History course

Cold War

CLIL  (Content and language integrated learning) 

History - English


1)  Definition and historical context

The Cold War is the name given to the relationship that developed primarily between the USA and the USSR after World War Two. The Cold War was to dominate international affairs for decades and many major crises occurred - the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Hungary and the Berlin Wall being just some. For many the growth in weapons of mass destruction was the most worrying issue.

Do note that USSR in 1945 was Russia post-1917 and included all the various countries that now exist individually (Ukraine, Georgia etc) but after the war they were part of this huge country up until the collapse of the Soviet Union (the other name for the USSR).

  Logic would dictate that as the USA and the USSR fought as allies during World War Two, their relationship after the war would be firm and friendly. This never happened and any appearance that these two powers were friendly during the war is illusory.


      Before the war, America had depicted the Soviet Union as almost the devil-incarnate. The Soviet Union had depicted America likewise so their ‘friendship’ during the war was simply the result of having a mutual enemy – Nazi Germany. In fact, one of America’s leading generals, Patton, stated that he felt that the Allied army should unite with what was left of the Wehrmacht in 1945, use the military genius that existed within it (such as the V2’s etc.) and fight the oncoming Soviet Red Army. Churchill himself was furious that Eisenhower, as supreme head of Allied command, had agreed that the Red Army should be allowed to get to Berlin first ahead of the Allied army. His anger was shared by Montgomery, Britain’s senior military figure.

  So the extreme distrust that existed during the war, was certainly present before the end of the war and this was between Allies. The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, was also distrustful of the Americans after Truman only told him of a new terrifying weapon that he was going to use against the Japanese. The first Stalin knew of what this weapon could do was when reports on Hiroshima got back to Moscow.


  So this was the scene after the war ended in 1945. Both sides distrusted the other. One had a vast army in the field (the Soviet Union with its Red Army supremely lead by Zhukov) while the other, the Americans had the most powerful weapon in the world, the A-bomb and the Soviets had no way on knowing how many America had.

  In diplomatic terms there are three types of war:




Cold War : this term is used to describe the relationship between America and the Soviet Union 1945 to 1980. Neither side ever fought the other - the consequences would be too appalling - but they did ‘fight’ for their beliefs using client states who fought for their beliefs on their behalf e.g. South Vietnam was anticommunist and was supplied by America during the war while North Vietnam was pro-Communist and fought the south (and the Americans) using weapons from communist Russia or communist China. In Afghanistan, the Americans supplied the rebel Afghans after the Soviet Union invaded in 1979 while they never physically involved themselves thus avoiding a direct clash with the Soviet Union.


Warm War : this is where talks are still going on and there would always be a chance of a peaceful outcome but armies, navies etc. are being fully mobilized and war plans are being put into operation ready for the command to fight.

Hot War : this is actual warfare. All talks have failed and the armies are fighting.

The one time this process nearly broke down was the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Causes of the Cold War in 1945

       American fear of communist attacks

       Truman’s dislike of Stalin

       Russia’s fear of the American's atomic bomb 

       Russia’s dislike of capitalism

       Russia’s actions in the Soviet zone of Germany

       America’s refusal to share nuclear secrets

       Russia’s expansion west into Eastern Europe,     broken election promises

       Russia’s fear of American attack

       Russia’s need for a secure western border

       Russia’s aim of spreading world communism

      This feeling of suspicion lead to mutual distrust and this did a great deal to deepen the Cold War


      Cold War chronology


  • 1945 : ‘A’-Bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. USA ahead in the arms race.

      1947 : Marshall Aid to the west of Europe. Stalin of USSR refused it for Eastern Europe.

      1948 : start of the Berlin Blockade  - ended in 1949

      1949 : NATO established; USSR exploded her first ‘A’-bomb; China becomes communist

      1950 : Korean War started.

      1952 : USA exploded her first hydrogen bomb.

      1953 : Korean War ended. USSR exploded her first hydrogen bomb. Stalin died.

      1955 : Warsaw Pact created. ‘Peaceful coexistence’ called for.

      1956 : Hungary revolts against USSR.  Suez Crisis.

      1957 : Sputnik launched.

      1959 : Cuba becomes a communist state.

      1961 : Military aid sent to Vietnam by USA for the first time. Berlin Wall built.

      1962 : Cuban Missile Crisis

      1963 : Huge increase of American aid to Vietnam.

      1965 : USA openly involved in Vietnam.

      1967 : Six-Day War in Middle East.

      1968 : USSR invades Czechoslovakia.

      1973 : Yom Kippur War.

      1979 : USSR invaded Afghanistan.

      1986 : Meeting in Iceland between USSR (Gorbachev) and USA (Reagan).

      1987 : INF Treaty signed.


2)  Yalta Conference

Yalta Conference,  (Feb. 4–11, 1945), major World War II conference of the three chief Allied leaders, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, and Premier Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, which met at Yalta in the Crimea to plan the final defeat and occupation of Nazi Germany.

It had already been decided that Germany would be divided  into occupied zones administered by U.S., British, French, and Soviet forces. The conferees accepted the principle that the Allies had no duty toward the Germans except to provide minimum subsistence, declared that the German military industry would be abolished or confiscated, and agreed that major war criminals would be tried before an international court, which subsequently presided at Nürnberg. The determination of reparations was assigned to a commission.

How to deal with the defeated or liberated countries of eastern Europe was the main problem discussed at the conference. The agreements reached, which were accepted by Stalin, called for “interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population…and the earliest possible establishment through free elections of governments responsive to the will of the people.” Britain and the United States supported a Polish government-in-exile in London, while the Soviets supported a communist-dominated Polish committee of national liberation in Lublin. Neither the Western Allies nor the Soviet Union would change its allegience, so they could only agree that the Lublin committee would be broadened to include representatives of other Polish political groups, upon which the Allies would recognize it as a provisional government of national unity that would hold free elections to choose a successor government. Poland’s future frontiers were also discussed but not decided.

Regarding the Far East, a secret protocol stipulated that, in return for the Soviet Union’s entering the war against Japan within “two or three months” after Germany’s surrender, the U.S.S.R. would regain the territory lost to Japan in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05, and the status quo in pro-Soviet Outer Mongolia would be maintained. Stalin agreed to sign a pact of alliance and friendship with China.

The United Nations organization charter had already been drafted, and the conferees worked out a compromise formula for voting in the Security Council. The Soviets withdrew their claim that all 16 Soviet republics should have membership in the General Assembly.

