During the Second World War, the USA and the USSR fought on the same side against Nazi Germany. At the end of the war the two sides fell out. This was because the USA was a capitalist country and the USSR was a communist country.
After the war the USSR took control of a large part of Eastern Europe and helped Eastern Europe countries to set up communist governments. By 1949 Europe was divided between the East and the West. The dividing line became known as the ‘Iron Curtain’.
The USA and the Soviet Union were enemies but a ‘hot war’ never developed. Instead, from the 1940s to the 1980s, the two superpowers entered into a cold war using espionage and propaganda.
On its borders, the USSR was surrounded by Western powers. This made the USSR feel threatened which meant it closed in on its-self. The USA wanted to learn about how technologically advanced in the arms race and space the USSR was. However, the USA was unable to do so as information was being restricted.
The U2 Plane Incident
On May 1st 1960, an American U2 spy plane was shot down over the USSR. Francis Gary Powers was the pilot of the daring mission to fly completely over Russia taking pictures of secret military bases in order to find the status of the USSR’s military capabilities. Before this historic U2 flight no American spy plane had been shot down over the USSR during the Cold War. After the U2 spy plane was shot down, Eisenhower came out and said it was a weather reconnaissance flight, but was caught in his lie when Khrushchev revealed Powers to the world and stated that it was quite obvious that Powers wasn’t a weather man. The U2 spy plane incident had an immense effect on the Cold War. Leading up to the incident, Eisenhower and Khrushchev had met in America to discuss a Nuclear Test Ban-Treaty. The upcoming meeting between the world super powers was one to be looked upon with hope, but when the U2 plane was shot down, everything changed. America decided not to attend the summit, and Khrushchev’s career was in jeopardy because he said that America could be trusted.
The Cold War continued, and Eisenhower never did get his Test-Ban Treaty. Powers, was sentenced to 10 years of solitary confinement in the USSR, but after two years was sent home to America, after a deal was made between the two superpowers. Powers was seen as a traitor in America’s eyes for not killing himself, as people were worried that he might give up American secrets.
Source A1 shows a cartoon which was published in a British news magazine during the Olympic Games in Rome during the 1960s, and shows four men running while holding Olympic flames. The two men at the front are supposed to be Eisenhower and Krushchev leading the arms race. This demonstrates the tension between Russia and America during the period of 1960 – 1963. This source is reliable as it was published by a third party at the same time as the cold war was in effect. The source would be useful when looking at the way other countries across the world viewed the situation of the Cold War altogether.
Source A5 is part of a speech made by Krushchev during May, 1960 on his return from Paris to Moscow. In this speech, Krushchev explains how the Americans had been caught “red handed” invading Soviet Union air space. He then states that nobody has the right to break international laws or to cross the frontiers of other countries. This would have, no doubt, increased the tension between the US and the Soviet during the cold war immensely. This speech was probably set out to make the Americans look bad, more than actually distressing the Soviet Union. The source would be useful when looking at the tactics that each country used during the Cold War to give themselves advantages over the other countries.
The Vietnam War
Led by Ho Chi Minh, North Vietnam was a communist country. The south was led by Ngo Dinh Diem and was a capitalist country. The North leader wanted to unite Vietnam and lead the whole of Vietnam with a communist government. He sent some soldiers and supplies to the South via the Ho Chi Minh trail. The Hi Chi Minh trail went through North Vietnam, then through neutral Loas and Cambodia Ngo Dinh Diem asked America for help, and President Kennedy felt obligated to help because the 2 previous American Presidents (Truman and Eisenhower) had made promises to help allies if they were in danger of falling to communism.
Source B1, where President Eisenhower was speaking to the press (April, 1954), explains what the Domino Theory was and also comments on the losses to communism in Asia. Effectively, Eisenhower was saying that the anti-communist countries could not afford to have any more countries fall to communism as this could lead to even greater losses. This source may be quite biased because it was taken from a speech by American President Eisenhower during April 1954. This source would be useful when analysing the attitude of the American government during the 1960s towards communism.
Source B3 shows the report of Vice President Johnson to President Kennedy stating that he recommends the US move their defences in Vietnam forward to help defend their allies, rather than pulling out – he stated that this was because if they pulled out their defences, it would be like saying to the world “we don’t stand by our friends”. This source is reliable as it is from the Vice President of the US, and therefore will not have been changed over time, although there is likeliness that the source would be bias. The source would be useful when looking at what the US government thought of the situation in Vietnam.
