Although in competition with Senator Joe McCarthy, the HUAC was actually older. It was formed in 1945, and had been preceded by several similar committees in earlier decades. Author Michael Savage writes that
it was an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives charged with uncovering subversive activity in the United States. It looked into the activities and associations of, particularly, those in the government and the entertainment industry, especially in Hollywood, who were suspected of being communists.
At this time in history, 'communism' was more than merely an interesting political theory. It was an organization which owed allegiance to Joseph Stalin, whose aim was to ensure the end of freedom among the nations of the world, and placed Soviet soldiers on every continent to oppress people everywhere. Insane because he thought world domination possible, and ruthless because he calmly planned and carried out the deaths of millions, Stalin had followers in America. This is what it meant to be a communist, a member of the Communist Party, in the 1940's and 1950's.
HUAC rooted out Soviet operative Alger Hiss, who was convicted of perjury on January 21, 1950, and it revealed the extent of communist infiltration of the film industry, ultimately resulting in prison terms for the so-called "Hollywood Ten," people found guilty of contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about their communist affiliations. In addition, many other Hollywood communists were blacklisted and refused employment in the film industry.
These communists were not 'freethinkers' who wanted to exercise their freedoms of thought and speech. They were organized operatives and agents of a foreign government whose stated purpose was the dismantling of the United States and its government.
HUAC served America and protected it from what was then the most serious threat to the national security of the United States: the spread of Soviet Communism.
One need only remember that the Soviet Union had thousands of atomic warhead, mounted on missiles, and aimed at major American cities. This was what it meant to be a communist.
The evidence of history, particularly since the Venona Papers were released after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's, tells
us that things were even worse than the HUAC feared. The number of paid Soviet spies in the government and in the news media was more than the HUAC had guessed or suspected.
The Venona Papers were a collection of transcriptions of encoded radio messages by Soviet KGB agents in the United States to their superiors in Moscow between the years 1943 and 1948. They reveal that by the time World War II had ended, the United States government had been infiltrated at every level by Soviet agents who influenced policy and recruited others as Soviet spies. The Venona Papers revealed that HUAC's pursuit of communists was a justified attempt to identify and weed out traitors to America who had infiltrated our government and our entertainment industry.
It is breathtaking to realize that the U.S. government and the American news media were saturated by foreign spies whose mission was to undermine and destroy our society. It is a tribute to the strength of our national character that we survived such an attack