The Cold War: an Ideological Conflict

During what was the most destructive war in all of history, World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union joined forces to fight against the Axis powers. However the relationship between the two was always edgy. In February 1945 the Yalta conference was held. It was the second wartime meeting which the British Prime minister, Winston Churchill, the Soviet Premier, Joseph Stalin, and the U.S president, Franklin D Roosevelt attended. The end result of this conference left the Soviet Union dissatisfied so they decided to build a wall in East Berlin which separated the communist, East Germany and the democratic, West Germany. The wall led to one of the first international crisis of the Cold War, The Berlin Blockade. This was a mighty attempt by the Soviet Union in 1948 to limit the ability of Great Britain, France, and the United States to travel to the sectors of Berlin. Then in spring 1949, the United States and the allies of Berlin decided to supply their sectors via air support, this was called the Berlin Airlift. This act almost sent the United States along with the allies into World War III. These philosophical differences also included Winston Churchill’s iron curtain speech where he said iron curtain has descended, across Europe. When he said this he was referring to the border that separated Europe into two political areas.

This expression symbolized the way that Soviet Union had blocked it’s territories from any sort of contact with the West. These were the events that led us into a 50 year non military struggle between the United States of America and the Soviet UnionOn January 1, 1959 a Cuban nationalist by the name of Fidel Castro, drove his guerilla army into Havana, the capital of Cuba. Him and his guerrilla dethroned General Fulgencio Batista who was the Cuban president at the time. He ruled for two two years while the State Department and the CIA aimed to push Castro out of power. Eventually, in April 1961, the CIA organized a definitive strike made up of Cubans that had been forced to flee from their homes by Fidel Castro. The invaders mainly targeted the beach at Playa Giron, which was a village with a small airstrip at the mouth of the Bay of Pigs. Castro had expected an invasion to occur but was not sure where in the island, so he ordered for fortified concrete trenches to be dug up in the key points of the island. The American plan was to sneak ashore without a challenge and secure the area. From there they were planning to take over the airfield and fly in a government-in-exile. This was a government that was temporarily stationed at a foreign land by exiles that wanted to establish that government in their own country after liberation.

Unfortunately when a combat diver lit a beacon to show the Americans where to land it alerted the Cuban Militia. The exiles had enough air support but the US President, John F. Kennedy, made sure to keep the involvement of the US a secret so he turned away from the invading force. During this Fidel Castro took initiative in the operation and within three days the battle came to end. This humiliating defeat pushed Cuba into the hands of the Soviet Union in may 1961. The United states responded to this by cutting the importation of Cuban sugar. Throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, the leaders of the Soviet Union and U.S engaged in a an overly strained 13 day military and political standoff. The standoff was about the installation of nuclear armed Soviet missiles in Cuba. On October 22, 1962, John F Kennedy made it known to all America about the presence of the missiles which justified his naval blockade around Cuba. He also made it clear that the U.S was prepared to use its military force at any time necessary if felt threatened. Hearing this news on television, many Americans feared that the world was close to a nuclear war breakout. Nonetheless, disaster was avoided when the U.S agreed with Nikita Khrushchev’s, Soviet leader, to not invade Cuba in exchange for them to remove the Cuban missiles. Fidel Castro placed himself with the Soviet Union and grew dependent on the Soviet’s for economic and military aid. Throughout all this time the U.S. and Soviets were still involved in an ongoing series of political and economic confrontations.

This would continue the endless propaganda between countries, the Cold WarAfter world war II (1939-1945), the communist Soviet Union and democratic United States became tied in a series of economical and political confrontation which was known as the Cold War. By the 1950s communism was becoming more known and popular. With the spread of communism throughout Eastern Europe, China, and Korea. It scared Americans because communism was an ideology that the U.S. was unfamiliar with. They were worried that communism would reach their country if it continued to progress. As the war continued between the United states and the Soviet Union in the late 1940s and early 1950s, frenzy over the threats by the American communists became known as the Red Scare. The Red Scare was the rounding up and the deportation that took place against hundreds of immigrants that had wide ranged political views. This scare was created by the fear of debasement by the communists. The communists were called reds because of their loyalty to the red Soviet Flag. With the Soviet Union becoming a world superpower with their nuclear bombs, people became scared of anyone siding with them. They didn’t want any private information leaked from the United States. The Red Scare promoted actions on the U.S government and society that affected them greatly to the point where they had to test federal employees. The tests determined whether they were loyal to the government, U.S. senator Joseph R. Mccarthy, and the House Un-American-Activities Committee (HUAC).

