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Chapter 27: Cold War America, 1945-1960

The Early Cold War

I. 6 years of war unsettled the international system by creating power vacuums in Germany, Japan, and
other occupied countries, devastating Western Europe, and dissolving colonial empires. Even before
the war ended, the US and SU were struggling for advantage in those unstable areas; after the war they
engaged in a protracted global conflict.
A. Hailed as a battle between capitalism and communism, the Cold War was in reality a more
complex struggle over a broad range of ideological, economic, and strategic issues. As each nation
tried to protect its own national security and way of life, its actions aroused fear in the other.
Sources of Conflict
I. The US emerged from the war as the world’s strongest and wealthiest nation. US industry and
agriculture had grown rapidly during the war, making America that world’s leading manufacturer and
A. The US also wielded enormous military power.
B. In the postwar era US policy makers tried to maintain that supremacy and rebuild the world in
America’s image.
II. The SU, in comparison, was relatively weak. The Soviet economy was devastated and the nation’s
agricultural output fell.
A. The SU’s greatest asset was the army, which included a vast force of troops occupying Eastern
Europe and the parts of Germany at the end of the war. Although the USSR hoped to preserve its
influence in these areas, its dominance did not extend beyond this region.
III. The SU’s presence in Eastern Europe raised serious concerns among US policy makers, who feared the
spread of communism across the European continent. With the defeat of the Nazi government,
American leaders worried that Soviet influence would expand across Germany.
A. Elsewhere in Europe economic chaos threatened to disrupt the political status quo, as did the
growing popularity of the communist and labor-led parties in different countries. Although those
parties generally remained independent of Moscow, American policy makers viewed them as
sympathetic to Soviet initiatives and therefore as political tools of the Kremlin.
B. American security, those policy makers argued, required a strong non-communist Europe that
could serve as a military and economic partner to the US.
IV. Political instability also characterized the “Third World” where WWII hastened the disintegration of
colonial empires. Rising nationalist movements in developing countries and financial pressures on war-
torn European countries after 1945 led to a severing of colonial ties and the client-state relationships.
A. American Soviet rivalry for these regions was keen, for they provided essential markets for
finished goods and had vital resources.
B. Third World nationals also offered strategic sites for US and Soviet military bases. The struggle to
have these economic and strategic benefits sparked a series of conflicts in Asia, the Middle East,
and other regions.
V. The end of WWII marked the beginning of the nuclear age and the rise of atomic diplomacy.
A. Emboldened by US possession of the only atomic bomb, Truman decided to “get tough” with the
Russians, a stance matched with equally stubborn resistance by the Soviet leader, Stalin.
B. Both sides were inflexible in their demands and remained suspicious of each other’s motives and
actions. Stalin and Truman came to dislike each other so much that they refused to meet after the
C. In this climate of distrust, negotiation or compromise became virtually impossible.
Descent into Cold War, 1945-46
I. During the war FDR had worked effectively with Stalin, and he had intended to continue good
relations with the SU in peacetime. In particular, he hoped that the UN would provide a forum for
resolving postwar conflicts.
A. The Senate approved America’s participation in the UN. A marked departure from earlier
isolationist sentiment, the vote was a firm acknowledgement of the importance of American
leadership in global affairs as well as a memorial to the late president’s hope for a postwar peace.
II. At the Yalta conference both Britain and the US agreed to acknowledge the Soviet “sphere of
influence” with the condition that “free and unfettered” elections would be held as soon as possible.
III. When Truman became president, he quickly took a belligerent stance towards the SU. He decided that
the US had to stand up to the Soviet dictator.
A. Truman used “tough methods” at the 1945 Potsdam Conference, which brought together the US,
Britain, and the SU.
B. Negotiations on critical postwar issues deadlocked, revealing serious cracks in the Grand Alliance.
IV. Policies governing the fate of occupied Germany were the only points of agreement between the US
and the SU at Potsdam. At Yalta the defeated German state had been divided into 4 occupation zones
controlled by the US, France, Britain, and the SU. At Potsdam the Allies agreed to disarm the country,
dismantle its military productions facilities, and permit the occupying powers to extract reparations
from the zones they controlled.
A. Plans for future reunification stalled, however, as the US and SU worried that a reunited German
state would fall into the other’s sphere. The economic base was thus laid for what would become
the political division into East and West Germany 4 years later.
V. As tensions over Europe divided the former allies, hopes of international cooperation in the control of
atomic weapons also faded.
A. In a plan that Truman’s arms negotiator Bernard Baruch submitted to the UN in 1946, the US
proposed a system of international control that relied on mandatory inspection and supervision but
preserved the American nuclear monopoly.
B. The Soviets rejected the plan and concentrated efforts to complete their own bomb. The Truman
administration likewise pursued its plans to develop more advanced nuclear energy and weapons
C. The failure of the Baruch Plan signaled the beginning of a frenzied nuclear arms race between the
2 superpowers.
Containing Communism
I. As tensions mounted between the superpowers, a new American policy, called containment, began to
take shape. To stop Soviet expansion, Kennan argued, the US should pursue a policy of “firm
containment…at every point where [the Soviets] show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a
peaceful and stable world.”
