AS History Cold War Timeline

Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Cuba, China and the Phillipines time lines and key facts 

  • Created by: TessAni
  • Created on: 08-04-12 16:12

Harry S. Truman

1945 - 1953 


  • Potsdam Conference
  • Fall of China to communism 
  • Defensive Perimeter Strategy 
  • Korean War 
  • Supported France in Indochina 
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Dwight D. Eisenhower



  • Used threat of the atom bomb 
  • ended Korean War 
  • signed Geneva Accords
  • Sent aid to Diem regime 
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John F. Kennedy



  • Laos Treaty 
  • Sent 16,000 military advisers to Vietnam 
  • Assassination of Diem 
  • Assassination of himself 
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Lyndon B. Johnson



  • 1964 landslide election 
  • Rapid escalation of US troops in Vietnam 
  • Gulf of Tonkin Resolution 
  • Peration Rolling Thunder 
  • Provoked anti-war protests 
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Richard M. Nixon



  • Peace 'with honour' in Vietnam 1973 
  • Detente with USSR and China
  • Watergate scandal - resignation followed soon after 
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Gerald R. Ford

1974- 1976


  • Never inaugurated 
  • Fall of Saigon 1975 
  • Communist control of all Vietnam 
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The Father of Containment, George Kennan (Diplomat) 

'The Long Telegram' - February 1946 

  • Should focus military strategies on just one threat: the USSR 

'Iron Curtain' Speech, Fulton March 1947 

  • Hope for Anglo-American 'Special Relationship' to combat Soviet Union

The Truman Doctrine, Feb 1947 

  • Economic aid to bring freedom 
  • $25 million to Greece requested 

Marshall Aid, General George Marshall 

  • $400 million of economic aid to reconstruct Europe 
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Potsdam Conference

July 1945 

Clement Atlee; Harry S. Truman; Joseph Stalin 

  • Division of Germany - all former German territory east of Oder/Neisse transferred to Polish/Soviet administration 
  • Germany divided into 4 divisions (although this was ultimately decided in Yalta) 
  • Ultimatum to Japan - surrender or face total destruction - "Potsdam Decleration"
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Truman Doctrine and Foreign Policy

The main US strategies were: 

  • to make Japan into a satellite of the USA (model state) 
  • to extend economic aid to anti-communist forces in China and Indochina 
  • to establish and defend a ring of offshore Pacific Islands as a barrier to the advance of communism and its enroachment on South-East Asian Trade (Defensive Perimeter Strategy) 
  • to prop up non-communist South Korea, though it was of limited US interest. 
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Model States

One fundemental strategy used by successive US administrations was to attempt to create model states in Asia, to show that democracy and capitalism would bring economic prosperity, freedom and happiness. By showing the benefits of capitalism it would decrease the number of countries which would fall to communism. 

They followed this in many countries: 

  • Japan 
  • Philippines 
  • South Korea
  • South Vietnam 

This artificial imposition of western culture onto another country is an example of cultural imperialism

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Filipino Economy

The economy aim was to reinstate US 'open door' free trade policy in the region, to make the former colony: 

  • a market for US goods 
  • a source of raw materials for US military operations in the region
  • a source of materials for a reconstructed Japan 
  • a strong political ally in the front line of defence of South-East Asia 

$620 million of US investment was injected into the economy. 

The Bell Trade Act of 1946 protected American domestic producers with preferential trade concessions, while quotas were imposed on Filipino products competing with US ones. Filipino market places were flooded with cheap US goods. 

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The Huk Rebellion

Americans chose a man rather than a national liberation movement - a flawed policy later followed in South Korea and South Vietnam. MacArthur supported Manuel Roxas even though he was widely unpopular. 

1949-51 the Huks led an armed rebellion to gain political rights, improve working conditions and remove unfair US trade restrictions. American troops crushed their rebellion; they disarmed the Huks and imprisoned their leaders. Cold War rhetoric was used to brand them 'communist; or 'communist inspired', to justify US actions. 

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Contradictions and Criticisms of US policy

  • The Philippines would have independence, but also a role in launching attacks 
  • The USA wished morally to support Asian nationalist movements but needed to use Asian economies to support the rebuilding of Europe 
  • Philippine independence was under US economic and political control 
  • The French copied this model in Laos and Cambodia with disastrous results
  • In Indonesia, the Dutch used it to hand power to Sukarno, an unpopular dictator 
  • The USA was hypocritical: a neo-colonial power which preached anti-imperialism 
  • A similar policy proved disastrous for the USA in South Korea and South Vietnam  
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US Occupation of Japan

Truman firmly refused to divide Japan into multinational zones like those in Germany. Though a four-power allied Joint Council was set up, Stalin agreed that all decisions concerning Japan should be made by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers of occupation. 

