The Cold War represents the disputes between the Soviet Union and the United States, and may be the most noteworthy political issue of the late 20th Century. The Cold War was a very political issue because it influenced foreign policies, impacted our economy, and even affected Presidential elections. The United States was worried that the Soviet Union would extend communism throughout Europe with its power and control over smaller and weaker countries. At the beginning of the Cold War the struggles between the United States and the Soviet Union were more political than military.
The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb on August 29, 1949 which alarmed the United States because they were not expecting the Soviet Union to have knowledge of nuclear weapons (The Cold War Museum, n. d. ). Consequently, Americans were uncertain of their own safety, prompting President Truman to reexamine the United States position in the world. He required the United States to amass conventional and nuclear weapons to cease the Soviet influence from spreading around the world. The arms race began, and each side mass produced and strategically placed missiles throughout their country and their allied countries.
Other events occurred during the Cold War era adding fuel to the Cold War: the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Bay of Pigs. My first interviewee was a female in her early sixties whom lived through the Cold War period – my mother. As a retired school teacher, I expected my mother to have a deeper understanding of the Cold War than a person that simply lived through the period. Her definition of the Cold War clearly supported the definition stated in this course.
When I asked my mother what words or phrases come to mind when she thinks of the term Cold War, she did not hesitate in her response: “United States and the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, John F. Kennedy, George Patton, and World War II” (B. Rego, personal communication, May 27, 2013). She related to me that the aspects of the Cold War that she remembered were “that the Soviets felt that the United States was not revealing key military information after World War II, and their suspicions were confirmed when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima” (B. Rego, personal communication, May 27, 2013).
I went on to ask her to name any key events that are mainly associated with the Cold War, and she replied “the Bay of Pigs” (B. Rego, personal communication, May 27, 2013). My mother was able to accurately remember the parties involved in the Cold War, as well as key details and key events of the period having lived through the period, not as a child but as a young adult. My second interviewee was a male in his mid-thirties whom did not live through the Cold War period, but studied it in school.
My younger brother’s definition of the Cold War was “long period of tensions between countries” (J. Rego, personal communication, May 27, 2013). His definition is similar to the definition provided in this course with the exception that he did not mention specifically the United States and the Soviet Union. When questioned about what aspects of the Cold War he remembers he stated “I remember Korea and Vietnam” (J. Rego, personal communication, May 27, 2013).
Although he is not incorrect in his response, it was interesting to me that he again omitted the involvement of the United States and the Soviet Union. When asked about the key events mainly associated with the Cold War, my brother said “the only key event I remember was the Berlin Wall, and when President Reagan and Gorbachev signed the peace treaty” (J. Rego, personal communication, May 27, 2013). His recollection of the key events associated with the Cold War albeit accurate, were lacking in detail. He did not mention the Bay of Pigs, or the Cuban Missile Crisis.
I suppose that the generation gap between our mother and our generation has unfortunately made the details of the Cold War less memorable. My final interviewee was a male in his early twenties whom also did not live through the Cold War period, but studied it in school. My son’s definition of the Cold War was “a weapons race between the USA and Soviet Union with no shots fired” (A. Egnew, personal communication, May 26, 2013). His definition is similar to the definition provided in this course in that he recalled the parties involved being the United States and the Soviet Union.
When asked what words or phrases come to mind when thinking of the term Cold War he replied “stockpile and weapons race” (A. Egnew, personal communication, May 26, 2013). I questioned him about any key events that he could remember that is mainly associated with the Cold War, and his answer was “I can’t name any” (A. Egnew, personal communication, May 26, 2013). It is interesting to me, yet not surprising that as the generation gap widens the details of the Cold War are more easily forgotten.
The Cold War was a very prominent event in United States history for key events such as the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs, and the Berlin Wall, but noteworthy also for the civil rights movement, gender equality, and racial segregation issues (Farber, 1994). The Cold War changed the way Americans view authority, and opened the door for American citizens to question political decisions. Without the Cold War period, perhaps our lives today would be much different. Would slavery still exist? What about racial segregation? Our lives today would surely be different if the Cold War never happened.