Flashpoints & Key Events in the Cold War 1950 – 1962
Key Events Loss of China (1949) Korean War (1950-1953) * Hungarian Uprising (1956) U2 Spy Plane Incident (1960) Construction of Berlin Wall (1961) Nuclear Arms/Space Race Checkpoint Charlie Incident (1961) Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) * * SBQ examinable
“Loss” of China After Jp surrender in 1945, China was locked in civil war Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) vs. the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) CCP backed by Soviets while US support KMT. Due to KMT corruption & weakness, CCP won the war Mao & Chiang, toasting an alliance to fight the Jp. The fragile alliance crumbled after the Jp surrendered.
“Loss” of China KMT remnants fled to Taiwan US shocked by this & accelerated rehabilitation Jp as a Cold War ally in the Far East. CCP was about to launch cross-strait invasion when Korean War changed everything UN recognised Taiwan as the legitimate China until 1972. With the “loss” of China, USSR had gained a massive & powerful ally in the Far East.
Korean War 1950-1953 First “Hot War” of the Cold War At Potsdam, Allies agreed that Korea would be split into 2 at 38th Parallel after Jp surrender. North zone under Soviets while South zone under Americans. Free elections would be held to unite the country Korea, split at the 38th parallel
Events leading up to War N. Korean govt set up under Kim Il Sung while S. Korean under Syngman Rhee. Both Rhee & Kim were spoiling for a fight, pressured their Allies to help reunite country. Rising tensions in the Cold War made reunification & free elections impossible Kim Il Sung (1912-1994), was determined to unify Korea under Communist rule
Events leading up to War While the Soviets left a well-trained & armed army in N. Korea, US left a token force. 1949 – China turns Communist N. Korea now had a powerful ally to the north. Syngman Rhee (1875-1965), leader of S. Korea
NSC-68 – Jan 1950 Dean Acheson, Truman’s Sect of State delivered a speech on US defensive role in Asia. He stated that US was prepared to defend Japan, Ryukyu Islands, Aleutians & Philippines, S. Korea NOT mentioned Kim took this as a sign. The U.S. Far East Defence Perimeter, as mentioned by Dean Acheson in NSC 68
The Invasion Kim persuades Stalin & Mao to support his reunification attempt. Both provided arms & advisors to Kim Believed US would not defend South. Jun 1950 – NK troops crossed the 38th Parallel into SK & the Korean War had begun
Round 1 – NK Sweeps South UN demanded withdrawal but NK ignores call UN passes a resolution to repel NK aggression. Troops from 16 countries under UN banner, led by US, rushed to Korea Many of the troops defending SK came from Japan & never expected to see combat action.
Round 1 UN unable to halt NK advance. Until UN reinforcements arrived, troops in SK were ill-equipped & untrained. UN forces pushed to a small land area to the southern tip of Korea “Pusan Perimeter” UN forces were in danger of being pushed into the sea.
Round 2 – UN Counter-Attacks US Gen, Douglas MacArthur, planned an ambitious amphibious attack behind enemy lines Managed to recapture Seoul & cut off NK troops in the south UN forces broke out of Pusan & pushed NK troops back to 38th Parallel MacArthur, commander of UN forces surveying the Incheon landings.
Inchon Landings Thanks to their WW II experience, the US marines had become masters of amphibious warfare MacArthur hatched an ambitious plan to flank the enemy via the sea
Round 3 – UN Troops Enter NK UN forces push into NK, taking Pyongyang, NK’s capital Debate as to how far north to push China starts to issue warnings to UN troops not to approach Yalu River (border between NK & China) Mao alarmed at idea of sharing border with enemy (US) UN troops fighting to retake Seoul.
Round 4 – China Joins The Fray MacArthur thought China was bluffing, ordered UN troops to push on Without warning, Chinese troops poured into NK & pushed UN forces south again Battle reaches stalemate at 38th Parallel Battle drags on to 1953 until armistice signed Chinese propaganda poster on their “heroic” struggle in Korea. 1 Million Chinese troops poured in Korea.
Impact of Korean War - Korea Korea still divided at 38th parallel Loss of life (2.5m Koreans) & property Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separates both Koreas Border heavily defended Families divided Civilians suffered terribly from the war.
Impact – China & Taiwan China unable to invade Taiwan US moved 7th Fleet to Straits of Taiwan China showed its military power China & Taiwan still divided today Truman orders the 7th Fleet to defend Taiwan. He feared the Chinese might use the confusion of the Korean War as a chance to invade
Impact – US & Japan Truman doctrine was put in practice Communism was “contained” Massive American military build up in Asia, esp. SK & Japan. Jp economy recovered from WW II thanks to Korean War Producing supplies for UN troops Jp became key American ally in Asia as well as a model for American style democracy. Truman showed the Communist world he was no pushover
Impact – World Showed global impact of Cold War, not just in Euro Showed that smaller countries could influence conflict – e.g. Kim & Rhee First instance of superpowers using proxy war Iron Curtain in Euro, Bamboo Curtain in Asia
Hungarian Uprising (1956) Stalin’s death in 1953 led to slight relaxation in E. Euro Hungary saw this as an opportunity to breakaway. Street protests called for Soviet pull out & democratisation One of history’s greatest mass murders had passed on
Soviet Response Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, mobilised the alarmed Warsaw Pact countries Sent in the tanks to Budapest (Hungarian Capital) & killed thousands of civilians (1000+ dead, 20,000+ wounded) US could only condemn the action but could do nothing Hungarians took to the streets in Budapest to protest against Communism
Hungarian Uprising – Impact Hungary brought back to Soviet control Communist control tightened among Warsaw Pact nations to prevent future incidences Many Hungarians fled to neighbouring countries It seems the Hungarians didn’t like Uncle Joe much.
