Chapter 1:
Beginning 20th c.
Chapter 2:
Progressives
Chapter 3:
World War I
Chapter 4:
1920s
Chapter 5:
Great Depression
Chapter 6:
FDR Era
Chapter 7:
World War II
Chapter 8:
Cold War
Chapter 9:
Vietnam War
Chapter 10:
1960s and 1970s
Chapter 11:
1980s and 1990s
Chapter 12:
2000s and Today

Chapter 8:
The Cold War

Primary Author: Anna Santiago
The primary author is the individual who drafted the first version of this section; a section that could have been modified since it was originally published.

The Cold War was a time of much change and conflict in the world. Although it is known as a tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, the nations that were affected by this "war" were not limited to these two. Some historians may argue about the exact dates of the war, but it can generally be agreed upon that The Cold War lasted from approximately 1945 until 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union ("What Was the Cold War?") The reasons for this time of anxiety, which lasted so many years, can be traced back to issues during WWII and the aftermath. Problems facing Europe seemed to escalate, resulting in the state of tension that would become known as the Cold War.

Several different events can be related to causing the Cold War, with the results of World War II being major contributors. During WWII, the relations between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. were declining, with a few factors affecting this (Clare, "Causes of the Cold War") Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, hesitated for a long period of time before joining the United Nations. He was also becoming angry with America and Great Britain for delaying "D-Day," as he believed that it was some sort of plot that allowed Germany to weaken his nation. Also, there were conflicting views on how much power Stalin would have over the eastern European countries. Despite these issues, the Allies remained together until the end of WWII. By this point in time, though, the cracks in the alliance were becoming ever more substantial, and eventually the Allies took sides against each other.

What led to the division of the Allies? A few things, including conflicting ideologies, aims, certain events, and discontent with the course of history are the reasons for this schism. Conflicting aims and ideologies were significant reasons for the war. The U.S. and other allies were capitalist democracies, and they valued freedom. On the other hand, the Soviet Union was Communist nation that was under the rule of a dictator and put more emphasis on the state's needs over the needs of individuals ("Ideological Foundations of the Cold War") Also, Stalin wanted huge reparations from Germany and a protection from surrounding states to prevent the U.S.S.R from being invaded again. The other allies did not share this aim. The United States wanted to protect democracy and assist Germany with recovering from the war. They were concerned the Soviet Union was forcefully taking control over large areas of eastern Europe.

Series of events were also linked to the start of the Cold War. The Yalta Conference was a meeting held between Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in Yalta, present-day Crimea in 1945. During the conference, the Declaration on Liberated Europe was agreed upon, which stated the right of the people to choose their own form of government (DeHart, "Declaration on Liberated Europe") The leaders agreed to divide Germany up into four zones, which were under the control of the United States, France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Berlin, the capitol of Germany, was also divided among the nations. However, two weeks after the document was signed, the Soviet Union pressured the King of Romania into adopting a Communist government. The Soviet Union also attempted to pressure Poland into becoming a Communist state without free elections. In an attempt to fight off the spread of Communism, the U.S. developed a containment policy that became known as the Truman Doctrine in 1947 (Dallek, p. 10) This showed the desire and willingness to aid countries in fighting communism, usually by monetary means. Following this was the Marshall Plan, which had to do with economical rebuilding of European nations affected by the war.

There were several important events that took place during the Cold War. One in particular was the Berlin airlift. Because Soviets tried to undermine the German economy, West Germany was founded in early 1948. France, Great Britain, and the U.S. merged their zones in response. The Soviet response to this event was the cutting off of all road and rail traffic to West Berlin. The three nations supplied West Berlin with food, medicine, and coal via cargo planes until the blockade was lifted on May 12, 1949 ("The Berlin Airlift") The blockade of Berlin convinced the U.S. and their European allies that the Soviet Union was determined to conquer Europe and spread its Communist ideologies. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in April of 1949, and if any nation in the alliance was to be attacked, the others would respond and help. The Soviets formed the Warsaw Pact, which was a military alliance in eastern Europe, in response to the formation of NATO.

