Struggle for the Islands
The victory at Midway allowed the Allies to take the offensive in the Pacific. American forces began island-hopping, a military strategy of selectively attacking specific enemy-held islands and bypassing others. By capturing only a few crucial islands, the United States effectively cut off the bypassed islands from supplies and reinforcements and rendered those islands useless to the Japanese. This strategy also allowed the Americans to move more quickly toward their ultimate goal - Japan itself. The island-hopping campaign would begin with the island farthest away from mainland Japan - Gudalcanal.
The Battle of Guadalcanal
When more than 11,000 marines landed on the island in August 1942, the 2,000 Japanese who were defending the island fled into the jungle. The Battle of Guadalcanal provided the marines with their first taste of jungle warfare. They slogged through swamps, crossed rivers, and hacked through tangles of vines in search of the enemy. The marines made easy targets for Japanese snipers hidden in the thick underbrush or in the tops of palm trees. Both sides landed thousands of reinforcements in five months of fighting, but the U.S. was able to emerge victorious. The Allies had conquered their first piece of Japanese-held territory. Island-hopping was underway.
Island-Hopping in the Pacific
After Guadalcanal, the Allies pushed across the Pacific. Forces under General MacArthur leapfrogged through dozens of island chains. By February 1944, these attacks had crippled Japanese air power, and helped the U.S. reclaim over half of the land taken by the Japanese. The U.S. was inching closer to mainland Japan. By the summer, for the first time, Japan was within reach of long-range American bombers. Island-hopping was working.
The Philippines Campaign
As American forces pushed toward Japan in the summer of 1944, military planners decided to bypass the Philippine Islands. MacArthur vigorously opposed this strategy, claiming that the United States had an obligation to free the Filipino people. The general's arguments persuaded Roosevelt, who reversed the decision. In mid-October, some 160,000 American troops invaded the Philippines. After the beach was secure, General MacArthur dramatically waded ashore from a landing craft. News cameras recorded the historic event as MacArthur proclaimed, "People of the Philippines, I have returned." While American troops fought their way inland, a great naval battle developed off the coast. More than 280 warships took part in the three-day Battle of Leyte Gulf. The Japanese high command directed nearly every warship still afloat to attack the United States Navy. This was the first battle in which Japanese kamikazes, or suicide planes, were used. Kamikaze pilots loaded their aircraft with bombs and then deliberately crashed them into enemy ships to inflict maximum damage. Despite this tactic, the American force destroyed the Japanese navy and emerged victorious.
Iwo Jima and Okinawa
The fighting grew deadlier as American troops moved closer to Japan. One of the bloodiest battles of the war took place on the tiny island of Iwo Jima. The island's steep, rocky slopes were honeycombed with caves and tunnels. The natural terrain protected more than 600 Japanese guns, many encased in concrete bunkers. In February 1945, marines stormed the beaches. They encountered furious resistance from the Japanese. After three days of combat, the marines had advanced only about 700 yards inland. Eventually nearly 110,000 American troops took part in the campaign. Although opposed by fewer than 25,000 Japanese, the marines needed almost a month to secure the island. The enemy fought almost to the last defender. Only 216 Japanese were taken prisoner. In the Battle of Iwo Jima, American forces suffered an estimated 25,000 casualties. A photo of servicemen raising the United States flag on Iwo Jima came to symbolize the struggles and sacrifices of American troops during World War II.
The Battle of Okinawa followed, and was equally bloody. The small island of Okinawa was the last obstacle to an Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands. With this in mind, many of the island's nearly 100,000 Japanese defenders had pledged to fight to the death. The Allies gathered some 1,300 warships and more than 180,000 combat troops to drive the enemy from Okinawa. Japanese pilots flew nearly 2,000 kamikaze attacks against this fleet. As American soldiers stormed ashore, defenders made equally desperate banzai charges-attacks in which the soldiers tried to kill as many of the enemy as possible until they themselves were killed. In June, the Japanese resistance finally ended after almost three months. For American forces, the nearly 50,000 casualties made the Battle of Okinawa the costliest engagement of the Pacific war. At long last, however, the Allies had a clear path to Japan.
The Manhattan Project
The next challenge for American soldiers was to prepare themselves for the invasion of Japan. After the grueling battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, they knew how costly such an invasion would be. Unknown to them, however, work was nearly complete on a top-secret weapon that would make the invasion unnecessary.
