Atomic Radio Joseph McCarthy Old Time Radio Science Fiction WWII

Exploring the Red Scare with Old Time Radio Science Fiction

In many ways the Cold War was a period that Americans can be extremely proud of. Her scientists and servicemen made progress and sacrifices that boggle the mind.

But not everything from the period is a source of pride for America. One great challenge to American values was the specter of McCarthyism. The term refers not the activities of Senator McCarthy and the related House Un-American Activities Committee, but to any unfounded accusation of disloyalty, subversion or treason.

There were in fact enemies of the State active in the US during this period; the Red Scare was not without basis. The tragedy of McCarthyism is that its practitioners often acted without out proper evidence, often in a manner contrary to the precepts set forth in the Constitution.

One great fear of the Anti-Communist movement was the insidious manner in which the enemy operated. This fear is reflected in “Conqueror’s Isle”, by Nelson Bond, broadcast 1/11/1953 on Suspense. A Bomber pilot over the Pacific is forced down on a deserted island. The island is inhabited by a human-appearing race far advanced of our own. And they are ready to take over the Earth. What is doubly frightening is that the pilot learns that they have already begun, infiltrating our government and social institutions.

Available in the Atomic Radio CollectionRobert Heinlein’s classic tale “The Roads Must Roll” is presented on X Minus One on Jan 4, 1956. The tale is a fable concerning a future transportation system based on the rolling sidewalks in airports. The Rolling Roadways carry so much traffic that there operation has important strategic and economic value. The engineers that maintain the Rolling Roads begin to feel that they deserve greater power, for without them the roads stop. This tale is reflected in the rise of Organized Labor, especially Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters.

Atomic Radio Cold War I Was A Communist For the FBI Joseph McCarthy Old Time Radio

Atomic Radio

The last years of the Golden Age of Radio were also the beginning years of the Cold War. Thanks to the improved broadcast technology developed during WWII and the growing sophistication of writers and producers, some of Radio’s best programming was developed during this time. Although a time of great prosperity in America, fears of Soviet atomic attack pervaded the culture. Were these two factors meet is a world we will call Atomic Radio. Fears of The Bomb were and are very real. Early in the Atomic Age the average American was still coming to grips with this fear, and Radio was helpfully in both relieving and intensifying the paranoia.

The Fifth Horseman was a short series of dramatized documentaries that began in the days immediately after the first post-war atomic tests at Bikini Atoll. The program did discuss some of the hopeful aspects of Atomic Power and Nuclear Medicine, but most of the program detailed the horrors of The Bomb and Atomic Combat. This is both prophetic and paranoid, as the series aired three years before the first Soviet Atomic tests.

Post war competition with the Soviets generated a Red Scare in the middle of the 20th century. This Scare is most fervently illustrated by the excesses of Sen. Joe McCarthy as well as the House Un-American Activities Committee. One of the many who would testify before the HUAC was Matt Cvetic, who spent nine years as an FBI informant buried deep in the hierarchy of the Communist Party of the United States. Cvetic’s story was dramatized in I Was a Communist for the F.B.I., played on the radio by Dana Andrews. A fine example of the Radio Noir sub-genre, the show always included Andrew’s tagline: “I walk alone.”