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• The Cold War started soon after
the end of World War II, and it’s
the most destructive conflict in
the history of the planet. America
and its allies, including Great
Britain and the Soviet Union,
defeated Japan and Germany.
Many millions of people decayed
in the war and the conflict
revealed the depths of human
cruelty, including the Holocaust in
which Germany killed men,
women and children because
they were Jewish or belonged to
some other disliked group.
END OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR
• At the end of World War II,
America and the Soviet Union
were the strongest countries
left standing. There were
major differences between
them. The Soviet Union was a
communist country, where the
government controlled the
economy, and was ruled by a
brutal dictatorship. The United
States was a democratic
country with a free economy.
But at first, they remained
• Americans were so happy the
war was over.
• Most just wanted to get back
to normal life.
THE SOVIETS AND COMMUNISM
• But soon after the end of
World War II, the Soviets began
imposing communism on other
countries. Their country had
been devastated by the war
and they felt they deserved to
have control over enemy
countries, as well as territories
they had dominated before the
START OF THE COLD WAR
• In 1947, U.S. President Harry
Truman announced that America
would help the countries of
Greece and Turkey fight attempts
to turn them into communist
countries and allies of the Soviet
• This is often viewed as the
beginning of the Cold War. It's
called the Cold War because
even though the main struggle
was between the Soviet Union
and America, they never engaged
in a direct, all-out "hot war" from
the beginning until the end in
BERLIN WAS DIVIDED
• After World War II, Germany and its capital
Berlin were divided. The Soviets controlled
part of it and America, along with its allies
Britain and France, the rest. In June 1948
the Soviets decided to make a move to
control Germany, the most important
country in Europe. They blocked all the
roads and railroads into Berlin, making it
impossible for those living in the American
and allied parts of the city to get supplies.
America responded with the "Berlin Airlift"
to fly in everything a city needed to keep
going.This totaled 2,325,510 tons of
cargo, including coal for heating, food and
milk, machinery, soap, medical supplies and
newspapers. The U.S. Air Force even sent
a baby camel for the children of Berlin.
American pilots were known for dropping
candy with little parachutes from their
planes for the kids of Berlin.
VITTLES THE DOG
• "Vittles" the dog flew 131
missions during the Berlin
Airlift with his master, an Air
Force officer. Vittles was in the
air so much they made a
special parachute for him.
Luckily he never had to use it
(his master did have to bail out
once when Vittles was not
on board; the parachute
worked and he was soon
reunited with his dog.)
THE BERLIN AIRLIFT
• But the Berlin Airlift was very
• Twelve American planes
crashed, killing 30 U.S.
servicemen and one civilian.
• After about a year, the Soviets
gave up and started allowing
ground transportation back
WAS IT WORTH THE PRICE?
• “Without the help of the
Americans [and their Allies], I
wouldn’t be here,” recalled a
woman who was a 7-year-old
girl during the airlift. “I
wouldn’t be alive to enjoy the
freedom you brought to us
HOT AND COLD CONFLICTS
• Soon after the Berlin Blockage ended, North
Korea, with the support of the Soviet Union and
China, invaded South Korea, an American ally.
The Korean War was one of the "hot conflicts" of
the Cold War, in many ways a "proxy war"
between the U.S. and Soviet Union in which the
Soviets used other countries, or proxies, to do
most of their fighting. The Soviets supplied the
North Koreans and also huge numbers of Chinese
troops fighting America and its allies. While they
tried to hide it, the Soviets also
participated directly, flying fighter planes and
operating anti-aircraft guns that shot down many
U.S. planes. Korea was followed years later by
the Vietnam War; almost 100,000 Americans died
in these conflicts, along with many more from
other countries. Americans also perished or were
captured while conducting Cold War spy flights
near or over communist countries, or performing
intelligence missions or other activities in support
of the United States. The stories of some
American heroes from the Cold War are still
secret. For Americans who served in the "hot
conflicts" and sacrificed, were wounded or gave
their lives -- and the families of these service
members -- the Cold War was just as terrible as
any other war.
WEAPONS AND ARMS RACE
• Unlike earlier conflicts, the
incredibly powerful nuclear
weapons held by the Soviets
and U.S., and later other
countries, threatened a war
that could end life on earth as
it was known. The "arms race"
involved each side increasing
the number and power of its
nuclear and regular weapons.
• These weapons made made
any confrontation between the
U.S. and Soviet Union very
NUCLEAR MISSILES AND BOMBS
• Nuclear missiles and bombs
meant that just about
everyone in America and the
Soviet Union was a risk. Kids
at U.S. schools had to practice
for an attack. They would hide
under their desks or in the
THE BERLIN WALL
• Back in Berlin, in 1961 the
communist East Germans and
their Soviet friends suddenly
put up a barrier, soon to be
called the "Berlin Wall." They
wanted to stop people who
were running away to the free
part of German.