A. Kennan’s initial formulation recommended economic and diplomatic means to enforce
containment, but the policy soon took on a military cast. In one version or another containment
defined the foreign policy of every subsequent administration well into the 1980s.
B. In addition to the effort to stop the spread of communism, the containment doctrine served at least
3 other purposes: it provided a rallying cry for Americans of both parties to unite in fighting the
Soviet threat; it justified the creation of a vast peacetime military machine; and it obscured the
other objectives of American foreign policy in the economic arena and the Third World.
The Truman Doctrine and the National Security Act
I. The emerging containment policy crystallized in 1947 over a crisis in Greece. US policy makers
worried that Soviet influence in Greece threatened American and European interests in the eastern
Med. And the Middle East, especially in strategically located Turkey and Iran.
II. In response, the president announced what became known as the Truman Doctrine. He requested large
scale military and economic assistance to Greece and Turkey and called for all Americans to support
these countries.
A. To win popular support for the fight against communism, and to squeeze money out of congress,
the president scared the American people. He claimed that not just Greece but freedom was the
B. The appropriations reversed the postwar policy of sharp cuts in foreign spending and marked a
new level of commitment to the emerging Cold War.
III. The Truman administration also worked with Congress to pass the National Security Act, which was
designed to strengthen and streamline defense operations. It created 3 new bodies: a single Department
of Defense to the replace the previous departments of War and Navy; the National Security Council, an
advisory body charged with helping the president set defense and military priorities; and the Central
Intelligence Agency, a national intelligence-gathering operation that replaced the wartime Office of
Strategic Services.
A. The Atomic Energy Commission, established in 1946 under the executive branch, worked with the
new agencies in the development of atomic energy and weapons.
B. The establishment of these new bureaucratic structures marked the emergence of the national
security state, a collection of powerful and highly secretive operations in the executive branch.
Such structures accelerated the shift of policy-making initiative to the White House.
The Marshall Plan
I. As the president was promoting the Truman Doctrine, other members of his administration were busy
devising the Marshall Plan. a program of large-scale economic and military aid to Europe, the Marshall
Plan was designed to complement the aggressive containment policy of the Truman Doctrine.
A. By bolstering European economies devastated by the war, the US could forestall the severe
economic dislocation that might encourage the spread of communism. American economic self-
interest was also a contributing factor—the legislation required that foreign aid dollars be spent on
US goods and services.
B. A revitalized Europe centered on a strong West German economy would also provide a better
market for American products.
II. Within congress, however, there was significant opposition to Truman’s pledge of economic aid to
European economies. Isolationist Republicans attacked the Marshall Plan as a huge “international
WPA,” and a “bold Socialist blue-print.”
A. In the midst of this congressional stalemate, the Soviets staged a brutal coup in Czechoslovakia,
one of the few European countries to have held free elections after the war and elected a coalition
government that was widely admired.
B. When communists seized control of the country and installed a new government, congress rallied
in support of the Marshall Plan.
III. Western European economies revived and industrial production increased, opening new areas for
international trade.
A. The Marshall Plan did not specifically exclude Eastern Europe or the SU, but it required that all
participating nations exchange economic information and work toward elimination of tariffs and
other trade barriers.
B. Soviet leaders denounced those conditions as attempts to draw Eastern Europe into the American
orbit and forbade their satellite states to participate.
The Berlin Airlift and the Creation of NATO
I. The Marshall Plan accelerated American and European efforts to rebuild and reunify the West German
II. In June 1948, after agreeing to fuse their zones of occupation, the US, France, and Britain began a
currency reform program in West Berlin. The economic revitalization of West Berlin, located deep
within the Soviet zone of occupation, alarmed Soviet policy makers, who feared a resurgent Germany
aligned with the West.
A. To forestall that development, the Soviet Union imposed a blockade on all highway, rail, and river
traffic to West Berlin. Truman responded with the airlift.
III. The coup in Czechoslovakia and the crisis in Berlin convinced US policy makers of the need for a
collective security pact.
A. Under the NATO pact, 12 nations agreed that an “armed attack against one or more of them in
Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”
B. These nations also agreed to create the Federal Republic of Germany, which joined NATO in
IV. In response to the creation of NATO, the SU tightened its grip on eastern Europe in Oct 1949 by
creating a separate government for East Germany, which became the German Democratic Republic.
A. The Soviets also organized an economic association, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance,
in 1949 and a military alliance for Eastern Europe, the Warsaw Pact, in 1955.
The “Fall” of China
I. As mutual suspicion between the US and the SU deepened, Cold War doctrines began to influence the
American position toward Asia as well. American policy there was based on Asia’s importance in the
world economy as much as on the desire to contain communism.
A. At first, American plans for the region centered on a revitalized China, but political instability
there prompted the Truman administration to focus instead on developing the Japanese economy.
After dismantling Japan’s military forces and weaponry, American occupation forces began the job
of transforming Japan into a bulwark of Asian capitalism.
