The Cold War
1945 – 1991

“A nervous ambivalence that characterized Postwar American culture in the nuclear age.”

Yalta, February 1945

At Yalta, the Big Three,

USSR @ 100 miles from Berlin

    • Red Army in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia & Czechoslovakia
    • US-British have yet to cross the Rhine River
    • US in heavy fighting with Japan
    • USSR Strong / US Weak position to negotiate
    • Agreed that:


At Yalta they agreed that,

  • Germany would be split into occupation zones
  • Germany would pay USSR heavy reparations
  • Stalin would declare war on Japan after Germany defeated
  • Stalin promised free elections for Poland and Eastern Europe
  • Poland remained “that Pandora’s box of infinite troubles” (Churchill quote)

Potsdam, July 1945

At Potsdam,

  • Long-avoided differences surged to the forefront
  • Truman insisted on free elections in Eastern Europe
  • Stalin refused point blank – “A freely elected govt. in any of these eastern European countries would be anti-Soviet, and that we cannot allow.”
  • The Cold War begins



  • Introspection: The Age of Doubt
  • Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (The G.I. Bill)
  • Western Renaissance:
  • Many feared another depression
  • Europe weak and divided
  • Runaway inflation
  • Black markets
  • The threat of Communism


  • A system of government where the state controls means of production and a single, often authoritarian party holds power.
  • Common ownership of the means of

— production (labor/resources/industry) and,

— subsistence (Agriculture/land)

USSR – Marxist-Leninist version of communism

USA – freedom, liberty, a constitutional govt. chosen from, and by the people

Winston Churchill
and the Iron Curtain speech

The Iron Curtain

Greece and Turkey
A challenge to democracy

Truman Doctrine delivered to a Joint Session of Congress, 3/12/47

The Truman Doctrine:
America’s Cold War policy until ‘91

  • The idea was to stop the international spread of communism
  • Assist anyone under attack by subversives
  • Formally defined by George Kennan
  • Simply put, CONTAINMENT



George Kennan
coined the term, containment

George Kennan

Feb. 16,1904 – March17,2005



Greece & Turkey, March 1947
coming under threat of communism

George C. Marshall

The Marshall Plan

  • Designed by Dean Acheson, Under Sec. State
  • Provide aid to Europe ( to prevent them from turning to USSR for help)
  • We sent everything!
  • Good for American business & manufacturers
  • Established relations with European industries
  • $12.6 billion
  • Initially went to Eastern Euro. countries also

Dean Acheson

American perspective

National Security Act of 1947

  • Department of Defense created
  • National Security Council created
  • Central Intelligence Agency created
  • NSC 4A – launched covert action operations

CIA psychological warfare

A function of the Executive branch only

NSC 10/2 (6/48) directed CIA to conduct covert operations to settle dispute- DoD & State Dept

On the road to crisis

  • April ‘48 – US, Britain, France officially recognize nation of West Germany which included city of West Berlin
  • June 18, 1948 – German currency reform
  • Stalin, in turn creates German Democratic Republic, or East Germany
  • June 24, Stalin cuts off all ground & water transport in and out of West Berlin




The Berlin Blockade
June 1948 – May 1949

  • Truman saw it as a crisis
  • Reinstated the draft to restaff military
  • Truman sends two squadrons of B-29s to Great Britain (B-29s carried nuclear bombs)
  • Pilots trained in Montana, air corridor/runway
  • Airlift commenced 6/26/48 with 2 planes carrying 80 tons of supplies
  • Planes landed at Templehoff ‘round the clock

Planes landed about every 3 minutes for two months straight!

2.5 million tons of goods delivered

Nicknamed “Operation Vittles”

Berlin, not a small city


  • Western Europe under the economic/military umbrella of the USA
  • April – NATO created (Warsaw Pact 1955)
  • May – Stalin concedes, ends Berlin blockade
  • July – Truman starts talks of beefing up DoD
  • August 31, USSR explodes their first nuke
  • October 1, Mao Zedong takes control of China
  • December 1, Chiang Kai-Shek moved to Taiwan, created nationalist government


  • January 31, Truman requests NSC review
  • April 16, NSC-68 presented to Truman

NSC-68 declassified in 1975

NSC-68 called to increase the US arms budget by 350%, from $13.5 billion to $46.5 billion

Rearm West Germany

Peacetime mobilization (bases)

Speed up development of the Hydrogen bomb

June 25, 1950 Korean war begins

November 1, 1952 “Mike”

Operation Crossroads
note the Navy ships surrounding

The Red Scare

  • A general attack “on the freedom of the mind”
  • Thought control and conformity
  • July 4, 1951, only 1 of 112 would sign the Bill of Rights
  • “Reds bred dope, Rock & Roll, and orgies”
  • Feminism was negative, bad moms spread red
  • Abstract expressionism (art) was “degenerate” and “pure communist symbolism”

Senator Joseph McCarthy

The Korean War
“The Forgotten War”

  • Puts the Truman Doctrine into action
  • North led by Sung
  • South led by Rhee
  • North trained by USSR, pulled out 1948
  • South trained by USA, pulled out in 1949
  • Efforts to unify failed (1945-50)
  • Korea is seen as a “proxy” war

May & June 1954
Eisenhower, the CIA and Guatemala

  • Early 1950s – United Fruit and elites convince US that Guatemala is going communist
  • May ‘54 – Ike/CIA support and direct military leaders in Guatemala to overthrow Arbenz.
  • By summer 1955 a new anti-communist govt.
  • Congressional leaders — committee chairmen, feared the “Communist octopus” was using its “tentacles” to control Guatemalan govt.
  • Czek. arms shipped via Poland arrived 5/15/54


  • Guatemala became a CIA training laboratory
  • Resulting governments more repressive
  • Citizens harbor resentment toward USA
  • Civil War, 1960 – 1996
  • Over 200,000 dead, or disappeared
  • In 1999, President Clinton apologized for actions by Ike & CIA

Cold War headaches

  • In the winter of 1958 – 1959 pro-American dictator, Batista is overthrown by Fidel Castro.
  • Ike wasn’t sure how to react until Castro nationalized American business and property and Ike proclaimed, “he is not a friend.”
  • The CIA developed a plan to overthrow Castro but in May 1960, an American U2 spy plane was shot down by the Soviets. Ike had no response until the Soviets published photos.
  • America’s innocence was gone.
  • US headlines read, “Ike spied and lied.”

