The Impact of U.S. Aerial
during the Early Cold War
Service & Sacrifice of the
Page 1 of 4 Pages
The Birth of the Cold War
In general, all Soviet efforts on the unofficial international plane will be negative and destructive in character, designed to tear down the sources of strength beyond the Soviet control.
American charge d’affaires to the USSR, George F. Kennan
The New Threat in a Postwar World
As World War II reached its apex, the United States (U.S.) and its allies seemed to be in agreement on how to work together to end the war and set the stage for cooperation and peace afterwards. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill reached agreement on: the division of Europe after Germany’s defeat; the pursuit of free elections in Europe; and on working together to defeat the third, and last, Axis powerJapan (1) When President Roosevelt died on 12 April 1945 and Harry S. Truman came to power as the 33rd President of the United States, it marked the beginning of the end for this great wartime alliance.
On 13 April, President Truman was briefed by the Director of the Manhattan Project about U.S. atomic weapon research. With this stunning news, President Truman suddenly found himself confronted with a new component which would force even more stunning consequences in an already rapidly-changing world. Of course president Truman’s first concern was the defeat of Germany and Japan, and atomic weapon development (which would prove the answer to ending the war sooner). But even before Germany and Japan were defeated, a new threat loomed. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) forecast in April 1945
Before 1945 was over, President Truman was confronted with this rapidly-shifting world environment. The new order of the world would be centered around the past war’s two strongest victorsthe United States and the Soviet Unionlocked in a new bipolar confrontation. Before the end of the 1940’s this confrontation would prove to be as menacing to American leaders as the attempted Axis domination of the world earlier that same decade.
The Allies accepted Germany’s formal surrender agreement in May 1945 and Stalin quickly moved to take advantage of a weakened Europe. In Eastern Europe, the continued occupation of those areas overrun or liberated by Soviet forces allowed Communist political parties to secure “spheres of influence” and get national governments installed which would be friendly towards the USSR. In European areas not under direct Soviet occupation, USSR support of political parties and insurgent movements worked to bring Communist parties to power. In addition to occupation, millions of prisoners of war, ethnic nationalities and displaced persons were moved into Soviet labor camps or geographically-separate areas where the Soviet’s totalitarian government could better control them.
Besides actions in Europe, taken with the strength of millions of Soviet troops still under arms, Stalin attempted to expand Soviet control into new areas of Soviet interestlike Iran, Turkey and Greece. To Western leaders, all of these dramatic postwar actions combined to show that the Soviets were acting against the Yalta Conference agreements and, in a larger sense, posed a new threat to world peaceCommunist domination of the world.
Meanwhile, in the Far East, the USSR had not joined in the fight against Japan as it had agreed to do at the Yalta Conference. The USSR’s belated declaration of war on Japan and invasion of Manchuria and the Korean peninsula after the U.S. dropped its atomic weapons was seen by many U.S. leaders as just another Soviet attempt to grab additional territory and postwar power. Subsequently, U.S. leaders limited the USSR’s share in the occupation of the Japanese mainland and only gave the USSR a representative role in the occupying government.
(1) Paul J. Healy, “Cold War Essay,” URL: ,http://icdweb.cc.purdue.edu/~phealy/welcome.html, accessed 12 January 1999.
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