How effectively did the USA contain the spread of Communism? An amazing And helpful presentation by leti and georgie


Korea had been ruled by Japan until 1945- when it was liberated by Soviet troops (communist) in the North and Americans (anti-communist) in the South. President Truman immidiately sent support to South Korea but he knew that if he wanted to take action he would need the support of the UN. The United Nations had to intervene because the USA was the biggest contributer to the UN budget and therefor had a powerful pressure over them aswell as the USSR couldn't block the call of action because it was currently boycotting the UN over China's membership in the organization. As a result, the UN used its members' armies to fight back against North Korean troops- the force was mainly American and led by General MacArthur.


September 1950: North Korean and Chinese troops exceed 38th parallel. October 1950: South Koreans, Americans and UN forces control most of Korea. General Mcarthur wants the UN forces to press on- to even remove Communism from Korea completely. What they wanted went beyond containment. November 1950: 200,000 Chinese troops join North Koreans. . . January 1951: North Korean side drives back Southern forces to south of the 38th parallel. Truman was prepared to stop at containment but Macarthur was ready to invade China and use nuclear weaponary- Truman ruled this out. March 1951: Macarthur blatantly ignores UN instruction and threatens attack on China. In April, Truman sacked Macarthur. 1952: Truman replaced by Eisenhower who wanted to end the War. Peace talks begin. July 1953: UN advances and pushes border back to the parallel. Armistice signed.

Cuban Missile Crisis

Cuba was a large island close to Florida. It had always been an American ally but its ruler was an unpopular dictator, supported by the Americans solely because he opposed communism. In 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew General (dictator) Batista. He killed his poltical opponents and made way for his vision of a better Cuba.

How did this affect the USA?

  • Cuban exiles in the USA demanded the USA to take action against Castro.
  • Castro took over some American buisnesses, taking their land and distributing it.
  • President Eisenhower authorized the CIA to investigate ways to overthrow Castro, to disrupt the Cuban economy.
  • American media broadcasted criticism for Castro and his regime.

In the summer of 1960, Castro allied Cuba with the Soviet Union. In January 1961, the new president Kennedy was not prepared to tolerate a Soviet base in the USA's 'sphere of influence' and plans to over throw Castro developed.

Bay of Pigs

  • Kennedy supplied arms and tranposrt for 1,400 anti- Castro exiles to invade Cuba. In April 1961, the exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs.
  • They were met with 20,000 Cuban troops and modern weapons.
  • The invasion failed miserably. Castro captured and killed all the troops.
  • IMPACT: the invasion showed Cuba and the Soviet Union that the USA was unwilling to get involved in Cuba. Also, it strengthed Castro's position as a strong leader.

What next?

After the Bay Of Pigs incident, the Soviet Union heavily supplied Cuba with arms. The Americans watched with alarm- the real worry was wether the Soviet Union would dare to place nuclear weapons in Cuba.

The October Crisis

On the 14th of October 1962, an american spy plane flew over Cuba and took pictures of the nuclear missile sites in Cuba, built by the USSR.


  1. 16th Oct. Ex-comm informed.
  2. 20th Oct. Kennedy decided on blockade of Cuba
  3. 22nd Oct. Kennedy announced blockade and called on soviet union to withdraw missiles.
  4. 23rd Oct. Krushchev wrote to Kennedy telling him that Soviet ships would not observe the blockade. He did not admitt the presence of nuclear missilies.
  5. 24th Oct. blockade began. At 10:32am, twenty closest Soviet ships to the zone stopped and turned around.
  6. 25th Oct. despite the ships turning around, the missile bases on Cuba proceeded.
  7. 26th Oct. Kruschev sent another letter to Kennedy claiming that the missiles were purely defensive and would be removed if the blockade and attacks on Cuba from the USA stopped.
  8. 27th Oct. (morn) Krushchev sent another letter which stated he would only remove the missiles if the USA withdrew its missiles from Turkey. Then, an American U2 plane was shot down, the president was advised to immidiately respond with attack.
  9. (night) Kennedy decided to delay attack and accepted the terms of Krushchev's first letter while ignoring the second.
  10. 28th Oct. Kennedy instruct the USSR to dismantle missiles and return them to the Soviet Union