Perhaps Stalin felt the USA might in turn accept Soviet control of Eastern Europe. 

Truman kept the promise made to Stalin at Yalta and allowed Soviet occupation of the Kuril Islands. This caused bitter protests by Republicans in Congress. 

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Stage 1 1945

Punish and Reform 

Remove Japan's military forces and introduce democracy. 

  • MacArthur order the dismantling of armyl dustruction of weapons and exclusion of former military officers from leading political roles 
  • Two hundred thousand 'militarists' were purged from public life 
  • War crime trials between May 1946 and November 1948 
  • 1946 new constitution was drafted by MacArthur's officials 
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Stage 2

'Soft' Cold War Policy making Japan prosperous to keep it out of the Soviet sphere of influence 

  • Japan had a terrible economy betw2een 1945-47 
  • 1947 Chairman of Chrylser and a group of American businessmen ended Zaibatsu priviliges and helped set up a Japanese car industry 
  • 1949 Congress authorised $500 million per annum in aid to Japan 
  • 38% of Japan's cultivated land, were purchased from the landlords under the government's reform program and resold at extremely low prices to the farmers who worked them. 
  • 1950 three million peasants had their own land 
  • Socially the Japanese also began to adopt Western political, social and sexual behaviour 
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Stage 3

'Hard' Cold War policy - an active role for Japan in the US containment policy 

If Japan were rearmed the US would gain: 

  • industrial and military resources
  • a potential military base in north-east Asia 
  • protection for US defensive outposts in the western Pacific 
  • a shining example to encourage other non-communist countries to fight against communism 

March 1948 George Kennan visited Japan and MacArthur's hold began to loosen 

1949 'Red Scare' in the USA and there was a 'Red Purge' in Japan 

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Stage 4

Integrated Cold War policy - when treaties recognised the official status of Japan at the centre of a US defensive strategy 

June 1950, Korean War gave a huge boost to the Japenese economy: US governemnt bought war supplies worth $500,000,000 from Japan. 
1952 the Japanese forces had tanks and artillery
1954 130,000-strong army and Chinese trade embargo after involvement in Korea

San Francisco Peace Treaty, 8 September 1951: 

  • full sovereignty 
  • reparations by negotiation 
  • loss of all land surrendered at the armistice to the USA 
  • Taiwan not to return to communist China nor South Sakhalin to the USSR 
  • US occupation forces to withdraw no later than 90 days after the treaty 
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Shigeru Yoshida

Positive Interpretations of Yoshida 

  • He represented the recovery of the 'civilian old guard' 
  • He made patriotic democracy the basis for the new Japan 
  • He restored Japan's reputation, respect and security among non-communists 
  • He resisted US pressures for rapid Japanese rearmament and rearmed slowly 
  • He maintained neutrality in the Cold War as far as was possible 


  • General MacArthur said he was lazy and poilitically inept 
  • Internatial respect for Japan was limited; it was seen as a lackey of the USA 
  • He failed to exploit Anglo-American disagreements on recognition of Communist China to benefit Japan 
  • He tried to avoid a Japanese revolution by behaving like McCarthy 
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Interpretations of Japan

  • The 'Free World' View 
     The USA had made Japan a model democratic state, given it stability and an army to defend against communism. It was a beacon of enlightened 'free world' policies. 
  • The Japan-centered View 
     Japan played a part itself in reconstruction 
  • The US Imperialist View
    US bases are now sometimes seen as the causes of rising Cold War tensions in 1949 as opposed to a response. 
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Japanese Export Values


$174 million 


$258 million 


$510 million 


$827 million 

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Why did the USA fail to prevent the fall of China

  • Insufficient military aid from the USA 
    Gave $2 billion to the Nationalists  
  • Support for an unpopular and corrupt Chinese Nationalist government 
  • Poor morale in Jiang's armies; communist propaganda 
  • US priorities placing Europe above Asia 
  • A strong Chinese independence movement which opposed US imperialism
    Mao gained 2.7 million supporters  
  • Soviet military support for the CCP 
    USSR willing to recognize communist China, while US only recognised Taiwan
  • The 'paper tiger' of the bomb threat 
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Significance of the Fall of China

  • 1949 the USSR successfully tested the atomic bomb and the US nuclear monopoly was over 
  • 1950 US continued to only recognise Nationalist government in Taiwan 
    Acheson suggested recognition of Communist China - however Truman refused as it would make him seem weak to the Republicans

The Soviet-Chinese Treaty, 1950 

Less than 5 months after the successful atomic bomb test, Mao signed a Soviet-Chinese Treaty giving him $300 million of Soviet aid. The treaty contained a veiled threat to the USA: the promise of mutual assistance against any aggression by (US occupied) Japan. Mao realised that China could not stand alone, and the the USSR was its only real choice of ally.  

