The 1950's


The Cold War: a 45 year competition between the capitalist democracies of Western Europe and America versus the communist dictatorships of Eastern Europe and the USSR to determine if capitalism/democracy would dominate the world or communism/dictatorship that involved all world events. The entire world was forced to choose a side and automatically be the enemy of the other side.


Post World War II World

  a. 75 million people killed in WWII; US/USSR left as superpowers


b. United Nations: peace keeping organization with more power than League

    -General Assembly: all member nations have one vote

    -Security Council: US, USSR, GB, FR, China can veto any decision


  c. Occupied Zones: areas where Allies influenced years after WWII, Winston

Churchill declares that an “Iron Curtain has descended across the continent” as Stalin installs communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe and closes all borders


     US/GB/FR            USSR

    West Berlin         East Berlin, East Germany

    West Germany         North Korea, North Vietnam

    South Korea         Poland, Czech, Hungary, Yugo.     

South Vietnam         Romania, Bulgaria, Albania

    Japan           Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia


  d. Causes of Cold War


   US Perspective            USSR Perspective

  Stalin made E. Europe communist   Stalin feared future Germany

  Communism taking over world     Capitalism taking over world

Communist dictatorship bad     US atomic power; USSR not

Communism rejects money/god     US invaded USSR in 1917

The Harry S. Truman Administration (1945-1953)


1. Truman Develops Strategy to Win the Cold War

   Containment: strategy developed by George Kennan, worked for Sec. of State

Dean Acheson during the Truman Administration, to "contain" the spread of communism and then let the laws of economics destroy communism.


  a. Truman Doctrine: US promises full money/military support to any country

resisting communism, this doctrine obligates US to help any country in

the world that asks

  *Greece and Turkey saved from communism

  b. Marshall Plan: Sec. of State George Marshall develops a plan to spend

billions of American dollars to rebuild Western Europe's economy (factories, roads, bridges),because only poor people want communism

  *France and Italy saved from communism

   c. NATO: an alliance of Western European nations and USA/Canada to

defend Western Europe from a Soviet attack, USSR then formed Warsaw Pact: an alliance of Eastern Europe nations/USSR to defend Eastern Europe from American attack


2. Election of 1948

  Democrats: Harry S. Truman-promises “Fair Deal” to continue FDR's

economic policies such as GI Bill & VA loans, desegregated military

  Republicans: Thomas Dewey-offered return to limited government after FDR

  Dixiecrats: Sen. Strom Thurmond leads South away from Democrats after

Truman desegs military, Democrats have depended on South since Civil War because Lincoln was a Republican; TRUMAN DOOMED


3. Berlin Blockade: Stalin cut air, water and land routes to West Berlin; Truman

  began Berlin Airlift and threatened atomic attack; Stalin backs down


4. USSR develops atomic bomb; US develops H-bomb; nuclear arms race begins


5. China: Mao Zedong wins in 1949 the resumed Chinese Civil War while Truman

is focused on Berlin, Chiang Kai-Shek flees to Taiwan,

6. Red Scare: greater fear that communism is spreading like a cancer over the world now that the largest and most populated country are now communist


a. Alger Hiss: high level State Department official accused of communism,

convicted based on Whitaker Chamber's “Pumpkin Papers;”

  *propels Sen. Richard Nixon into the Vice-Presidency in 1952

b. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg: executed for passing atomic secrets to USSR


c. McCarthyism: Joseph McCarthy, an unknown Wis. Senator, used

communist hunting as an issue to propel himself into political leadership; when McCarthy accuses the army of being infiltrated with communists Pres. Eisenhower televises the hearings and exposes McCarthy's alcoholism, rudeness and lack of evidence, which destroys him


7. The Korean War (1950-1953) “The Forgotten War”


a. Korea divided at 38 th into North/South zones of occupation after WWII


b. NK invades Sk on June 25, 1950; push US forces to Pusan


c. Truman asks UN for peace-keeping help; USSR boycotting Security

  Council due to US refusal to seat Mao's government in UN

d. Invasion of Inchon: MacArthur saves SK by invading BEHIND NK army,

forcing them to retreat, MacArthur pushes NK army to Yalu River

e. ONE MILLION Chinese troops cross Yalu to save NK, MacArthur pushed

  back to the 38 th Parallel and the war stagnates

f. MacArthur calls for nuclear attacks against China to end war, Truman fears

  a larger nuclear confrontation with USSR

    *MacArthur is FIRED by Truman*

g. Dwight Eisenhower elected in November 1952; promises China/NK that

his WWII experience against Nazi Germany and new atomic weapons would bring China/NK complete destruction


h. Cease Fire signed July 27, 1953

  *Korea remains split at 38 th ; US troops still in place

  *54,000 US dead, 2 million Koreans dead, uncountable Chinese

8. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Administration (1953-1961): Ike and Sec. of State

John Foster Dulles developed the “massive retaliation/mutual destruction” foreign policy while simultaneously using Ike's credibility and calmness to sooth the “Red Scare/Cold War” panic. Ike understood “containment” and Soviet economics, so he simply stood firm on containing communism, did nothing to agitate the USSR into building more arms and sought peaceful co-existence for the USA/USSR until the economics of communism killed USSR


a. Korean War: US victory in containing communism

b. McCarthyism: Ike ended calmly by exposing McCarthy on TV


c. Crises in the Middle East: US containment policy practiced in Middle East to

  keep USSR from getting direct oil supplies, but we alienate Middle East

  -Israel: created after WWII as a homeland for Jews expelled by the Roman

and persecuted in Europe for 2,000 years, Palestinians removed from their

homes are bitter toward US/GB

-Iran: communist revolt deposed the Shah of Iran giving USSR a direct route

to Middle East oil, CIA “restored the Shah,” but hardcore Iranian Muslims feel like US is “dictating” in Middle East

  -Suez Crisis: Egypt seizes the Suez Canal from GB, GB/FR invade Egypt to

    re-capture canal/oil supply, USSR threatens war against GB/FR, Ike

    “suggests” that the USSR not go to war, but he is also furious with

    GB/FR for almost causing a war

  -Lebanon: Ike fears communists will invade during Muslim/Christian

    fighting, so Marines invade Beirut and occupy


d. Sputnik: USSR launches the 1 st satellite; Ike launches math/science education


e. Cuba: US decadence in Cuba alienated the people since Spanish-American War

of 1898; communist leader Fidel Castro seizes control in 1959, nationalizes US property, and thousands of Cubans flee to Florida; Ike approves a CIA plan to train these refugees and reinvade Cuba to enforce Containment


f. U-2 Incident:

-Ike plans a détente summit with new Soviet dictator Khrushchev for 1960

-Francis Gary Powers shot down in a U-2 spy plane USSR

-Ike claims weather plane; Khrushchev produces Powers and evidence

-Ike's lie to the people make him a lame duck president, and begins the

“credibility gap” that grows in the 1960's and plagues the US Government

9. The Election of 1960: the closest election ever; first televised debates

  Republicans: Richard Nixon-Ike VP for 8 years; commie hunter

  Democrats: John F. Kennedy-inexperienced; young, athletic, good looking

    *JFK wins by less than 1/10th of 1% in popular votes

    *JFK gained black vote through MLK; female vote through looks

*JFK's father used corruption to gain votes


10. The John F. Kennedy Administration: JFK's New Frontier program gave the

  nation hope and optimism for a better nation through civil rights and social

  programs and a better world of freedom and democracy; but the reality of

JFK's brinkmanship falls far short of the legacy of JFK because he led the

nation the closest to nuclear war.


a. Bay of Pigs Invasion: April 1961 Cuban refugees attempt to invade Cuba, but

  the attempt completely failed due to poor security and JFK's last minute

  withdrawal of naval and air support


b. Vienna Conference: JFK meets Khrushchev June 1961; JFK appears weak and

  unfocused, perhaps due to serious back pain drugs; USSR believes they can

  intimidate the young, inexperienced president


c. Berlin Wall: USSR builds a wall around West Berlin to keep East Berliners

  from escaping; JFK flies to WB to promise the US will not abandon WB


d. Vietnam: JFK increases troops, creates Green Berets to teach Vietnamese the

  American way, and approves the CIA assassination SV's president/brother


e. Cuban Missile Crisis: Oct. 1962 U-2 photos reveal nuclear missiles; JFK

  demanded they be removed, blockaded USSR ships from delivering more

  missiles, and threatened war if the missiles were not removed

  *Khrushchev backs down, removed from power by hardcore communists

*JFK secretly removes US missiles from Turkey


f. JFK Assassination: November 22, 1963

Cultural Revolutions of the 1950's: Conformity vs. The Roots of Rebellion


a. Cold War Conformity Culture: the demands/fears of the Cold War created a

  culture of conformity/patriotism; different was suspected of communism

  -morals were very conservative; Church membership over 50%


b. Economic Boom

  -Levittown: 1 st suburb of thousands of homes built exactly alike; VA loans

    from the government created a suburban home ownership boom

-Highway Act of 1956: people living in suburbs needed an improved highway

  system to reach downtown jobs/shopping; interstate highways boost

  economy with cheaper transport, allow easier travel, and serve military

-Cars: suburbs/interstates made 2 car family normal; cars get bigger/faster;

  car culture of drive-in movies/diners; racing

-Baby Boom: booming economy caused rise in birthrate; 3-5 children normal


c. Television: most massive technological impact of the 1950's; similar to

  telephone and internet revolutions; theater attendance dropped 70%

-moral programs that reflect the Cold War Conformity

  - Lone Ranger, Hop-a-Long Cassidy; Superman, Howdy Doody, I Love Lucy

  -Billy Graham: 1 st to bring morals/religious crusade to television


d. Movies: majority of film reflects Cold War Conformity through westerns, war

  and “B” horror movies that clearly show good defeating evil

  -John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Audie Murphy: black hat vs. white hat films


e. Roots of Rebellion: the Cold War Conformity Culture leads to a backlash revolt

  among the youth who seek individuality through rebellion

*Literature: rebellious beat culture of the 1950's foreshadow 1960's

  -J. D. Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye

  -Jack Kerouac: On The Road

  -Alan Ginsburg: poet

*Movies: late 1950's movies feature youthful actors rebelling against parents

  -James Dean: Rebel Without A Cause; Giant; East of Eden

  -Marlon Brando: The Wild One; On The Waterfront; Streetcar Named Desire

   -Marilyn Monroe: Gentleman Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch

*Music: Jazz, Country, and Blues developed since the 1920's started breaking rules

  -Hank Williams: mixes blues/country with electric instruments and dance

    beat to build the foundation of modern country and rock music

-Elvis Presley: “THE” musical revolution-black songs/white singer;