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The Birth of the Cold War. Power point compiled by Robert Martinez Primary Content Material: Americans (McDougal Littell) Images and photographs as cited. Rock and Roll.

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the birth of the cold war

The Birth of the Cold War

Power point compiled by Robert Martinez

Primary Content Material: Americans (McDougal Littell)

Images and photographs as cited.

rock and roll
Rock and Roll

A form of American popular music that evolved in the 1950s out of rhythm and blues, country, jazz, gospel, and pop: this American music spread worldwide (diffusion) having significant impacts on social dancing, clothing fashions, and expressions of protest.

The end of World War II left the United States and Soviet Union as the world’s two superpowers. The United States had tremendous economic power and control of the atomic bomb, while the Soviet Union had the world’s largest army.

Although allies during World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union soon became rivals in a “Cold War.” The war was “cold” only in the sense that, because of nuclear weapons, the two superpowers never fought one another directly in open warfare.

The roots of the Cold War lay in the two powers’ competing ideological systems. Under Soviet communism, the state controlled all property and economic activity, while in capitalistic America, private citizens controlled almost all economic activity.

In America, people elected a president and a congress from competing political parties. In the Soviet Union, the Communist Party established a totalitarian government with no opposing parties.

In early 1945, American, Soviet, and British leaders met at the Yalta Conference to planfor thereorganization of Europe after the war.

They agreed to form the United Nations and to divide Germany into separate occupation zones. They also agreed to create democratic governments andto allow free elections in the countries they freed from German rule.

United Nations


After the war, hopes for world peace was high. On June 26, 1945, the representatives of 50 nations met in San Francisco to establish a new peacekeeping organization called the United Nations.

After Roosevelt‘s death, President Truman met with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin at the Potsdam Conference late in 1945. At this conference serious differences emerged, Stalin would not permit free elections in Eastern Europe.

The U.S. industry boomed during the war, making the United States the economic leader of the world. American businesses wanted access to raw materials and markets in Eastern Europe.

The Soviet Union emerged from WWI with enormous economic and military strength. Unlike the U.S., the Soviet Union had suffered heavy destruction on its own soil. Soviet deaths are estimated at 20 million, half of whom were civilians. By dominating Eastern Europe, the Soviets felt they could stop future invasions from the west.

Stalin installed communist governments in Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Poland. These countries became know as satellite nations, countries dominated by the Soviet Union.

Soviet tanks in Hungary.

Faced with the Soviet threat, Truman initiated a policy of containment, measures taken to prevent any spreading of communism to new areas.

Europe was now divided into two political regions, a mostly democratic Western Europe and a communist Eastern Europe.

The phrase “iron curtain” came to represent the division of Europe. The term “iron curtain” was taken from a speech given by Winston Churchill.

truman doctrine
Truman Doctrine
  • Announced by President Harry S. Truman in 1947, of providing economic and military aid to free nations threatened by internal or external opponents. Truman promised U.S. support to any country fighting Communism.
  • In an effort to prevent communist takeovers in Turkey and Greece, Truman gave these countries aid in the form of weapons and money.

The Marshall Plan, a program proposed by Secretary of State George Marshall in 1947, under which the United States supplied economic aid to European nations to help them rebuild after World War II. 16 countries received $13 billion in aid. By 1952, Western Europe was flourishing, and the Communist Party had lost much of its appeal to voters.

At the end of WWII, Germany was divided into four zones occupied by the United States, Great Britain, and France in the West and the Soviet Union in the east. In 1948, Britain, France, and the U.S. decided to combine their three zones into one nation.

This western part of Berlin, which had been occupied by the French, Great Britain, and the U.S. was surrounded by Soviet-occupied territories (satellites.)

The three nations had intended to unify their zones, they had no written agreement with the Soviets guaranteeing free access to Berlin by road or rail. Stalin saw an opportunity to take over Western Berlin.

In June 1948, Stalin closed all highway and rail routes into West Berlin. As a result, no food or fuel could reach that part of the city. The 2.1 million residents of the city had only enough food to last for approximately five weeks.

berlin airlift
Berlin Airlift

In an attempt to break the blockade, American and British officials started the Berlin airlift to fly food and supplies into West Berlin. For 327 days, planes took off and landed every few minutes, around the clock.

In 277,000 flights, they brought in 2.3 million tons of supplies – everything from food, fuel, and medicine to Christmas presents that the plane’s crews bought with their own money.

West Berlin survived because of the airlift. In addition, the mission to aid Berlin boosted American prestige around the world. By May 1949, the Soviet Union realized it was beaten and lifted the blockade.

In the same month, the western part of Germany officially became a new nation, the Federal Republic of Germany, also called West Germany. A few months later, the Soviet Union created the German Democratic Republic, called East Germany from the zone it had occupied. The city was divided by the Berlin Wall.

Berlin wall construction, 1961.

The Berlin blockade increased Western European fear of Soviet aggression. Ten Western European nations joined with the United States and Canada on April 4, 1949, to form a defensive military alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The twelve members of NATO pledged military support to one another in case any member was attacked. For the first time in history, the United States had entered into a military alliance with other nations during peacetime.

warsaw pact
Warsaw Pact

The Soviet Union responded by creating the Warsaw Pact with its Eastern European satellites in 1955.

Warsaw Pact members indicated in red.

red china
Red China

Just when American statesman believed they had checked the spread of Communism in Europe, the world’s most populous nation turned Communist in China.

In 1949, Communists, led by Mao Zedong, defeated the Chinese Nationalist government. Mao then created the world’s largest Communist state in China.

the korean war
The Korean War

After WWII, Korea had been divided into two zones: in North Korea a Communist government was established; South Korea was given a non-Communist government. In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea.

Truman ordered U.S. forces to South Korea to resist the invasion. The United States also got a resolution passed in the United Nations to send multinational troops to South Korea.

Truman sent General Douglas MacArthur to Korea to command United Nations forces. Soon after arriving, MacArthur’s forces attacked North Korea. His armies advanced to the border between North Korea and China. This brought China into the war, forcing MacArthur to retreat.

General MacArthur wanted to use atomic weapons to defeat the Communist Chinese. Fearful of a global nuclear war, Truman refused his request.

When MacArthur openly criticized the President, Truman fired MacArthur from his command, successfully asserting civilian control over the military.

In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower was elected President on a campaign pledge to end the Korean War. In 1953, an armistice (treaty) ended the war, leaving Korea divided as it had been before the war started.


Please write a short essay describing

the message of this illustration.

Incorporate the ideas of the Cold War

and “containment.”