The Cold War

Covers Yalta, Potsdam, who was to blame for the cold war, the Cuban Revolution, Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon.) Vietnam tactics, the Paris treaty and the Collapse of S. Vietnam.


Why did the USA-USSR alliance break down in 1945?

COMMUNISM VS. CAPTALISM: in a communist state industry is owned by the state, everyone works for the government, which has only one party. No-one has a vote. This directy contradicts America's beliefs on democrcacy and free market economy.


  • Roosevelt wanted liberated countries to be democratic and independant.
  • Stalin wanted to make sure Germany would not be a threat again, restrict it and others like it. He wanted to force Eastern European countries to support him.
  • Churchill wanted to liberate countries and gain influence in Europe.

POLAND: although GB had joined the war to help Poland, in the end it was split between the USSR and Germany. The USSR put in a communist government and shot 5000 polish officers.

DISTRUST: the West had intervened in the Russian civil war, the USSR was trying to export communism, the purges of 1930 and the non-agression pact with Hitler.

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The Yalta Conference, February 1945

  • Put in place emergency governemts for liberated countries.
  • Made changes to the border of Poland.
  • USSR POWs are sent back.
  • Gemrnay is divided into 4 zones.
  • The USSR declares war on Japan.
  • The United Nations is set up.


  • Stalin wanted communist control over liberated countries.
  • No compromise is reached on Poland.
  • Stalin did not keep his promises about the governments of liberated countries.
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The Potsdam Conference, July 1945.

  •  Roosevelt had died, and was replaced by Harry Truman, who trusted Stalin very little. He was very anti-communist and confrontational and refused many of Stalin's demands at Potsdam, bolstered in that he now had a weapon the USSR did not, the atom bomb.
  • Churchill was replaced by Clement Atlee, who also believed they needed to be tougher.

They agreed:

  • The German reparations. As well as recieving them from their own zone, the USSR got indistrial equipment from the west in recognition of their losses.
  • The German Polish Border. Stalin expelled 5 million Germans from now Polish land.
  • The Nazi party would be banned and its symbols removed from Germany.

The USA rejected some of Stalin's demands:

  • They could not build a naval base in Turkey.
  • They could not help run German industry in the Rhur.
  • They could not share in the occupation of Japan.
  • They could not interfere in the politics of Iran.
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How did the USA react to Soviet expansionism?

1946: Churchill gives his 'iron curtain' speech, describing the divide between east and west as impenetrable both physically and symbolically. The 'Long telegram' warns of the dangers of the USSR.

1947:The Truman Doctrine  of Containment promises to give support to any country threatened by communism. The USA gave $400 million in aid to Turkey and Greece. The Marshall plan gives American aid to European countries to rebuild their economies, inlcuding west Germany, in an attempt to keep the away from communism.

1948: The Berlin blockade and airlift, the west flew in supplies in a narrow air corridor after Stalin attempt to starve out West Berlin.

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How had the USSR gained control of Eastern Europe

  • Using their 2 million strong army, the Russians took over Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, parts of Finland, Poland and Romania.
  • They 'liberated' Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia in the hope they would turn communist. He allowed other political parties, but temporary governments were filled with communists and elections delayed.
  • Prevented the Marshall plan by taking over governments in 1948. Non-communist leaders found dead and elections fixed.
  • Governments in Western Europe did not take to communism although they did gain votes.

COMINFORM: Communist Information Bureau- co-ordinated propoganda.

COMECON: led by Molotov, designed to co-ordinate economic policy throughout Europe.

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Who was to blame for the Cold War?


  • Communist theory had always been to expand and spread.
  • Stalin was a ruthless dictator, show trials, murder of Polish officers.
  • He broke his promises, no democracy, takeover of Eastern Europe, treatment of East Germany, encouraging strikes in Western areas.


