Cold War

US Leader

Franklin Roosevelt

1933 - 1945

Harry S. Truman

1945 - 1953

Dwight D. Eisenhower

1953 - 1961

John F. Kennedy

1961 - 1963

Lyndon B. Johnson

1963 - 1969

Richard Nixon

1969 - 1974

Gerald Ford

1974 - 1977

James Carter

1977 - 1981

Ronald Reagan

1981 - 1989

George H. W. Bush

1989 - 1993

Soviet Leader

Joseph Stalin

1922 - 1953

Georgy Malenkov

1953 - 1955

Nikita Khrushchev

1955 - 1964

Leonid Brezhnev

1964 - 1982

Yuri Andropov

1982 - 1984

Konstantin Chernenko

1984 - 1985

Mikhail Gorbachev

1985 - 1991



1933 - 1954

Pat McCarran was a Democratic US Senator from 1933-1954. He was known for being one of the most powerful anticommunists in the Senate. He was significant because of his strong anticommunism beliefs and influence in the Senate.



The House of Un-American Activities Committee was an investigative committee of the US House of Representatives. The committee’s anti-communist investigations are often confused with those of Senator McCarthy. H.U.A.C. investigated the Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss incidents. Showed US interest in stopping of communism.

Arms Race

1945 - 1991

A competition between 2 or parties to have the best armed forces. During the Cold War, there was a nuclear arms race between the US and the Soviets. This led to lots of tension between the countries as they competed to show their power off to the world and each other.

Yalta Conference

February 4, 1945 - February 11, 1945

February 4-11, 1945, the leaders of the U.S. Britain, and Soviet Union met to discuss post-war plans. This sets up initial differences, conflict, and tension between the nations.

Chinese Communist Revolution

1946 - 1952
  • Chinese Civil war from 1946-1952. The Chinese Nationalist Party and the Communist Party of China fought for power in China. The Soviets supported the Communist Party and the US supported the Nationalists. This built tension because both the US and the Soviets wanted their type of government to take power. Eventually the Communist Party won.

Iron Curtain Speech

March 5, 1946

Famous speech given by Winston Churchill at Fulton College in 1946. He discusses the imaginary "iron curtain" dividing Western and Eastern Europe. Capitalism and democracy in the west vs. communism in the east divided Europe.


April 4, 1946

NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The North Atlantic Treaty was signed on April 4, 1946. It starts a military alliance between 28 states across Europe and North America. The alliance system was involved in many conflicts during the Cold War like the Warsaw Pact and Korean War.

Truman Doctrine


Harry S. Truman's 1947 plan to aid Greece and Turkey with economic and military help in order to prevent them from falling to communism. The USSR pushed for communism in these countries, and the U.S. helped them not fall to the Soviets.

Alger Hiss


Alger Hiss was an American lawyer, government official, and lecturer. Hiss was accused of being a Soviet spy in 1948 and convicted of perjury in 1950. This built tension with the Soviets and spies.

Marshall Plan

  • U.S. plan to help European countries fight the spread of communism in 1948. The U.S. gave monetary funds to countries and spread capitalistic ideas to attempt to stop communism from taking over all of Europe.

Berlin Airlift

June 24 1948 - May 12, 1949

One of the first major crisis’s of the Cold War. The Soviets blocked off Western Berlin roadways and railroads in order to prevent East Berlin from getting supplies. In response, the western Allies organized the Berlin Airlift. Over 200,000 flights were made to provide necessary daily supplies to West Berlin.

Soviets Detonation of the Atomic Bomb

August 29, 1949

After the US use of nuclear weapons in WWII, the Soviet Union started their own nuclear weapons program. The first Soviet atomic bomb detonation was on August 29, 1949, code named First Lightning. This was significant because it showed the Soviets were pushing to compete with us in an arms race with nuclear weapon production.

Domino Theory

1950 - 1980

The domino theory was a US government theory during the 1950s-1980s. It was thought that if one region fell to the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow a “domino effect” and fall right after. It was significant because it justified the US need to intervene around the world.

McCarthyism/ Red Scare

1950 - 1956

McCarthyism is the practice of accusing people of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without regard for proper evidence. Its origins are from the US period of the Red Scare. The Red Scare was a period from 1950-1956 of heightened fear of communist influence in the US because of espionage by Soviet agents.