B. MacArthur drafted a democratic constitution and oversaw the rebuilding of the economy.
II. In China the situation was more precarious. The Truman administration decided to work with the
A. Truman’s key military advisor in China insisted that the nationalist government undertake “drastic
political and economic reforms” in order to win the struggle against the Communists. When those
reforms did not occur, the Truman administration cut off aid to the Nationalists in August 1949,
sealing their fate.
III. Although nothing less than a massive US military commitment could have stopped the Chinese
Communists, many Americans viewed Mao’s success as a defeat for the US.
A. A pro-nationalist “China Lobby” protested that the Department of State under the leadership of
Truman’s newly appointed secretary of state, Dean Acheson, was responsible for the “fall of
B. As a result of pressure from the China lobby, most Department of State experts on East Asia were
forced to resign. The loss of those experts created a critical knowledge gap that would handicap
the US for decades.
IV. Although the Chinese Communists remained independent of Moscow, the US refused to recognize
what it called “Red China,” instead of giving diplomatic recognition to the exiled Nationalist
government in Taiwan. The US also used its influence to block China’s admission to the UN.
Containment Militarized: NSC-68
I. New impetus for the policy of containment came in Sep 1949, when American military intelligence
detected a rise in radioactivity in the atmosphere—proof that the SU had an atomic bomb.
A. The American atomic monopoly, which some military and political advisors had argued would last
for decades, ended only in 4 years, forcing a major reassessment of the nation’s foreign policy.
II. To devise a new diplomatic and military blueprint, Truman turned to the National Security Council. In
April 1950 it delivered its report, known as NSC-68, to the president.
A. Expressing alarm over the Soviet threat, the writers of the document made several specific
recommendations, including the development of a hydrogen bomb.
B. NSC-68 also supported increases in US conventional forces and a strong system of alliances—
reflections of the increased militarization of the Cold War. It called for a tax hike to finance “a
bold and massive program of rebuilding the West’s defensive potential to surpass that of the Soviet
III. NSC-68 called for defense budgets totaling up to 20% of the gross national product, 4x their level at
the time. Now that the US atomic monopoly had been broken, Truman’s advisors also looked to build
up conventional military forces to maintain American superiority.
A. Truman was reluctant to commit to a major defense buildup, fearing that it would overburden the
The Cold War Heats Up: The Korean War
I. Although Truman acknowledged that communist success in China raised urgent questions for
American foreign policy, he recognized the limits of American power in Asia.
A. In Dec 1949 Secretary of State Dean Acheson clarified American policy. The US, he said, would
help Asian nations realize their aspirations but would consider itself bound only to protect a
“defensive perimeter” extending from Alaska to Japan and the Philippines.
II. A test of this new policy came quickly in Korea, a country whose artificial division after WWII
contained the seeds for later conflict.
A. Both the US and the SU had troops in Korea at the end of the war, and neither side was willing to
abandon its occupied territories. As a result, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into competing
spheres of influences.
B. Soon sporadic fighting broke out along the 38th parallel, and a civil war began.
III. On June 25, 1950, the North Koreans launched a surprise attack across the 38th parallel. The initiative
for Korean reunification came from Kim Il Sung, but Stalin approved of the mission.
A. Truman immediately asked the UNSC to authorize a “police action” against the invaders. Because
the SU was temporarily boycotting the Security Council to protest the exclusion of the People’s
Republic of China from the UN, it could not veto Truman’s request. Truman ordered US troops to
IV. The American intervention in Korea revealed the extent to which foreign policy formulation had been
transferred from Congress to the president. When isolationist Republican senator Robert A. Taft of
Ohio argued that the president should have obtained congressional approval before committing
American troops to Korea, Truman boldly insisted that he already had the power he needed as
commander in chief of the armed forces and executer of the treaty binding the US to the UN.
A. The Truman administration enjoyed widespread popular support for this action.
B. The Korean conflict—the first American combat effort to implement containment—thus became
the first major American war undertaken without a formal declaration of war by Congress.
Fighting the War
I. The rapidly assembled UN army in Korea was overwhelmingly American. At first the North Koreans
held an overwhelming advantage, controlling practically the entire peninsula except the area around
II. Encouraged by the capture of Seoul, MacArthur sought the authority to lead his forces across the 38th
parallel into North Korea.
A. Truman’s original plan had been to restore the 1945 border, but he managed to win UN support for
the boarder goal of creating “a unified, independent and democratic Korea.”
B. On Jan 4, 1951, communist troops reoccupied Seoul after a failed attack on China.
III. 2 months later the American forces and their allies counterattacked, regained Seoul, and pushed back
the 38th parallel. The stalemate set in. public support for US involvement dropped after Chinese
intervention increased the likelihood of a long war.
A. Given those domestic and international constraints, Truman and his advisors decided to work for a
negotiated peace. They did not want to tie down large numbers of US troops in Asia, far from
where they considered more strategically important locations.