  • Misunderstood of military and political situation. The USSR wanted a 'buffer zone' a defensive measure.
  • Arrogant for trying to interfere through their economy through the Marshall Plan.
  • They had been confrontational, lying about the atom bomb, the Iron Curtain, Long Telegram, the Truman Doctrine.
  • USSR had not supplied weapons to Greek communists or shot down aircraft during the Berlin airlift.
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How did the USA react to the Cuban revolution?

The USA had had a strong influence on Cuba, setting up a military base (Guantanamo Bay) and controlling industry. In 1953, Fidel Castro waged a guerilla war against the corrupt  military dicator Batista in the name of the people who had been forced into poverty. In January 1959 Fidel entered the capital in triumph.

The USA did not like this because:

  • They disliked a country so close having a government that they could not control.
  • The Mafia and big business felt Castro would move against them.
  • They thought he was a communist and that the USSR would influence him. (This was not true, but the US forced him to get help from the USSR).
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What did Castro do?

  • He gave land back to the peasants as he had promised, and in retaliation Eisenhower announced an economic block on Cuba. They also encouraged sabotage, 100 people died when the freighter La Coubre exploded. It was thought to be a US plot.
  • Castro nationalised American banks, sugar and oil companies to find fund after the US would no longer trade. the owners were given no compensation.
  • Fidel agreed to sell the sugar to the USSR in return for petrol and other goods.
  • Kruschev declared him 'a fellow revolutionary' and offered protection in the form of nuclear weapons. He agreed.
  • He became fully aopted to communist beliefs and had close connection with the USSR. 
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The Bay of Pigs Invasion, April 1961

  • A plan by rich Cuban exiles to invade in the hope Cubans would support them. They asked for aircraft and guns from the US.
  • Kennedy refused to give direct aid for fear of becoming unpopular.
  • 1500 exiles land, and within two days hundreds are dead. It was a total failure.


  • The Cubans had overestimated thier popuarity. Few rose up to help.
  • They had nowhere near enough military power. They ahd too few aircraft which were quickly shot down, as well as the ships carrying ammunition. 

Kennedy admitted responsibility in an interview. He did not particularly trust the CIA or military after this.

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Why did Kruschev put missiles in Cuba?

  • He wanted to prove that he was superior to Kennedy. He felt that if he could put missiles there secretly, it would be too late for Kennedy to do anything and would humiliate him.
  • He was encouraged by technological sucesses, capturing a U-2 spy plane and putting the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.
  • He wanted more missiles that put the US in range.
  • He felt threatened by the Jupiter missiles in Turkey.
  • They would deter the US from attacking Cuba.

This was risyky, and the US was bound to object. However, if done in secrecy it meant they would be prepared to attack the USA.

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Why did Kennedy react as he did?

  • Spies told Kennedy of the military personnel and large trailers making their way into Cuba.
  • Kennedy gave a press statement saying that great issues would be raised if the USSR:
    • Installed military troops.
    • Built military places.
    • Installed surface to air missiles or any other missiles.

Krushchev was doing all of these things.

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The Crisis

  • OCTOBER 15TH: photos show a minimum of two MRBMs at San Cristobal.
  • OCTOBER 16TH: Excomm put toghether, four solutions are proposed:
    • Surgical air strike-could miss some missiles or hurt USSR troops.
    • Widespread air strike-more chance of hitting missiles and hurting USSR troops.
    • Invasion of Cuba-there would probabaly be a large cost of life. Would take eight days.
    • Naval Blockade-prevent new missiles being built. US could demand removal of old.
  • OCTOBER 18TH: Kennedy is inclined towards a general air strike. The presence of missiles is denied by the USSR foreign minister Gromyko.
  • OCTOBER 20TH:Naval blockade is put into place. This prevents death of USSR personnel and is not too confrontational. USSR ships were searched and non-military cargoes allowed to continue.
  • OCTOBER 22ND: Kennedy goes public on the missiles, tells public that any missile would result in retaliation against the USSR. 180 warships make the blockade, the US goes to DEFCOM 3. B-52 bombers are loaded with nuclear bombs.
  • OCTOBER 25TH: Kruschev denounces quarantine as 'an act of piracy' and continues to deny the presence of missiles. It is clear he wants to remove them; he never had any intention of attacing the USA. No ships attempt to cross the quarantine. DEFCOM 2.
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The Crisis, cont.