After the agreements reached at Yalta were made public in 1946, they were harshly criticized in the United States. This was because, as events turned out, Stalin failed to keep his promise that free elections would be held in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Instead, communist governments were established in all those countries, non communist political parties were suppressed, and genuinely democratic elections were never held. At the time of the Yalta Conference, both Roosevelt and Churchill had trusted Stalin and believed that he would keep his word. Neither leader had suspected that Stalin intended that all the Popular Front governments in Europe would be taken over by communists. Roosevelt and Churchill were further inclined to assent to the Yalta agreements because they assumed, mistakenly as it turned out, that Soviet assistance would be sorely needed to defeat the Japanese in the Pacific and Manchuria. In any case, the Soviet Union was the military occupier of eastern Europe at the war’s end, and so there was little the Western democracies could do to enforce the promises made by Stalin at Yalta. The formulation by American delegation member James F. Byrnes, soon to be Secretary of State (1945–47), was apt: “It was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do.”



3)  The Iron curtain

W. Churchill’s  speech

"The Sinews of Peace" by Winston Churchill

I am glad to come to Westminster College this afternoon, and am complimented that you should give me a degree. The name "Westminster" is somehow familiar to me. I seem to have heard of it before. Indeed, it was at Westminster that I received a very large part of my education in politics, dialectic, rhetoric, and one or two other things. In fact we have both been educated at the same, or similar, or, at any rate, kindred establishments.

It is also an honor, perhaps almost unique, for a private visitor to be introduced to an academic audience by the President of the United States. Amid his heavy burdens, duties, and responsibilities - unsought but not recoiled from - the President has travelled a thousand miles to dignify and magnify our meeting here to-day and to give me an opportunity of addressing this kindred nation, as well as my own countrymen across the ocean, and perhaps some other countries too. The President has told you that it is his wish, as I am sure it is yours, that I should have full liberty to give my true and faithful counsel in these anxious and baffling times. I shall certainly avail myself of this freedom, and feel the more right to do so because any private ambitions I may have cherished in my younger days have been satisfied beyond my wildest dreams. Let me, however, make it clear that I have no official mission or status of any kind, and that I speak only for myself. There is nothing here but what you see.

I can therefore allow my mind, with the experience of a lifetime, to play over the problems which beset us on the morrow of our absolute victory in arms, and to try to make sure with what strength I have that what has been gained with so much sacrifice and suffering shall be preserved for the future glory and safety of mankind.

The United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power. It is a solemn moment for the American Democracy. For with primacy in power is also joined an awe-inspiring accountability to the future. If you look around you, you must feel not only the sense of duty done but also you must feel anxiety lest you fall below the level of achievement. Opportunity is here now, clear and shining for both our countries. To reject it or ignore it or fritter it away will bring upon us all the long reproaches of the after-time. It is necessary that constancy of mind, persistency of purpose, and the grand simplicity of decision shall guide and rule the conduct of the English-speaking peoples in peace as they did in war. We must, and I believe we shall, prove ourselves equal to this severe requirement.

When American military men approach some serious situation they are wont to write at the head of their directive the words "over-all strategic concept." There is wisdom in this, as it leads to clarity of thought. What then is the over-all strategic concept which we should inscribe today? It is nothing less than the safety and welfare, the freedom and progress, of all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands. And here I speak particularly of the myriad cottage or apartment homes where the wage-earner strives amid the accidents and difficulties of life to guard his wife and children from privation and bring the family up in the fear of the Lord, or upon ethical conceptions which often play their potent part.

To give security to these countless homes, they must be shielded from the two giant marauders, war and tyranny. We all know the frightful disturbances in which the ordinary family is plunged when the curse of war swoops down upon the bread-winner and those for whom he works and contrives. The awful ruin of Europe, with all its vanished glories, and of large parts of Asia glares us in the eyes. When the designs of wicked men or the aggressive urge of mighty States dissolve over large areas the frame of civilized society, humble folk are confronted with difficulties with which they cannot cope. For them all is distorted, all is broken, even ground to pulp.

When I stand here this quiet afternoon I shudder to visualize what is actually happening to millions now and what is going to happen in this period when famine stalks the earth. None can compute what has been called "the unestimated sum of human pain." Our supreme task and duty is to guard the homes of the common people from the horrors and miseries of another war. We are all agreed on that.

Our American military colleagues, after having proclaimed their "over-all strategic concept" and computed available resources, always proceed to the next step - namely, the method. Here again there is widespread agreement. A world organisation has already been erected for the prime purpose of preventing war, UNO, the successor of the League of Nations, with the decisive addition of the United States and all that that means, is already at work. We must make sure that its work is fruitful, that it is a reality and not a sham, that it is a force for action, and not merely a frothing of words, that it is a true temple of peace in which the shields of many nations can someday be hung up, and not merely a cockpit in a Tower of Babel. Before we cast away the solid assurances of national armaments for self-preservation we must be certain that our temple is built, not upon shifting sands or quagmires, but upon the rock. Anyone can see with his eyes open that our path will be difficult and also long, but if we persevere together as we did in the two world wars - though not, alas, in the interval between them - I cannot doubt that we shall achieve our common purpose in the end.

I have, however, a definite and practical proposal to make for action. Courts and magistrates may be set up but they cannot function without sheriffs and constables. The United Nations Organisation must immediately begin to be equipped with an international armed force. In such a matter we can only go step by step, but we must begin now. I propose that each of the Powers and States should be invited to delegate a certain number of air squadrons to the service of the world organisation. These squadrons would be trained and prepared in their own countries, but would move around in rotation from one country to another. They would wear the uniform of their own countries but with different badges. They would not be required to act against their own nation, but in other respects they would be directed by the world organisation. This might be started on a modest scale and would grow as confidence grew. I wished to see this done after the first world war, and I devoutly trust it may be done forthwith.

It would nevertheless be wrong and imprudent to entrust the secret knowledge or experience of the atomic bomb, which the United States, Great Britain, and Canada now share, to the world organisation, while it is still in its infancy. It would be criminal madness to cast it adrift in this still agitated and un-united world. No one in any country has slept less well in their beds because this knowledge and the method and the raw materials to apply it, are at present largely retained in American hands. I do not believe we should all have slept so soundly had the positions been reversed and if some Communist or neo-Fascist State monopolised for the time being these dread agencies. The fear of them alone might easily have been used to enforce totalitarian systems upon the free democratic world, with consequences appalling to human imagination. God has willed that this shall not be and we have at least a breathing space to set our house in order before this peril has to be encountered: and even then, if no effort is spared, we should still possess so formidable a superiority as to impose effective deterrents upon its employment, or threat of employment, by others. Ultimately, when the essential brotherhood of man is truly embodied and expressed in a world organisation with all the necessary practical safeguards to make it effective, these powers would naturally be confided to that world organisation.

