On 40th Anniversary of Truman’s Death, Remembering His Red Scare ‘Loyalty Program’
While most famous for ending World War II, helping establish the United Nations and launching the Marshall Plan, president Harry S. Truman also put in place the first government-sponsored program to ferret out so-called “communist infiltrators” within the U.S. government.
In March 1947, Truman—who died 40 years ago today—signed an executive order that created the “Federal Employees Loyalty Program,” which was designed to ferret out government employees potentially spying for the USSR or partaking in “un-American activities.” At the helm of this program the president put Hiram Bingham, an American explorer who had discovered the ruins of Machu Picchu and took to his new investigative task in the administration with vigor.
In November 1951, U.S. News & World Report interviewed a seemingly unapologetic Bingham about the loyalty program, whose creation Truman later privately told friends had been a “terrible” mistake. (Despite reviewing employees in nearly every federal department and agency, the program discovered only a few employees believed to have been disloyal.)
Here’s what Bingham had to say to U.S. News at the time: