Tag Archives: Cold War

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Origins of the First Gulf War

This revision podcast is aimed at GCSE and IGCSE History students, although AS and IB students may find it a helpful introduction to events in the Gulf in the later 20th Century.  This episode focuses on the origins of the Gulf War, with a focus on the causes and consequences of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The podcast begins with an overview of the background factors to the invasion of Kuwait, and then outlines the events of the invasion itself. The podcast concludes with a description of the effect that the invasion had on the international community, and how foreign nations responded.

The revision guide aims to give clear examples for each of these issues, and provide an explanation of how the events contributed to international action against Iraq that was to become known as the First Gulf War.

     

The origins of the Cold War

This podcast aims to look at three key areas – why the alliance between the USA and the USSR broke down in 1945, how Stalin take control of eastern Europe in 1945 and America’s reaction to it, and the consequences of the Berlin Blockade.

The podcast opens with a short explanation of the deteriorating relationship between the USA and the USSR through the Second World War.  It goes on to present an overview of the two major Allied conferences – Yalta and Potsdam – and outlines the key agreements and disagreements that emerged from them.

Opening with an extract from Churchill’s famous Iron Curtain speech, the second part of this episode explores the way in which Stalin extended Soviet control over eastern Europe to establish a ‘buffer zone’ of communist states around the USSR.  It then goes on to detail the USA’s response in terms of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.  Examples are given of each.

The third section of the podcast focuses on the Berlin Blockade of 1948-9.  It begins with the background of the divided Germany after the Second World War.  An explanation is then given of how Berlin became further divided between the communist and non-communist zones leading to Stalin launching the Berlin Blockade.  The Allied ‘air lift’ is then described.

The episode finishes with some exam tips on how to answer a question about who was to blame for the Cold War in a balanced way.

          

Yalta Conference

Brief introduction to the Yalta Conference

On the 4th February 1945 the Yalta Conference began. Attended by the “Big Three” Allied leaders, the conference saw United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin meet to discuss the government of post-war Europe.

The three leaders had previously met at the Tehran Conference in 1943 where they set out a unified military strategy, but at Yalta the focus was exclusively on the end of the war and its aftermath. It was clear that the war in Europe was in its final stages, so they agreed to demand Germany’s unconditional surrender after which the country – and Berlin – would be split into four zones of occupation. Germany was to undergo a process of demilitarization and denazification, and Nazi war criminals were to be hunted down and brought to justice.

Furthermore, the three allies considered the fate of Eastern European countries that had been under Nazi occupation. Poland was the focus of much of the discussion, but the agreement reached was intended to apply to every country. The Protocol of Proceedings stated that the allies would assist the liberated countries to form “interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population…and the earliest possible establishment through free elections of governments responsive to the will of the people.”

The terms of the agreement, when they were made public, were met with harsh criticism in Britain and the United States. Some of these criticisms came to be justified when, at the end of the war, the Soviet Union installed communist governments throughout Eastern Europe.

The origins of the Cold War: Yalta and Potsdam

This video presents an explanation of the start of the Cold War. The end of WW2 presented the Allies with the problem of what would happen to liberated Nazi territory. Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met at Yalta in 1945 to discuss these issues. At Potsdam later that year the leaders of the USA (which was now led by Truman), Britain (under Atlee) and the USSR met again.

Trinity nuclear test

Brief account of USA’s first ever nuclear test in the Manhattan Project

The 16th July 1945 marked the start of the atomic age when the USA detonated the first nuclear bomb under the codename ‘Trinity’.

Nicknamed ‘the gadget’ by the people working on it, the plutonium-based weapon was detonated at the Alamogordo Test Range in New Mexico. The explosion was equivalent to about 20 kilotons of TNT, and the blast-wave was felt by civilians up to 160 miles away. To maintain secrecy, a press release was issued shortly after the successful detonation that claimed a large ammunition storage magazine had exploded.

The development of nuclear weapons by the US Army in the Manhattan Project that began in 1942 at Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico started due to concerns that Nazi Germany would develop an atomic bomb. By 1944 scientists had designed an implosion-type device and proposed that a test take place. The location was chosen in September, and an on-site laboratory was set up.