Now I come to the second danger of these two marauders which threatens the cottage, the home, and the ordinary people - namely, tyranny. We cannot be blind to the fact that the liberties enjoyed by individual citizens throughout the British Empire are not valid in a considerable number of countries, some of which are very powerful. In these States control is enforced upon the common people by various kinds of all-embracing police governments. The power of the State is exercised without restraint, either by dictators or by compact oligarchies operating through a privileged party and a political police. It is not our duty at this time when difficulties are so numerous to interfere forcibly in the internal affairs of countries which we have not conquered in war. But we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.

All this means that the people of any country have the right, and should have the power by constitutional action, by free unfettered elections, with secret ballot, to choose or change the character or form of government under which they dwell; that freedom of speech and thought should reign; that courts of justice, independent of the executive, unbiased by any party, should administer laws which have received the broad assent of large majorities or are consecrated by time and custom. Here are the title deeds of freedom which should lie in every cottage home. Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind. Let us preach what we practise - let us practise what we preach.

I have now stated the two great dangers which menace the homes of the people: War and Tyranny. I have not yet spoken of poverty and privation which are in many cases the prevailing anxiety. But if the dangers of war and tyranny are removed, there is no doubt that science and co-operation can bring in the next few years to the world, certainly in the next few decades newly taught in the sharpening school of war, an expansion of material well-being beyond anything that has yet occurred in human experience. Now, at this sad and breathless moment, we are plunged in the hunger and distress which are the aftermath of our stupendous struggle; but this will pass and may pass quickly, and there is no reason except human folly of sub-human crime which should deny to all the nations the inauguration and enjoyment of an age of plenty. I have often used words which I learned fifty years ago from a great Irish-American orator, a friend of mine, Mr. Bourke Cockran. "There is enough for all. The earth is a generous mother; she will provide in plentiful abundance food for all her children if they will but cultivate her soil in justice and in peace." So far I feel that we are in full agreement.

Now, while still pursuing the method of realising our overall strategic concept, I come to the crux of what I have travelled here to say. Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organisation will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States. This is no time for generalities, and I will venture to be precise. Fraternal association requires not only the growing friendship and mutual understanding between our two vast but kindred systems of society, but the continuance of the intimate relationship between our military advisers, leading to common study of potential dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instructions, and to the interchange of officers and cadets at technical colleges. It should carry with it the continuance of the present facilities for mutual security by the joint use of all Naval and Air Force bases in the possession of either country all over the world. This would perhaps double the mobility of the American Navy and Air Force. It would greatly expand that of the British Empire Forces and it might well lead, if and as the world calms down, to important financial savings. Already we use together a large number of islands; more may well be entrusted to our joint care in the near future.

The United States has already a Permanent Defence Agreement with the Dominion of Canada, which is so devotedly attached to the British Commonwealth and Empire. This Agreement is more effective than many of those which have often been made under formal alliances. This principle should be extended to all British Commonwealths with full reciprocity. Thus, whatever happens, and thus only, shall we be secure ourselves and able to work together for the high and simple causes that are dear to us and bode no ill to any. Eventually there may come - I feel eventually there will come - the principle of common citizenship, but that we may be content to leave to destiny, whose outstretched arm many of us can already clearly see.

There is however an important question we must ask ourselves. Would a special relationship between the United States and the British Commonwealth be inconsistent with our over-riding loyalties to the World Organisation? I reply that, on the contrary, it is probably the only means by which that organisation will achieve its full stature and strength. There are already the special United States relations with Canada which I have just mentioned, and there are the special relations between the United States and the South American Republics. We British have our twenty years Treaty of Collaboration and Mutual Assistance with Soviet Russia. I agree with Mr. Bevin, the Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, that it might well be a fifty years Treaty so far as we are concerned. We aim at nothing but mutual assistance and collaboration. The British have an alliance with Portugal unbroken since 1384, and which produced fruitful results at critical moments in the late war. None of these clash with the general interest of a world agreement, or a world organisation; on the contrary they help it. "In my father's house are many mansions." Special associations between members of the United Nations which have no aggressive point against any other country, which harbour no design incompatible with the Charter of the United Nations, far from being harmful, are beneficial and, as I believe, indispensable.

I spoke earlier of the Temple of Peace. Workmen from all countries must build that temple. If two of the workmen know each other particularly well and are old friends, if their families are inter-mingled, and if they have "faith in each other's purpose, hope in each other's future and charity towards each other's shortcomings" - to quote some good words I read here the other day - why cannot they work together at the common task as friends and partners? Why cannot they share their tools and thus increase each other's working powers? Indeed they must do so or else the temple may not be built, or, being built, it may collapse, and we shall all be proved again unteachable and have to go and try to learn again for a third time in a school of war, incomparably more rigorous than that from which we have just been released. The dark ages may return, the Stone Age may return on the gleaming wings of science, and what might now shower immeasurable material blessings upon mankind, may even bring about its total destruction. Beware, I say; time may be short. Do not let us take the course of allowing events to drift along until it is too late. If there is to be a fraternal association of the kind I have described, with all the extra strength and security which both our countries can derive from it, let us make sure that that great fact is known to the world, and that it plays its part in steadying and stabilising the foundations of peace. There is the path of wisdom. Prevention is better than cure.

A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organisation intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytising tendencies. I have a strong admiration and regard for the valiant Russian people and for my wartime comrade, Marshal Stalin. There is deep sympathy and goodwill in Britain - and I doubt not here also - towards the peoples of all the Russias and a resolve to persevere through many differences and rebuffs in establishing lasting friendships. We understand the Russian need to be secure on her western frontiers by the removal of all possibility of German aggression. We welcome Russia to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world. We welcome her flag upon the seas. Above all, we welcome constant, frequent and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty however, for I am sure you would wish me to state the facts as I see them to you, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone - Greece with its immortal glories - is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy.

Turkey and Persia are both profoundly alarmed and disturbed at the claims which are being made upon them and at the pressure being exerted by the Moscow Government. An attempt is being made by the Russians in Berlin to build up a quasi-Communist party in their zone of Occupied Germany by showing special favours to groups of left-wing German leaders. At the end of the fighting last June, the American and British Armies withdrew westwards, in accordance with an earlier agreement, to a depth at some points of 150 miles upon a front of nearly four hundred miles, in order to allow our Russian allies to occupy this vast expanse of territory which the Western Democracies had conquered.