Korean War

June 1950 - July 1953

The Korean War was a war between communistic North Korea and democratic South Korea supported by the UN. Korea had been divided at the 38th parallel as a result of the Big 3 meetings after WWII. It was a direct conflict between the Soviet Union and the United Nations (communism vs. capitalism/democracy). This built a lot of tension between the USSR and U.S and lasted from June 1950- July 1953.

Rosenberg Spy Case


Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were U.S. citizens that were convicted of espionage during a time of war and executed. They supposedly passed information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. This is the only case of espionage in the U.S. where the convicted were executed as a result. This was significant because it showed the Soviets' attempts to steal U.S. knowledge and the execution of the Rosenberg’s was a message to the Soviets not to mess with the U.S.

H Bomb


"H Bomb" is another name for a hydrogen bomb. Hydrogen bombs are thermonuclear weapons that yield extreme explosive power. The development of these weapons was just another way for the U.S. and Soviets to show their power and strength.

Stalin's Death

March 5, 1953

Joseph Stalin died on March 5, 1953. A power struggle for his vacant spot took place, and Nikita Khrushchev eventually won it in 1958. It impacted the USSR greatly.

Guatemalan Coup


The 1954 Guatemalan Coup was a covert CIA operation to overthrow Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. This is significant because it stopped communism in that area and a democratic usurper was installed.

Massive Retaliation

January 2, 1954

This term was term coined by Eisenhower administration Secretary of State John Dulles in a speech on January 2, 1954. It is used to describe the strategy of retaliating to an attack with a force disproportional to the size of the attack. In theory, a nuclear war would be started as a result of an attack from the USSR on the U.S.

Dien Bien Phu

March 13, 1954 - May 7, 1954

The battle of Dien Bien Phu was from March 13- May 7, 1954. It was a confrontation of the first Indochina War. The French Union was defeated by the Viet Minh. This is significant because it influenced negotiations over the future of Indochina at the Geneva Conference.

Vietnam War

November 1, 1955 - April 30, 1975

A military conflict during the Cold War that lasted from November 1, 1955 until April 30, 1975. The war was fought between North and South Vietnam. The North was supported by communist USSR and other allies and the South was supported by democratic US and other anti-communist countries. After 20 years of fighting, North Vietnam won despite US aid to the South. As a result, North Vietnam annexed South Vietnam and communism took power. It was a significant loss for the US and its fight to stop communism.

Khrushchev's Secret Speech

February 25, 1956

Nikita Khrushchev's "On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences" was a report made to Twentieth Party Congress on February 25, 1956 was critical of the reign of Joseph Stalin. The speech was an attempt to draw the Soviet Communist Party closer to Leninism and legitimize his control and power of the Communist Party. The speech was delivered to a private audience, hence "secret" speech. It led to a period of liberalization called Khrushchev's Thaw.

Space Race

1957 - 1975

The Space Race was a competition between the Soviet Union and U.S. space programs and space exploration between 1957 and 1975. The competition was focused on firsts in space exploration, which was symbolic of technological and ideological superiority. Satellite and rocket launchings and landing a man on the moon were all results of the space race.


October 4, 1957

First Earth satellite launched by the Soviets' space program on October 4, 1957. This was significant because it was the start to the "Space Race" between American and the Soviet Union.

U-2 Spy Plane Affair

May 1, 1960

A U.S. U-2 spy plane had been shot down in Soviet airspace on May 1, 1960. The U.S. had been caught spying on the USSR. The Soviet government released photos of the intact plane and surviving pilot Francis Gary Powers. This event caused more tension between Soviet and U.S. governments.

M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction)


A military strategy in which use of weapons of mass destruction by two opposing sides would result in total annihilation of both the attacker and the defender. It was introduced as US policy around 1961.

Bay of Pigs

April 17, 1961 - April 19, 1961

The Bay of Pigs invasion took place on April 17-19, 1961. It was an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba in attempt to overthrow the Cuban government. This caused a lot of tension between communist Cuba and the U.S. and embarrassed the Kennedy Administration.

Fidel Castro

July 1961 - April 2011

Fidel Castro was a communist leader of Cuba from July 1961- April 2011. The U.S. had unsuccessfully attempted to remove him by economic blockade, assassination, and counter revolution. Castro formed an alliance with the Soviets, and allowed them to place nuclear missiles on the island, causing the Cuban Missile Crisis. Castro is significant because it represented the spread of communism worldwide and how close it was in proximity to the U.S.

