Highlights From the Cold War:

In the Korean War, which was a proxy war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, a cease-fire was signed and a demilitarized  zone was created, although there never was a peace treaty.

Some people think the U.S. and its allies won the cold war because the communist governments of the  Soviet Union and some Eastern European countries collapsed.  

 

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By Cindy


United States Marines storm ashore at Inchon
Naval Historical Center

      The Cold War was the most important political event of the twentieth century. It was a 50 year period of tension and struggle between the U.S. and its allies, and the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) and its allies. (The allies of the U.S. were  the U.K., Japan, Western Europe, and Canada. Allies of the U.S.S.R. were Eastern Europe and China.) The Cold War was not only a conflict between two sets of nations, it was a war between what those two sides represented: Democracy and Communism. During this time there were many dramatic events, most noticeably the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the fall of the U.S.S.R.

     The Korean War (1950- 1953) was a brutal conflict that had no clear winner. In total, over 3 million Americans, Koreans, Chinese, and Soviets were killed or wounded on the battlefield. This war was not only a civil war in a small peninsula country, it was a proxy war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. A proxy war is when two countries indirectly fight a war. In World War Two Korea was divided into two, along the 38th parallel. After WWII Korea had a huge problem, it had no effective government. It had been a Japanese colony and therefore had to be temporarily governed by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in the south and north respectably. When the Soviet and American forces withdrew in 1949, Korea had two governments, a democratic one in the south and a communist one in the north. On June 25,1950 North Korea invaded South Korea, and with the aid of soviet weapons soon made the South Koreans retreat to the southern tip of the peninsula. That same day the United Nations passed a resolution to stop the hostilities and get North Korea to withdraw to the 38th parallel. They wished for all the nations in the U.N. to help in doing this and not to help North Korea. Luckily the U.N. troops drove the North Koreans back past the 38th parallel and close to China. This put pressure on China because it did not want further advances on its border. So in October of 1951 China entered the war. There was a lengthy struggle without much gain for a while and then, after lengthy peace negotiations, on July 28, 1953 a cease-fire was signed and a demilitarized zone was created, although there never was a peace treaty.

     Longer and more destructive than the Korean War, the Vietnam War (1959- 1975) made a lasting impression on what Americans thought about war and the way war was fought. Before the Vietnam War most people viewed war as a necessary if not positive thing. During the Vietnam War there was a great deal of controversy in the United States over conscription and over the whole U.S. involvement in the war. Conscription is when Citizens are forced to serve in the army by the government. The Vietnam War was also an unusual and unique war because at first there were no front lines. It had no front lines because in the beginning, it was composed of mostly hit-and-run attacks, bombings, and clashes between small units patrolling the mountains and jungles. Only later would it escalate to full-scale battle. The Vietnam War was also unique because there were three political parties fighting, the Viet Cong (Communist rebels that controlled no land), the Viet Minh (Communist government of North Vietnam), and the Republic of Vietnam (Anti-Communist government of South Vietnam). There were only two sides; the Communists ,Viet Cong, Viet Minh, U.S.S.R., China, and North Korea. Versus the Anti-Communists; South Vietnam, the U.S., the Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, and South Korea. The U.S. was on the Anti-Communist side because the government thought if Vietnam became Communist the rest of Asia would also. The U.S. got involved after ships in the Gulf of Tonkin reported getting attacked by the Viet Minh (a.k.a. the Government of North Vietnam). As a cause of this Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 and started to bomb North Vietnam, a year later sent combat troops to Vietnam. By 1968 there were 525,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam. Also in 1968 the Tet offensive made the American public doubt that America and its allies would win the war. During 1971-1972 the bombings and offensive operations got discontinued and resumed as peace talks in Paris fluctuated. Finally the U.S. withdrew in 1973 letting North and South Vietnam fight it out for themselves. Three years later on July 2, 1976 Vietnam was united again under the rule of North Vietnam and is now called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

     The collapse of the U.S.S.R. (1991) was a turbulent time both politically and for the people of the Soviet Union. A few years before the collapse, in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Soviet Union. He and his administration faced many problems like bad relationships with the U.S., inflation, and black marketing. The cost of running the Soviet Union was increasing. Also, countries close to the Soviet Union needed financial support and technological development had fallen behind. Gorbachev tried his best to solve these problems by coming up with three reforms called Glasnost, Perestroika, and Uskoreniye. Glasnost gave people the freedom of speech, but all the negative things said and written about the communist party just made people loose faith in the government. Perestroika was an attempt to improve the economy, but it was not strong enough to do much good. By 1990 more problems arose such as high government spending, having to support industries that were loosing money, low production from farms and factories, and some republics stopped paying taxes because they declared independence. In the February of 1990 the government decided to loosen its control by changing the Soviet Union slightly. The Republics in the Soviet Union decided to sign an agreement on August 20, 1991 making them independent but part of a federation with a common president. However, on August 19, 1991 there was a coup and though it failed, Gorbachev never regained full power.  Little by little over the next few months the Soviet Union ceased to exist. On December 31, 1991 the flag of the Soviet Union flew for the last time.

      The Cold War was the cause of some pretty unforgettable events, like the Korean War which some thought  was going to be the start of  WW III. Who Could forget the controversy and struggle that was the Vietnam war? Of course  many were shocked when  a major superpower like the Soviet Union collapsed. All and all it was a turbulent and tumultuous time for every nation in this world. 

For more information:
http://www.learningcurve.gov.uk/coldwar/
http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761569374/Cold_War.html
http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/coldwar.htm
http://library.thinkquest.org/22059/index2.html

 

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