If now the Soviet Government tries, by separate action, to build up a pro-Communist Germany in their areas, this will cause new serious difficulties in the British and American zones, and will give the defeated Germans the power of putting themselves up to auction between the Soviets and the Western Democracies. Whatever conclusions may be drawn from these facts - and facts they are - this is certainly not the Liberated Europe we fought to build up. Nor is it one which contains the essentials of permanent peace.

The safety of the world requires a new unity in Europe, from which no nation should be permanently outcast. It is from the quarrels of the strong parent races in Europe that the world wars we have witnessed, or which occurred in former times, have sprung. Twice in our own lifetime we have seen the United States, against their wishes and their traditions, against arguments, the force of which it is impossible not to comprehend, drawn by irresistible forces, into these wars in time to secure the victory of the good cause, but only after frightful slaughter and devastation had occurred. Twice the United States has had to send several millions of its young men across the Atlantic to find the war; but now war can find any nation, wherever it may dwell between dusk and dawn. Surely we should work with conscious purpose for a grand pacification of Europe, within the structure of the United Nations and in accordance with its Charter. That I feel is an open cause of policy of very great importance.

In front of the iron curtain which lies across Europe are other causes for anxiety. In Italy the Communist Party is seriously hampered by having to support the Communist-trained Marshal Tito's claims to former Italian territory at the head of the Adriatic. Nevertheless the future of Italy hangs in the balance. Again one cannot imagine a regenerated Europe without a strong France. All my public life I have worked for a strong France and I never lost faith in her destiny, even in the darkest hours. I will not lose faith now. However, in a great number of countries, far from the Russian frontiers and throughout the world, Communist fifth columns are established and work in complete unity and absolute obedience to the directions they receive from the Communist centre. Except in the British Commonwealth and in the United States where Communism is in its infancy, the Communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilisation. These are sombre facts for anyone to have to recite on the morrow of a victory gained by so much splendid comradeship in arms and in the cause of freedom and democracy; but we should be most unwise not to face them squarely while time remains.

The outlook is also anxious in the Far East and especially in Manchuria. The Agreement which was made at Yalta, to which I was a party, was extremely favourable to Soviet Russia, but it was made at a time when no one could say that the German war might not extend all through the summer and autumn of 1945 and when the Japanese war was expected to last for a further 18 months from the end of the German war. In this country you are all so well-informed about the Far East, and such devoted friends of China, that I do not need to expatiate on the situation there.

I have felt bound to portray the shadow which, alike in the west and in the east, falls upon the world. I was a high minister at the time of the Versailles Treaty and a close friend of Mr. Lloyd-George, who was the head of the British delegation at Versailles. I did not myself agree with many things that were done, but I have a very strong impression in my mind of that situation, and I find it painful to contrast it with that which prevails now. In those days there were high hopes and unbounded confidence that the wars were over, and that the League of Nations would become all-powerful. I do not see or feel that same confidence or even the same hopes in the haggard world at the present time.

On the other hand I repulse the idea that a new war is inevitable; still more that it is imminent. It is because I am sure that our fortunes are still in our own hands and that we hold the power to save the future, that I feel the duty to speak out now that I have the occasion and the opportunity to do so. I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines. But what we have to consider here to-day while time remains, is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries. Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement. What is needed is a settlement, and the longer this is delayed, the more difficult it will be and the greater our dangers will become.

From what I have seen of our Russian friends and Allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness. For that reason the old doctrine of a balance of power is unsound. We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work on narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of strength. If the Western Democracies stand together in strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter, their influence for furthering those principles will be immense and no one is likely to molest them. If however they become divided or falter in their duty and if these all-important years are allowed to slip away then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all.

Last time I saw it all coming and cried aloud to my own fellow-countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention. Up till the year 1933 or even 1935, Germany might have been saved from the awful fate which has overtaken her and we might all have been spared the miseries Hitler let loose upon mankind. There never was a war in all history easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe. It could have been prevented in my belief without the firing of a single shot, and Germany might be powerful, prosperous and honoured to-day; but no one would listen and one by one we were all sucked into the awful whirlpool. We surely must not let that happen again. This can only be achieved by reaching now, in 1946, a good understanding on all points with Russia under the general authority of the United Nations Organisation and by the maintenance of that good understanding through many peaceful years, by the world instrument, supported by the whole strength of the English-speaking world and all its connections. There is the solution which I respectfully offer to you in this Address to which I have given the title "The Sinews of Peace."

Let no man underrate the abiding power of the British Empire and Commonwealth. Because you see the 46 millions in our island harassed about their food supply, of which they only grow one half, even in war-time, or because we have difficulty in restarting our industries and export trade after six years of passionate war effort, do not suppose that we shall not come through these dark years of privation as we have come through the glorious years of agony, or that half a century from now, you will not see 70 or 80 millions of Britons spread about the world and united in defence of our traditions, our way of life, and of the world causes which you and we espouse. If the population of the English-speaking Commonwealths be added to that of the United States with all that such co-operation implies in the air, on the sea, all over the globe and in science and in industry, and in moral force, there will be no quivering, precarious balance of power to offer its temptation to ambition or adventure. On the contrary, there will be an overwhelming assurance of security. If we adhere faithfully to the Charter of the United Nations and walk forward in sedate and sober strength seeking no one's land or treasure, seeking to lay no arbitrary control upon the thoughts of men; if all British moral and material forces and convictions are joined with your own in fraternal association, the high-roads of the future will be clear, not only for us but for all, not only for our time, but for a century to come.



4)  The blockage of Berlin

Berlin, and what went on in Berlin from 1945 to 1950, seemed to symbolise all that the Cold War stood for. Berlin was to become the centre of the Cold War again in later years with the building of the Berlin Wall.

The victorious forces at the end of the war divided Germany into four zones.  They also divided Berlin into four zones. Each of the victorious nations controlled one zone and one sector of Berlin.

The Allies (Britain, America and France) ran their zones differently to the areas controlled by Russia. Russia wanted to keep Germany as weak as possible to ensure that Russia itself was never attacked again by Germany. They also took from their zones whatever was needed by Russia so that it could be used in Russia itself. This way, Russia could start to rebuild itself at Germany's expense and the Germans would be kept poor.