The Space Race

  • October 4, 1957
  • The USSR successfully launched the first earth orbiting satellite – Sputnik I
  • The USA will succeed in January 1958 with the launch of Explorer
  • Americans fear – if the Soviets can launch into space, how long before there is a missile headed toward us – backyard bomb shelters.

May Day 1960
“Ike spied and lied”

  • Francis Gary Powers
  • U2 – Mission: Fly over Moscow and take pics.
  • Missile clipped his wing, goes down, missing.
  • May 2nd & 3rd – Krushchev on phone to Ike
  • June peace summit is still on?
  • May 4th, Pravda (Newspaper) pics: Plane/Powers
  • Ike is toast; summit cancelled; Cold War chill

The 1960s

  • With the May Day incident, the CIA plans for Castro were put away, but not for long.
  • The election of 1960 not only brought a new President to power, but it gave the CIA a second chance at Castro, and a 3rd, a 4th and…
  • In April 1961 the CIA gives JFK their plan.
  • In Office under 90 days, Kennedy approved it.

Bay of Pigs

  • CIA – Operation Mongoose
  • Overthrow of Fidel Castro (communism)
  • 1200 rebels trained by USA
  • Trained in Guatemala & Louisiana
  • April 17, 1961
  • Land on the beach – no weapons, no CIA intel, no flights, no local uprising.
  • “2506 Brigade” surrounded by 20,000 troops
  • JFK feared starting WW III, no US troops


Some important information on Operation Mongoose remains classified still today. Regardless of what JFK really knew, or thought, the failed attempted overthrow helped turn Fidel Castro closer to the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev specifically, from whom he requested military support. The true test of that “support” was yet to come.

The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall goes up

August 13, 1961 Troops block the streets

August 15, 1961

Wall construction begins


August 13, 1961




The Berlin Wall with the Brandenberg Gate behind



Conrad Schumann defects in the early days


JFK in West Berlin June 1963

Ich bin ein Berliner

The Cuban Missile Crisis

Thirteen days on the edge

October 1962

U2 spy plane photo

936 photos in 6 minutes.

The camera is in the Smithsonian NMAH today.

JFK and Robert Macnamara, October 1962




Soviet IRBM
(Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile)


US U2 spy plane shot down Oct. 27, 1962.
Pilot Rudolf Anderson was killed on day 12 of 13.


What we didn’t know:

  • The Soviets had 41,900 personnel in Cuba which was four (4) times the CIA estimate.
  • Each “tube” on the beach held two missiles.
  • Soviets had nine (9) tactical nukes to be used on US troops if they invaded (& Miami glows).
  • IRBM could reach anywhere in continental US
  • JFK had SAC planes in the air headed to USSR
  • Full Truth


  • If the US promised not to invade Cuba, and removed its nuclear missiles from Turkey, then the Soviets would remove the nukes from Cuba and be escorted back to the USSR.
  • The “Red Line”- a direct line, was established between the White House and the Kremlin. Originally a teletype, today a telephone.
  • The closest we’ve ever been to a nuclear war.
  • The Cold War involved Latin America broadly.



Jupiter missile in Turkey. Outdated by ‘62.

That’s 936 photos in 360 seconds !


LBJ and Vietnam

  • Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ)
  • August 1964
  • Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave the President the power to do whatever was necessary “to protect forces and prevent further aggression.”
  • LBJ “It’s like grandma’s nightshirt, it covers everything”
  • Result: Deeper into the Vietnam conflict

The Brezhnev Doctrine

  • Expounded by Leonid Brezhnev in November 1968 affirming the right of the Soviet Union to intervene in the affairs of Communist countries to strengthen Communism.
  •  Interventions were meant to put an end to liberalization efforts and uprisings that had the potential to compromise Soviet hegemony inside the Eastern Bloc, considered by the Soviets to be an essential defensive and strategic buffer to NATO

The Brezhnev Doctrine

    • Hungary, 1956


    • Prague Spring, 1968


  • Poland

A relaxing of tensions

  • Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty
  • SALT I Leonid Brezhnev and Richard Nixon

1972 – “froze” the number of ICBM’s

(InterContinental Ballistic Missile)

SALT II Brezhnev and Jimmy Carter, 1978

Not approved: Senate felt it gave too much away, and general distrust of USSR

Willy Brandt and Ostpolitik

  • Former Mayor of West Berlin
  • Poland 1970
  • August 2, 1994
  • In his remarks Monday evening, Herzog addressed such skepticism, saying he understands the sentiment but asking both Poles and Germans to seek a new era of reconciliation.
  • Polish President Lech Walesa, who invited Herzog and Yeltsin as an act of healing, said the time had come for Poles to live in friendship with their former enemies and move toward integration in a greater Europe.
  • “We do not give absolution to the murderers in Warsaw, but we do not pass those feelings upon the German nation,” Walesa said. “Blood and hatred are a curse of the 20th Century; may they disappear in the past along with it.”



Eastern Europe’s democratic Movements