  • OCTOBER 26TH: A promise came from Kruschev- if the US promised not to invade Cuba then they would remove the missiles.
  • OCTOBER 27TH: 'Black Saturday', Kruschev adds that he wants the Jupiter missiles removed from Turkey. Kennedy agrees only to the first deal in public, but agrees to remove the missiles later.
  • OCTOBER 28TH: The crisis is over.
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Who won the Cuban missile Crisis?


  • In the short term he humiliated Kruschev and had no plan to invade Cuba anyway. The CIA could still sabotage the coutnry as they had before.
  • Kennedy won a propoganda victory, but was assasinated a year afterward anyway.


  • Had got the missiles removed from Turkey like he wanted.
  • But he had backed down to the US. He was forced out of the Presidium in 1964 and communist China broke off relations.

In 1963, a telephone hotline was set up to give instant contact between the two leaders if there was a crisis.

In 1963, a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed.

In 1968, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed - the superpowers promised not to supply nuclear technology to other countries.

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  • In the 1880s, Vietnam was taken over by French colonists, and then by the Japanese.
  • When Japan surrendered at the end of WW2, Ho Chi Minh took control of the Northern part of Vietnam and announced it independance.
  • He fought for nine years and waged a sucessful war. He wanted an independant Vietnam, not controlled by China, despite wanting to be communists.
  • It was agreed in 1954 that:
    • Vietnam was to be temporarily divided along the 17th paralell.
    • Northern communists would be under HCM, and the Southern non-communists under Bao Dai.
    • French troops would leave Vietnam, and the Vietminh would leave S. Vietnam.
    • Within two years, there would be elections and the country would be united.
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Eisenhower and Vietnam, 1954-61

  • He was convinced that Ho was part of a communist conspiracy. Sent money and military equipment as well as advisors. No combat troops.
  • Communism was popular there, it fit in with their way of life.
  • Bao Dei was overthrown, but replaced with equally corrupt Diem. Esienhower increased US involvement because:
    • He believed HCM was part of a larger plot.
    • He did not want it to turn out like China, which had turned communist after the US did not give support. "We cannot go on losing areas of the free world forever.".
    • The Domino Theory, he believed that communism would also spread to the neighbouring countries of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Burma.
  • In North Vietnam, Ho trained the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) to fight the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam).
  • Diem took action against communists with brutality. He was a Catholic and staunch anti-communist.
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Kennedy and Vietnam

  • Made various speeches baout how th US would halt communism.
  • Felt dictators should always be stood up to, and had confidence in the military and economy as forces of good.
  • Increased the number of military advisors from 800 to 23,000.
  • Diem was still unpopular, was corrupt and brutal. Started Strategic Hamlets scheme.
  • He began to persecute Bhuddists, who he accused of being communist, one monk immolates himslef in protest. Madam Dhu calls these 'Bhuddist Barbeques'.
  • In January 1963 a helicopter is shot down. The ARVN are proving to be useless and military options are considered.
  • Diem and Nhu are killed when S. Vietnamese Generals overthrow the government.
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Johnson and Vietnam , 1963-69

  • Turned it into a war, but eventually realised it could not be won.
  • Fully subscribed to the Domino Theory.
  • Becaus he was not elected he felt he should not go against Kennedy's policies.
  • News got worse:
    • NVA troops had entered S. Vietnam through the Ho Chi Minh trail.
    • Diem's sucessor Thieu was just as corrupt and lazy. He was then replaced by Nguyen Cao Ky, described as 'absoloutley the bottom of the barrel'.
  • Johnson is the first to send combat troops to Vietnam.
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The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

  • South Vietnamese and US warships had been patrolling off the coast of N. Vietnam.
  • In August 1964, USS Maddox reports NV torpedoes fired, all of which missed.
  • Congress gives the President the right to launch 'an appropriate response' to the attacks. Johnson uses this to increase US involvement. Having won an election, he felt justified.
  • In February 1965, 8 US advisors are killed at Pleiku by Viet Cong.
  • Johnson launches Operation Rolling Thunder in retaliation.
  • New air bases are created and 3500 marines sent to protect them..
  • General Westmoreland advises Johson to bring in troops to fight in the jungle. By 1965 there were 200,00 troops there, in 1969 it was 500,000.
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What were the aims of the Vietnam war?