The Allies believed that a strong Germany would enable democracy to prosper after the years of Nazi dictatorship. They also believed that Europe needed a strong Germany so that their economies would prosper. To enable their zones to work more effectively, the British, Americans and French decided to amalgamate their zones into one unit and introduced into that one unit a new currency - the Deutschmark. All four occupying forces had agreed to inform one another if changes were going to be made in their respective zones. This the Allies failed to do with regards to Russia.

The biggest problem for Stalin was that the German people of the Russian controlled block could not see the prosperity that was occurring in the other zones - but they could see the difference in Berlin as three of the zones in Berlin were controlled by the Allies and prospered accordingly. Therefore, to Stalin, the Allies being in Berlin was the problem. He needed to remove them from Berlin and have a Russian controlled city as opposed to a segment of that city.

Stalin could not forcibly remove the Allies - he still had to reckon with America having the A-bomb and Russia did not in 1948. He therefore ordered the closing of all rail lines, canals and roads that entered west Berlin through the Russian sector. This cut off supplies of food and fuel. The only way for the Allies to supply their sectors in Berlin was to fly in supplies. Stalin would not dare to shoot down Allied planes with America's atomic supremacy. Flights into Berlin lasted for 11 months and when in became clear that the Allies would stand firm, Stalin gave in. The Allies remained in their sectors in Berlin.



5.1)  Berlin  Wall

The building of the Berlin Wall, and all the Berlin Wall symbolised, seemed to sum up what the Cold War represented to many - basically, a clash between good and evil. The Berlin Wall was to attract the attention of a young American president - J F Kennedy - who was to visit the Wall and who was to find his place in History with the part he played in the  Cuban Missile Crisis. 

After the Berlin Airlift, the unification of the three zones controlled by the western allies occurred in 1949. This formed the German Federal Republic; better known as West Germany. Stalin responded by making his eastern controlled section of Berlin the German Democratic Republic (better known as East Germany). This also took place in 1949.

West Germany was always the more prosperous of the two newly created states. Stalin had forbidden eastern Europe access to Marshall Aid whereas the new West Germany did have access to it. The difference in lifestyles between the two peoples who lived in the two new states was clear. East Germans suffered from poor housing, food shortages, low wages and with 25% of her industrial output going to the Soviet Union, East Germany could not see any obvious evidence that the situation would improve as the 1960's approached.

Many East Germans simply left and went to West Germany to share in the growing prosperity of that state. The East German government had tried to stop the flow west in 1952 by building a fortified border. But there remained one place where any East German could go to and move to the west - Berlin, in the heart of East Germany itself.

By 1961, around 3 million people had done this. This was a major coup for the west as these people were leaving the communist system that supposedly looked after its workers and families and looking for a better life in the capitalist west. Among these 3 million people were highly qualified men who were of little value to the west but were skilled workers that East Germany could not afford to lose. By 1961, the number of refugees fleeing to the west represented about one-sixth of East Germany's population.

On August 12th 1961, a record 4,000 people made their way to West Berlin to start a new life in the west. This pushed the communist authorities into doing something.

In the early hours of August 13th 1961, "shock workers" from East Germany and Russia shut off the border between the Soviet and western sectors of Berlin using barbed wire. The west was taken by surprise but their protests to the Russians were not listened to. By August 16th, the barbed wire was being removed and replaced with a wall of concrete blocks. Within days, West Berlin was surrounded by a wall four meters high and 111 kilometers long. The Wall had 300 watch towers manned by selected border guards (the ZOPO) and 50 bunkers. By the end of August, the Wall seemed all but impossible to cross.

The East German authorities tried to explain away the Wall by claiming that the West was using West Berlin as a centre for spying and that the Wall was for keeping out spies. They called the Wall "the anti-fascist protection barrier". 

People from East Germany still tried to cross into West Berlin. 190 people were shot dead on the eastern side of the Wall. The west called the Berlin Wall the "Wall of Shame" and it served to remind those who lived in Berlin that those in the Soviet controlled east lived far inferior lives to those who lived in western Berlin. 


5.2)  Berlin Crises

At the end of World War II Berlin, former capital of the Third Reich, was a divided city in a divided country. The wartime Allies--the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union--originally intended Berlin's division as a symbol of Germany's defeat. Within 3 years, however, Berlin was transformed from the capital of tyranny to an island of freedom; a symbol, not of Germany's defeat, but of the emerging Cold War. The Berlin problem was an accident, the result of bad planning and Cold War tensions. On the wrong side of the Iron Curtain and a victim of the inability of the East and West to agree on German unification, Berlin was caught in a recurring cycle of crisis and resolution, pitting the legality of Western rights against the reality of Soviet power. In fact, the history of Berlin--the Berlin Blockade, the East Berlin uprising, the Berlin Quadripartite Agreement, and the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall--reflects the history of the Cold War itself.

The cycle began in June 1948, when the Soviet Union instituted a blockade of Berlin to protest Western efforts to integrate their zones of occupation in western Germany. By restricting access to the city, the Soviets hoped to force the Western Allies to abandon a recently undertaken currency reform and possibly Berlin itself. The United States and its allies responded with a massive airlift that delivered supplies to the people of Berlin and generated overwhelming popular support in return. By the time the blockade was lifted in May 1949, the Allies had established not only the Federal Republic of Germany but also the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Soviets suffered a major defeat in the first Berlin crisis (1948-49), and the division of Berlin became a permanent picture of Cold War geography.

If the Berlin airlift showed that the West could resist Soviet aggression, the 1953 East Berlin popular uprising showed that the opportunities for such resistance were limited. On June 16, 1953, in a direct challenge to East German authority, workers in East Berlin rose to protest government demands to increase productivity. Although the Soviets quickly suppressed the revolt, the uprising was an unprecedented episode in the Cold War; it was the first time the people had openly opposed communism in eastern Europe. The United States and its allies offered only moral support, a pattern that would be repeated elsewhere, particularly in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968).

The next crisis in Berlin (1958-1962) demonstrated that neither the Western nor Eastern blocs could unilaterally change the city's status without the risk of direct confrontation. In November 1958 Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered an ultimatum: if the West did not agree to solve the Berlin problem within 6 months, he would reach a separate peace agreement with East Germany. The Soviet offensive, which soon included proposals for a comprehensive German peace treaty, threatened to expose the Allied position not only in Berlin but also in West Germany, where the politics of reunification frequently clashed with the policy of rearmament. The Allies quickly responded with an offer of formal negotiations. The two sides were talking in May 1959 when the first deadline passed without incident. Meanwhile, the exodus of skilled workers from East Germany to the West threatened to expose the Soviet position in eastern Europe.