Berlin Wall

August 13, 1961

Construction of a barrier to cut off West Berlin from East Berlin started on August 13, 1961. It was built in order to keep the people in East Berlin from leaving and to prevent West Berlin from coming in. It showed more conflict and tension between communistic ideas and democratic ideas.

Cuban Missile Crisis

October 16, 1962 - October 28, 1962

Confrontation between the USSR/ Cuba and the United States from October 16-28, 1962. This event is the closest that the Cold War came to an all-out nuclear war. It is also the first instance of mutual assured destruction. As a result of failed U.S. attempts to overthrow the Cuban government, the Soviets placed nuclear missiles on the island. Kennedy agreed to remove all missiles in south Italy and Turkey in return for the Cuban missiles being removed. This was one of the biggest conflicts during the Cold War.


June 20, 1963

A hotline is a communications link where a call is directed to a preselected destination without any additional action by the user. There are hotlines between countries with nuclear weapons like the Moscow-Washington hotline, also known as the "red telephone". This was installed on June 20, 1963 as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis so the leaders of the US and USSR could contact each other immediately in a time of urgency.

Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

August 5, 1963

The treaty was signed by the USSR, UK, and US on August 5, 1963. It was made to slow the arms race and stop excessive release of nuclear fallout in the Earth's atmosphere. It is significant because it banned nuclear weapon testing in the atmosphere, outer space, and under water.

Leonid Brezhnev

1964 - 1982

Leonid Brezhnev was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, ruling over the Soviets from 1964 until 1982. During Brezhnev's rule, the global influence of the Soviet Union grew dramatically, in part because of the expansion of the Soviet military during this time.

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

August 7, 1964

A joint resolution passes on August 7, 1964 as a result of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. It is significant because it gave President Johnson the ability to use conventional military force in Southeast Asia without a declaration of war.

Indonesian Coup

September 1965

In September 1965 the leader of Indonesia for 22 years had been taken out of power. Sukarno had been replaced by Suharto. It was a transition to the “new order” in Indonesia. It was significant because of the spread of communism in Europe.

Six Day War

June 5, 1967 - June 10, 1967

The Six Day War was fought between June 5 and June 10, 1967 by Israel and neighboring Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. It started when Israel launched surprise bomb raids on Egypt, a raid of Jordan controlled West Bank, and aerial artillery attacks over Syria. This resulted from a period of tension between the nations.

U.S.S. Liberty

June 8, 1967

The USS Liberty incident was an attack on a US Navy research ship on June 8, 1967 during the Six Day war. Israeli Air Force jets had bombed the ship. Israeli’s claim that it was an accident and the USS Liberty was thought to be an Egyptian naval ship. This posed questions for the US and raised worldwide tension.



Vietnamization was a policy of Richard Nixon after his election in 1968 during the Vietnam War. It was a plan to train and equip South Vietnam's troops and forces so they can fight North Vietnam as the US reduced its number of troops in Vietnam. This was significant because we were trying to get out of the Vietnam War, but still supporting the South's fight against communism in the North by providing training and supplies.

Prague Spring Rebellion

January 5, 1968

This was a political liberalization in Czechoslovakia beginning on January 5, 1968. Reformist Alexander Dubcek led the rebellion that lasted until August 21 when the Soviet Union and all the members of the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia. Dubcek reformed in order to grant more rights with a democracy and a decentralized economy. The Soviets ended the rebellion and reversed almost all the reforms. This was significant because more countries were starting to fight for independence from communism.

TET Offensive

January 30, 1968

On January 30, 1968, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong launched a military campaign of surprise attacks on South Vietnam and the US and its allies during a time when no attacks were supposed to take place. There was supposed to be a 2 day cease fire agreement for the Tet Lunar New Year celebrations, but North Vietnam broke the agreement.

U.S.S. Scorpion

June 5, 1968

The U.S.S. Scorpion was a US nuclear submarine. The Scorpion was declared lost on June 5, 1968. The USS Scorpion is one of the 2 navy nuclear submarines to be lost. Many different theories of the sinking have been created; one being that the Soviets attacked the submarine. This was another of the many conflicts between the Soviets and United States.