The Fate of Douglas MacArthur
I. MacArthur believed that the nation’s future opportunities lay in Asia, not in Europe. He traveled to
Taiwan and urged the nationalists to join in an attack on mainland China. He pleaded for US
permission to use the atomic bomb against targets in China.
II. On April 11 Truman relieved MacArthur of his command in Korea and Japan, accusing him of
insubordination. His decision was highly unpopular.
A. The allure of a decisive victory under the charismatic military leader temporarily pushed aside
doubts about the war.
B. MacArthur’s determination to roll back communist influence remained popular with many
III. The Korean war dragged on for 2 years after MacArthur’s dismissal. Truce talks began in Korea in
1951, but a final armistice was not signed until 1953.
A. The final settlement left Korea divided very near the original border and established a
demilitarized zone between the 2 countries.
The Impact of the Korean War
I. Defense mobilization helped stimulate the American economy but did not foster the patriotic fervor
that had characterized WWII.
A. American troops grew to hate the endless fighting that characterized the stalemate. When the
armistice was signed, there were few public celebrations.
II. The Korean war had a lasting impact on the conduct of American foreign policy.
A. Truman’s decision to commit troops to Korea without congressional approval set a precedent for
future undeclared wars. The war also expanded American involvement in Asia, transforming
containment into a global policy.
B. Defense expenditures grew.
C. American foreign policy had become more global, more militarized, and more costly. Even during
times of peace, the US now functioned in a state of permanent mobilization.
Harry Truman and the Cold War at Home
I. Truman brought a complex personality to the presidency. He had none of FDR’s partisan ease and was
a distinctly unpopular president. Yet he handled affairs with an assurance that has endeared him to later
A. The major domestic issues that he faced were reconversion to a peacetime economy and fears of
communist infiltration and subversion—fears that his administration played a part in fanning.
B. Truman kept the ND coalition alive by proposing new federal programs to advance the interests of
its constituencies, and his Fair Deal would influence the Democratic Party’s agenda for the next 20
The Challenge of Reconversion
I. When Truman became president in 1945, Americans welcomed him with a high approval rating.
Within a year it had dropped dramatically.
A. New to the presidency, Truman had to oversee the complex conversion of a wartime economy to a
peacetime one.
B. In part because government planners had not known about the atomic bomb, they had assumed
that reconversion could be phased in. instead WWII ended before adequate reconversion plans
were in place.
II. The public’s main fear in 1945 was that the depression would return once war production ended. The
economy did not collapse.
A. Despite a drop in government spending after the war, consumer spending went up because workers
had amassed substantial wartime savings that they were eager to spend once restrictions were
B. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 also put money into the economy by providing
educational and economic assistance to returning veterans.
C. Despite some temporary dislocations as war production shifted back to civilian uses and veterans
were reabsorbed into the work force, unemployment did not increase significantly. The most
visible layoffs involved the “Rosie the Riveters” who had taken high-paying defense jobs during
the war and were now forced to find jobs in the traditional areas of women’s employment at much
lower pay.
Economic Policy
I. The main domestic problem was inflation. Consumers wanted an end to wartime restrictions and price
rationing, but Truman feared economic chaos if he lifted the controls immediately.
A. In the summer of 1945 he eased industrial controls but retained the wartime Office of Price
Administration. When the OPA was disbanded and almost all controls were lifted in 1946, prices
B. The persistent shortages of food and products prompted by unfettered consumer spending also
irritated many shoppers.
II. With the Employment Act of 1946, the federal government began developing mechanisms to pursue a
more coherent economic policy. The legislation introduced more federal fiscal planning on a
permanent basis—not just in times of economic crisis—to achieve full employment.
A. Besides supporting the Keynesian notion of government spending to spur economic growth, the
act promoted the use of tax policy as a tool for managing the economy using tax cuts to spur
economic growth and tax increases to slow inflation.
B. The legislation merely advocated rather than mandated such planning measures and gave the new
Council of Economic Advisors only an advisory role. It also failed to establish clear economic
C. It was an important milestone in establishing federal responsibility for the performance of the
Postwar Strikes
I. The rapidly rising cost of living prompted demands for higher wages by the nation’s workers.
A. Under government-sanctioned agreements the labor movement had held the line on wages
during the war, but unions expressed frustration as postwar corporate profits doubled while
real wages declined in the face of increasing inflation and the loss of wartime overtime pay.
B. Workers mounted strikes on major sectors of the economy, crippling the automobile, steel,
and coal industries.
II. Truman used his executive authority to place the nation’s railroad system under federal control and
asked congress for the power to draft striking workers into the army, a move that infuriated labor but
pressured strikers to go back to work.
A. Such action won Truman support from Americans fed up with labor disruptions but angered
organized labor.
III. These domestic upheavals did not bode will with Democrats at the polls. In the 1946 congressional
elections Republicans capitalized on popular dissatisfaction with reconversion, and they took control
of both House and Congress.
The Taft-Hartley Act
I. The republican congress elected in 1946 was determined to trim back several New Deal social welfare
measures, and it singled out labor legislation as a special target.
A. In 1947 congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, a rollback of several provisions of the 1935 Labor
Relations Act.