At the Vienna Summit in June 1961, Khrushchev reiterated his threat to sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany if the West did not come to terms over Berlin by the end of the year. Rather than submit to such pressure, President John F. Kennedy replied that it would be a "cold winter." When he returned to the United States, Kennedy faced instead a summer of decision. On July 25 he announced plans to meet the Soviet challenge in Berlin, including a dramatic buildup of American conventional forces and drawing the line on interference with Allied access to West Berlin. This warning, in fact, contained the basis for resolving the crisis. On August 13 the East German Government, supported by Khrushchev, finally closed the border between East and West Berlin by erecting what eventually became the most concrete symbol of the Cold War: the Berlin Wall. Although the citizens of Berlin reacted to the wall with outrage, many in the West--certainly within the Kennedy administration--reacted with relief. The wall interfered with the personal lives of the people but not with the political position of the Allies in Berlin. The result was a "satisfactory" stalemate--the Soviets did not challenge the legality of Allied rights, and the Allies did not challenge the reality of Soviet power.


5.3 )  John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s speech

Read  John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s speech in Berlin and then answer the questions below:

Ich bin ein Berliner  (JFK)

I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin.

 And I am proud  to visit the Federal Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was "civis Romanus sum."  Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner."

(I appreciate my interpreter translating my German.)

There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world.

Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future.

Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin.

And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen.  Let them come to Berlin.

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect. But we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in -- to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say on behalf of my countrymen who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride, that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope, and the determination of the city of West Berlin.

While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system -- for all the world to see -- we take no satisfaction in it; for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

What is true of this city is true of Germany: Real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people.

You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you, as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin.

And, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner."

What contemporary points of view about communism are attacked by President Kennedy?

What should Berlin be proud of?

Why is the wall considered the evidence of the failure of Communism?

When will real enduring peace be reached throughout Europe?

What does the idea of “indivisible freedom” mean and imply?



6)  Korean War

The Korean War lasted from 1950-1953. What happened in Korea pushed the boundaries of the Cold War towards “Warm War” . Though America and Russia did not officially clash, client states did in that Communist China fought and was armed and encouraged by Russia.

The peninsula was divided after World War Two into a Russian-backed north (The People’s Democratic Republic) and the American-backed south (the Republic of Korea). Each claimed the right to the other half in an effort to unify both. The division was the result of the occupation of Korea by the communists after the end of the war with the country eventually being divided at the 38th parallel.

In June 1950, the North Koreans launched a surprise attack against the south and the capital Seoul fell in just three days.

The United Nations Security Council (which was being boycotted by Russia at this time) asked for UN states to send troops to the region under a UN flag. The huge bulk of the troops sent were American (15 nations sent troops) and command of them was given to Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

By the end of August 1950 only Pusan in the south-east corner of South Korea had not fallen to the North.

In September, MacArthur took the huge risk of launching an amphibious landing at Inchon 200 miles behind enemy lines and from here he launched an attack against the North Koreans at Pusan.

The North Koreans had no choice but to retreat as they faced being cut in two.

MacArthur chose to ignore his orders and advanced north towards the Chinese border at the Yalu River. This provoked the Chinese to launch a massive attack against the UN forces and South Korea. A Chinese army of 180,000 men supported by 100,000 reserves forced the UN troops to retreat and Seoul fell once again in January 1951 and the Chinese forces were halted only 60 miles from the 38th Parallel. Between January 1951 and June 1951 a stalemate took place though the UN forces managed to stabilise themselves near the 38th Parallel.

The war became one of static warfare as both sides entrenched their positions. Peace talks started at Panmunjom and lasted for 2 years. Two occurrences helped to move the peace talks - the death of Stalin in 1953 and the replacement of Truman with Eisenhower as US president

An armistice was signed in 1953.

Casualties from the war were very high : USA - 142,000 killed

Other UN states - 17,000 killed

Between 3.5 and 4 million civilians were killed.

Once again a political belief had been fought for - the halting of communist expansion in south-east Asia - but the superpowers had avoided any direct conflict -a classic occurrence in the Cold War.



7)  Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis was one of the few times that the 'rules' of the Cold War were nearly forgotten. Berlin, Korea, Hungary and Suez - the 'rules' had been followed. But in Cuba this broke down and the Cuban Missile Crisis was the only time when “hot war” could have broken out. 

In the 1950’s Cuba was lead by a right-wing dictator called Fulgencio Batista. He dealt with opponents with extreme harshness and while a few prospered under his regime, many Cubans were very poor. He was not tolerant of communists and received the support of the Americans. Batista’s sole support within Cuba came from the army which was equipped by the Americans.

For some years, Havana, the capital of Cuba, had been the play ground of the rich from America. They would come to the island at the weekend to gamble - illegal in all parts of America except for Las Vegas at this time. Havana was considered more convenient for those living in the southern states of America. Large sums of money were spent but most was creamed off by Batista and his henchmen. Over $200 million was actually invested in Cuba itself. For all the money coming into Cuba, the poor remained very poor.

Some young Cubans, who had read about socialism and what it offered the poor, reacted against Batista’s corruption and oppression. Their first attempt to overthrow the government was a failure and the small group of rebels fled to the Sierra Mastra - a remote area of Cuba. Here they sharpened their tactics and used the most valuable weapon they had; educating the poor in their ways. They used the tactics of Mao Tse Tung by actually helping out the poverty stricken peasants on their land. These people had been used to abuse for years and here were young educated people actually helping them for free.

It was only a matter of time before the ‘message’ spread to other areas of Cuba and by 1959, the rebels lead by Fidel Castro felt strong enough to overthrow the government of Batista. This they easily achieved as they were aided by popular support.

Castro’s first task was to punish those who had abused the poor. Those found guilty were executed. He then nationalised all American firms in Cuba so that their wealth would be invested in Cuba itself rather than leave the island and go to multi-nationals in America. The money made from this measure was primarily spent on a national health system so that all medical treatment was free and on education. Castro also introduced major land reforms.

Some Cubans fled and went to live in Florida. These Cuban exiles were treated by some Americans as heroes and brought with them stories that outraged the American press. Most were false or exaggerated but this was ignored. America reacted by refusing to do any trade with Cuba whatsoever. This trade embargo would have bankrupted the island as her biggest money earner was exporting sugar to America. Up to this time, there is little evidence that Castro or Cuba had any real intention of teaming up with communist Russia. In 1960, Castro referred to himself as a socialist - not a communist.