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Significance of Truman ignoring Korea?

One country that the USA had not seriously considered in all of its defensive strategies was Korea: 

  • they had failed to keep it for their Japanese satellite 
  • they had allowed Stalin to liberate its northern industrial 
  • they had not included it in their Defensive Perimeter Strategy 
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Defensive Perimeter Strategy, 1949

A defensive line of military bases including the Aleutians, Taiwan, Japan, Midway, the former Japanese mandated islands, Okinawa, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and the British and Dutch islands in the south-west Pacific. 

Military, air and naval bases would be set up on the offshore island chain. 

The policy took the pessimistic view that the USA would not be able to influence events on the Asian mainland, based partly on the sucess of Mao Zedong's CCP. 

This 'Defensive Perimeter Strategy' became a widely-accepted policy by the summer of 1949. 

Note: The lack of Korea in the Defensive Perimeter Strategy

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Differing Expectations of the US Defensive Perimet

  • The State Department saw the offshore island chain as a detached position from which to encourage Asian national movements 
  • The Chiefs of Staff saw it as a low-cost defensive line in the event of war by relying on it instead of requesting higher funding for adequate forces 
  • MacArthur saw it as a series of bases for offensive attacks to regain mainland China 

These differences were painfully exposed when the Truman administration tried to fit the strategy to Taiwan, Indochina and Korea 

At the heart of the strategy stood a US satellite, the newly-reconstructed Japan, causing outrage among countries which had been brutalised by Japanese annexation and occupation during the Second World War. 

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Truman and South Korea

August 1945 - Korea liberated (South and USA, North and Soviet Union) divided along 38th parallel 

1948 - Communist regime under Kim Il Sung set up in the North. US-backed right-wing government led by Syngman Rhee elected in the South. 

1949 - Soviet and US withdraw, however, Stalin leaves advisers and armed forces while US refuse to occupy the South. Clashes occurred along 38th parallel. Rhee loses election due to brutal policy methods in May 1950

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NSC 68

A US National Security Council review document that proposed the tripling of America's defence budget to build up a massive US military presence to combat the advance of the USSR. 

The annual cost was estimated in the region of $50 billion. 

Dean Acheson called NSC 68 'a blunt but effective propaganda tool' to manipulate public opinion into agreeing military funding. 

It's effect on the USSR and Korea was limited as they had no knowledge of its existence, had they known they may well have not invaded South Korea. 

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South Korea, US Economic and Political Policies

  • Hodge refused to work with People's Committees and purged them from economic organisations and government posts 
  • 70% of the population was engaged in farming, land reform was the critical issue however Hodge ignored Korean demands 
  • Re-established oppressive rice collection 'quota' system 
  • Hodge created a free market encouraging corruption 
  • Inflation - bushel of rice rose from 9.4 yen 1945 to 2,8000 yen 1946 
  • Resorted to rationing 
  • 53% remaining officers were Japanese-trained and members of the anti-Japanese resistance were banned from joining the national police force 
  • Hundreds of thousands of Rhee's opponents were imprisoned 
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North Korea, USSR Economic and Political Policies

  • Koreans occupied former Japanese industries and seized their assests; organised the distribution of food, land and property through Communist People's Committees 
  • Adopted similar policy as used in Berlin Blockade 1948-49 
  • Soviet troops blocked mail, rail traffic and shipments across 38th 
  • Stalin held the South to ransom 
  • North suffered too - shortages of rice caused demonstrations and riots which were suppressed by Soviet troops 
  • Christian protest was violently crushed, newspapers censored, non-left officials purged and moderate or right-wing groups silenced 
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Phase 1

Pusan and Inchon, June to September 1950 

135,000-strong North Korean Army quickly advanced South. Ill-equipped and poorly trained South Korea troops could do little. 

