The Cold War

Ari Lerner


Potsdam Conference

July 17, 1945 - August 2, 1945

The Potsdam Conference was held in summer of 1945, as a conference for the “big three” to determine what they would do with Germany and Japan after the end of WWII. Churchill, Stalin, and Truman met to discuss post-war measures in Europe, such as partitioning Germany, reparations, and a proclamation calling for unconditional surrender of Japan. They decided to split Germany and Korea in half, as well as request that Japan surrender. They also decided there what Germany would have to pay for starting the war, and the amount of these reparations owed to countries in Europe.

Iron Curtain Speech

March 5, 1946

Considered by many as the start of the Cold War, Winston Churchill brought the reality of the Soviet Union’s actions to the West. His speech changed the nation’s view of the communists in the East, as he revealed Stalin’s preparation for the Cold War, which was being disguised by his seemingly proactive role in ending WWII. He said, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” He was warning the U.S. that there was an “iron curtain” across the European Continent that was the line between Communist and Democratic countries, and that Stalin was actually gaining more Communist support despite publicly acting as though he was working with the U.S. to help rebuild the continent after the devastating damage done by WWII.

Truman Doctrine Announced

March 12, 1947

After WWII, Great Britain had been aiding Greece to resist Communist rebels. When Truman learned that Britain could no longer afford to keep its soldiers in Greece, he gave this speech to attempt to convince the U.S. government to help Greece put down their rebels. He felt that this was important to prevent yet another country from becoming Communist, and that we were obliged to help to prevent the Greek people from losing their freedom. This speech justified many other future involvements in Europe during the Cold War, as before the Truman Doctrine was in existence, there was only the Monroe Doctrine for the government to look to, which advised the U.S. to stay out of foreign affairs and be isolationists.

Marshall Plan is announced

June 5, 1947

Caused by WWII, Europe was devastated, and Marshall feared that they would turn to Communism. To prevent this, he proposed that the U.S. government give money to help rebuild their economies and stabilize their governments. Seventeen nations in Europe received aid from the U.S. government, and saw their gross national product go up 15 to 20 percent. The Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) gave $13 billion in aid to help rebuild both industrial and agricultural sectors of the economy.
Announced by Congress on April 2, 1948

Beginning of the Berlin Airlift

June 24, 1948 - May 12, 1949

At the end of WWII, Berlin is divided into four sections controlled by the U.S., Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. Berlin is located in the Eastern half of Germany, making the Capitalist sections surrounded by Communist East Germany. Stalin created a blockade as to cut off the sectors in the hopes that the Soviet Union would gain control of all of Berlin. However, the U.S. lead by Truman dropped supplies in by plane for eleven months, successfully providing for the citizens. This resulted in Stalin’s end of the blockade.

Yugoslavia under Tito declared itself independent of Russian Control

June 1949 - July 1949

After WWII, Tito came to power, with several ties to the USSR and was one of the few Communist nations to receive recognition from the U.S. He joined six republics and two autonomous regions to create Yugoslavia. However, in 1948, he made a surprising break away from the USSR, claiming that he wanted to create his own form of Communism, different from the rest of Eastern Europe. He had seemingly managed to create an internally politically stable country that was free from foreign influence and was moving towards economic prosperity.

Fall of Chiang Kai-shek’s China to Mao Zedong

October 1, 1949

In 1927, Chiang Kai-shek called for an “anti-Communist purge,” leading Mao and his followers to retreat to Southeast China. In 1934, he led his followers on the Long March, 6,000 mile foot journey north to establish a new base as Chiang had surrounded their previous one. After the end of WWII, civil war broke out between the Communists and Chiang’s Kuomintang party. The Communists won, causing Chiang to flee and Mao to create the People’s Republic of China.

Beginning of the Korean War

June 25, 1950

After WWII, Korea, which was previously occupied by Japan, was split into North and South, the Soviets in the North, and the U.S. in the South. Stalin used his form of Communism for his Northern Korea, while the U.S. supported a Korean president in the South. After years of tension, the North, without warning, invaded the South, and began to advance very rapidly. The UN approved to help the U.S. in South Korea, sending aid from many countries including Great Britain, and were able to begin to push Stalin’s troops back.

The Eisenhower Doctrine is announced

January 5, 1957

Recognizing possible war in the Middle East, Eisenhower asked Congress to grant him permission to begin programs to cooperate with some of the “friendly nations” to prevent the spread of Communism in these nations as a result of their weakness or loss of trust in their current governments. He also requested that US troops help secure the independence of these nations from territorial invasions by Communists. He believed that if they did not take these measures, “power-hungry Communists” would interfere, and could possibly lead to WWIII. Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Doctrine, and it was used first in Lebanon by request of their president for aid after a civil strife.

Fall of Batista’s Cuba to Fidel Castro

January 1, 1959

The U.S. had supported Batista’s regime since it came into power. However, Fidel Castro’s power began to grow as a result of the increasing corruption within Batista’s government. This corruption made U.S. policy makers begin to remove their support from Batista and look for an alternative to the two leaders struggling for power. However, these efforts failed, and Batista and some supporters fled Cuba, allowing Castro to gain power in government and Cuban-American relations to end completely.

Bay of Pigs incident

April 17, 1961

The CIA wanted to invade Cuba to overthrow Castro. When President Kennedy came into office, he quickly found out that Castro had began relations with the Soviet Union, and that he was working against the U.S. Kennedy gave his consent to the CIA to invade. However, when the team arrived in the Bay of Pigs, things went horribly wrong. They were defeated in less than two days by Cuban forces, and the invasion was a failure.

The Construction of the Berlin Wall

August 15, 1961

The Berlin Wall was created by East Berlin to divide West and East Berlin during the Cold War. The wall acted as a symbol of Communist Oppression and the Cold War, as it was a literal iron curtain dividing the city and essentially Europe. The wall stood for 28 years, and extended 28 miles through and 75 miles around West Berlin, and was 15 feet high. While it was up, many people who disliked life under Communism attempted to escape via the Berlin Wall, but most were captured or killed by East Germany’s soldiers who were heavily guarding the wall.

Cuban Missile Crisis

October 16, 1962 - October 28, 1962

After learning that the Soviets had installed missiles in Cuba, which is located 90 miles off of the U.S. President Kennedy said that if the missiles were not removed, they would be perceived as a threat to national security and he would create a naval blockade and would be prepared to use military force if necessary. This was the closest in history that there was a chance of nuclear war. After this 13-day conflict, crisis was adverted when the US agreed to not invade Cuba and remove weapons from Turkey if they removed the missiles from Cuba.

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

August 7, 1964

The resolution gave congressional approval for the expansion of the Vietnam War. Military planners had created plans for a series of attacks on the North, but President Johnson did not go though with these planned attacks, fearing public opinion. However, he was criticized for this decision later, as rebel forces had taken over most of South Vietnam by summer. Johnson and his administration were criticized of not handling the war aggressively and preventing the rebel expansion.