However, the trade embargo brought the two together as Russia stepped in to buy Cuba’s sugar and other exports. The actions of America appear to have driven Castro into the support offered by Russia.

Now with a supporter of communism only 50 miles from Florida, the new American president - J F Kennedy - decided to give support to the anti-Castro Cubans who had gone to Florida. With CIA funding, a group of armed Cuban exiles tried to land in Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 with the sole intention of overthrowing the Castro government. It proved a fiasco - jeeps landed without fuel; no maps of the island being issued; Cuban exiles firing on Cuban exiles. But to Castro, this episode showed him where America stood in relations to Cuba. Kennedy did not apologise for America’s involvement in this event

After the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs episode, Cuba obviously felt threatened by her massively powerful neighbour. Castro started to look for a closer relationship with Russia who could offer her protection.

In Sept 1962, anti-Castro Cuban refugees reported to the CIA that there was a build-up of Russian bases in Cuba.

On October 16th 1962, a U2 spy plane took high level photographs over Cuba and the resulting photographic prints revealed what was obviously a base for missiles. These were later identified as being inter-mediate range missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

On October 17th 1962 the CIA reported to the president that the 16 to 32 missiles identified could kill 80 million Americans as they had a range of 2000 miles with a flight time of just 17 minutes. While this was happening USA Intelligence reported that over 20 Russian ships were heading for Cuba with crates on board that obviously contained more missiles. They were not difficult to detect as they were being carried on deck in full view of US observer planes.

On October 25th 1962 more U2 photographs showed that the bases would be fully operational in a few days - at the latest by the end of October.

The threat to USA was very obvious. On October 27th the matter was made worse when a U2 was shot down by a Russian missile and the pilot killed.

In total, the Russians sent to Cuba 42 medium range missiles and 24 intermediate range missiles - which had a capability of 3500 miles. 22,000 Russian troops and technicians accompanied the missiles.

What should Kennedy do ?

He had already made a major mistake with the Bay of Pigs affair - now he could afford no such errors as the consequences would be disastrous for everyone.

He had essentially five choices:

1)   He could do nothing and ignore the missiles. This would have been political suicide and if the Russians had seen this as weakness on his part, they could have taken advantage of it.


2)   He could order a full scale military invasion of Cuba. This could lead to heavy US casualties and that would be politically damaging. It would almost certainly involve Russian casualties which could escalate the problem.

The American chiefs-of-staff were not convinced that it would be successful either especially

as the offending missile bases were in remote areas and most were well inland.


3)   He could order an air strike against the missile bases only. The problem again would be Russian casualties

and the Air Force was not sure it could deliver pin-point bombing raids on what were relatively small targets.


4)   He could call on the Russians to remove the missiles explaining the damage their presence was doing to Russian/American relations. However, the Russians were highly unlikely to listen to a ‘polite’ request especially as they even refused to recognise the existence of the missiles at the United Nations emergency meeting on the matter.


5)   He could put a naval blockade around the island - quarantine it - and not allow any more Russian ships to enter Cuba.

This would still leave missiles on Cuba but the negotiations would continue in the background while publically

Kennedy would be seen to be doing something specific.


Following American protests, Khruschev, the Russian leader, sent Kennedy two letters both of which sent conflicting messages.

One letter said that the missiles would be withdrawn if Kennedy promised not to invade Cuba.

The other was more threatening claiming that as USA had bases actually in Turkey, why should not the USSR have bases in Cuba especially as the people of Cuba wanted them ? Khruschev said that if USA removed her missiles from Turkey then USSR would remove them from Cuba. These messages left Kennedy confused.

Kennedy decided to act on Khruschev`s first letter and offered the following :

USSR was to remove its missiles from Cuba and USA was to end Cuba`s quarantine and to give out a promise not to invade Cuba.

If the USSR did not respond by October 29th, USA would launch a military invasion of Cuba. On October 28th, Khruschev replied that the USSR would remove the missiles. Within 2 months they were gone. The Cuban Missile Crisis was over but it had taken the world to the brink of nuclear war.

The end result of the crisis was seen as a huge success for Kennedy but contributed to the downfall of Khrushchev in Russia. The one positive thing to come out of the crisis was the creation of a hot-line between Moscow and Washington to allow for easier communication between the two nations leaders at a time of crisis.

This is one of the few examples of the Cold War where the two principle countries actually got involved themselves against the other. Up to 1962, other nations fought out the Cold War on their behalf (USA + China in Korea; USA + North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War etc.) as each knew that a conflict between the two would have the potential to be horrific. The lessons learned from Cuba ensured that neither would push each to the brink again and that the ‘rules’ of the Cold War would be adhered to.

 Just one year later in 1963, both nations signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. This treaty stated that neither would explode nuclear bombs during testing in the atmosphere. This was a popular treaty in America and a sign that something positive had come out of the Cuban Crisis - that of a greater respect for each other.




8)  Vietnam War

The Vietnam War pitted  America against communism and was a classic example of  Cold War conflict. The western allies had been victorious in Berlin, but communism had taken root in China. Eastern Europe remained under Russian control and in Vietnam the American feared threat of the spread communism seemed to be real.

In April 1954, the world's powers had met at Geneva to discuss Vietnam. In July 1954, it was decided to divide the country in two at the 17th parallel. Bao Dai was to lead the south and Ho Chi Minh the north. The meeting also decided that in 1956, there would be an election in both the north and south to decide who would rule the whole country. The election would be supervised by neutral countries. This election did not take place and the split had become permanent by 1956.

After the non-election of 1956, the Viet Minh became more active militarily. Their guerillas - now called the Viet Cong - attacked soft targets in the south. They used the Ho Chi Minh trail which was a 1000 mile trail along the border with Laos with heavy jungle coverage so that detection from the air was very difficult. The Viet Cong were trained by their commander Giap who learned from the tactics used by the Chinese communists in their fight against the Nationalist Chinese forces. He expected his troops to fight and to help those in the south. He introduced a "hearts and minds" policy long before the Americans got militarily involved in Vietnam.

During the 1950's, America had developed her Domino Theory. This was the creation of John Foster Dulles, America's Secretary of State. He believed that if one country was allowed to fall to communism, the country next to it would be the next to tumble just as when one domino falls the rest go with it if they are connected. In view of the fear in America of communism spreading throughout the world, the thought of Vietnam starting this process of turning to communism and then it spreading was unacceptable.