The house of Un-American Activities committee was a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives that investigated claims of communist activity in the early stages of the Cold War. The committee was established in 1938 and were known to call citizens to testify in high profile hearings before congress. Through the highs of doubtful tone during the Cold War, Americans started to believe that their government was full of spies and traitors. For many of these Americans the most recognizable person of the Red Scare was Joseph P. McCarthy who was republican senator of Wisconsin. He spent five years trying to uncover communists and other left-wingers in the U.S government. In February 1950, McCarthy showed up at the Ohio County Women’s Republican Club in West Virginia. He gave a speech that pushed him into the spotlight. During his speech he raised a paper that he said had the names of 205 known members of the Communist Party who were working and shaping policy in the State Department. A month later a subcommittee pursued an investigation and found no real information that there was any troublesome activity. In 1953, McCarthy came to his second term where he became in charge of the Committee on Government Operations. This helped him launch an extensive investigation on alleged communist infiltration of the federal government. McCarthy interrogated many people and many of these people believed that it was a violation of their civil rights.

McCarthy never found actual proof of communist infiltration but because of his actions more than 2,000 government employees had lost their jobs. McCarthys undoubtedly accusations and threats were so frightening that very few people ever tried to stand up to him. When McCarthy decided to attack the army in 1954 he finally was criticized and attacked by the U.S. Senate. HUAC’s intimidating tactics played a tremendous role during the anti communist hysteria of the 1950s. In 1969 the committee was renamed the Committee of Internal Security.At the start of the 1950s space race became another difference that the United States and the communist Soviet Union developed. The space race was a dramatic competition that each side took as an opportunity to prove to the other that they were more technologically advanced. On October 4, 1957, a Soviet R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile launched, the world’s first satellite which was also the first man made object that was sent into earth’s orbit. This missile was named Sputnik which was Russian for traveler.

Sputnik reaching earth’s orbit came to a surprise to many Americans and not a good one. To Americans, space was the next border they were ready to explore and it was very important that they did not lose ground to the Soviets. In 1958, as a response, the U.S launched their own satellite called, Explorer I. It was designed by the U.S. Army under rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. That exact year the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) were created to center their main focus on space exploration. The 34th president of the United States, Eisenhower also created national security space programs that worked simultaneously with the program, NASA. One program lead by the U.S Air force, was committed on utilizing their military potential in space. The other program was led by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Reconnaissance Office, and the Air Force. This program was made to use orbiting satellites put in earth’s orbit by the United States to secretly gather information on the Soviet Union and its allies. Again, as the competition started to heat up, the Soviet Union space program decided to take another leap into the space race. In 1959, they launched Luna 2 which was the first probe to hit the moon. Then two years later they sent the first person to orbit earth in the capsule-like spacecraft, Vostok 1. Then in efforts for the United States to fire back they made a smaller cone shaped capsule and loaded it with chimpanzees. They sent this spacecraft in March 1961 before the Soviets could with Gagarin’s launch.

In 1962, with the test of the chimpanzees came the first American man to orbit the moon, John Glenn. This became an equal rivalry between the two countries but later that May President John F Kennedy had daring things to say. He declared that the United States would land a breathing man on the moon before the decade reached its end. In order to do so NASA’s budget increases almost 500 percent, and the lunar landing programed reach an all time high of 34,000 NASA employees. A minor setback did take place in 1967, when three astronauts were killed in the Apollo spacecraft because of it catching fire. In the meantime the Soviet Union’s lunar landing program became hesitant due to internal debates. This led to the death of Sergey Korolyov who was the chief engineer of the the Soviet space program. On July 20 1969 U.S. astronauts Edwin Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong took off on Apollo 11. For the first time ever a spacecraft had successfully landed onto the moon and Neil Armstrong became the first living man to walk on the moon. His famous quote till this day was one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. By landing on the moon the United States adequately won the space race that primarily began with the launch of Sputnik in 1957.

The soviets had four failed attempts to launch their lunar landing craft between 1969 and 1972 which also included the explosion of the launch-pad in 1969. The Soviets were seen as the communist system that relentlessly tried to surpass the United States of America and prove their superiorityThe Vietnam war was a very long and costly war that lasted for 18 years. The war resulted in more than 3 million casualties which included over 58,000 Americans and more than half of the Vietnamese civilians. The war was fought between communist Vietnam and the government of Southern Vietnam. Since the North was supported by communist countries the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China were also behind it. The South was supported by anti-communist countries, primarily the United States. The U.S involvement in the Vietnam War began in 1954. Many people believed that the U.S. involvement in Vietnam war was all for nothing and a waist of young men’s life. The U.S. government thought otherwise justifying their involvement in the war with what they called the domino theory. This was a Cold War Policy stating that if there was a Communist government present in a country, the neighboring countries would soon be lead by communist takeover, just like a domino effect. This frightened the government and made them take action and get themselves involved in the Vietnam war.

