarthy displays a photo supposedly linking Secretary of the Army Robert Stevens (R) & McCarthy aide Private G. David Schine (C) during the Senate Army-McCarthy hearings.

During the early 1950s Senator McCarthy of Wisconsin attained notoriety for his investigations into alleged Communist infiltration into American government, particularly the State Department. Loyalty and conformity became paramount, and the word "McCarthyism" entered the American lexicon. Eventually the senator's attention turned to the armed forces and to the Signal Corps in particular. During World War II Julius Rosenberg had worked for the Signal Corps as an electrical engineer, though he had lost his job in 1945 due to charges that he belonged to the Communist Party. McCarthy's suspicions were aroused when he learned that Secretary of the Army, Robert Stevens, had attempted to influence the investigation at Fort Monmouth, the site of the Army's Signal Corps laboratory.

McCarthy Hearings

General Lawton greets Secretary of the Army Stevens. Senator McCarthy is on General Lawton's right. Chief Signal Officer Back is second from left. McCarthy’s aide Roy Cohn is on the far right.

The most immediate result of these investigations into the Army was their effect on McCarthy himself, for they contributed greatly to his political downfall. Televised proceedings of his subcommittee began in April 1954 and created a national sensation. The senator's virulent attacks on the Army helped to turn public opinion against him.

McCarthy Hearings

In what is undoubtedly the most famous exchange from the hearings the Army's attorney, Joseph Welch, replied to McCarthy's questioning with: "Senator.... You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" In December 1954 the Senate condemned McCarthy, who thereafter retreated from the public spotlight and died in 1957.

McCarthy Hearings

Joseph Welch

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