Brezhnev Doctrine

November 13, 1968

A Soviet foreign policy installed by Kovalev on September 26, 1968 in an article and in a speech on November 13, 1968. It stated that if a force is hostile to a developing socialist country, it is not only hostile to that country but to all socialist countries as well. It was used to justify the Prague Spring invasion by the Soviets and used to put an end to democratic liberalization attempts. It built more tension between communism and capitalism.



The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) refers to international treaties between the US and USSR starting in 1969. There were 2 rounds of talks and agreements, SALT I and SALT II. SALT I led to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The US backed out of SALT II because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The SALT agreements involved the issue of nuclear weapons and the reduction of manufacture and use of them.



Détente is a French word for easing of strained relations. The term is used in reference to a period of time where the tensions between the US and USSR were eased beginning in 1971. It is debatable how successful the détente period was in achieving peace between the Soviet Union and United States.

Cambodia and Khmer Rouge

1975 - 1979

The Khmer Rouge was the name given to the communist followers in Cambodia formed in 1968. The party ruled from 1975- 1979 and is most commonly known for the Cambodian genocide. This is significant because it shows the spread of communism through Europe.

Helsinki Accords

July 1975

The Helsinki Accords were the final act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe during July 1975. Thirty-five states signed the declaration in attempt to improve relations between the Communist Bloc and the West.

Afghanistan War

1979 - 1989

The Soviet war in Afghanistan lasted from 1979 until 1989. The Soviets invaded to instill communism in Afghanistan to fight the mujahidin that the US had been supporting. The US supported the insurgents with billions of dollars. It was yet another conflict between capitalism/democracy and communism causing tension between the USSR and US.


1980 - 1990

Perestroika is political reformation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s due to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He restructured the Soviet political and economic system. It is often argued to be the cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This is significant because it leads to the end of the Cold War.



Glasnost was a Soviet policy by Mikhail Gorbachev that called for increased openness and transparency in government institutions and activities in the USSR. Gorbachev often used this word to describe his policies he believed would help reduce the corruption of the Communist Party. This is significant because it eased tension in the Cold War.


August 31, 1980

Solidarity is a Polish trade union federation formed on August 31, 1980. It is significant because it is the first non-communist party in a Warsaw Pact country.

Neutron Bomb


A neutron bomb is a type of thermonuclear weapon designed specifically to release a large portion of its energy as energetic neutron radiation rather than explosive energy. The concept was developed in 1958 by Samuel Cohen. Testing was carried out in 1963. Jimmy Carter started production of the bombs in 1981. No country is known to deploy them. Neutron bombs raised tension in the arms race competition.

Ronald Reagan

1981 - 1989

Ronald Reagan was the 40th US President (1981-1989). During his presidency, Reagan escalated the Cold War. He reversed US policies from the previous détente period. He ordered a buildup of the US Armed Forces and introduced things like the Strategic Defense Initiative. His aggressive, imperialistic foreign policies built up tension with the Soviets in the Cold War.


March 23, 1983

The Strategic Defense Initiative was proposed by Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983. This proposal was to use space based systems to protect the US from attack by nuclear ballistic missiles. This made the countries focus on strategic defense instead of strategic offense.


1985 - 1991

Mikhail Gorbachev was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991. He was the only general secretary in Soviet history that was born during Communist rule. His attempts to reform and his meetings with Ronald Reagan helped contribute to the end of the Cold War, the end of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union supremacy, and led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He has been awarded many peace prizes.

John Walker

May 1985

John Anthony Walker is a US Navy Chief Warrant Officer who had been convicted of spying for the Soviet Union form 1968-1985. He received a lesser sentence for providing information on his espionage activates with former Senior Chief Petty Officer Jerry Whitworth. This was significant because the Soviet Union made significant gains in naval warfare.

INF Treaty

December 1987

The intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty is a December, 1987 agreement between the US and USSR. The treaty eliminated nuclear and conventional launched ballistic and cruise missiles with intermediate range. This was significant because it helped ease tension in the arms race between the US and Soviets.

German Reunification


German Reunification was the process of the German Democratic Republic joining the Federal Republic of Germany and the reuniting of Berlin as a single city in 1990. This was significant because it signified that the end of the Cold War was coming and soon to be over.