The Triple Alliance: The 1882 Agreement That Caused WW1

(See Main Article: The Triple Alliance: The 1882 Agreement That Caused WW1)

An impossibly complex web of alliances that maintained a fragile peace in Europe (and surprisingly held it together since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815) always threatened to unravel. Chief among them was the Triple Alliance of 1882 among Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Italy, in which each member agreed to defend the others in war.

The 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne, by Serbian nationalists, made Austria declare war on Serbia. A doomsday machine kicked into gear: Russia mobilized against Austria. Germany mobilized against Russia. France mobilized against Germany. Germany prepared long-held plans to attack France.


German unification in 1870 had changed the balance of power in Europe. However, the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck worked hard to maintain peace and order in Europe and to make Germany indispensable to Europe.

Who Killed Franz Ferdinand?

(See Main Article: Who Killed Franz Ferdinand?)

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, was the event that started World War 1. The assassination was planned by a group of six people (one Bosniak and five Serbs) that were part of the Young Bosnia Movement. Danilo Ilic recruited Vaso Čubrilović, Muhamed Mehmedbašić, Cvjetko Popović, Trifko Grabež, Nedeljko Čabrinović and Gavrilo Princip and coordinated the assasination. The person who however ended up killing Franz Ferdinand, partly by chance, was Gavrilo Princip.

The Assassination

Although the group had carefully planned the assassination, things went wrong, their plans were foiled and the assassination almost didn’t take place. The members of the group were posted all along the route on which the Archduke and his wife would tour Sarajevo in an open car (with almost no security). Nedjelko Cabrinovic threw a hand grenade at the car, but it rolled off and instead wounded some bystanders and an officer in one of the other cars in the procession.

The procession was stopped and Cabrinovic was arrested after a failed attempt at suicide (he swallowed an expired cyanide pill and jumped in the river). Later on the day, the Archduke decided to go visit the wounded officer at the hospital and the driver took the wrong route and tried to reverse as he realized his mistake. Princip was still loitering in the area and spotted the car, walked up to it and shot Franz Ferdinand twice, point blank from a 1.5m distance. The pregnant Sophie had instinctively thrown her body over that of her husband and was also killed.

Who Was Gavrilo Princip?

Princip was a Yugoslav nationalist who believed that the Yugoslavs had to be united and freed from Austria. He was born to a poor family and named “Gavrilo” after the Arch Angel Gabriel because his parents hoped that it would help the sickly baby to survive (they had lost six infants previously). His parents were Christian peasants (serfs) and Gavrilo’s brother paid for his education, but he was expelled from school in 1912 for his involvement in a Demonstration against the

Austro-Hungarian authority. Although Princip was initially rejected when trying to volunteer for the Black Hand Servian guerilla band, he managed to get some military training through the Serbian Chetnik Organization. During his life in Sarajevo, the Austro-Hungarian government implemented martial law, seized all schools, and prohibited many Serbian societies, which made Princip very bitter.

No Death Sentence for Franz Ferdinand’s Killer

Princip tried to commit suicide by the same cyanide that didn’t work for his fellow conspirator and the pistol he then lifted to his head was wrestled from his hands by a bystander before he could shoot himself. As he was 19 years old at the time of the assassination, he was 27 days too young for the Habsburg law to give him the death sentence. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, which, in hindsight, may have been a harsher sentence as he did not survive prison. Conditions were harsh and he contracted serious skeletal tuberculosis only three years later, which ate away his bones in such a way that his arm had to be amputated. In the end, malnutrition and the disease claimed his life.

Effects of World War 1

(See Main Article: Effects of World War 1)

The effects of World War 1 are still being felt a century after its conclusion. It was the deadliest war which involved more countries and was more expensive than any other war before it. The weapons used during WW1 were also more advanced than any previous war, using tanks, submarines, poison gas, airplanes and long range artillery. Over 9 million military personnel died during this war, and over 7 million men were left permanently disabled. It is not surprising that the effects of WW1 were still evident decades later.


Specific Effects of World War 1:

“Far-Reaching Effects of WW1”

Listen to the full “History Unplugged” podcast here!

  • WW1 caused the downfall of four monarchies: Germany, Turkey, Austria-Hungary and Russia.
  • The war made people more open to other ideologies, such as the Bolsheviks that came to power in Russia and fascism that triumphed in Italy and even later in Germany.
  • WW1 largely marked the end of colonialism, as the people became more nationalistic and one country after the other started colonial revolts in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
  • The war changed the economical balance of the world, leaving European countries deep in debt and making the U.S. the leading industrial power and creditor in the world.
  • Inflation shot up in most countries and the German economy was highly affected by having to pay for reparations.
  • With troops traveling all over the world, influenza was spread easily and an epidemic started which killed more than 25 million people across the world.
  • With all the new weapons that were used, WW1 changed the face of modern warfare forever.
  • Due to the cruel methods used during the war and the losses suffered, WW1 caused a lot of bitterness among nations, which also greatly contributed to WW1 decades later.
  • Social life also changed: women had to run businesses while the men were at war and labor laws started to be enforced due to mass production and mechanization. People all wanted better living standards.
  • After WW1, the need for an international body of nations that promotes security and peace worldwide became evident. This caused the founding of the League of Nations.
  • WW1 boosted research in technology because better transport and means of communication gave countries an advantage over their enemies.
  • The harsh conditions of the Treaty of Versailles caused a lot of dissent in Europe, especially on the side of the Central Powers who had to pay a lot for financial reparations.

