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1945 to 1952

Page history last edited by Mr. Hengsterman 12 years, 2 months ago

Origins of the Cold War

The Cold War was an ideological conflict between the democratic United States and the communist Soviet Union. During the cold war both sides didn’t shoot at each other due the destructiveness of nuclear weapons in an idea known as M.A.D. (mutually assured destruction). Although both sides participated in a number of proxy wars, in which they supported the opposing sides. The Cold War lasted from 1945-1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and was a consideration in all major foreign policy decisions during that time.

George Keenan was an experienced American Diplomat who specialized in Soviet affairs. He issued the long telegram which declared that the only thing the soviets respected was strength. The United States should not try to appease the Soviets. The U.S. should vigorously oppose all Soviet expansion with full economic and military force. This policy, known as containment, became America’s foreign policy for the duration of the cold war (46 years).


After FDR’s death in April of 1945, Harry Truman became president. He was not afraid to make difficult decisions such as dropping the Atomic Bomb. He issued what is known as the Truman Doctrine in 1947. This doctrine proclaimed that America would have to abandon its isolationist past and oppose communism everywhere it threatened to spread. This foreign policy would guide America, for better or worse until 1991.


The first place Truman applied the doctrine was in war torn Europe. Many countries were struggling to survive and began looking to communism as the answer. But, according to Truman, intervening would be a waste of time unless you gave the countries a hand out of poverty. The president’s Secretary of State, George Marshall, came up with an economic package called the Marshall Plan to economically rebuild Europe. At first congress didn’t want to spend the millions that the plan would need to succeed. But fear of communism prompted them to approve the ambitious plan. The Marshall Plan was a tremendous success.


Berlin, Germany’s Capital, was deep in the Soviet Sector. In 1948, the Soviets closed access, thus preventing American, English, and French shipments of supplies. The British and Americans flew in supplies in an effort known as the Berlin Airlift. After nearly a year the Soviets reopened access.

China was also crippled by the war, and it had two sides fighting for control, the communists, under Mao Zedong and the Nationalists under Chang Kai-shek. The United States supported the nationalists, but Chang was brutal to his people and lost the U.S. support. Eventually, China became communist under Mao. The Republican Party blamed the Democrats for the loss, claiming that they were “soft” on communism. This claim would haunt America years later in Vietnam.

The fall of China and Eastern Europe to communism provoked a hysteria known as the Red Scare. It was the second such scare (the first was in 1919, after World War I). A husband and wife named Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of spying for the Soviets and were executed. A drunken senator named Joe McCarthy took advantage of the situation by claiming that commie spies had infiltrated the government. He held hearings that recklessly accused people of being communist, and ruined many people’s lives. This phenomenon became known as McCarthyism.

The focus of containment was on Europe but quickly turned to Asia at the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. Communist North Korea invaded South Korea and was nearly victorious. The United Nations, led by the United States assisted South Korea in fighting off North Korea. This was the first time that black and white soldiers fought together, as Harry Truman had integrated the armed forces in 1948. The Chinese intervened on the side of North Korea and the war on drug on for nearly three years. Eventually an armistice was signed in 1953; it divided the country back to approximately where it began.

When both the Soviets and Americans exploded Hydrogen Bombs, people were terrified of a nuclear war. They dug bomb shelters and school children practiced duck and cover drills. The United States and its allies formed N.A.T.O. (North American Treaty Organization) for protection. The Soviets formed rival Warsaw Pact. Things would remain this way until 1991

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