The American Journey © 2007

Chapter 27: The Cold War Era

Chapter Overviews

Though they had been allies in World War II, the Western democracies and the Soviet Union had basic differences in their goals and methods of governing. As the war drew to a close the leaders of those nations met at Yalta to begin planning for the postwar world. They agreed to divide Germany into four zones until elections could be held. Another result of the Yalta Conference was the creation of the United Nations. In the last years of the war the Soviets had pushed Germany back through Eastern Europe. Now that the war was over, the Soviet Union maintained control over this region and began to set up Communist governments. A growing distrust developed between the Soviet Union and the Western nations, and Winston Churchill declared that an "iron curtain" had descended on Europe, dividing it into two halves. The United States adopted a policy of containment to contain the spread of communism, and as part of that policy the Marshall Plan was implemented to provide economic aid to Europe. The blockade of West Berlin by the Soviets created a crisis for the postwar world. By implementing an airlift to provide needed goods to the West Berliners, the Western democracies were able to avoid armed conflict. Elsewhere in the world, communism spread to China when Mao Zedong defeated the forces of General Chiang Kai-shek. The Cold War intensified Americans' fears of communism.

At home Americans had to adjust to a peacetime economy as thousands of soldiers reentered the civilian workforce. President Truman blamed Congress for rejecting his "Fair Deal." A split in the Democratic Party led many to believe that Republican Thomas Dewey would easily win the presidential election of 1948. Voters, however, returned President Truman to office. During his second term the president took serious steps to improve the economy and to advance the civil rights of African Americans. Then in June 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea. The president asked the United Nations to send forces to defend the South Koreans. After two years of fighting a cease-fire was finally reached. Neither side achieved victory or gained much territory.

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