The Cold War in the U.S. By: Julia Varzari

What was the Cold War?

It was an "era" after World War II that lasted from 1945 - 1990, where the United States and the USSR sought ideological and strategic influence throughout the world. The US was afraid of the Soviet's Communist ways spreading causing other countries to stop buying our industrial goods. Therefore, the Containment policy was created which goals where to:

  1. Block further expansion of Soviet power
  2. Expose the falseness of Soviet claims
  3. Induce a retraction of Kremlin's control and influence
  4. Foster the seeds of destruction within the Soviet system

Also, it gave us a growing awareness that the greatest existential threat to human beings is ourselves.

"Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up?" - William Faulkner
Propaganda poster

The Cuban Revolution

What Happened

  • Fidel Castro led a revolution of overthrow the current dictator Batista
  • The US was suspicious of his ideologies and worried that some of his plans included destroying US investments and property in Cuba
  • Cubans began supporting Castro because they were desperate for freedom from corruption and poverty
  • In 1959 the Cuban government was overthrown and Castro became the dictator
  • Castro nationalized property and foreign holdings
  • They became friendlier with the Communist Party and allied with the Soviet Union

How the US Responded

  • They put a trade and travel embargo on Cuba
  • Launched an invasion later known as Bay of Pigs to remove Castro from power
Captured US-backed Cuban exiles

Bay of Pigs

What Happened

  • American advisors believed that Castro posed no threat, but Kennedy was serious about winning the Cold War.
  • In April 1961, the American CIA made a plan to oust Castro.
  • Trained 1,500 Cubans to start revolution and predicted that it would spark an anti-Castro uprising
  • Ends up being a total failure

Impact

  • Over 1,100 were captured and 114 were killed
  • Instead of keeping it secret as planned, a Cuban radio station broadcasted every detail.
  • Pushed Castro closer to USSR
  • Americans continued to exercise efforts against Cuba but were careful not to start a fight that could spark World War III
"It is not the first time that Communist tanks have rolled over gallant men and women fighting to redeem the independence of their homeland. Nor is it by any means the final episode in the eternal struggle of liberty against tyranny, anywhere on the face of the globe, including Cuba itself." - Kennedy, Bay of Pigs Invasion Speech

Role of Geography

Due to Cuba's Soviet ally and how close Cuba is to the US, it was a source of concern and encouraged actions to take place.

A naval ship used in the blockade around Cuba.

The Cuban Missile Crisis

  • On October 14th, 1962 an American U-2 spy plance flew over Cuba and they found and photographed USSR missiles that were being installed
  • This concern the nation because it was just 90 miles away from the US border
  • America decided to take the US Navy and create a blockade/quarantine to prevent the Soviets from delivering more missiles or military equipment.
  • On October 27th, an American plane was shot down over Cuba, which created even more tension
  • On October 28th, 1962 the crisis came to a close with the US agreeing to promise not to invade Cuba and secretly taking down their missiles in Turkey.
"It was a perfectly beautiful night, as fall nights are in Washington. I walked out of the president's Oval Office, and as I walked out, I thought I might never live to see another Saturday night." - Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, recalling the Cuban Missile Crisis

Role of Geography

Geography was an immediate concern for the US, because Miami, Florida is only 90 miles away from Cuba. Therefore, it was a very easy decision for Kennedy to take down the missiles in Turkey in order to make the USSR take down theirs in Cuba and to promise not to invade Cuba.

A South Vietnamese reconnaissance unit walks hip-deep in water as a U.S. helicopter skims over reeds in the Mekong Delta in October 1964. They were on the lookout of Vietcong guerrillas.

Vietnam War

  • After WW2, South Vietnam was given to the French, while the North was given to the communist Chinese.
  • In October 1946, the French wanted all of Vietnam and claimed that they would fight for it.
  • Since the Chinese were allied with the Soviets, the US pledged to support South Vietnam.
  • The States were also afraid of communism spreading if South Vietnam lost the war.
  • By 1962, the U.S. had reached about 9,000 troops in South Vietnam, compared with less than 800 during the 1950s.
  • After the South Vietnam president was killed, the military support from the US increased even more.
  • Most of the troops fought on the ground
  • Many began to lose heart, had more psychological and physical problems, use drugs, and attack officers.
  • After the Tet Offensive, it was a long, painful withdrawal for the US.

The Withdrawl

  • January 1973, the United States and North Korea made a peace agreement and America withdrew from the conflict.
  • The was between North and South Vietnam continued until April 30, 1975
  • The war greatly affected the Vietnamese population, infrastructure, and economy.
  • The $120 billion dollars the US spent on the Vietnam War caused inflation
  • Many returning troops faced negative reactions

Role of Geography

Due to the area, all the people looked of the same race and were not easily distinguishable. This made it difficult for US troops to identify enemies. People who they considered their friends in the day could've only been putting on an act to become their enemies in the night. Also, because Vietnam was so far and foreign, the American citizens didn't really support the war, which made it morally difficult for the soldiers.

Tet Offensive

  • Turning point in the war
  • On January 31, 1968 the communist north launched a series of coordinated, fierce attacks on over 100 cities and towns in South Vietnam.
  • Even though they were caught off guard, the United States and South Vietnam managed to fight back quickly, and the communists weren't able to keep any of their territories for more than a day or two.
  • After it was declared that 200,000 more troops were needed, the people of the home-front was very much against it.
  • Johnson then decided that it would be better to make peace negotiations to end the war

Growing Opposition to War

  • The soldiers began to mistrust the government's reasons for keeping them there and had an increased number of psychological and physical problems
  • Citizens at home began to turn against the war and believed that the US shouldn't have barged into foreign affairs
  • An anti-war march was held in October 1967 with about 35,000 people
  • Nixon tried to appeal to the "silent majority" of people who he thought supported the war
  • Anti-war protests continued as the war went on
  • In 1968 and 1969, there were hundreds of anti-war marches and gatherings throughout the country.
  • On November 15, 1969, the largest anti-war protest in American history took place in Washington, D.C., as over 250,000 Americans gathered peacefully, calling for withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam.
  • The anti-war movement seriously divided Americans
  • When only some of the soldiers were withdrawn from the war, it caused many problems with the soldiers who had to keep fighting.
  • Many soldiers received dishonorable discharges and about 500,000 Americans avoided the drafts by fleeting to Canada.

The Cold War's Impact on Today's America

  • The US still remains as a leader on the world stage
  • The interstate system (originally created as an emergency escape in case of an atomic bombing) is still widely used and brings lots on money to the economy
  • Continued to build a large, powerful, and expensive national state
  • Changed the way we believe what it means to be free and what it means to be safe
  • The American pledge still has "under God" added to it

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