There are many other effects one can attribute to WW1, but the fact of the matter is that after this devastating war, the world would never be the same again. Many historians agree that WW1 created an atmosphere that allowed the rise of the Nazi Party and the start of WW2.
Click here to find out more!

“World War 1 and Its Effects of World War 2”

Listen to the full “History Unplugged” podcast here!

How Many People Died in World War 1?

World War One was one of the deadliest conflicts in the history of the human race, in which over 16 million people died. The total number of both civilian and military casualties is estimated at around 37 million people. The war killed almost 7 million civilians and 10 million military personnel.

how many people died in ww1

Military and Civilian Deaths on Both Sides

The Allies, or Entente Powers, counted around 6 million deaths, the Central Powers 4 million.

Click here to learn about the impacts of World War One.

“Effects of World War 1: Loss of Life and Psychological Impact”

Listen to the full “History Unplugged” podcast here!


Many people died, not from combat, but from diseases caused by the war, a figure estimated at around 2 million deaths. 6 million people went missing during the war and were presumed dead.

Two out of three soldiers died in battle, the rest died due to infections or disease. The Spanish flu also killed a lot of people in prisoner camps.

The total number of civilian deaths is very hard to determine, unlike military deaths, which were better documented. Because of the war, many people suffered from disease and malnutrition because of food shortages brought about by a disruption in trade. Millions of men were also mobilized for the war, taking their labor away from farms, which cut down food production. In the Ottoman Empire there were also the genocides that killed thousands of people. The Spanish flu also killed a lot of people, but historians often left these figures out of accounts.

Finally, there are even more indirect deaths caused by the wars that are not accounted in such reports. The Armenian Genocide, which left 1.5 million dead in the final years of the Ottoman Empire, was precipitated by the Ottoman political leadership believing that the Armenian people would side with Russia in World War One, leading to the empire’s ruin. To secure their borders, they put Armenian men in work camps, which became extermination centers, and forced marched the elderly, women, and children to Northern Syria, which became a death march.

Korean War

(See Main Section: Korean War)

The Korean War was the first and largest major battle of the Cold War, as proxies of the United States and Soviet Union took up arms to defend ideologies that clashed repeatedly over the next several decades. Fought between 1950 and 1953 (and still technically ongoing since the two sides never completed formal peace talks), it was war between North Korea, with the support of China and the Soviet Union, and South Korea, primarily supported by NATO and the United States.

Korean War In-Depth: From Beginning to Armistice

(See Main Article: Korean War In-Depth: From Beginning to Armistice)

Context of the Korean War

1. Post-WWII

Japanese in Korea, 1904

Japanese troops in Korea, 1904

For centuries, Korea had been within the Chinese sphere of influence. In the 1870s, Japanese pressure began to force Korea away from China and toward more cooperation with Japan. In 1910 Japan annexed Korea outright, colonized it, and suppressed Korean culture. When Japan invaded China in 1937 they forced hundreds of thousands of Korean civilians to labor for the Japanese war machine throughout the empire. Meanwhile, the peninsula was stripped of much of its food and natural resources, forcing additional Korean immigration to Japan. As a result, about 25% of the casualties from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were Koreans. Japanese dominion over Korea ended with their acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration on August 15, 1945.

Allied Leaders at Potsdam

Allied Leaders at Potsdam


Map of Korea

Map of Korea

The Japanese surrender and withdrawal from Korea created a power vacuum there. Weeks earlier at Potsdam President Truman had gotten Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to commit to declaring war on Japan, including attacks against the Japanese in Korea.  With the Japanese withdrawing, nothing stood in the way of the Soviets taking over the entire peninsula. The Americans, trying to limit Russian gains, hastily proposed a division of Korea between Soviet forces in the north, and US forces in the south, with the 38th Parallel as the dividing line, picked by some junior officers who thought it looked roughly in the middle, where the peninsula narrowed.  The US was lucky that Stalin agreed to the division.  Even as Russian troops stopped at this artificial dividing line, American units were still a month away from arriving in Korea.

The US was totally unprepared for administering a free South Korea.  The American in charge, Lt. General John R. Hodge, instantly disliked the Korean people.  After accepting the Japanese surrender, Hodge put key Japanese colonial administrators back in charge, much to the dismay of the Koreans.  When Hodge finally turned to Koreans for help in administering their own country, it was to those who had collaborated with the Japanese. Hodge refused to permit democratic elections, and at one point, martial law was declared.