  • Wanted to crush the communists in S. Vietnam.
  • They would not use nuclear weapons, or send the entire army.
  • They though they would win through their superior technology.

N. Vietnam

  • To unite North and South.
  • All or nothing, prepared to take massive losses.
  • Use guerilla tactics to outwit the US.
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Tactics, Bombing by Air

  • "Operation Rolling Thunder" a near continuous bombing campaign which changed its targets regularly. This was very ineffective as N. Vietnam had few cities, and therefore there were few targets. They also had to avoid areas with Chinese or USSR troops.
  • They used defoliants on the countryside, but this just hurt innocent civilians.
  • US bombers were shot down by USSR and China supplied modern aircraft.
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Tactics, Search and Destroy missions

  • US forces never invaded N. Vietnam, the were limited to killing VC.
  • Main tactic was to have sweeps of S. Vietnam, Operation Cedar falls involved 30,00 troops.
  • Once they made contact with VC, air strikes would destroy the areas from which the attacks had come.
  • The VC used guerilla tactics.
  • They had few fixed bases, but 200 miles of tunnels.
  • Only 1% of patrols found VC troops.
  • They would launch ambushes then retreat quickly, 'hanging onto the belts' of US troops.
  • If they lost men they would take the bodies so that the Americans could no take accurate numbers.
  • They could train 200,000 new soldiers a week. 
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Tactics, Conventional Battles

  • This was what the US wanted, a chance to use their superior firepower. They would create vulnerable bases to encourage attack.
  • When these kinds of battles took place the Americans came out on top, but there were too few to make a difference.
  • The communists were prepared to take heavy losses. At the Hamburger Hill battle the NVA lost 630 to the US's 72, but the public were furious when they learned that the Hill had been abandoned, and Life magazine showed pictures of the 240 US soldiers that had died that week.
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Tactics, Hearts and Minds

  • The USA could not convince the Vietnamese to support them.
  • They could not promise a united and independant Vietnam, and had supported the corrupt governments.
  • The ARVN was unhelpful and poorly equipped.
  • The Strategic Hamlets scheme was unsucessful because the Vietnamese practised ancestor worship, and moving them disrupted this. The US media filmed soldiers going on 'Zippo raids', burning entire villages whilst the inhabitants cried. Anyone who took assistance from the troops was targeted by the VC.
  • The Americans were racist, calling them 'gooks' and making no attempt to unerstand their culture.
  • For every 1 dead VC, 6 innocent Vietnamese were killed. The troops would become frustrated and shoot innocents. In the Village of My Lai 347 inhabitants, mainly women and children, were shot dead. No VC  or weapons were found in the village.
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The Long War

  • Although 9 million volounteered, they were poorly educated. 2 million were drafted, but university students and the rich could avoid it.
  • Clothes and equipment rotted in the humidity.
  • 20% of casualties were from booby traps.
  • Morale fell and troops turned to heroin and other drugs.
  • Ho was prepared for heavy losses, and produced more troops in a year than they could lose.
  • They also had specialist equipment from the USSR and China, MIG fighters, SAM etc.
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The Tet Offensive

  • The Tet offensive was a major attack launched against major S. Vietnamese cities.
  • 36 cities were attacked, with the hope that civilians would join them, but this did not happen for fear of reprisals.
  • It resulted in the deaths of 4000 US, 5000 ARVN, and 58,000 NVA and VC.
  • However this was a complete failure in propoganda for the US:
    • It showed how they had exaggerated communist dead.
    • 20 NVA got into the US embassy in Saigon.
    • US soldiers were shown panic striken and admitting they did not want to be there.
    • It showed the atrocities commited by the US and South Vietnamese.
  • Opinion polls showed Americans wanted out of Vietnam.
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Why did the US withdraw?

