The Red Scare in the United States was an irrational frenzy during the Cold War era. In fact, this scare in the ’40s and ’50s is actually coined as the “Second Red Scare” with the "First Red Scare" taking place several decades before, following the Bolshevik Russian Revolution in 1917. Even in 1917, there was “a nationwide anti-radical hysteria provoked by a mounting fear and anxiety that a Bolshevik revolution in America was imminent- a revolution that would change Church, home, marriage, civility, and the American way of life”.
The fear of communism overtaking American society and culture was prevalent since 1917 but was further bolstered and reinvigorated by Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy stirred the already present fear of communism by claiming that the nation had already been infiltrated with Soviet spies and that he alone was America’s Salvation. Brazen with this campaign to end the Soviet threat, McCarthy made dozens of baseless claims and wrote hit pieces against his colleagues in Public office.
On one occasion, he claimed that 205 workers in the US State Department also were carded members of the communist party. On February 20, 1950, McCarthy addressed the Senate directly and made further unsubstantiated claims citing 81 cases of suspected communism, calling for a full Senate investigation based on flimsy evidence.
In televised hearings, McCarthy would interrogate official after official, including many decorated war heroes. This witch hunt did lead to the unveiling of several spies who had penetrated the American Government, but the vast majority of those accused were innocent victims.
Hysterics like the Red Scare did not materialize out of thin air. Unfortunately, the seed had been planted decades before but was nurtured to thrive once again by individuals like McCarthy, seeking political gain. However, these hysterics don't prove that an actual war broke out between the United States and the Soviet Union.