In August 1939, President Roosevelt had received a letter from Albert Einstein, a brilliant Jewish scientist who had fled from Europe. In his letter, Einstein suggested that an incredibly powerful new type of bomb was being built by the Germans. Determined to build the bomb before Germany did, Roosevelt organized the top-secret Manhattan Project to develop an "atomic" bomb. To make an atomic bomb, however, they had to discover how to create a chain reaction, where particles released from the splitting of one uranium atom would cause another atom to break apart, and so on. In theory, the energy released by the splitting of so many atoms would produce a massive explosion, much bigger than anything the world had previously seen from a weapon. After six years of work, Manhattan Project scientists tested the world's first atomic bomb in the desert of New Mexico. With a blinding flash of light, the explosion blew a huge crater in the earth and shattered windows over 100 miles away.
The Decision to Drop the Bomb
Once the bomb was ready, the question became whether or not to use it against Japan. There were a number of alternative possibilities for ending the war:
1. A massive invasion of Japan, expected to cost up to one million Allied casualties
2. A naval blockade to starve Japan, along with continued conventional bombing
3. A demonstration of the new weapon on a deserted island to pressure Japan to surrender
4. A softening of Allied demands for an unconditional surrender
The final decision, rested with new President Harry Truman, who had taken office barely three months earlier, after President Roosevelt's death in April 1945. Truman had no difficulty making his decision. He had no doubt that the new bomb should be used. Truman never regretted his decision. "You should do your weeping at Pearl Harbor," he later said to his critics.
On August 6, 1945, an American plane, the Enola Gay dropped a single atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a city in southern Japan. A blast of intense heat annihilated the city's center and its residents in an instant. Many buildings that survived the initial blast were destroyed by fires spread by powerful winds. Over 100,000 died and at least as many were injured by fire, radiation sickness, and the force of the explosion. About 95 percent of the city's buildings were damaged or totally destroyed. A Hiroshima resident described the scene after the bombing:
"Wherever you went, you didn't bother to take the roads. Everything was flat, nothing was standing, no gates, pillars, walls, or fences. You walked in a straight line to where you wanted to go. Practically everywhere you came across small bones that had been left behind."
When Japan didn't immediately surrender, three days later, a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. This finally caused the government of Japan to accept the American terms for surrender. The next day, Americans celebrated V-J Day (Victory in Japan Day). The formal surrender agreement was signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The long and destructive war had finally come to an end. The Allies had won, and the world would never be the same.
The Cold War
Section 1: Origins of the Cold War p.27
Section 2: Cold War ‘Heats’ up p.30
Section 3: The Korean War p.32
Section 4: The Cold War at Home p.34
Section 5: The Cold War Expands in the 1950s p.39
Section 6: The Cold War in the early 1960s p.42
Section 1: Origins of the Cold War
A Breakdown in the Relationship
The World War II cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union was certainly a temporary arrangement. There had been a history of bad feelings between the two nations ever since the Communist Revolution in Russia in 1917. During that revolt, President Wilson had dispatched American troops to Russia to support anti-communist resistance. The United States had not even recognized the existence of the Soviet government for another 20 years. Then, as wartime allies, the Soviets often disagreed with their American and British partners over battle tactics and postwar plans. The United States was angered by the 'nonaggression pact that Stalin had signed with Hitler (which Hitler had broken), and Stalin was angry that the Allies had not invaded Europe sooner, to take the pressure off the Russian front. As the end of the war approached, relations between the communist Soviet Union and the democracy of the U.S. grew increasingly tense.
After the war ended, the relationship between the two nations did as well. It was clear the only thing they two countries had in common was their desire to defeat Hitler. Once he was defeated, both the U.S. and the Soviets had little time and patience for one another. They soon became fierce enemies, and threatened each other with invasion and war. Over the next five decades, the two superpowers (extremely large, rich, powerful countries) would face off in what became known as The Cold War, a competition for world power and influence.
Differences at Yalta
In February 1945, as the war was ending in Europe, Roosevelt met with Stalin and Churchill at the Yalta Conference to work out the future of Germany. Germany would soon be defeated, and these men would decide its post-war fate. Stalin wanted to punish Germany harshly for starting World War II. Roosevelt and Churchill believed if they helped rebuild Germany after the war, then Germany would be less likely to start aggression again. Neither side would give. So they agreed to divide Germany into two sections. The sections would later become two separate nations. Germany ceased to exist. Stalin’s section became known as East Germany, a new communist nation. The American/British side became West Germany, a democracy.
The United Nations
One item on which the leaders at Yalta all agreed was the creation of the United Nations (UN), a new international peacekeeping organization. Soon after the War ended, representatives from 50 nations met in San Francisco to adopt a charter, or statement of principles, for the UN. The charter stated that members would try to settle their differences peacefully and would promote justice and cooperation in solving international problems. In addition, they would try to stop wars from starting and "take effective collective measures" to end those that did break out. The UN still exists today, now with 193 member nations who send representatives to meet at the UN world headquarters in New York City.
