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The Cold War

RESOURCE: The Cold War


  • Feb 1945
  • Big Three
    • FDR
    • Churchill
    • Stalin
  • Agreement to govern Germany jointly
    • Allied Control Council
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Marshall Plan

  • On June 5, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall
    • proposes a massive aid program to rebuild Europe from the ravages of World War II.
  • Nearly $13 billion in U.S. aid was sent to Europe from 1948 to 1952.
    • The Soviet Union and communist Eastern Europe decline U.S. aid, citing “dollar enslavement.”

Truman Doctrine

  • March 12, 1947
  • Greece and Turkey in danger of falling to communist insurgents
  • Truman requested $400 million from Congress in aid to both countries.
  • Successful effort

Containment Policy

  • George F. Kennan, Senior State Department official, posted to USSR during war.
  • July 1947, article in Foreign Affairs journal, under author “X”
    • War originally a Long Telegram sent back to State Department, then published in Foreign Affairs

Communist Takeover of Czechoslovakia

  • 1948
  • Key members of Czech gov’t die mysteriously
  • Pro-western President forced to resign, new constitution ratified
    • Complete takeover by Czech communists

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Berlin Airlift

  • Blockade of Berlin began on June 24, ’48
  • From June 1948 to May 1949, U.S. and British planes airlift 1.5 million tons of supplies to the residents of West Berlin.
  • After 200,000 flights, the Soviet Union lifts the blockade.

Operation Vittles

  • All of the necessities for the city’s 2.5 million residents — an estimated 4,500 tons of food, coal and other materials each day — had to enter the city by air.
  • On its biggest day, the “Easter parade” of April 16, 1949, the airlift sent 1,398 flights into Berlin — one every minute.
  • Before it was all over, more than 278,000 flights would carry 2.3 million tons of relief supplies

Fall of China

  • In June, Jiang Jieshi defeated by Mao
    • Flee to island of Taiwan
  • Oct 1, Mao proclaims People’s Republic of China (PRC)
  • Two months later, Mao travels to Moscow,
    • negotiates the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance.

Korean War

  • On June 25, North Korean communist forces cross the 38th parallel and invade South Korea.
  • On June 27, Truman orders U.S. forces to assist the South Koreans
  • The U.N. Security Council condemns the invasion and est’d a 15-nation fighting force.
  • Chinese troops enter the conflict by year’s end.
  • Cease fire eventually brings war to close by 1953

Dien Bien Phu

  • After a long siege, Vietnamese communists under Ho Chi Minh defeat French colonial forces at Dien Bien Phu on May 7.
  • In July, the Geneva Accords divide the country at the 17th parallel, creating a North and South Vietnam.
  • The United States assumes the chief responsibility of providing anti-communist aid to South Vietnam.

Massive Retaliation

  • On January 12, 1955 U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles first announces the doctrine of Massive Retaliation.
  • It threatens full-scale nuclear attack on the Soviet Union in response to communist aggression anywhere in the world

Khruschev’s Speech

  • In a speech, February 14, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounces the policies of Stalin.
  • He rejects the Leninist idea of the inevitability of war and calls for a doctrine of “peaceful coexistence” between capitalist and communist systems


  • On October 4, the Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first man-made satellite to orbit the Earth.
  • In 1958, the U.S. creates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the space race is in full gear.

Castro Takes Power

  • January 1, 1959 leftist forces under Fidel Castro overthrow Fulgencio Batista
  • Castro nationalizes the sugar industry and signs trade agreements with the Soviet Union.
  • The next year, Castro seizes U.S. assets on the island.

Bay of Pigs

  • S.-organized invasion force of 1,400 Cuban exiles is defeated by Castro’s government forces on Cuba’s south coast at the Bay of Pigs.
  • Launched from Guatemala in ships and planes provided by the United States, the invaders surrender on April 20 after three days of fighting.
  • Kennedy takes full responsibility for the disaster

Berlin Wall

  • On August 15, communist authorities begin construction on the Berlin Wall to prevent East Germans from fleeing to West Berlin.

Cuban Missile Crisis

  • After Bay of Pigs invasion, the Soviet Union installed nuclear missiles in Cuba.
  • After U-2 flights Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of Cuba on October 22 until the Soviet Union removed its missiles.
  • On October 28, the Soviets agreed to remove the missiles, defusing one of the most dangerous confrontations of the Cold War

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Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

  • North Vietnamese patrol boats fired on the USS Mattox in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 2.
  • On August 7, the U.S. Congress approves the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, granting President Johnson authority to send U.S. troops to South Vietnam.

Tet Offensive

  • Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese Army troops launched attacks across South Vietnam on January 30, the start of the lunar new year Tet.
  • In Saigon, guerrillas battle Marines at the U.S. Embassy.
  • In March, Johnson orders a halt to the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam and offers peace talks.

SALT Talks

  • On November 17, the 1st phase of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks began in Helsinki, Finland.
  • The finished agreement, signed in Moscow on May 26, 1972, placed limits on both submarine-launched and intercontinental nuclear missiles.

Nixon Visits China

  • Nixon becomes the first U.S. president to visit China, meeting with Mao Tse-tung on February 21.
  • The two countries issue a communique recognizing their “essential differences” while making it clear that “normalization of relations” was in all nations’ best interests.
  • The rapprochement changes the balance of power with the Soviets.

Vietnam War Peace Agreement (Paris Accords)

  • January 27, 1973, the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong sign the Paris Peace Treaty, establishing a cease-fire.
  • The United States is allowed to continue providing aid to South Vietnam.
  • Saigon falls in April 1975.

Cambodia 1975 (Killing Fields)

  • Communist Khmer Rouge take power in Cambodia, April 16 1975.
  • Cambodia’s educated and urban population forced into the countryside as part of a state experiment in agrarian communism.
  • Under the regime of Pol Pot, as many as 3 million Cambodians died from 1975 to 1979.

Afghanistan 1979

  • December 25, 100,000 Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan as communist Babrak Karmal seized control of the government.
  • S.-backed Muslim guerrilla fighters waged a costly war against the Soviets for nearly a decade before Soviet troops withdraw in 1988.
  • Afghanistan—the Soviet “Vietnam”

Polish Solidarity Movement 1908

  • On August 14, Lech Walesa led massive strikes at the Lenin shipyards in Gdansk, Poland.
  • The strikes soon spread to other cities and formed the nucleus of the Solidarity
  • The communist government conceded to worker demands on August 31, and recognized their right to form unions and strike

Star Wars 1983

  • March 23, Reagan outlinrd his Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars,” a space-based defensive shield that would use lasers and other advanced technology to destroy attacking missiles far above the Earth’s surface.
  • Soviets accuse the U.S of violating the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty.
  • Soviets forced to spend heavily to match the program causing near economic collapse.

Perestroika 1985

  • On March 11, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union.
  • Gorbachev ushered in an era of reform.
  • perestroika
  • Economic reform- restructuring
  • glasnost
  • means openness, allowed greater free expression and criticism of Soviet policies

Fall of Berlin Wall 1989

  • Gorbachev renounced the Brezhnev Doctrine, which pledged to use Soviet force to protect its interests in Eastern Europe.
  • On September 10, Hungary opened its border with Austria, allowing East Germans to flee to the West.
  • After massive public demonstrations in East Germany and Eastern Europe, the Berlin Wall fell on November 9.

German Reunification 1990

  • At a September 12 meeting in Moscow, the United States, Soviet Union, Great Britain, France and the two Germanys agreed to end Allied occupation rights in Germany.
  • On October 3, East and West Germany united as the Federal Republic of Germany

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