The World War II (1939-1945) alliance of the United States, Great Britain, France, China, and the Soviet Union against the Fascist regimes in Germany, Italy, and Japan masked fundamental ideological differences among the Allies, which became apparent as the victorious powers attempted to reorder international relationships.
The World War II
In reaction to Soviet exploitation of postwar economic instability in Europe, particularly in Greece and Turkey, American leaders implemented two programs designed to forestall Soviet influence. The Truman
The United States also restructured its
Fearing that American influence would follow Marshall Plan aid, the Soviet Union prohibited the governments of East European countries–East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria–from participating. Creation of the Communist Information
By 1950 the world had become clearly polarized in an ideological struggle known as the Cold War. For more than four decades, almost every facet of international relations was a battleground between the United States and its democratically oriented allies on one hand and the Soviet Union and other communist countries on the other. Both superpowers vied for supremacy in weapons, space, economics, security, and influence in the undeveloped (“Third World”) nations. Ironically, with two superpowers possessing nuclear
President John F. Kennedy meets with U.S. Air Force staff to discuss surveillance flights over Cuba in October, 1962.
Cold War tensions peaked in times of crisis, such as the Korean War (1950-1953), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the Vietnam War (1961-1975), and the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989), with intermittent periods of cautious negotiation. When ideological and territorial disputes between Russia and China became public in the late 1950’s, the democratic world was cautiously optimistic, but authentic information was hard to obtain, and it would be many years before people appreciated the extent of the rift. The most promising period of
After decades of massive military spending, the Soviet Union had achieved a rough technological parity with the United States by the 1980’s. Beginning in 1985 Soviet president Mikhail
The principal goal of United States and NATO troops during the Cold War was to contain communism within borders established during and shortly after World War II. A major NATO action in
In the wake of the French defeat in Indochina (1954), the United States in 1961 pledged to support South
Early Cold War battlefield weapons and uniforms were little changed from those of World War II. All NATO military organizations employed some form of khaki in varying shades of tan, green, or camouflage, depending on conditions of deployment, with other colors generally reserved for dress purposes. Battle
The M-1 .30-06
The M47 and M48 were the main battle tanks (MBTs) most commonly used by the United States and its allies during the 1950’s. Though highly adaptable and still in service in the 1980’s, they were increasingly replaced from 1966 by the M-551 Sheridan light
In the air, NATO forces were outnumbered, generally about three to two, by those of Warsaw
The USS Vincennes, a guided missile cruiser, firing an antisubmarine rocket during trials in 1985.
The proliferation of nuclear
After the peak period in Vietnam, the U.S. military reached its low point in numbers (420,000) in 1972 and remained relatively weak in troop strength, quality, and morale throughout the 1970’s. At the same time, the Soviet Union made massive strides in improving the quality of its air force, navy, and missile delivery systems, leading to much debate in NATO countries about basic defense doctrines. With the growing strength of the Soviet Union and increased U.S. responsibilities in the wake of the Iranian Revolution of
Throughout the Cold War, mobile army infantry units were central to the projection of American power. The U.S.
In the event of war in Eastern Europe, which was the most likely scenario early in the Cold War, the U.S. Army
In non-European conflicts, the United States depended first upon the Rapid Deployment Joint Task
Fearing an increasing and overwhelming Soviet influence in world affairs, the United States based its military doctrine upon the belief that the Soviet Union was ideologically committed to relentless expansion, which in turn required a “rapid buildup of the political, economic, and military strength” of countries committed to political freedom. The countries of NATO, however, were never willing to maintain an army large enough to counter a conventional invasion by the Soviet Union. NATO therefore embraced a policy of massive retaliation, including U.S. use of strategic nuclear weapons, to fend off Russian invasion. Almost from the beginning of the Cold War, the nuclear strategy of both nations was one of
Outside Europe, the United States lacked a clear doctrine of intervention. Trained through World War II to fight total
In an age of easy access to both battlefields and print, the number of contemporary sources is immense. The amount of documentation is further augmented by memoirs of government officials, which in an age of limited political warfare become as important as those of field commanders. Important accounts by general officers include those by Matthew B. Ridgway, Soldier: The Memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgway, as Told to Harold H. Martin (1956); Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences (1964); Paul Ely, L’Indochine dans la tourmente (1964; Indochina in Turmoil, 1964); Henri Navarre, Agonie de l’Indochine, 1953-1954 (1956; Agony of Indochina, 1956); William Westmoreland, Report on the War in Vietnam, as of 30 June, 1968 (1969) and A Soldier Reports (1976); and Alexander Haig, Caveat: Realism, Reagan, and Foreign Policy (1984). Among hundreds of personal accounts by soldiers are those of Martin Russ, The Last Parallel: A Marine’s War Journal (1957); Frederick Downs, The Killing Zone: My Life in the Vietnam War (1978); Francis J. West, Small Unit Action in Vietnam: Summer, 1966 (1967); Philip Caputo, A Rumor of War (1977); Al Santoli, Everything We Had: An Oral History of the Vietnam War (1981); Wallace Terry, Bloods: An Oral History of the War by Black Veterans (1984).
