Learn American History through 50 pop songs

The Cold War


The Cold War was the struggle for power between the Western powers and the Communist bloc from the end of World War II until 1989. The main powers involved were the US and the USSR. At the root of the Cold War was the ideological differences between communism and capitalist democracy.


© Copyright 2010 by Mr. and Mrs. Gillenwater

We worried when the Iron Curtain fell across Europe
America and Britain tried hard to stop it
Those Soviets drove deep into Germany
Started to mess with Greece, Turkey, and Italy
Here in the West we said this was a no-no
If we let one fall to communism, then they’d all go, like dominoes
This, warned Truman, just can’t happen
Gotta keep communism trapped with heavy containment

Cold, cold, cold, cold war
Superpowers US and USSR
For 50 years a silent roar
Of the cold, cold, cold, cold war

Truman’s plan beefed up worldwide armies
And Marshall’s Plan rebuilt Europe’s economy
We were hoping that these strategies would surely be able to keep
Some borderline nations out of Soviet reach
There was no denying a line was being drawn
Between the East and the West and that the tensions were strong, so strong
They formed the Warsaw Pact, we formed NATO
But we couldn’t avoid a war in Korea

Cold, cold, cold, cold war
Superpowers US and USSR
For 50 years a silent roar
Of the cold, cold, cold, cold war

We were still scared, the cold war continued to wage
Berlin in Germany took center stage
Since ’48 Germany had been split into two zones
Stalin closed the railways, rivers, and roads
Then in ’61 East Berlin was sealed tightly from all
When in a matter of days East Germany built a wall, the Berlin Wall
And of course we knew the Soviets had nukes
Giving a new chilling meaning to ‘put up your dukes’

Cold, cold, cold, cold war
Superpowers US and USSR
For 50 years a silent roar
Of the cold, cold, cold, cold war

McCarthy screamed “Red scare! Red scare”
Communists everywhere!
Red scare! Red scare!
In the end it was so unfair

But communist threat wasn’t just far off in Russia
Right south of our border we had Castro and Cuba
With Soviet help they were growing too strong and too big
The JFK helped them out with his screwed up Bay of Pigs
In ’62 it escalated into the Cuban Missile Crisis
They tried putting missiles on Cuba and pointing them at us
At the end of the standoff it was Kruchev who blinked (so we think)
But a full scale nuclear was we were right on the brink

Cold, cold, cold, cold war
Superpowers US and USSR
For 50 years a silent roar
Of the cold, cold, cold, cold war


The Cold War— An escalation of arms and rhetoric as the United States and the Soviet Union each sought to be recognized as the dominant superpower after World War II.

The Iron Curtain— The former division between the communist nations of Eastern Europe — the Eastern Bloc — and the noncommunist nations of Western Europe.

Soviets— The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was a socialist state that existed in Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. It is frequently referred to as The Soviet Union, or shortened to the Soviets.

Communism— Communism is a social structure in which there are no classes and property is commonly controlled. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union.

“like dominoes”— The domino theory was a foreign policy theory during the 1950s to 1980s, promoted at times by the government of the United States, that speculated that if one land in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect.

“Truman”— Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the 33rd President of the United States (1945–1953).

Containment— Containment was a United States policy using military, economic, and diplomatic strategies to temper the spread of Communism and prevent a "domino effect".

Truman’s Plan— The Truman Doctrine is the common name for the Cold War strategy of containment versus the Soviet Union and the expansion of communism.

Superpowers US and USSR— The Soviet Union and the United States generally came to be regarded as the only two Superpowers after World War II and confronted each other in the Cold War.

Marshall’s Plan— The Marshall Plan was the primary program, 1947–51, of the United States for rebuilding and creating a stronger economic foundation for the countries of Western Europe. The initiative was named for Secretary of State George Marshall.

Warsaw Pact— The Warsaw Treaty (1955–91) is the informal name for the mutual defense Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance commonly known as the Warsaw Pact subscribed by eight communist states in Eastern Europe, which was established at the USSR’s initiative and realized on 14 May 1955, in Warsaw, Poland.

NATO— The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on 4 April 1949. The organization constitutes a system of collective defense whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.

War in Korea— The Korean War was a military conflict between the Republic of Korea, supported by the United Nations, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. The war began on 25 June 1950 and an armistice was signed on 27 July 1953.

Berlin Wall— The Berlin Wall was a concrete barrier built by East Germany that completely enclosed the city of West Berlin, separating it from East Germany, including East Berlin.

Castro— Fidel Castro (born August 13, 1926) is a communist Cuban politician, one of the primary leaders of the Cuban Revolution, the Prime Minister of Cuba from February 1959 to December 1976, and then the President of the Council of State of Cuba until his resignation from the office in February 2008.

JFK— John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.