America had already sent "special advisors" to South Vietnam since 1955. By 1961, there were 1,500 special advisors in the country. These were men from America's Special Forces who were there to train the South Vietnamese Army in how to fight the Viet Cong. By 1963, there were 16,000 special advisors in South Vietnam.

Regardless of their presence and attempts by the west to demonise the Viet Cong, it is probable that by 1962, over 75% of all south Vietnamese peasants supported the Viet Cong as they were seen as liberators from the unacceptable government of Diem. To "save" the peasants from the Viet Cong, Diem organised a system whereby whole villages were moved into defended camps - known as fortified villages. This policy backfired as the peasants did not want to be removed from their land and as such the policy played into the hands of the Viet Cong who were promising the peasants more land once communism have taken root in the south.

Diem's unpopularity was so great that in November 1963, the South Vietnamese Army overthrew and killed him. The confusion at a political level in South Vietnam and the abuse of peasants rights within the agricultural community were two reasons for the spread of communism within the south. Such a development alarmed the American president, Lyndon Johnson, who had asked his military chiefs to formulate plans should a full-scale war break out. The one proviso the chiefs-of-staff had was that America had to be seen as the victim rather than the aggressor.

In August 1964, the Tongking Incident occurred when two American destroyers were attacked by North Vietnamese gunboats while they were in international waters. In response to this, the American Senate gave Johnson the power to give armed support to assist any country requesting help in defence of its freedom. In March 1965, the first American ground troops landed in South Vietnam and by December 1965, there were 150,000 stationed in the country. The bombing of North Vietnam had already started in February 1965.       

American involvement in Vietnam: 

This was at its peak from 1965 to 1969 when a maximum of 500,000 American troops were in Vietnam. A number of the front line troops were conscripts and not professional troops. They were young, usually from lower social groups and frequently from America's minority groups. They were trained in conventional warfare whereas the Viet Cong used guerilla tactics - hitting the enemy and then moving away; not wearing a standard uniform; merging into village life with ease etc. It was difficult for these young American troops to know who was the enemy and who they could trust amongst the South Vietnamese population. 

America had total control of the air. Planes could be used to back-up ground troops by using napalm. Defoliation chemicals were also used to destroy the jungle cover given to the Viet Cong along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Agent Orange killed large areas of jungle disguising this trail but those using it, simply moved further inland or further into Laos thus avoiding the defoliated areas. To hinder the supply of US troops, the Viet Cong blew up bridges, roads and destroyed canals.

The Viet Cong used mines called "bouncing bettys" - these were on springs and when tripped would spring up to about waist height and explode. They were not usually fatal but the victim would need immediate medical aid and 3 to 4 men to look after him. The noise of the explosion would also attract the attention of the Viet Cong. Punji traps were also used by the Viet Cong - these were pits in the ground with spikes in them which were covered in grass and leaves and left all but invisible to an advancing soldier. The tips of the spikes were usually covered in poison or dirt. Punji traps were also found in rivers and streams where troops had to make crossings.

Though the Viet Cong did not fight full scale battles, in January 1968, they changed tactics with the Tet Offensive. This was a massive attack by the North Vietnamese Army which took the Americans by surprise. All the major South Vietnamese cities were attacked as were all major US military bases. However, the attack was never decisive and eventually the Americans forced the North Vietnamese back though both sides had suffered serious losses. 160,000 civilians were killed and 2 million were made homeless.

By May 1968, the North Vietnamese were willing to start talks that would lead to a peace settlement. Talks started in Paris and very slow progress was made over 5 years. The major sticking points were that Ho Chi Minh wanted all foreigners out of Vietnam and he wanted the country to be internationally accepted as a united country. America was still hampered by her support of the domino theory but the war had become very unpopular at home and the politicians were aware of the views of the voting population.

In 1969, the American president, Richard Nixon, agreed to reduce the number of American troops in South Vietnam. He pursued a policy called "Vietnamisation" whereby the South Vietnamese would be assisted in material matters by the Americans but the fighting would be done by the South Vietnamese Army. In December 1970, there were 350,000 American troops in South Vietnam. By September 1972, there were just 40,000.

The South Vietnamese Army could not cope with the North Vietnamese forces. Once the bulk of the American troops had pulled out, the North Vietnamese changed their tactics by launching a full scale attack against the South which all but wilted under the onslaught.

In January 1973, all sides agreed to a cease fire during which the remaining American troops would have to be withdrawn and all POW's would have to be released. It was agreed that Vietnam would be "eventually reunited".

America's involvement in Vietnam ended in 1973. The war had cost her one billion dollars a day at its peak; she had dropped 7 million tons of bombs - more than the entire total of all participants in World War Two. The cost of the war in 1968 alone was $88,000 million while the combined spending on education, health and housing in that year was $24,000 million.

The ceasefire lasted no time at all and the North attacked what was left of the South's army. By April 1975, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam had fallen. It was re-named Ho Chi Minh City and a united Vietnam came into being.





  1. Can you give a definition of COLD WAR?

  2. What is the difference between HOT WAR and COLD WAR?

  3. What is the difference between COLD WAR  and WARM WAR?

  4. What historical period is involved in the so-called COLD WAR?

  5. Can you describe the political/military situation in Berlin at the end of World War II?

  6. What was the BERLIN BLOCKADE and what were the effects on the people living there?

  7. Which effects were brought about by the BERLIN WALL?

  8. Why did J.F.KENNEDY say the famous words “Ich ein bin Berliner”?

  9. When was the wall destroyed and what did it give way to?

  10. What do the words “Bay of Pigs” remind you of?

  11. Why was Cuba considered a threat by the US?

  12. What is the meaning of the word EMBARGO?

  13. How did Kennedy choose to put an end to the “missile crisis” in cuba?

  14. What was the political situation in Vietnam after the end of World War II?

  15. Who were the Vietcong and what was their role during the Vietnam War?

  16. What do you know about the escalation of the US involvment in the Vietnam War?

  17. Why is the Vietnam War still considered  a failure by the US?

  18. What kind of weapons were used in the Vietnam War?

  19. What important resolutions did the allies agree on at Yalta?

  20. How did the Americans react to the agreements in Yalta and why?

  21. What are the most frightful dangers W. Churchill wants to protect his country against and why?

  22. What does W. Churchill propose to establish for all the nations?

  23. Briefly summarize the content of J.F. Kennedy’s speech in Berlin.