B. Unions especially disliked section 14b, which allowed states to pass “right to work” laws that
outlawed the closed shop.
C. The act also restricted the political power of unions by prohibiting the use of their dues for
political activity, and it allowed the president to declare an 80 day cooling-off period in strikes
with national impact.
The 1948 Election
I. Most observers believed that Truman faced an impossible task in the presidential campaign of 1948.
The republicans were united and well-organized, maintaining the firm support of most white middle-
and upper-income Protestant voters outside the south and that of many farmers and skilled workers.
A. Eager to attract votes from traditional democratic constituencies, the republicans nominated
Thomas Dewey and Earl Warren. Their brief platform promised to continue most New Deal
reforms and supported a bipartisan foreign policy.
II. Truman led a party in disarray. Both left and right wings of the democratic party split off and
nominated their own candidates.
A. Wallace ran for the Progressive party, advocating increased government intervention in the
economy, more power for labor unions, and cooperation with the SU.
III. Southern democrats bolted from the party over the issue of civil rights. Unwilling to tolerate federal
interference in race relations, they walked out of the convention and created the States Rights Party.
IV. Truman responded to these challenges with one of the most effective presidential campaigns ever
waged. He dramatically called congress back into summer session to give the Republicans a chance to
enact their platform into law. When they failed to do so, Truman blasted them.
A. He also hammered away at the Republicans’ support for the antilabor Taft-Hartley Act and their
opposition to legislation on housing, medical insurance, and civil rights.
Fair Deal Liberalism
I. Shortly after becoming president, Truman had proposed to congress a 21 point plan for expanded
federal responsibilities. Anticipating a period of affluence rather than the austerity that had shaped the
ND, Truman phrased his proposals in terms of the rights of individual citizens. Later Truman added
support for civil rights and called his program the Fair Deal.
II. Truman’s Fair Deal represented the essential aspects of postwar liberalism.
A. Liberals believed in an activist federal government that would use its powers to stimulate
economic growth, redress imbalances, and encourage social progress. With a rhetorical
commitment to civil rights and economic abundance for all, liberalism called for the modern state
to extend the benefits of capitalism to ever greater numbers of citizens.
B. By expanding the welfare state at home while fighting communism abroad, Truman sought to steer
a middle course between socialism on the left and fascism on the right.
III. Truman’s agenda ran up against a generally hostile congress, despite its democratic majority. The same
conservative coalition that had blocked FDR in his 2nd term and had dismantled or cut popular ND
programs during wartime continued to fight against Truman’s proposals.
A. Only parts of the Fair Deal won adoption.
B. The National Housing Act of 1949 called for the construction of 810000 units of low-income
housing, although only half that number was actually built.
IV. Although the struggle for civil rights had preoccupied African Americans since Reconstruction, it took
on a new urgency in the 1940s. black expectations had been raised by wartime opportunities and by
symbolic victories.
A. Truman’s sympathies for civil rights were reinforced that black voters were playing an
increasingly large role in the Democratic Party as they migrated from the south, where they were
effectively disfranchised, to northern and western cities.
V. Lacking a popular mandate on the civil rights issue, Truman turned to executive action. In 1946 he
appointed a National Civil Rights Commission, whose 1947 report called for an expanded federal role
that foreshadowed much of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.
A. He ordered the Justice department to prepare an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court case
Shelley v. Kraemer, which struck down unconstitutional restrictive covenants that enforced
residential segregation by barring home buyers o the basis of race or religion.
B. Truman signed an executive order desegregating the armed forces.
C. The Truman administration also proposed a federal antilynching law, federal protection for voting
rights, and a permanent federal agency to guarantee equal employment opportunities.
VI. Interest groups successfully opposed other key items on the Fair Deal agenda.
VII. Two factors further limited the Fair Deal’s chances for legislative success. One was the outbreak of the
Korean War in 1950, which diverted national attention to foreign affairs. The other was the nation’s
growing fear of international subversion.
The Great Fear
I. As American relations with the SU deteriorated in the late 1940s and early 1950s, fear of communism
fueled a widespread campaign of domestic repression. Americans often called this phenomenon
“McCathyism” after Senator Joseph McCarthy, the decade’s most vocal anticommunist.
A. This “Great Fear” involved for than the work of just one man and was shared by Americans who
disagreed with McCarthy’s vitriolic tactics. It built on the longstanding distrust of radicals and
foreigners that had exploded in the Red Scare after WWI.
B. Worsening Cold War tensions and partisan politics intersected with those deep-seated anxieties to
spawn an obsessive concern with international subversion.
I. The roots of postwar anticommunism date back to the 1930s, when Democratic congressman Martin
Dies and other conservative launched the House Committee on Un-American Activities to investigate
alleged fascist and communist subversion in labor unions and ND agencies.
A. During America’s WWII alliance with the Soviets, HUAC’s visibility declined, but the committee
reemerged after the Americans grew concerned over Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe.