Sino-Soviet Split Soviet & Chinese roadmap to Communism different Mao was upset when promised Soviet aid during Korean War didn’t materialise In a secret meeting of Communist leaders, Khrushchev denounces Stalin, shocked China Henceforth, both competed for leadership of Communist world Mao & Stalin, in happier times
U2 Spy Plane Incident (1960) US spyplane shot down in USSR US denied knowledge of operation Forced to admit when photos & pilot were released to the media Source of huge embarrassment for US A U2 spy plane
Spy Plane Incident Impact Escalation of conflict between the two superpowers: Pres. Eisenhower refused to apologize Collapse of the Paris Summit where Eisenhower and Khrushchev was supposed to meet. The incident was a huge embarrassment to the US
Berlin Wall (1961) West Berlin as the only capitalist outpost behind Iron Curtain. Many Berliners used this loophole to escape to W. Euro E. Gm built the wall to prevent “corrupting capitalist influences from coming through” Berlin was the chance for escape for many E. Germans
Berlin Wall – Escape Attempts Anyone caught trying to escape would be shot Guard towers, patrol dogs, barbed wire, mines, poison gas, reinforced walls Escape: Tunneling, climbing More sophisticated attempts included zipline, hot air balloon, surfing, air gliders Hundreds died in failed escape attempts
JFK at the Berlin Wall Pres. John F. Kennedy made one of his most famous speeches at the Berlin Wall Reaffirmed commitment to defend against Soviet aggression JFK addresses the crowds in Berlin
JFK at the Berlin Wall Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was Civis Romanus Sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is 'Ich bin ein Berliner'... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner!'
Nuclear Arms Race Both sides engaged in massive buildup of nukes Mutually assured destruction (MAD) Brinkmanship the policy or practice of pushing a dangerous situation to the brink of disaster in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome. It occurs in international politics, foreign policy and (in contemporary settings) in military strategy involving the threatened use of nuclear weapons
Space Race After WW II, US & USSR competed for German scientists Germans were at forefront of rocket technology Needed the scientists for their space ambitions Soviets & Americans competed to see who could reach space first
“One small step for man, one huge leap for mankind” The words uttered by Neil Armstrong when he became the first man on the moon
Checkpoint Charlie (1961) E.g. of brinkmanship A border checkpoint between East & W. Berlin A minor border incident led to a standoff of US & Soviet tanks Both sides had orders to fire if fired upon JFK & Khrushchev finally agreed to withdraw tanks & situation was diffused Face off! American & Soviet tanks at Checkpoint Charlie
Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) Background Jan 1959 – Fidel Castro, a Communist, comes to power in Cuba Brings Cuba closer to USSR Oct 1959 – US stations 15 nukes in Turkey within striking distance of Russian cities Fidel Castro – still alive! But barely…
Bay of Pigs Invasion In 1960, JFK sanctioned the CIA to begin training Cuban exiles for a possible revolt & overthrow of Castro Apr 1961 – Operation goes horribly wrong & 1500 exiles were captured Greatly embarrassed JFK Cuban exiles rounded up by Castro’s men.
Missiles in Cuba U2 spy planes detected Soviet missile sites in Cuba Alarmed JFK as nukes were striking distance of American cities Formed a high powered executive committee called EXCOMM to handle this Photograph taken from the U2 plane
American Options EXCOMM gave JFK 4 options: Do nothing & wait for Soviets to move Use surgical airstrikes on missile sites Invade Cuba Naval blockade of Cuba to prevent Soviets from shipping in more missiles The President had some tough decisions to make
Naval Blockade US ships took up positions to quarantine Cuba Prevented Soviet ships from entering Were ordered to fire if ships tried to break blockade Khrushchev ordered ships to turn back JFK went public with the news of Soviet missiles & threatened to invade Cuba if missiles not removed The quarantine of Cuba
Resolution Khrushchev agreed to withdraw missiles if US promised not to invade Cuba & also to remove its own missiles from Turkey. The world held its breath as WW III almost started Khrushchev was not prepared to start nuclear war over Cuba
Impact Better US-Soviet relations Cuba remained Communist Khrushchev’s fall from power Tense Soviet-Chinese relations
Better US-Soviet Relations War did not start as both sides were unwilling to risk nuclear war The famous Moscow-Washington hotline set up Started a series of disarmament talks to prevent nuclear buildup The red phone in the White House
Communist Cuba Cuba remained Soviet ally Soviets promised aid if Cuba was attacked Numerous failed assassination attempts on Castro Castro, a thorn in America’s behind.
Khrushchev’s Fall CMC was seen as American victory & Soviet failure Khrushchev perceived as weak by many Soviet officials Removed from power & replaced by Leonid Brezhnev Remained under house arrest until his death in 1971 Khrushchev & Castro
Tense Soviet-Chinese Relations China also accused USSR of being weak Exacerbated the Sino-Soviet split Both camps now competed for leadership of the Communist world