Bay of Pigs— The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful attempt by a CIA -trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba, with support from US government armed forces, to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro.

Cuban Missile Crisis— The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Cuba in October 1962, during the Cold War. In September 1962, the Cuban and Soviet governments placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. When United States military intelligence discovered the weapons, the U.S. government did all it could to ensure the removal of the missiles.

Kruchev— Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev[1] (April 15, 1894 – September 11, 1971) led the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

McCarthy— Joseph Raymond McCarthy (November 14, 1908 – May 2, 1957) was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion.

Tiered Questions

Tier 1 Questions

What was the Cold War?

What was the Iron Curtain?

Who were the superpowers involved with the Cold War?

Tier 2 Questions

Compare and contrast the Cold War to a regular war.

What was the relationship between the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall?

Name and explain 3 events that occurred during the Cold War.

Tier 3 Questions

In your opinion which type of war do you think is more destructive, a “hot” war or a “cold” war? Do you think there is any situation today that is similar to that of the Cold War? Consider “rogue” countries such as North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan coming into possession of nuclear weapons.

Test Prep Questions

1) Which factor is most closely associated with McCarthyism?

  • (1) buildup of Soviet missiles in Cuba
  • (2) fear of communist influence in the United States
  • (3) rise of the Communist Party in China
  • (4) creation of the Warsaw Pact by the Soviet Union

2) But this secret, swift, and extraordinary buildup of Communist missiles—in an area well known to have a special and historical relationship to the United States and the nations of the Western Hemisphere, in violation of Soviet assurances, and in defiance of American and hemispheric policy— this sudden, clandestine [secret] decision to station strategic weapons for the first time outside of Soviet soil—is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country, if our courage and our commitments are ever to be trusted again by either friend or foe. . . .

— President John F. Kennedy, October 22, 1962

3) This statement is most closely associated with the

  • (1) Bay of Pigs invasion
  • (2) Cuban missile crisis
  • (3) United States-Soviet space race
  • (4) nuclear test ban controversy

4) What is a valid conclusion based on this statement?

  • (1) Strategic weapons of the United States should be stationed on foreign soil.
  • (2) An isolationist foreign policy is the most effective way to preserve peace.
  • (3) Presidential attempts were made to end military alliances.
  • (4) Geographic location plays an important role in determining foreign policy.

5) The Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were all part of the foreign policy of

  • (1) isolationism
  • (2) colonialism
  • (3) détente
  • (4) containment

6) Which event is most closely associated with the end of the Cold War?

  • (1) passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • (2) establishment of a policy of détente with the Soviet Union
  • (3) invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union
  • (4) fall of the Berlin Wall

7) A goal of the Marshall Plan (1948) was to

  • (1) rebuild Japan after World War II
  • (2) provide military aid to the Warsaw Pact
  • (3) establish a Pan-American military alliance system
  • (4) provide economic aid to European nations threatened by communism

“Soviets Create Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe”
“Mao Zedong Leads Successful Revolution in China”
“North Korean Invasion of South Korea Leads to War”

8) Which development is reflected in these headlines?

  • (1) the post–World War II expansion of communism
  • (2) the beginning of détente between the Soviet Union and the United States
  • (3) the return to an isolationist foreign policy
  • (4) the beginning of pro-democracy movements during the Cold War

9) The primary goal of the United States foreign policy of containment was to

  • (1) return to noninvolvement in world affairs
  • (2) stop communist influence from spreading
  • (3) gain territories in Africa and Latin America
  • (4) overthrow existing dictatorships

10) What was one outcome of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962?

  • (1) Cuba became a communist nation.
  • (2) The United States seized military control of Cuba.
  • (3) The Soviet Union withdrew its nuclear missiles from Cuba.
  • (4) Fidel Castro met with President John F. Kennedy.

11) President John F. Kennedy supported the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba as an effort to

  • (1) remove a communist dictator from power
  • (2) stop the flow of illegal drugs to the United States
  • (3) support Fidel Castro’s efforts for reform
  • (4) rescue hostages held by Cuban freedom

12) During the Cold War era, the United States and the Soviet Union were hesitant to become involved in direct military conflict mainly because of

  • (1) the threat of China to both nations
  • (2) pressure from nonaligned nations
  • (3) the potential for global nuclear destruction
  • (4) mutual dependence on Middle East petroleum

13) One result of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was that the two nations

  • (1) broke all diplomatic ties
  • (2) refused to trade with each other
  • (3) formed competing military alliances
  • (4) clashed over control of the Mediterranean Sea

14) Which foreign policy term would be the most appropriate title for the partial outline below?