II. In 1947 HUAC helped launch the postwar red scare by holding widely publicized hearings on
communist infiltration of the film industry
III. Anticommunism also emerged as a divisive force in the labor movement. In the 1930s and 40s
communists had been very active in labor organizing, and their contributions had been welcomed.
A. As conservatives charged that Soviet-led communists were taking over American unions, the labor
movement reversed itself in the late 1940s and purged communists. The Taft-Hartley Act fueled
this campaign by requiring labor leaders to take oaths swearing they were not communists before
their unions could participate federally supervised elections.
Truman’s Loyalty Program
I. Attempting to protest against charges that he “soft on communism” in the wake of the Soviet spy ring
revelations, Truman fed the hysteria in March 1947 by issuing an executive order initiating a
comprehensive investigation into the loyalty of all federal employees.
II. Many state and local governments, universities, political associations, churches, and businesses
undertook their own antisubversion campaigns.
A. Part of the “popular front” against fascism in the late 1930s and 40s, American communists had
worked in a wide variety of occupations and political organizations. In the climate of the Cold
War, however, many Americans began to fear these radicals, believing they would co-opt their
political agendas or discredit their organizations.
B. Because of the communist party’s defense of racial equality, civil rights organizations were
attacked as communist-influenced. The fend off such charges, civil rights groups purged
themselves of Communists or their sympathizers.
C. Some postwar liberals continued to seek cooperation with the SU and defended the participation
of communists in their organizations. Most liberal groups shunned potential left-wing allies and
embraced a strident anticommunism.
III. The anticommunist crusade intensified in 1948 when HUAC began an investigation of Alger Hiss. The
case against Hiss rested on testimony of former communist Whittaker Chambers, who claimed that
Hiss was a former member of a secret communist cell and that they had shared classified documents.
A. Hiss denied the allegations and ever knowing Chambers. Because the statute of limitations on
espionage had expired by 1949, Hiss was charged with perjury for lying about his communist
The Rise and Fall of McCarthy
I. The conviction of Hiss increased paranoia about a communist conspiracy in the federal government
and contributed to the meteoric rise of Senators Joseph McCarthy.
II. McCarthy discovered that anticommunist rhetoric could boost his political fortunes. Like other
republicans in the late 1940s, he leveled accusations of communist subversion to embarrass Truman
and the democrats.
A. Truman called McCarthy’s charges slander, but he could do nothing to stop them.
B. McCarthy’s political genius lay in his ability to make his name synonymous with the cause of
uncovering subversives in government. Politicians who attack him exposed themselves to charges
of being “soft” on communism.
C. Because McCarthy charged that his critics themselves were part of a conspiracy, few political
leaders challenged him.
III. Although McCarthy never identified a single communist in the federal government, a series of national
and international events allowed him to retain credibility.
A. The sensational espionage case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg fueled McCarthy’s allegations.
Convicted of passing atomic secrets to the SU in a highly controversial trial, the Rosenbergs were
executed in 1953.
B. The Korean War, which embroiled the US in a frustrating fight against communism in a faraway
land, also made Americans susceptible to McCarthy’s claims.
IV. After 4 years of restless hunting, McCarthy overreached himself by launching an investigation into
possible subversion in the US Army in 1954. When lengthy televised hearings brought McCarthy’s
smear tactics and innuendos into the nation’s living rooms, support for him declined.
A. An end of the Korean War and the death of Stalin in 1953 also undercut public interest in
McCarthy’s anticommunist campaign.
“Modern Republicanism”
I. The 1952 election occurred in the middle of the Korean stalemate and at the height of the Great Fear.
Eisenhower worked quickly to end the Korean War, but the grip of McCarthyism last longer.
A. Eisenhower set the tone for “modern Republicanism”—an updated GOP approach that emphasized
a slowdown, but not dismantling, of federal responsibilities.
B. Compared with their predecessors in the 1920s and their successors in the 1980s and 1990s,
Eisenhower and other modern Republicans were more tolerant of the federal government’s
intervention in social and economic affairs, though they sought to limit its scope.
They Liked Ike
I. Eisenhower’s status as a war hero was his greatest political asset. He claimed to stand above politics.
II. The democrats never seriously considered nominating Truman. Lack of enthusiasm for the Korean War
dealt the most serious blow to Truman’s support, but a series of scandals caused voters to complain
about “the mess in Washington.”
A. The democrats supported Adlai Stevenson, who enjoyed the support of organized labor and
respected liberals such as Eleanor Roosevelt.
III. Throughout the 1952 campaign Stevenson advocated ND and FD policies, but Eisenhower’s
unpretentious speeches were more effective with voters.
A. Eisenhower played down specific questions about policy. Instead, he attacked the Democrats with
the “K1C2” formula—Korea, Communism, and Corruption.
IV. The republican campaign was temporarily set back by the revelation that wealthy CA’s had set up a
secret slush fund for Nixon. Eisenhower contemplated dropping him from the ticket, but Nixon used a
television speech to convince voters that he had not used campaign funds.
A. This “Checkers speech” showed how politicians could use the powerful medium of television to
their advantage.
