Timeline of the Cold War Era

The Yalta Conference:

In February of 1945, three Allied leaders, known as the “Big Three,” met at the Yalta Conference. President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the US, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, and Premier Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union met to discuss World War II and post-war matters. The leaders knew that the war in Europe would result in an Allied victory, but each leader had different goals for the meeting.

he US wanted the Soviet Union to participate in the Pacific War and also be a part of the United Nations. Great Britain wanted to ensure the establishment of democratic governments with free elections in Eastern and Central Europe and to also limit the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence in Europe. The Soviet Union wanted greater control in Eastern Europe.

Following the conference, the meeting was hailed as a success. Despite a few differences, the three Allied leaders had compromised on many things. The Soviet Union would get to keep the part of Poland that they annexed, but Poland would gain its independence and have a free, democratic government. The Soviet Union would help in the war against Japan. In return, they would gain control of the Japanese territory that had been lost in the Russo-Japanese War, and Mongolia, a Soviet satellite nation, would be granted independence from China.

The Soviet Union also agreed to become a member of the United Nations. Regarding Germany, they also agreed to demilitarize and partition Germany and its capital, Berlin, into four occupation zones. Shortly after the conference, however, the US realized that the Soviet Union was not planning on keeping many of its promises.

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950 when the communist North Koreans (supported by China and the Soviet Union) invaded across the 38th parallel into South Korean territory. Under President Truman, the US joined the war against the communist North Koreans not only to defend the South, which was consistent with the Truman Doctrine, but also to offensively “liberate” the North Koreans from communism.

The US successfully pushed the North Koreans to their side of the 38th parallel, but once the US started crossing into the North Korean side, China sent troops to aid North Korea. Fearing that China’s involvement would lead to a full-blown war, President Truman began peace talks with the North Koreans in July of 1951. The Korean War ended in an armistice signed in July of 1953, which suspended hostilities, reinforced Korea’s division at the 38th parallel, and created a 4,000 kilometer-wide demilitarized zone between the two sides. Within the larger picture of the Cold War, the Korean War was a proxy war between the US and the Soviet Union because they fought each other indirectly by supporting opposing sides in the war.

Army-McCarthy Hearings:

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy was a Wisconsin Republican senator who rose to public attention in 1950 when he began accusing people in the Truman administration, federal agencies, and Congress, as well as other public figures of being Communist. He conducted an excessive number of hearings and aggressively grilled witnesses and suspects. Finally, in 1954, Sen. McCarthy turned his accusations towards the US Army, who then argued that his accusations came about only because he was trying to seek preferential treatment for David Schine, a recently drafted Congressional aide.

In the nationally televised Army-McCarthy hearings, Sen. McCarthy tried to accuse the army lawyer, Joseph Welch, of having Communist ties. In response, Welch asked him, “Have you no decency?” With this famous question, almost overnight, Sen. McCarthy’s popularity and political career disappeared. On December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to censure Sen. McCarthy, which is a formal statement of disapproval against a member of the Senate. Though his witch hunting came to an end, anticommunist crusading definitely didn’t end with him.

The Berlin Wall:

On August 13, 1961, East Germany erected the Berlin Wall, which was a barbed wire and concrete wall that they called the “Antifascistischer Schutzwall,” or “antifascist bulwark.” Though East Germany claimed that the wall was to prevent West Germans from entering East Germany, the actual purpose was to prevent East Germans from defecting to the western side.

The Bay of Pigs Invasion:

The Bay of Pigs Invasion took place between April 17 and April 20 of 1961. The Bay of Pigs Invasion, which had been largely planned by President Eisenhower the previous year, was an operation to overthrow communist Prime Minister Fidel Castro of Cuba. The plan was for a group of CIA-trained Cuban exiles, known as Brigade 2506 and armed with American weapons, to rally the Cuban citizenry and together overthrow Castro. However, the invasion immediately failed due to an effective Cuban counterattack, with more than 100 killed and more than 1,000 prisoners taken by Cuba.


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