  • I. _________________________________
  • A. Truman Doctrine
  • B. Marshall Plan
  • C. Berlin Blockade
  • D. Korean War
  • (1) Imperialism
  • (2) Noninvolvement
  • (3) Appeasement
  • (4) Containment

15) Who led a “witch hunt” for Communist spies in the United States government during the early 1950s?

  • (1) Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren
  • (2) President Dwight Eisenhower
  • (3) Senator Joseph McCarthy
  • (4) Secretary of State Dean Acheson

16) In the post–World War II era, Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee attempted to

  • (1) develop an effective system for spying on other countries
  • (2) make Cold War programs a priority in United States foreign policy
  • (3) identify Communists in the government and elsewhere in American society
  • (4) establish a policy of détente with the Soviet Union

17) Which foreign policy concept influenced the decision of the United States to become militarily involved in Southeast Asia in the 1950s and 1960s?

  • (1) appeasement
  • (2) peaceful coexistence
  • (3) détente
  • (4) domino theory

18) The growth of McCarthyism in the early 1950s was based on

  • (1) public fear concerning the spread of communism
  • (2) outrage over government corruption
  • (3) dissatisfaction with the results of World War II
  • (4) opposition to the policy of containment


Historical Context: Following World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as rival Superp owers. This rivalry led to a period known as the Cold War. During the first fifteen years of the Cold War (1945–1960), the threat of communism presented many different challenges to the United States.

Task: Using information from the documents and your knowledge of United States history, answer the questions that follow each document.

  • Discuss how the threat of communism during the Cold War affected the United States in the period from 1945 to 1960

According to this cartoon, why was Congress rushing to the aid of Western Europe?

This excerpt is from a telegram sent to the Soviet Ambassador to the United States from the Acting Secretary of State in September 1948. A copy of this telegram was sent to President Harry Truman on September 27, 1948.

1. The Governments of the United States, France and the United Kingdom, conscious of their obligations under the charter of the United Nations to settle disputes by peaceful means, took the initiative on July 30, 1948, in approaching the Soviet Government for informal discussions in Moscow in order to explore every possibility of adjusting a dangerous situation which had arisen by reason of measures taken by the Soviet Government directly challenging the rights of the other occupying powers in Berlin. These measures, persistently pursued, amounted to a blockade of land and water transport and communication between the Western Zones of Germany and Berlin which not only endangered the maintenance of the forces of occupation of the United States, France and the United Kingdom in that city but also jeopardized the discharge by those governments of their duties as occupying powers through the threat of starvation, disease and economic ruin for the population of Berlin. . . .

Source: Telegram from United States Department of State to President Truman, September 27, 1948

According to this passage, what action taken by the Soviet Union created tensions between the Soviet government and the governments of the United States and its Allies?

According to this graph, what action was taken by the United States and its Allies in response to the events described in Document 2a?

According to this document, why was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) necessary?

Initial newspaper stories concerning Senator McCarthy’s speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, reported that the Senator said he knew of 205 communists in the State Department. Senator McCarthy later told the Senate he had used the number 57 in Wheeling. He placed this account of his Wheeling speech in the Congressional Record.

. . . This, ladies and gentlemen, gives you somewhat of a picture of the type of individuals who have been helping to shape our foreign policy. In my opinion the State Department, which is one of the most important government departments, is thoroughly infested with Communists. I have in my hand 57 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party, but who nevertheless are still helping to shape our foreign policy. One thing to remember in discussing the Communists in our government is that we are not dealing with spies who get 30 pieces of silver to steal the blueprints of a new weapon. We are dealing with a far more sinister type of activity because it permits the enemy to guide and shape our policy. . . .

Source: Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Speech, February 9, 1950, Wheeling, West Virginia, in Congressional Record, 81st Congress, 2nd Session

According to this document, what did Senator McCarthy suggest about communist influence in the United States government?

Historical Context: Following World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as rival superpowers. This rivalry led to a period known as the Cold War. During the first fifteen years of the Cold War (1945–1960), the threat of communism presented many different challenges to the United States.

Task: Using information from the documents and your knowledge of United States history, write an essay in which you

  • Discuss how the threat of communism during the Cold War affected the United States in the period from 1945 to 1960

Thematic Essay 1

Theme: Cold War
Following World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a conflict that became known as the Cold War. The Cold War created problems that the United States addressed with specific actions. These actions had varying degrees of success.

Task: Identify two problems faced by the United States during the Cold War and for each

  • Explain how the problem led to conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union
  • Describe one action taken by the United States in response to the problem
  • Evaluate the extent to which the action taken was successful in solving the problem

You may use any Cold War problems from your study of United States history. Some suggestions you might wish to consider include the postwar economic upheaval in Western Europe (1945–1947), Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe (1945–1948), threat of Communist takeover in Greece (1947), Soviet blockade of Berlin (1948), nuclear arms race (1950s–1970s), and placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba (1962)