The Hidden-Hand Presidency
I. Eisenhower offered modern Republicanism as an alternative to the Democrats’ liberal agenda. He did
his best to set a quieter national tone, hoping to decrease the need for federal intervention in social and
economic issues.
A. He refused to speak out against McCarthy and displayed little leadership in the emerging area of
civil rights.
B. Eisenhower moved deftly behind the scenes while not seeming to concern himself publicly with
partisan questions.
II. Eisenhower presided cautiously over increases in federal activity.
A. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, Eisenhower reluctantly approved of a US space
program to catch up in this new Cold War competition. The National Aeronautics and Space
Administration was founded the following year.
B. Arguing that the CW required more scientists and experts on foreign affairs, he persuaded
congress to appropriate additional money for college scholarships and to increase the funding for
research and development in universities and industry.
C. Federal outlays for veterans’ benefits, unemployment compensation, housing, and Social Security
were increased, and the minimum wage was raised. The creation of the new Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare in 1953 consolidated government control of social welfare programs.
III. The most extensive federal activity took place in the realm of transportation. In a move that drastically
altered the American landscape and favored the trend towards privately owned automobiles, the
Interstate Highway Act of 1956 authorized the construction of a nationally integrated highway system.
A. The interstate highway and St. Lawrence Seaway projects were the largest public works programs
to date, surpassing anything the ND had undertaken. They highlighted the vital role of federal
spending in American life, even under the Republican administration.
IV. Eisenhower realized that the vast federal budget gave the government a major responsibility for the
overall health of the nation’s economy.
A. The president made the fight against inflation, not full employment, his top economic priority. He
believed that a balanced budget and stable prices would encourage business confidence and lead to
B. His policies pleased investors.
V. Modern Republicanism resisted the unchecked expansion of the state but did not generally cut back
federal power. Only in the area of natural resource development did Eisenhower move to reduce
federal activity.
A. In most other areas the responsibilities that the federal government had accepted—social welfare
programs inherited from the ND, Keynesian intervention in the economy, and increased defense
expenditures necessitated by the nation’s growing role abroad—signaled an abandonment of the
Republican style of limited government that had prevailed since the 1920s.
Emergence of Civil Rights as a National Issue
I. The civil rights movement was arguably the most important force for change in postwar America, and
its accelerating momentum had profound implications for the federal government.
Brown v Board of Education
I. Eisenhower showed little commitment to civil rights. He proved extremely reluctant to intervene in
what was widely seen as a state issue. Inadvertently, he contributed to the advancement of the black
cause by naming Earl Warren as chief justice to the Supreme Court.
A. Warren’s quiet persuasion convinced the court to rule unanimously in Brown v Board of Education
that racial segregation in the public school system was not constitutional.
II. The 1954 decision was the culmination of a series of test cases challenging the segregation in housing,
transportation, and other areas that the NAACP had been litigating since the 40s.
A. In response to NAACP suits over the next several years, the SC used the Brown precedent to
overturn segregation in city parks, public beaches and gold courses, all forms of interstate and
intrastate transportation, and public housing.
B. Progress in desegregating public schools was painfully slow.
III. When it became clear that the court was not going to back down on civil rights, white resistance
Crisis in Little Rock
I. Eisenhower did not commit federal power to enforcing the court decision. A crisis in Little Rock, AK,
finally forced him to intervene on the side of desegregation, thus becoming the first president since
Reconstruction to use federal troops to enforce the rights of blacks.
A. He also signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, a Democratic bill that created the US Commission on
Civil Rights to study federal laws and policies dealing with equal protection. The act was the first
national civil rights legislation passed since Reconstruction.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
I. White resistance to the Brown decision, as well as Eisenhower’s hesitancy to act in Little Rock,
showed that court victories were not enough to overthrow segregation.
A. In 1955, a strategy of nonviolent protest emerged when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a
city bus to a white man. Her upstanding social reputation and political connections with the civil
rights movement soon made her case famous in the black community.
II. When local black residents met to discuss the proper response, they turned to Martin Luther King jr,
who endorsed a plan by a local black woman’s organization to boycott Montgomery’s bus system until
it was integrated.
III. The bus boycott catapulted King to national prominence.
A. He founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
B. The black church had long been the center of African American social and cultural life; now it lent
its moral and organizational strength to the civil rights movement.
C. Female black church members were one of the movement’s strongest constituencies, transferring
the skills that they had honed through years of church work to the fight for racial equality.
The “New Look” of Foreign Policy
I. Eisenhower felt far more comfortable exercising leadership in military and diplomatic affairs than in
civil rights. One of his first acts as president was to negotiate an armistice in the Korean War.
A. The first settlement was signed in July 1953 after the parties reached a compromise on the tricky
issue of prisoner exchange. The war ended with both sides occupying the territory they had held at
the start of the conflict in 1950.
II. Once the Korean War was settled, Eisenhower turned his attention to Europe and the SU.
A. Soviet repression of the Hungarian revolt showed that American policy makers had few options
for rolling back Soviet power in Eastern Europe short of going to war.