In September 1945, Ch­Minh’s declared independence from France. His communist forces took over the North which caused conflict between the northern and southern armies. This lead up to the battle at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954 and resulted in the victory of the Northern VietMinh forces. Following this, a treaty was signed in July 1954 at a Geneva conference that split Vietnam along the latitude that was known as the 17th Parallel (17 degrees north latitude). Ho controlled the North and Bao in the south. With the Cold War quickly escalating the United States formed their policies against any allies of the Soviet Union. In 1955 the President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower sided with a politician from the south named Diem. Diem’s security forces were trained and given equipment from the American Military to put an end on Viet Minh supporters in the south who were called Viet Cong (Vietnamese communists). They made arrests totaling up to 100,000 people who were brutally persecuted and killed. By 1957 Viet Cong and other opponents of Diem started to take action against his regime. They targeted by attacking government officials and in 1959 started firefights with the South Vietnamese Army. In 1961 a team was sent by the President John F Kennedy to report on the conditions in South Vietnam. These people were the deciding factor on whether or not the American Army were in need of a build up, and also for economic and technical aid. This was to help Diem challenge the Viet Cong threat.

During the war the U.S. used two tactics called Operation Rolling Thunder and Tet Offensive . Operation rolling thunder was codename for the American bobbing campaign that the U.S. used against North Vietnam. Tet offensive was a series of attacks against 100 cities in North Vietnam and also outposts in the south. These tactics were thought of by Richard Nixon. The Vietnam War amounted to 120 billion dollars with the cost of many casualties. When the war ended Vietnam was reunited under a common flag. Unfortunately this flag was a communist government and meant that all the lives lost and effort put in by the United States was for no use. The Vietnam War was very influential on the Cold War mainly because of the horrific amount of casualties and the involvement the United States and Soviet Union has in itThe Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army spread across the 38th parallel. This was the boundary in east Asia that divided North Korea and South Korea because the outcome of World War II. This line was chosen by the U.S. military planners at the Potsdam conference in July 1945. By this time American troops had entered on behalf of South Korea.

The war ultimately began because North Korea’s communist army had crossed through the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea. The North gained the support of the Soviet Union and China and things started to become ugly. With North Korea becoming equipped with Soviet tanks that stormed over South Korea, things were looking alarming. The South were supported by the United Nations, and the main supporter became the United States. In order to gain a wider military the U.S. gave all the troops from foreign nations to South Korea in support for them which eventually led to almost 90% of their troops. The Korean War became all about the forces of international communism, with the rest of the communist nations rushing to the aid of North Korea. The Soviet Union were not interested in openly fighting in the Korean War so they sent fire pilots that fought undercover. Surprise attacks became very popular for North Korea and they used the help of their communist supports to their advantage. The Soviet Union and China also spent thousands of dollars on resources to support North Korea.

Eventually the war came down into a battle of attrition. The armistice was signed on July 27, which made a committee of representatives that decided the fortune of prisoners on both side of the war. Either they were given the chance to stay where they were or return to their homelands. A new border was made between North and South Korea and demilitarized the sector between both areas. The Korean War took away millions of Chinese and Koreans lives, along with over 50,000 Americans. The Korean War was just another frustrating war for the Americans. The U.S were used to getting their enemies to surrender but that didn’t happen in this case. The United States still maintained a powerful ranking in being a strong defender of democracy. After the Truman Doctrine was expressed in 1947 by U.S president Truman, the United States started to hold themselves as a defendant of the weak. They were weak themselves and didn’t want any nation to harm them, and also not have any nation fall to communism. The domino theory was very prevalent at this time as well and the U.S feared that the surrounding countries around Korea would fall to communism. This war was a central influence on the Cold War because it showed war between a free-market democracy and international communism.

The end of the Cold War related with the downfall of the Soviet empire in the late 1980’s in East Europe. The Cold War was a conflict of ideologies and not about what war is actually known for such as nuclear weapons, economic balance between the West and East. The end of the Cold War probably didn’t have anything to do with these issues because of the fact that they weren’t resolved until after the Cold War ended. United States remained the superpower nation but their were still hope for a safer and more peaceful world. The Cold War to me was just a war that both the United States and the Soviet Union took as an opportunity to prove superiority as I mentioned before. The space race was a prime example of this because both nations battled to prove to one another who’s space programs and technology were more refine. The domino theory was also an excuse to get involved in the Vietnam and Korean War in my opinion. Killing innocent young men to prove a point that the United States is a powerhouse was a very useless point to prove. On the American side not much changed the day the war was even over. The United States had finally won but many Americans still believed that they could only feel safe and secure if the rest of the world look more like the U.S while the governments obeyed the United States.

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