Source B5 shows us that when Southern Vietnam had lost much of its control over the South to Viet Cong, President Kennedy made a momentous decision in 1962 where he authorized 4,000 American ‘advisers’ to help the South Vietnam government put its military house in order, as well as sending financial and material help to the country. This resulted a few years later in major American involvement and the loss of 50,0000 American lives. This source is reliable, considering the text was taken from a book written by an established Historian in 1976, when he would have had time to properly analyse what happened in Vietnam. This source would be useful when studying the actions which affected the results of the Vietnam War.
Espionage and Propaganda
During the Cold War, espionage and propaganda were used by both the Americans and the Russians.
Propaganda was used to make the Cold War seem as if the enemies were even more ‘scary’ than they really were, thus gaining support for themselves and hence having more chance of ‘winning’ the war. This propaganda meant that citizens supported their countries rather than going against the idea of the Cold War.
Espionage was used so that the countries involved could keep track of one another’s progress in different fields such as the Space Race, the Arms Race and the movement of military and armed forces.
Source C1 shows Southern Vietnamese propaganda from the early part of the Vietnam War. The poster makes the South Vietnamese soldiers sound a lot friendlier and ultimately trying to make every-day citizens support the Southern Vietnam army. This source is a primary source (from the time), but fails to be at all reliable as it cannot give an objective point-of-view because it is propaganda. This source would be very useful when studying different types of propaganda to see how the different countries involved in the Cold War used propaganda to gain support.
Source C3 describes how a clerk from Portland in Dorset was having regular meetings with a Russian man and giving him secret documents. The content of these documents was information of Britain’s first nuclear-powered submarine (HMS Dreadnaught). The two men were arrested at Waterloo Station. The source is a secondary source and is very reliable as the Historian who wrote it had time to get an overview on all the facts and effects of the event. The source is subjective and is not particularly biased at all. The source would be useful when studying the different types of espionage different countries used on each other.
Source C4 shows a conversation between a British agent and a German officer, both spies trading secret documents. The source is an extremely useful one when discussing espionage used in the Cold War when countries were gathering information on one another’s progress in multiple fields (Space-Race, Arms-Race, Military & Armed Forces etc…). The source is quite reliable, but not completely reliable as the conversation was simply based on the British agent’s memoirs.
Source C5 describes how close-to-war the huge states of the United States and Russia were at some points during the Cold War, and how the groups of states always stopped short of War, before they would have to fight with nuclear weapons. The source also tells us that Western countries appeared in Civil war because much of what was said about the Cold War was put into ideological terms. This source is reliable as it was written by an objective historian after the event happened, giving the historian a good overview on the facts. The source would be most useful when looking at how close the countries involved got to war.
The Berlin Wall
Germany was divided, after the Second World War, into East and West. Berlin was divided into 4. One quarter went to Britain, another to America, one went to France and the last quarter went to the USSR. The three Western zones were given aid to rebuild after the war from America. People living in the Russian sector left the Eastern zone in huge numbers to live in the Western zones. Khrushchev (the Russian leader at the time) met with President Kennedy at a summit in Vienna (in 1961) to discuss the differences between the two countries and to see if they could reach an agreement about Berlin, but once again, just like one year before, the summit ended with no agreement between the two countries. Later on that year, the Berlin Wall was built, creating a physical barrier between East and West Germany.
Source D1 shows the steep decrease over the period of 1955 – 1965 of refugees who fled from East Germany to West Germany. The source shows the massive change from 207,000 people, to just 21,000 people fleeing from 1960 to 1961. This was because before 1961, most refugees fled via Berlin. The number of refugees fleeing shows how terrible it must have been to live in East Germany. This source is reliable as the data given is factual. The source would be extremely useful when investigating the data concerning the migration from East to West.
Source D2, part II, says that Khrushchev tried to ‘frighten’ Kennedy by giving the impression that the Soviet Union was willing to pursue nuclear war to “get their way on Germany”. These impressions were not altogether convincing, and resulted in the Americans refusing to be pushed ultimately out of Europe, out of Germany, or even out of Berlin. This shows that the Americans were not to be intimidated by the Soviet Union, and a meeting after the Vienna meeting ended with Kennedy leaving in a sombre mood without the situation improving.
Source D3 is part of a positively-spoken speech made by President Kennedy in July 1961 about Berlin. He stated that he heard of Berlin being “militarily untenable” and that he wasn’t surprised by it. Kennedy also claimed that “brave men” would make the dangerous spot tenable. This source is reliable to an extent, but wholly biased, with little truth. I think Kennedy was simply trying to cover up something bad and make the morals of people who heard him, higher. The source is useful when looking at the strategies that the Americans used to cover up bad situations, and increase public moral.