- Origins of the Cold War
- The GI Bill
- African Americans, women, and the GI Bill
- The baby boom
- The growth of suburbia
- The dark side of suburbia
- Start of the Cold War - The Yalta Conference and containment
- Start of the Cold War - The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan
- Start of the Cold War - The Berlin airlift and the creation of NATO
- The postwar era, 1945-1950
Start of the Cold War - The Berlin airlift and the creation of NATO
Learn about the Berlin airlift, NATO, and the National Security Act.
- Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union came to a head in 1948, when the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin and the United States led a year-long airlift to supply citizens stranded in the western zone of the city.
- Realizing that conflict with the Soviet Union might escalate into war, the United States joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defensive alliance and ramped up security measures at home with the National Security Act.
The Berlin airlift
The growing tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union finally erupted into crisis in 1948. For three years, the Big Four powers had followed the plan of occupation decided at Yalta, with each power administering a zone of Germany as well as a zone of the capital city of Berlin. But ideological divisions over what should be done with Germany tore the former allies apart.
Believing that a reunified Germany would prevent a repeat of the economic catastrophe that had followed World War I, the United States, Britain, and France decided to consolidate their zones of Germany. The Soviet Union, which wanted to ensure that Germany could never attack it again, strongly objected to this plan. In 1948 the Soviet Union flexed its might by cutting off all highway and railroad access to the city of Berlin (which fell within its occupation zone), hoping to absorb all of Berlin under Soviet control. West Berlin would either starve or the Western Allies would surrender to the Soviets' wishes for Germany.
Map of partitioned Germany showing the nations in control of each region: England in the northwest, France in the southwest, the United States in the southeast, and the Soviet Union in the northeast. The city of Berlin falls within the Soviet zone.
The United States, Britain, and France refused to allow the Soviet Union to hold Berlin hostage. Instead, they arranged for a massive support mission to supply West Berlin. From June 1948 to May 1949, they sent hundreds of airplanes filled with food and fuel every day, in what became known as the Berlin airlift. They also instituted a counter-blockade on East Berlin.
After 11 months, the Soviets realized that the blockade was a failure and ended it. But the standoff over Berlin had crystallized the divisions of the Cold War. The Western Allies turned their combined occupation zones into the new country of West Germany, and the Soviet Union responded by creating East Germany. The Soviets also began the process of building a barrier between the eastern and western zones of Berlin that would stand for the next forty years.
NATO and the National Security Act
As tensions raged in Europe, the United States realized that long-lasting peace was not going to follow on the heels of World War II. When Britain, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg asked the United States to join its defensive alliance in 1948, the United States broke its longstanding aversion toward entangling alliances abroad and signed on.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as the pact was named, started with 12 member nations (today, it has 30). NATO promised that an attack on one of its members would provoke a response from all of its members. NATO became the major international body opposing communism in the twentieth century.
The United States also strengthened its commitment to defense at home. In 1947 Congress passed the National Security Act, which united the branches of the armed services under the new Department of Defense. It also created the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council to gather intelligence and advise the president on foreign policy. In addition, Congress reinstituted the Selective Service military draft for young men in 1948. If any hope remained that the world would be tranquil after Hitler's defeat, by the end of the 1940s it had gone.
What do you think?
Why do you think the United States was so determined to help West Berlin when it had no real interests to protect there?
Do you think it was a good idea for the United States to join NATO? What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of being part of a defensive alliance?
Want to join the conversation?
- Why is the division of Austria after world war two less well known?(15 votes)
- Here's a wonderful article, easily read and full of the information you seek about Austria. https://www.timetravel-vienna.at/en/highlights-history-vienna/highlightsoccupied-vienna/(2 votes)
- How is NATO different than the alliances that started (caused) WWII?(5 votes)
- It isn't really different. First there were the Allies and the Central Powers, then the Allies and the Axis, and then NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations.(11 votes)
- what causes the cold war(0 votes)
- The Cold War were tensions between the USSR and America. When America dropped the two atomic bombs on Japan, the USSR felt their national security was at stake, so they made their own nuclear bombs. As each side made more and more nuclear bombs, the world grew tense because if another world war came, it would most likely use nuclear bombs.