Presidential positions can be followed in the ongoing publication Public Papers of the Presidents. The early years of the Cold War are described in the works of Harry S. Truman, Memoirs (1955, 1956); Dean Acheson, The Pattern of Responsibility (1952); Henry Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War (1948); James Forrestal, The Forrestal Diaries (1951); Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (1969); George F. Kennan, Memoirs, 1925-1950 (1967);
The Eisenhower years can be followed in Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Mandate for Change, 1953-1956: The White House Years (1963); Anthony Eden’s Full Circle: The Memoirs of Anthony Eden (1960); Adlai Stevenson’s The New America (1957); Peter G. Boyle (editor), The Churchill-Eisenhower Correspondence, 1953-1955 (1990); and Charles Bohlen’s Witness to History, 1929-1969 (1973). The Kennedy and Johnson years are covered in John Kenneth Galbraith’s Ambassador’s Journal: A Personal Account of the Kennedy Years (1969); Henry Cabot Lodge’s The Storm Has Many Eyes: A Personal Narrative (1973); Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965); Lyndon Johnson’s The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963-1969 (1971); Dean Rusk’s As I Saw It (1990); George Ball’s The Past Has Another Pattern (1982); and Clark Clifford’s Counsel to the President: A Memoir (1991).
The latter stages of Vietnam and the 1970’s are covered in RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (1978); Henry Kissinger’s White House Years (1979); The Pentagon Papers, as Published by the New York Times (1971); Jimmy Carter’s Keeping Faith (1982); and Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Power and Principle (1982) and The Grand Failure (1989). The final years of the Cold War are dealt with in Ronald Reagan’s An American Life (1990); Caspar Weinberger’s Fighting for Peace (1990); Margaret Thatcher’s The Downing Street Years (1993); and Oliver North’s Under Fire (1991).
Black, Jeremy. War Since 1945. London: Reaktion, 2004. Collins, John M. U.S.-Soviet Military Balance: Concepts and Capabilities, 1960-1980. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980. Cowley, Robert, ed. The Cold War: A Military History. New York: Random House, 2005. Freedman, Lawrence. The Cold War: A Military History. London: Cassell, 2001. Gabriel, Richard A. Fighting Armies: NATO and the Warsaw Pact–A Combat Assessment. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983. Glynn, Patrick. Closing Pandora’s Box: Arms Races, Arms Control, and the History of the Cold War. New York: Basic, 1992. Graebner, Norman A., Richard Dean Burns, and Joseph M. Siracusa. Reagan, Bush, Gorbachev: Revisiting the End of the Cold War. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Security International, 2008. Jordan, Robert S. Norstad: Cold War NATO Supreme Commander. New York: Palgrave, 2000. LaFeber, Walter. America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-2006. 10th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2008. Mayers, David. The Ambassadors and America’s Soviet Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Miller, D. M. O., et al. The Balance of Military Power. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981. Oberdorfer, Don. The Turn: From the Cold War to a New Era. New York: Poseidon Press, 1991. Schmidt, Gustav, ed. A History of NATO: The First Fifty Years. 3 vols. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Stone, David. Wars of the Cold War: Campaigns and Conflicts, 1945-1990. London: Brassey’s, 2004. Thomas, Nigel. NATO Armies, 1949-87. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 1987. Tsouras, Peter G., ed. Cold War Hot: Alternate Decisions of the Cold War. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2003. Von Mellenthin, F. W., and R. H. S. Stolfi. NATO Under Attack: Why the Western Alliance Can Fight Outnumbered and Win in Central Europe Without Nuclear Weapons. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1984. Wenger, Andreas, Christian Nuenlist, and Anna Locher, eds. Transforming NATO in the Cold War: Challenges Beyond Deterrence in the 1960’s. New York: Routledge, 2007. The Cold War. Documentary. Cable News Network, 1999. Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Feature film. Columbia Pictures, 1964. Fail-Safe. Feature film. Columbia Pictures, 1964. The Falcon and the Snowman. Feature film. Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, 1985. Spy in the Sky. Documentary. Public Broadcasting Service, 1996. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Feature film. Salem, 1965.
The Cold War: The Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact, and the Left
The Cold War: The Nonaligned States
Rockets, Missiles, and Nuclear Weapons
China: Modern Warfare
Colonial Wars of Independence
Warfare in Vietnam
Warfare in Afghanistan: The Soviet-Afghan Conflict