  • Most Americans now owned a TV and saw for themselves the napalm attacks, drug habits, burning villages and casualties, which shocked them.
  • Protestors began to rise:
    • MLK said money should be spent on reducing black poverty, and that the draft was unfair and racist.
    • Students started marches and sit-ins after losing exemption from the draft.
    • Some left wing intellectual like Jane Fonda supported communism.
    • 10,000 people gathered at the Lincoln memorial to an end to aerial bombin gand the war, chanting "Hey hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"
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Johnson and the War

  • Johnson claimed he was not influenced by anti-war protests.
  • However, by 1968 he knew the war could not be won.
  • Robert McNamara had resigned saying that bombing was not working and too many innocents were killed. He had always favoured war in Vietnam.
  • The NVA could not be defeated by US tactics.
  • If it was to continue they would need support from NATO.
  • The Domino effect would not occur.
  • Johnson was under pressure, and he also wanted to spend money on reducing poverty but was spending too much on Vietnam.
  • He decided not to stand for re-election the following year.
  • He did offer peace talks, but these came to nothing.
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Nixon and Vietnam

  • Nixon and his advisor, Henry Kissinger, were willing to use any means to achieve their goals.
  • He wanted 'peace with honour', i.e for it not to be seen as a loss.
  • He attempted to bomb N. Vietnam into agreeing with him. He wanted S. Vietnam to be independant and non-communist. The N. Vietnamese wanted communists in the South Vietnamese government.
  • In response, Nixon increased air attacks on Vietnam, as well as bombing the neutral countries of Laos and Cambodia, leading to communists taking control. He also put pressure on the USSR and China to stop helping.
  • His plan was to come out of Vietnam slowly, training the ARVN to repel communist forces by themselves and reducing troop numbers gradually. This was called Vietnamisation.
  • US bombers were increasingly shot down.
  • Morale was low and troops were known to shoot their officers.
  • Sucess in finding VC just led to further outrage back home.
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The Paris Treaty, January 1973

By the terms of the agreement:

  • There would be an immediate ceasefire.
  • There would be an exchange of POWs from both sides.
  • The USA would remove all its troops form S. Vietnam.
  • The NVA would remain but not increase in  number.
  • Thieu would remain as the non-communist leader, but would have to accept communists into the government.
  • Critics pointed out that a similair deal to the one offered five years ago, but Nixon said that the time had been used to train the ARVN and left them with equipment.
  • Nixon said that he had appealed to the silent majority and that peace protestors were a minority. He won a landslide victory in 1972.
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The Collapse of S. Vietnam

  • The ARVN remained a poor fighting force, with corrupt catholics as superiors to soldiers who had no wish to support rich and corrupt leaders.
  • In 1975, the NVA invaded S. Vietnam, and within months they had overrun the entire country. Thieu fled to America with money and gold.
  • The US did nothing to assist Vietnam.
    • Nixon was no longer in power (Watergate).
    • Congress now controlled decisions on war and were reluctant to act.
    • It happened too fast t get there.
    • Kissinger blamed the ARVN for not fighting and said that there had been a decent interval between them leaving (1973) and the invasion (1975).
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The Consequences

US: 56,00 dead.

NZ, Australian and S. Korean: 5000

ARVN: 137,000

NVA and VC: 150,000

Civilians: 100,000

  • Vietnam is still a poor country. It now encourages US tourism. The Agent Orange used by the US is thought to cause birth defects in children to this day.
  • The Us struggled to cope with the fact that not only had they lost, they had not been wanted in the first place. They kept out of conflict until the 2001 9/11 attacks.
  • Veterans were not given homecoming parades and were ignored. Many were left with PTSD.
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