President Truman was keen to test the bomb before the Potsdam Conference began on the 18th July, so the 16th was chosen to give time to try again in case it failed. However when the appointed hour came rain was falling, which would have increased radioactive fallout, and so the detonation time was pushed back from 4am to 5.30am. At 5:29am the “the gadget” was exploded on top of a 100-foot steel tower, known as Point Zero. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, later said that after the explosion he recalled a verse from Hindu scripture: ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’

Bombing of Hiroshima

A short account of the bombing of Hiroshima

On the 6th August 1945, the USA dropped an atomic bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima from the B-29 aircraft Enola Gay.

70,000 people were killed instantly, of whom 20,000 were military personnel. Approximately another 70,000 died over the following months due to radiation sickness, burns, and other injuries directly related to the explosion.

The Potsdam Declaration issued on the 28th July by the Allies called for the unconditional surrender of Japan. If the government did not surrender they threated “the complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and…utter devastation of the Japanese homeland”. Having completed the successful Trinity atomic test on the 16th July, the USA felt that the atomic bomb could quickly end the war in the Pacific.

Hiroshima was chosen as a target due to its industrial and military significance since it was the command centre for the defence of southern Japan and contained approximately 40,000 military personnel. The Enola Gay and six accompanying aircraft had a 6-hour flight from the air base at North Field, Tinian before reaching the city where they released the bomb at 8.15am. It exploded 600m above the city as planned, with the equivalent to 16 kilotons of TNT. Virtually all buildings within a mile of the blast were flattened.

Following the bombing, President Truman warned that if Japan did not surrender, “they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” Japan did not surrender. A second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later.

Byrnes, Truman and Leahy

Truman and his advisors: different opinions of the atomic bomb

This short clip is taken from the BBC’s Curriculum Bites and offers a good overview of the different opinions about the use of the A-bomb in 1945.

Bombing of Hiroshima

Interpretations of why the USA dropped the atomic bomb on Japan

This video presents historical interpretations of why America chose to drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It also explains how it affected relations between the USA and the USSR.

Iron Curtain speech

Churchill and the ‘Iron Curtain’ speech

On the 5th March 1946, Winston Churchill described the post-war division of Europe as an “iron curtain” in his “Sinews of Peace” address at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. Often interpreted as a key event in the origin of the Cold War, Churchill’s speech played a significant role in changing Western perceptions of their former Soviet ally.

Churchill, as the British Prime Minister, had led Britain to victory in the Second World War but in the General Election of July 1945 suffered a landslide defeat to Clement Attlee’s Labour Party. Despite now being in opposition, he continued to be highly respected abroad and visited the United States in 1946. During this trip he was invited by Westminster College in the 7,000-person town of Fulton to deliver a speech to an audience of 40,000 people.

Churchill was introduced at Fulton by President Harry Truman, and opened his speech by complimenting the United States as standing “at the pinnacle of world power.” As the speech progressed, he became increasingly critical of the Soviet Union’s policies in Eastern Europe. Churchill was not the first to use the term “iron curtain” as a metaphor for a strong divide since versions of its had been in use for many centuries, and nor was the “Sinews of Peace” speech the first time that he himself had used the term. However, his use of the term in a speech with such a large audience thrust it into wider circulation and associated it directly with the post-war situation.

Stalin accused Churchill of warmongering, and defended the USSR’s relationship with eastern Europe as a necessary barrier to future attacks.

Containment policy

The origin of the ‘Containment’ policy

On the 24th September 1946, Clark Clifford and George Elsey presented a report to President Truman in which they recommended “restraining and confining” Soviet influence. The report helped to shape Truman’s decision to follow a policy of containment, having a direct impact on the introduction of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, and on the formation of NATO.

The report was a detailed appraisal of relations between the USA and the Soviet Union, elaborating on the points raised in the so-called “Long Telegram” by George F. Kennan at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Kennan’s telegram highlighted the USSR’s ‘perpetual war’ with capitalism, stating that the communist and capitalist worlds could never peacefully coexist.

These warnings were picked up by Clifford and Elsey, who also noted Kennan’s comments regarding the likelihood that the Soviets would back down from any direct conflict in their attempts to expand communism. Consequently they recommended “restraining and confining” Soviet influence in an attempt to maintain some form of coexistence. Elsey noted that the USSR needed to be persuaded that the USA was “too strong to be beaten and too determined to be frightened”. The term ‘containment’ was first used to describe this approach in an expanded essay in the Foreign Affairs journal.

Ten copies of the report were printed, the first of which was presented to the President. Truman’s daughter, Margaret, wrote that – having stayed up most of the night to read it – he ordered all copies to be brought to him and locked away since the content was a serious threat to US-Soviet relations.