III. Although Eisenhower opposed communism, as a fiscal conservative he hoped to keep the cost of
containment at a manageable level. Under his New Look defense policy, the president sought to
enhance American nuclear capabilities and encourage US allies to bear greater military responsibility
through increased foreign aid and an executive system of defense alliances.
Massive Retaliation
I. Eisenhower and John Dulles believed that the nation’s main foreign enemy was a worldwide
communist movement led by Moscow. They reasoned that the US could economize by developing a
massive nuclear arsenal as an alternative to more expensive conventional forces.
A. Eisenhower relied on the threat of nuclear weapons to check Soviet expansion—a policy know as
massive retaliation. The administration thus increased its commitment to the hydrogen bomb.
B. To improve the nation’s defenses against possible air attack from the SU, the administration
supported research to develop long-range bombing capabilities of the Strategic Air Command, and
installed the Distant Early Warning line of radar stations in 1958.
II. These efforts did not give the US the military superiority it hoped for because the Soviets matched the
US weapon for weapon in an escalating arms race. While boosting the military-industrial sectors of the
US and the SU, the arms race funneled immense resources into soon-to-be-obsolete weapons systems.
III. The New Look policy also extended collective security agreements between the US and its allies,
encouraging the latter to take greater responsibilities for their own military defense.
A. Dulles negotiated bilateral defense treaties with South Korea and the nationalist Chinese regime in
Taiwan in 1954. He also orchestrated the creation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization,
linking America and its major European allies with others.
B. This “pactomania” required that the US come to the defense of more than 40 other countries.
C. US policy makers tended to support stable governments as long as they were overtly
CIA Activities
I. Dulles did not shrink from direct intervention against governments that were, in his opinion, too
closely allied with communism. For such tasks he used the CIA.
A. During the Eisenhower administration the CIA moved beyond its original mandate of intelligence
gathering to active involvement in the internal affairs of foreign countries.
II. In the 1950s the CIA successfully directed the overthrow of several foreign governments. Eisenhower
specifically approved of these efforts.
The Emerging Third World
I. American leaders had devised the containment policy in response of Soviet expansion in Eastern
Europe, but they soon extended it to the new nations that were emerging in the Third World.
A. Before WWII, nationalism, socialism, and religion had inspired powerful anticolonial movements;
in the 40s and 50s those forces intensified and spread. Seeking to attract the newly created
countries into an American-led world system, US policy makers encouraged the development of
stable market economies in those areas. They also sought to further the ideal of national self-
B. Under the growing east-west tensions of the CW, both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations
often failed to recognize the indigenous nationalist or socialist movements in emerging nations
had their own goals and were not necessarily under the control of either local communists or the
The Middle East
I. The Middle East, an oil-rich area that was playing an increasingly central role in the strategic planning
of both the US and SU, presented one of the most complicated challenges.
A. After WWII, many Jews had resettled in Palestine, which was still controlled by Britain under a
WWI mandate. In 1947 the UNSC decided to partition Palestine into 2 states, Jewish and Arab—a
decision that other states resisted.
B. Truman quickly recognized the state of Israel after the British mandate ended, alienating the Arabs
but winning support from Jewish voters.
II. Egypt was another site of conflict with the Arab nations, one that reflected the way in which Third
World countries became embroiled in the CW
The Eisenhower Doctrine
I. In early 1957, in the aftermath of the Suez crisis, the president persuaded congress to approve the
Eisenhower Doctrine. Addressing concerns over declining British influence in the Middle East, the
policy stated that American forces would assist any nation in the region trying to resist communism.
II. The attention that the Eisenhower administration paid to developments in the Middle East in the 50s
demonstrated how the desire for access to steady supplies of oil increasingly affected foreign policy.
The Impact of the Cold War
I. The CW extended to the most distant areas of the globe, but it also had powerful affects on the
domestic economy, politics, and cultural values of the US. The Soviet-American conflict also affected
Americans in a personal way: for the first time in the nation’s history there was a peacetime draft.
II. The postwar expansion of the military produced a dramatic shift in the country’s economic priorities,
as military spending took up a greater percentage of national spending.
The Military-Industrial Complex and Nuclear Proliferation
I. The Department of Defense had evolved into a massive bureaucracy that profoundly influenced the
postwar economy. With the government paying part of the bill, corporations developed products with
unprecedented speed.
II. The CW defense buildup brought mixed blessings. In positive terms, it created jobs. Increased
spending put money in the pockets of the millions of people working in defense-related industries, but
it also limited the resources available for domestic needs.
A. The CW spurred a dangerous cycle of nuclear proliferation that would long outlive the conflict
that spawned it.
III. The nuclear arms race affected all Americans by fostering a climate of fear and uncertainty.
Arms Control
I. By the late 1950s, public concern over nuclear testing and fallout became a high-profile issue, and new
anti-nuclear groups such as SANE and Physicians for Social Responsibility called for an international
test ban.
A. Eisenhower found spiraling arms race expenditures a serious hindrance to balancing the federal
budget, one of his chief fiscal goals. Consequently, Eisenhower tried to negotiate an arms
limitation agreement with the SU.