Meanwhile, in the middle of this, there was the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Both of these were America trying to stop the spread of communism. The Korean War almost became the third world war, as General Douglas MacArthur wanted to extend the war into China. At the end of the war, almost 3 million lives were lost for mainly no reason, as Korea was still divided.
The Vietnam War, however, didn't go so well for America. A lot of Americans were against the war, though Lyndon B. Johnson spent a lot of time and money in it and the Americans lost. North Vietnam won, and Vietnam became communist. The reason that the U.S. fought these wars is because they believed in the 'domino effect' — that if one country fell to communism, the surrounding countries would fall to communism. Plus, the more countries become communist, the U.S. would have less trading partners, and eventually the world would become communist.
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev broke down walls (literally, the Berlin Wall) and Gorbachev eventually ended the 'communist' regime. The Cold War got its name because the USSR and America never directly fought each other. Sorry if this is too long!(15 votes)
- I saw a small divided part of Germany from Communisim (red), what is that?(2 votes)
- The small divided section in the Russian territory is Berlin. Berlin, which was itself divided among the four powers, fell within the Soviet region. (It is part of the caption under the picture of the division of Germany)(3 votes)
- So if the United States' territory is highlighted on yellow on the map, why is there two splotches of American territory in U.K. territory(2 votes)
- When splitting up Berlin, the Americans said that they wanted to have a presence in Northern Germany as well as Bavaria. Since nobody wanted to get on the US's bad side, they were granted the two port cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven.(4 votes)
- Why do you think the United States was so determined to help West Berlin when it had no real interests to protect there?
I think that we were trying to prevent communism, which ruins countries and kills hundreds of thousands of people.(3 votes)
- 'Thisis what I think they did it for.
Well, they did it to prevent World War Two possibly happening all over again. They didn't stop Hitler when he conquered small European countries, they let a world war start. If they didn't stop Stalin from taking a small thing like West Berlin, how would they stop him when he had all of Europe under his control?(1 vote)
- why was Berlin divided between the 4 powers?(1 vote)
- 1) Berlin was the most important city in the defeated country.
2) The Four Powers all participated in defeating Germany.
3) They did not conquer the land and make it theirs, they merely defeated the government, then divided up it's territory for military supervision of the subsequent German state.
4) They agreed to do to Berlin exactly what they they had done to the entire nation.
5) Three of the four powers nurtured the development of a new German state with its capitol city in Bonn;
6) The remaining power nurtured the deveopment of a successor German state with capitol city in Berlin.
7) Why divide it up? Division and military occupation were done because twice in the 20th century the state in that location had plunged the world into war and millions of lives had been lost.(3 votes)
- October 3 is celebrated as German Unity Day. Though why did the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union relinquish their territories to from a reunified Germany? Correct me if I'm wrong.(3 votes)
- This was probably to stop a completely unified Germany from becoming agitated and starting a WWIII. The Allies felt that if Germany was under control there would be no threats. after WWI Germany went unchecked and went wild, thus causing WWII. Sure this started a whole new other set of problems between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but they accomplished their goal of keeping Germany in check.(1 vote)
- So to sum it up who was responsible for beginning the Cold War? Stalin or Truman?(1 vote)
- Truman basically bears some responsibility because he did not tell Stalin of his plan to drop the atomic bombs. This made Stalin nervous at the power Truman would have towards another world domination. In summary everything could be said to have started due to the very large presence of mistrust and fear of domination.(3 votes)
- Is the National Security Act still effective today?(2 votes)
- Yes. Why would we repeal a law that is helping UN and beyond?(1 vote)