After World War II, the U.S. and the Soviet Union entered Korea to disarm the Japanese troops. It was divided along the 38th parallel into North Korea and South Korea. North Korean troops invaded South Korea on June 25 1950 (Stokesbury, p. 36). In 1949, the Soviet Union had run successful atomic bomb tests so the U.S. advantage was nonexistent. After the U.S. joined South Korea, and war ensued, an armistice was reached in 1953, ending the war. Because of the fast development of nuclear bombs, the threat of nuclear warfare loomed over the world. The tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was extremely high. During the 1960's the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction developed, which meant that if Russia attacked the west, the west would make sure that they would strike back.

Eventually, tensions died down. The Berlin Wall came down on November 10, 1989 ("The Fall of the Berlin Wall") By the end of the year, leaders of almost every eastern European nation had been thrown by popular uprisings. Turmoil in the Soviet Union continued. On December 8, 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. The Cold War was finally over, after 45 long years.

Works Consulted

    "The Berlin Airlift." Web. 3 Jun. 2014.

      This site gives an introduction to the Berlin Airlift, as well as activities that teach the Berlin Airlift.

    Clare, John D. "Causes of the Cold War." Web. 3 Jun. 2014.

      Clare covers the different causes of the war, such as ideological reasons and aims.

    Cleveland, Harland. "The Cold War: An Eyewitness Perspective." National archives. 21 October 2006. Web. 1 Jun. 2014.

      This article gave some U.S. context during the Cold War.

    "Containment and the Marshall Plan." U.S. History. Web. 30 May 2014.

      This article explains the concept of containment in the United States.

    Curtis, Glenn. "The Warsaw Pact." Web. 3 Jun. 2014.

      Curtis offers more information on the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War.

    Dallek, Robert. The Lost Peace. HarperCollins Publishers, 2010. Print.

      Dallek's book covered many aspects of the Cold War, notably information of President Truman.

    DeHart, Bruce J. "Declaration on Liberated Europe." ABC CLIO. 2011. Web. 3 Jun. 2014.

      This article goes into detail on who signed the Declaration on Liberated Europe and what it entailed.

    "The End of the Cold War." U.S. History. Web. 1 Jun. 2014.

      The article gives information on the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.

    "The Fall of the Berlin Wall." Web. 3 Jun. 2014.

      This article gives details on the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    "Fall of the Soviet Union." The Cold War Museum. Web. 3 Jun. 2014.

      This article goes into the details of the end of the Cold War.

    "Formation of NATO and Warsaw Pact." History. Web. 31 May 2014.

      This article explains when NATO was formed and how the Warsaw Pact was formed in response.

    Gaddis, John Lewis. "The Cold War: A New History." Penguin Press, 2005. Print.

      This book narrates different topics of the Cold War, including causes, events, and the results.

    Hoffman, David E. "The Dead Hand." DoubleDay Publishing, 2009. Print.

      This book covers the major events of the nuclear arms race.

    "Ideological Foundations of the Cold War." Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Web. 1 Jun. 2014.

      This site explores the beliefs of the two sides of the Cold War.

    "The Korean War." Web. 1 Jun. 2014.

      This site offers an introduction and overview of the Korean War.

    Miller, Roger Gene. To Save a City: The Berlin Airlift, 1948-1949. Texas A&M University Press, 2000. Print.

      This book describes how the U.S. intervened in Germany with the Berlin Airlift.

    "North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 1949." Office of the Historian. Web. 1 Jun. 2014.

      This article gives more information on NATO.

    "Nuclear Arms Race." American Museum of Natural History. Web. 1 Jun. 2014.

      This site talks about the nuclear arms race through a U.S. perspective.

    Stokesbury, James L. "A Short History of the Korean War." New York: Harper Perennial, 1990. Print.

      In Stokesbury's book, he describes the major events of the Korean War.

    "What was the Cold War?" History Learning Site. 2014. Web. 1 Jun. 2014.

      This site gives an overview of the causes of the Cold War.






Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Premier Josef Stalin at the Yalta Conference, February 1945. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Photo #: USA C-543 (Color).


Additional Resources by Anna Santiago

A Divided Berlin
Author: Anna Santiago