The outcomes

  • Kennedy had a greatly improved reputation
  • Krushchev showed he was a reasonable peace maker
  • The situation helped to improve Cold War relations
  • Castro felt betrayed by Krushchev, but Cuba stayed Communist
Cartoon from the Daily Mail

The Vietnam War

French involvement- in 1945, the Cold war had just begun and Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam as independent and the allies returned the country to France. In 1950 the French asked for US support against the Vietminh - America sent $500 million a year for the War effort. However in 1954 the French were defeated and Diem took control of the country, who America then supported due to his anti-communist views. The N.L.F (National Liberation Front) was formed against Diem and supplied by the North/Ho Chi Minh. The Geneva Conference was held in 1955 and created the 17th parrallel as a temporary solution to the violence. It was agreed that elections would be held in 1956 to decide the countries fate.

Why did the USA get involved in Vietnam? Containment - they wanted to contain the spread of Communism not only in Europe but in Asia and other parts of the world. It was, in their opinion, a global problem. They were afraid of the domino theory - if Vietnam fell to Communism, so would Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and perhaps ultimately India. Having witnessed the rapid spread of Soviet control in Europe, they were anxious to prevent Vietnam from becoming the first "domino". US domestic policy - all American presidents need to be seen as taking a stand against Communism, thus protecting American interests.

Critical Events increasing US Involvement

Geneva Conference 1955 - initiated political involvement, pressure to introduce reform

Kennedy assassinated 1963 - Johnson takes over and increased financial involvement

Gulf of Tonkin incident 1964 - North Vietnamese patrol boats opened fire on US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, therefore the US Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, meaning Johnson could take the USA into full scale war if necessary, which happened on the 8th March 1965 when troops came ashore.

Vietcong Tactics

Guerilla warfare - wore down US soldiers and reduced morale as they were always fearful, guerillas hard to identify (no uniform), but had basic weapons/close quarter fighting

Use of civilians (were respectful) - gained support from peasants, but ruthless violence towards non supporters turned many away

Ho Chi Minh Trail - brought in vital supplies and always kept open, but bombed constantly and had high cost.

Commitment - refused to give in, believed in what they were fighting for, replacement troops always available but MASSIVE loss of life (1 million men)

US Tactics

Bombing (Operation Rolling Thunder) - damaged NV war effort and disrupted supply routes, 70-72 bombing forced NV to negotiate for peace, but slowed instead of stopping Communists

Chemical Weapons eg napalm and agent orange - destroyed jungle were Viet Cong and Guerillas hid, reduced war effort and guerilla tactics, but caused severe civilian/soldier injuries, US were condemned internationally

Search and Destroy - killed many Viet Cong, but raids based on bad info, US killed by trapped and many innocent civilians killed (made them unpopular)

Troops - originally professional soldiers used, but lots died and conscription forced poorly trained soldiers to fight who did not believe in the US cause and simply wanted to go home (low morale).

The Tet Offensive, January 1968

Large scale Communist attack on 100 major South Vietnamese towns/cities, American embassy in Saigon attacked, overall failed for the North but was a huge blow to the US

1. Had massive political impact, caused Johnson to akter his course of action and start negotiating for peace and reducing the bombing campaign

2. American media believed the war was going well, Tet proved this to be untrue. The "credibility gap" between what the government said and what was true was widened and the media became more critical of the war

3. Public were told they were winning - started campaigning for troops to be brought home


1. The war did not stop with Tet - continued for another 7 years

2. Was not a military turning point in any way - the Vietcong did not achieve their aims of starting a mass uprising in the North

3. Although Johnson did not seek re election because of it, Nixon did not stop the war

My Lai Massacre, March 1968

Charlie Company of American Army entered village and killed 60 defenceless men/woman/children. Only Lieutenant Calley found guilty of any wrongdoing.

Revelations of the massacre shocked the American public - it was the clearest evidence the war had gone wrong and made the US question their morality and their cause.

US policy FAILED in Vietnam

The South Vietnamese (Diem) regime was corrupt and cruel making them unpopular causing opposition in other countries, and the opposition in America itself was overwhelming. The US tactics in Vietnam were greatly unpopular (chemical weapons) and the inexperience of the American soldiers meant the army was weak and military tactics were ineffective.

Failed militarily, strategically (by 1975 both Laos and Cambodia had fallen to Communism) and with propoganda (the soldiers didn't want to be there/have support of the public).

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