The Cold War (1947-1953) discusses the period within the Cold War from the establishment of the Truman Doctrine in 1947 to the Korean War in 1953. The Cold War began immediately following World War II and lasted through most of the twentieth century.
The immediate post-1945 period may have been the historical high point for the popularity of communist ideology. The burdens the Red Army and USSR endured had earned it massive respect which, had it been fully exploited by Joseph Stalin, had a good chance of resulting in a communist Europe. Communist parties won sizeable shares of the vote in free elections in countries such as Belgium, France, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Finland, and won significant popular support in Asia (in Vietnam, India, and Japan) and throughout Latin America. In addition, communist parties achieved a significant popularity in such nations as China, Greece, Iran, and the Republic of Mahabad. Communist parties had already come to power in Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and Yugoslavia.
The United Kingdom and the United States were concerned that electoral victories by communist parties in any of these countries could lead to sweeping economic and political change in Western Europe. Both East and West regarded Greece as a nation well within the sphere of influence of Britain. Stalin had respected his agreement with Winston Churchill to not intervene, but Yugoslavia and Albania defied the USSR's advice and sent supplies during the Greek Civil War to the partisan forces of the Communist Party of Greece, the ELAS (National Popular Liberation Army). The UK had given aid to the royalist Greek forces and ELAS leaders who, failing to realize that there would be no Soviet aid and having boycotted the elections, were at a disadvantaged position. However, by 1947, the near-bankrupt British government could no longer maintain its massive overseas commitments. In addition to granting independence to India and handing back the Palestinian Mandate to the United Nations, the British government decided to withdraw from both Greece and nearby Turkey. This would have left the two nations, in particular Greece, on the brink of a communist-led revolution.
Notified that British aid to Greece and Turkey would end in less than six weeks, the U.S. government, already hostile towards and suspicious of Soviet intentions, decided that action was necessary. With Congress solidly in Republican hands, and with isolationist sentiment strong among the U.S. public, Truman adopted an ideological approach. In a meeting with congressional leaders, the argument of "apples in a barrel infected by one rotten one" was used to convince them of the significance in supporting Greece and Turkey. It was to become the "domino theory." On the morning of March 12, 1947, President Harry S. Truman appeared before Congress to ask for $400 million of aid to Greece and Turkey. Calling on congressional approval for the United States to "support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures," or in short a policy of "containment," Truman articulated a presentation of the ideological struggle that became known as the "Truman Doctrine." Although based on a simplistic analysis of internal strife in Greece and Turkey, it became the single dominating influence over U.S. policy until at least the Vietnam War.
Truman's speech had a tremendous effect. The anti-communist feelings that had just begun to hatch in the U.S. were given a great boost, and a silenced Congress voted overwhelmingly in approval of aid. The United States would not withdraw back to the Western Hemisphere as it had after World War I. From then on, the U.S. actively engaged any communist threats anywhere in the globe under the ostensible causes of "freedom", "democracy" and "human rights." The U.S. brandished its role as the leader of the "free world." Meanwhile, the Soviet Union brandished its position as the leader of the "progressive" and "anti-imperialist" camp.
In view of increased concerns by General Lucius D. Clay and the Joint Chief of Staff over growing communist influence in Germany, as well as of the failure of the rest of the European economy to recover without the German industrial base on which it previously had been dependent, in the summer of 1947, Secretary of State General George Marshall, citing "national security grounds" was finally able to convince President Harry S. Truman to rescind the punitive U.S. occupation directive JCS 1067, and replace it with JCS 1779. In July 1947 JCS 1067, which had directed the U.S. forces of occupation in Germany to "…take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany," was thus replaced by JCS 1779 which instead stressed that "An orderly, prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany." JCS 1067 had then been in effect for over two years.
In 1947, the Marshall Plan began and was designed to give billions of dollars to assist the recovery of Europe. The Soviets, however, refused to accept any Marshall aid, as did their allies in Eastern Europe.
Stalin responded by blocking access to Berlin, which was deep within the Soviet zone although subject to four-power control. The Soviets cut off all rail and road routes to West Berlin. No trucks or trains were allowed entry into the city. Truman embarked on a highly visible move that would humiliate the Soviets internationally: flying supplies in over the blockade during 1948-1949. Military confrontation loomed while Truman flew supplies through East Germany into West Berlin during the 1948-1949 blockade. This costly aerial supplying of West Berlin became known as the Berlin Airlift.
The United States joined Britain, France, Canada, Denmark, Portugal, Norway, Belgium, Iceland, Luxembourg, Italy, and the Netherlands in 1949 to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United States' first "entangling" European alliance in 170 years. West Germany, Spain, Greece, and Turkey would later join this alliance. The Eastern leaders retaliated against these steps by integrating the economies of their nations in Comecon, their version of the Marshall Plan; exploding the first Soviet atomic device in 1949; signing an alliance with People's Republic of China in February 1950; and forming the Warsaw Pact, Eastern Europe's counterpart to NATO, in 1955. The Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Albania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland founded this military alliance.
The continued hostility between the Communists on the mainland and the Nationalists on Taiwan continued throughout the Cold War. Though the United States refused to aide Chiang Kai-shek in his hope to "recover the mainland," it continued supporting the Republic of China with military supplies and expertise to prevent Taiwan from falling into PRC hands. Through the support of the Western bloc (most Western countries continued to recognize the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China), the Republic of China on Taiwan retained China's seat in the United Nations until 1971.
In early 1950, the United States made its first commitment to form a peace treaty with Japan that would guarantee long-term U.S. military bases. Some observers (including George Kennan) believed that the Japanese treaty led Stalin to approve a plan to invade U.S.-supported South Korea on June 25, 1950. Korea had been divided at the end of World War II along the 38th parallel into Soviet and U.S. occupation zones, in which a communist government was installed in the North by the Soviets, and an elected government in the South came to power after UN-supervised elections in 1948. Fearing that a united communist Korea could neutralize U.S. power in Japan and encourage communist movements world-wide, Truman committed U.S. forces and obtained help from the United Nations to drive back the North Koreans. The UN would not admit the People's Republic of China and continued to recognize the Republic of China on Taiwan as the sole legitimate Chinese government, so in a historic diplomatic blunder, the Soviets boycotted the UN Security Council and thus lacked its power to veto Truman's action in the UN.
However, Truman offset this with his own historic error: he allowed U.S. forces to go to the Chinese-Korean border. Communist China responded with massive attack in November 1950 that decimated U.S.-led forces. Fighting stabilized along the 38th parallel, which had separated the Koreas, but Truman faced a hostile China, a Sino-Soviet partnership, and a bloated defense budget that had quadrupled in eighteen months.
Fear of a nuclear war spurned the production of public safety films by the United States federal government's Civil Defense branch that demonstrated ways on protecting oneself from a Soviet nuclear attack. The 1951 children's film Duck and Cover is a prime example.
George Orwell's classic dystopia Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in 1949. The novel explores life in an imagined future world where a totalitarian government has achieved terrifying levels of power and control. With Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell taps into the anti-communist fears that would continue to haunt so many in the West for decades to come. In a Cold War setting his descriptions could hardly fail to evoke comparison to Soviet communism and the seeming willingness of Stalin and his successors to control those within the soviet bloc by whatever means necessary. Orwell's famous allegory of totalitarian rule, Animal Farm, published in 1945, provoked similar anti-communist sentiments.
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