Truman Takes Command
Roosevelt never lived to see his dream of the United Nations fulfilled. On April 12, 1945, just two weeks before the UN's first meeting, and less than a month before the end of the war in Europe, the President died while vacationing at Warm Springs, Georgia. Although he was in poor health and noticeably tired, his unexpected death shocked the nation. No one was more surprised than Vice President Harry Truman, who suddenly found himself President. Roosevelt had never involved him in major foreign policy discussions.
The Potsdam Conference
Truman's first meeting with Stalin occurred in July 1945 in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam. Truman insisted that Stalin remove his troops from Poland. The Soviet troops had remained there after removing the Nazis. Truman was afraid Stalin was trying to take over Poland, and make it a communist country, like the Soviet Union. At Potsdam, Truman got word that the atomic bomb had been tested in New Mexico. Hoping to intimidate Stalin, Truman told him that the United States had a new weapon of extraordinary force. Stalin, who already knew of the bomb from Soviet spies, simply nodded and said that he hoped it would be put to good use. Stalin's casual manner hid his concern over America's new strategic advantage.
Conflicting Postwar Goals: What the Americans Wanted
Tensions over Poland illustrated the differing views of the world held by American and Soviet leaders. Americans had fought to bring democracy and capitalism to the conquered nations of Europe and
Asia. Democracy, of course, allows the citizens to have a say in the political matters of their country. Capitalism is an economic system where the people have the freedom to pursue any career, buy any product, and open any business. The United States had flourished with these two systems, and hoped to spread them to other countries of the world.
Conflicting Postwar Goals: What the Soviets Wanted
After losing millions of people during the war and suffering widespread destruction, the Soviet Union was determined to rebuild. To better accomplish this, they established satellite nations, countries that the Soviets took over at the end of World War II and forced to be communist. These nations were on the western borders of the Soviet Union that would serve as a buffer zone against attacks. The Soviet Union also looked forward to the spread of communism throughout the world. Communism, sometimes called socialism, is an economic system where the government has complete control of the economy. Communist countries have strong governments that do not allow much individual freedom for their citizens. Communism also stresses equality over individual success. Since communism and democracy/capitalism are opposite in many ways, the Soviets trying to spread communism while the U.S. was trying to spread their systems would obviously lead to conflict.
Soviets Tighten Their Hold Over Europe
The Soviet Union quickly gained political control over nations that the Soviet Army had freed from the Nazis. In each of the countries, Soviet-installed communist governments quickly cancelled elections and crushed all opposition. People in those countries who spoke out in favor of democracy and freedom were often imprisoned or killed. These satellite nations included Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the new East Germany.
The Iron Curtain
As the Soviets were taking over Eastern Europe, Stalin predicted the ultimate triumph of communism over capitalism in speeches and writings. Yet he knew that it would be years before the Soviets were strong enough militarily to directly confront the United States. In the meantime, Stalin called on Communists to spread their system by other means. Winston Churchill responded. Speaking in Missouri, he spoke out against the division of Europe that Stalin had already accomplished:
"… an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of Central and Eastern Europe…The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to preeminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control...This is certainly not the Liberated Europe we fought to build up. “
- "Iron Curtain" speech, Winston Churchill, 1946
Churchill also called on Americans to help keep Stalin from enclosing any more nations behind the iron curtain of communist domination and oppression. This iron curtain became a symbol of the Cold War. Although it wasn’t an actual physical barrier, it divided Europe between communist countries and free countries.
In a letter to the American State Department in 1946, George Kennan, an American government worker stationed in Moscow, analyzed Soviet behavior and policy. Kennan warned that the Soviets had "no real faith in the possibility of a permanently happy coexistence of the socialist and capitalist worlds" and that they also believed in the inevitable triumph of communism. Therefore, Kennan concluded that
the "United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm containment of Russian expansive tendencies." The American policy of containment emerged from Kennan's letter. This policy recognized the possibility that Eastern Europe was already lost to communism. It called for the United States to resist Soviet attempts to form Communist governments elsewhere in the world.The policy of containment would be the main US policy throughout the entire Cold War.