• The wall separated Berlin and
the rest of German into pro-
Soviet and pro-American sides;
the communists used dogs,
guns and landmines to keep
their people from escaping.
THE BERLIN WALL
• The wall got so high that
people had to climb ladders to
wave to their family and
friends on the other side.
• If people tried to cross the
wall, East German guards shot
ALMOST NUCLEAR WAR
• While the Berlin Wall stayed up, there were many other Cold War
confrontations around the world. In 1962, a super-fast American U2 spy
plane spotted Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba, a country close to the
State of Florida. The U.S. and Soviet Union came frighteningly close
to a nuclear war before the crisis was resolved. Other incidents included
conflicts in the Middle East, such as the 1973 Yom Kippur attack by
Soviet allies against Israel; the crushing of popular uprisings against the
Soviets in several countries; and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in
1979. American intelligence officers even helped fighters loyal to the
Dalai Lama battle Chinese occupation of Tibet.
• In just about every part of the world, there was some sort of fighting,
demonstrating or spying related to the contest between America and its
allies and the Soviets and theirs. While the communists committed
many atrocities, and sought to install dictatorships, some of America's
allies also violated human rights. American politicians debated whether
resistance to communism sometimes justified brutal tactics.
AMERICA’S ECONOMY GREW MUCH STRONGER THAN SOVIET’S
• That meant the US could develop and afford the best tanks, airplanes and other military
technology in the world, plus deploy that technology and well-trained soldiers around the
world. Meantime, the Soviets -- whose communist economic system didn't work -- were falling
farther and farther behind.
Soviet confidence also declined after the nation invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Over the next
decade, the Soviets lost many men and much money. The US supplied Stinger anti-aircraft
missiles to the Afghan resistance; they downed numerous Soviet aircraft and played a key
role in the conflict, which has been called the "Soviet Union's Vietnam."
[Ironically, during the Cold War, the US was fighting on the same side against the Soviet
Union as Islamist extremists, such as Osama Bin Laden, who were later involved in terrorist
attacks against America, including 9/11. This reminds historians of the fact that America
supplied arms and other support to the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany during World War
II, even though allied strategists worried the Soviets would turn against America after
Germany was defeated. In history, alliances can change relatively quickly, and sometimes
countries decide to choose the "lesser of two evils." The US supported some anti-communist
dictators during the Cold War because it was believed they were better than the communist
alternative and that their countries might one day become democracies. In several cases,
including South Korea, this did indeed happen.During the Soviet Afghanistan war, a common
saying among US observers was that the "enemy of my enemy is my friend," meaning that if
Afghan resistance fighters were the enemy of America's enemy, the Soviet Union, the Afghan
fighters should be treated as an American friend.]
“MR. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!”
• In June 1987, President Ronald Reagan visited Berlin and issued a
challenge to the Soviet Union. “There is one sign the Soviets can
make that would be unmistakable, that would advance
dramatically the cause of freedom and peace,” he said, sending a
message to the new head of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.
“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek
prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek
liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this
gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
• President Reagan was also increasing America's military spending
and supporting fighters battling Soviet occupiers in Afghanistan.
Gorbachev, realized his country could not keep going as before,
started to make changes.
BY 1989 THE SOVIET UNION WAS CLOSE TO THE END
• East Germans began
demonstrating and escaping.
When the communists tried to
keep some control by relaxing
restrictions, the demonstrations
grew even larger until
crowds starting pulling down the
wall. In the past, East German
authorities would have responded
by shooting. But now, they gave
up. East and West Germany were
soon unified, becoming one
country again under a
AMERICAN VICTORY IN THE COLD WAR
• After the wall fell, the Soviet
Union itself followed soon
after. It was officially dissolved
in December 1991, creating the
Russian Federation and, in
effect, freeing most of the
various countries forced in the
• America and its allies had won
the Cold War.
LEGACY OF THE COLD WAR
• The Cold War left a complicated inheritance to
people today. Because of the conflict, the world
still has a large supply of nuclear weapons and
other terrible armaments. Many countries were
left with debts and environmental damage. China
remains a dictatorship and Russia and the United
States often disagree on important issues. Korea
remains separated and the people in the North,
the communist side, are treated brutally by their
government. Many American families, and those
in other countries, lost loved ones. Some
American soldiers have never come home.
• On the other hand, America and its allies were
able to prevail without another World War. That
allowed people across the world to have freedom
and the right to help determine their own futures.
For many people, the costs of the Cold War were
high, but worth it in the end.