Seoul, S. Korean capital fell to the N. Koreans 

US ground troops were small in numbers and were forced to retreat South with ROK troops. 

July all of South Korea was overrun by N. Korean 'blitzkrieg', except from a small area around Pusan. 

More US forces flown in from Japan and deployed to Pusan. 

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US Response

MacArthur planned a brilliant amphibious attack on Inchon, the port of Seoul, by the 'X-Corps' of 80,000 men under the command of Major General Almond. 

19 September the break out from Pusan confused the North Koreans and drove them back. 
28 September, Seoul was retaken, with 50,000 casualties and the bulk of the N. Korean army found itself cut off in a pincer movement of two UNC forces.

Syngman Rhee was reinstated in Seoul  

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Phase 2

'Rollback' of Communism to the Yalu River, September to October 1950 

$15 billion annual expenditure. 

UN were persuaded to advance across 38th parallel and unify Korea under Rhee's control - however, this was not at his request. Truman was persauded by Congress and by hawks, such as Rusk, Dulles and MacArthur. The UN also played its part, but the USA was forced to use the General Assembly rather than the Security Council, to which the USSR had returned in August 1950. 

NSC 81 - ordering MacArthur to cross the parallel but stipulating that only Korean troops were to be used near to the Soviet/Chinese borders. 

19th October Pyongyang taken 
24th October MacArthur ordered UNC forces to move north as far as the Yalu - violating Truman's orders to use only Korean forces - Washington approved the move. MacArthur was pursuing a 'total victory' policy  

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Phase 3

Chinese involvement and escalation, October 1950 - February 1951 

14th October, 180,000 Chinese troops secretly crossed the Yalu River 
19th October Pyongyang fell to UN and S. Korean forces
25th November entire US Eighth Army was encircled 
27th November Chinese attack  - who had forces of 300,000 men 
30th November Truamn said he would take 'any steps necessary to meet the military situation' and admitted that the USA might be considering using the atom bomb

5th December, the US Eighth Army was 25 miles south of Pyongyang and by the end of the month had reached the 38th parallel

4 January Chinese forces took Seoul  

General Ridgway evacuated Seoul, withdrew from Inchon and adopted a 'scorched earth party' - becoming a war of attrition 

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US allies reaction to escalation of the war

  • NATO allies of the USA feared being drawn into an escalated war between the superpowers that might affect Europe. To break with American policy in Asia would threaten US support in Europe 
  • France also feared Chinese intervention in Indochina, where they were fighting insurgency led by Vietnamese Communist, Ho Chi Minh 
  • British Prime Minister Attlee met with Truman and won the concession that the USA would inform Britain and Canada before using the atom bomb. However, this was not a written agreement and involved no requirement to consult them 
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US Reaction to Defeat of N. Korea

  • General MacArthur's response was to put forward a list of targets in China and Korea, which he said required the use of 26 atomic bombs 
  • Right-wing Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy called for the impeachment of Truman and the resignation of Secretaries of State Acheson and Marshall 
  • Truman declared a state of national emergency on 15 December 1950. The Third World War seemed imminent
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Phase 4

Stalemate - the war of attrition, January 1951 - July 1953 

US forces had air superiority, Stalin sent Russian MiG figthters - this was secret though, so Americans never knew they were in direct conflict. 

  • US planes carried 100 gallon napalm tanks as well as 1,000-pound bombs 

4th January Seoul fell 
25th January 'Operation Thunderbolt' - the counter offensive 

Then a war of attrition began with 'Operation Killer' 
March 'Operation Ripper' 
April 'Operation Rugged'  

15 March USA, UN and ROK recaptured Seoul, N. Korea driven over 38th 

The President privately prepared for a limited peace initiative with the Communists. However, he had no intention of allowing the PRC to take a seat on the UN Security Council. 

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End of War

The war of attrition resumed on 30 May with 'Operation Piledriver', then the bombing of Korean power plants on river Yalu. Ridgway broadcast the first American request for peace talks.  5 August Rhee wins another rigged election 
4 November landslide victory for Eisenhower and he visited Korea secretly  After Stalin's death, on 5 March 1953, peace talks became possible. 
23 June Soviet representative at the UN delivered a radio speech declaring USSR wish to negotiate 27 July 1953 the final peace treaty was signed at Panmunjom. South Korea refused to sign the treaty.  

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This is so rubbish. Poor effort.



i thought this was a really useful overview for the ocr history a source paper, thank you!!



thanks Charlotte :) 

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