The Truman Doctrine: Containment in Action
President Truman soon had an opportunity to apply the policy of containment. The Soviet Union had been making threats against the European nation of Turkey. In addition, a civil war had broken out in nearby Greece in the closing days of World War II. There, Communists fought to overthrow the government that had returned to power after the Axis invaders had withdrawn. Truman developed a plan to provide American aid to Greece and Turkey, hoping to “contain” communism. Congress agreed to provide $400 million in aid to the two nations, and to establish American military bases there. These actions kept the two countries from falling to communism. Truman announced to the world that any other country feeling threatened by communism would be aided by the United States as well. This idea, which also remained throughout the Cold War, was known as The Truman Doctrine.
Section 2: The Cold War Heats Up
Setting the Scene
The end of World War II caused a profound change in the way world leaders and ordinary citizens thought about war. The devastation caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Japan and the efforts of the Soviet Union to acquire similar weapons caused fear all over the world. In one of his last speeches, President Truman declared:
"We have entered the atomic age and war has undergone a technological change which makes it a very different thing from what it used to be. War today between the Soviet empire and the free nations might dig the grave not only of our opponents, but· of our own society, our world as well as theirs ... Such a war is not a possible policy for rational men." -President Harry Truman
Anxiety about a "hot" and catastrophic nuclear war became a constant backdrop to the Cold War policies of both the United States and the Soviet Union.
The Marshall Plan
In addition to worrying about the new threat of nuclear war, Americans agreed to help restore the war-torn nations so that they might create stable democracies and achieve economic recovery. World War II had devastated Europe to a degree never seen before. Over 20 million people had been made homeless. In Poland, some 20 percent of the population had died. 1 of every 5 houses in France and Belgium had been destroyed. Across Europe, industries and transportation were in ruins. Agriculture suffered from the loss of livestock and equipment. These conditions led to the U.S. creating a policy to help Europe rebuild, called the Marshall Plan, in which the United States would support the nations of Europe with financial aid. Not only would this provide help to the people of Europe, but it would also help the American economy in the long run. If the European economies were strong, they would be trading partners for American companies.
The Soviet Union was invited to participate in the Marshall Plan, but it refused and insisted its satellite nations to do so too. Soviet leaders called the Marshall Plan an American scheme for using dollars to "buy its way" into European affairs. But seventeen Western European nations joined the plan: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and West Germany. Over the next five years, the United States allocated some $15 billion in grants and loans to Western Europe. The region's economies were quickly restored, and the United States gained strong trading partners in the region, as well as taking a step to contain communism.
The Berlin Airlift
After the U.S. and Soviet Union split up Germany following World War II, a similar argument began about what to do with Germany’s capital city, Berlin. Berlin was in the Soviet zone of East Germany, but the U.S. wanted influence there as well, and convinced Stalin to divide the city the same way Germany had been divided. The western part of Berlin, which lay in the Soviet zone, would become part of West Germany. Free West Berlin and communist East Berlin became visible symbols of the developing Cold War struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States. Hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans left their homes in Communist-dominated nations, fled to East Berlin, and then crossed into West Berlin, where they could live freely under democracy.
Stalin decided to close this escape route by forcing the U.S. to give him West Berlin. He used Soviet tanks and troops to block Allied access to West Berlin. This was known as the Berlin Blockade. (THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS THE BERLIN WALL – the Wall wasn’t built until 1961)
All shipments to West Berlin through East Germany were banned, including food, fuel, and medicine. The blockade created severe shortages of supplies needed by the 2.5 million people in West Berlin. Truman did not want to risk starting a war by using military force to open the transportation routes. Nor did he want to give up West Berlin to the Soviets. Instead, Truman decided on an “airlift”, moving supplies into West Berlin by flying them over the blockade in cargo planes. Over the next year, American aircraft made more than 200,000 flights to deliver food, fuel, and other supplies. At the height of the Berlin Airlift, nearly 13,000 tons of goods arrived in West Berlin daily.
The Soviets also didn’t want to risk war by shooting down the planes. They finally gave up the blockade and the airlift ended. The Berlin Blockade and Airlift became the first direct “conflict” of the Cold War between the US and the Soviets. In the case of the Airlift, the Soviets backed down.
NATO – Safety in Numbers
As the Soviets took over countries in Europe and threatened others, the smaller European nations turned to the United States for protection. The U.S responded by creating NATO with its allies. The United States joined Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Turkey to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Member nations agreed that "an armed attack against one of them ... shall be considered an attack against them all." The U.S. hoped this would keep the Soviets from attacking other European countries. If the Soviets did, say, attack Belgium, they would have to go to war against all members of NATO. This principle of mutual military assistance is called collective security. This alliance still exists today (even though the USSR collapsed in the early-1990s). The Soviet Union responded to the formation of NATO by creating the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance that its satellite nations were forced to join.