2. North and South Korea in the Korean War

Syngman Rhee

Syngman Rhee

The US eventually created a government, The Republic of Korea (South Korea), headed by Syngman Rhee, a nationalist who had fled the Japanese occupation decades earlier and had lived in exile mostly in the United States.  He spoke English well, held 3 degrees from American universities, was anti-Communist, and he had not collaborated with the Japanese.  But Rhee was a dictator who frequently arrested anyone who disagreed with him.  Perhaps most problematic, Rhee frequently voiced his desire to invade the North.

Kim Il-Sung, 1950

Kim Il-Sung, 1950

Russian Troops in Korea

Russian Troops in Korea


Meanwhile, the Soviets oversaw the creation of the communist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), led by Kim Il-Sung, a former anti-Japanese guerilla fighter; a communist who had fought alongside the Russians at Stalingrad. The North Korean leader was even worse than his South Korean counterpart; Sung often had his political enemies executed.

By the end of 1948, the Korean peninsula was divided into two different nations, each with a leader who boasted about conquering the other, each supported by their ideological counterparts. The Soviets withdrew from North Korea, but US withdrawal from South Korea was repeatedly delayed to allow time for Rhee to improve South Korea’s security situation.

By 1949, the US was disengaging from Korea in every way. On January 12, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson told the press that South Korea was not a vital part of the US defense perimeter in Asia. By June only 500 American military advisors remained. Congress had become nervous that if too much aid were given to South Korea, Rhee would use it to invade the North. They sent light arms and armor, but withheld tanks and aircraft.

In January 1950, when aid to South Korea was up for renewal the US House defeated the bill, thereby cutting off all aid to South Korea. The fate of Korean aid had become intertwined with the desire by many Americans to get on with the business of their own lives. Having survived both the Great Depression and World War II, it was time to go to college on the G.I. bill, get a job, buy a home in the suburbs, and start families. Consequently, America’s mighty war machine was being quickly disassembled.

By 1948, the US army was down to 677,000 men. By May 1949 it was at 630,000 and shrinking. By June 1950, with the military budget cut to the bone (supported by both Republicans and Democrats), there were only 591,000 men in the army. Additionally, its most-experienced troops were gone, and its equipment had been allowed to deteriorate. In short, the US was in no position to fight a war that no one in America wanted anyway.


These actions by the United States were a signal to Kim Il-Sung that he could unite the Korean peninsula without American intervention. Unlike their Southern counterparts, the North Korean military was disciplined, well-trained, and well-armed. It was made up of ten divisions, some 135,000 men. Many of its officers had fought alongside Mao Zedong’s Communist Chinese forces during the Chinese Civil War. Most significantly, the Soviets had left behind 150 T-34 tanks, a model that had proved very effective against German armor in World War II. On June 25, 1950, after probing border forces for several weeks, Kim Il-Sung launched a full-scale invasion across the 38th Parallel.

3. Phase 1 of the Korean War: North Korean Attack & UN Intervention (6/50-9/50)

Outmatched in every way, the South Korean army broke ranks and ran. Within a day, North Korean forces reached the outskirts of Seoul, the South Korean capital. In the ensuing panic, a key strategic bridge was blown up with the South Korean army on the wrong side of it, and while 500 people were still crossing it. Seoul was taken on the 28th. Even as the United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned the invasion, the Truman administration wrestled with what to do about it. Politically, Truman understood that to do nothing would open him up to attack from the conservative right. The President assumed that the Soviets were behind the attack, and seems to have believed that WWIII had begun. But he made up his mind that America would take a stand. Korea may have been of little to no strategic importance to the United States, but it had enormous psychological value. Communists had crossed an internationally recognized line. They would have to be “contained,” but Truman wasn’t sure how.


Truman turned to the United Nations, where it just so happened that the Soviet Union was boycotting Security Council proceedings in protest of what they felt was UN preference for the Chiang Kai-Shek’s government on Taiwan (the loser in China’s civil war) over the mainland communist Chinese government. Without fear of a veto from the absent Soviets, the Security Council approved Resolution 83, recommending military assistance to South Korea. Shortly thereafter, the UN put these forces under American command.


How 20K Marines Held Out Against 300K Chinese Soldiers At The Chosin Reservoir, The Korean War’s Greatest Battle

For the full “History Unplugged” podcast, click here!

The American commander who would lead the charge to contain communism was none other than America’s most popular military figure, General Douglas MacArthur. 70 years old in 1950, MacArthur was one of the heroes of WWII. Although he had underestimated the Japanese military during the early stages of WWII, he subsequently displayed fine strategic skill and was especially good at predicting Japanese strategy.


He was a strong proponent of air power, preferring to pulverize fixed Japanese positions from the air rather than risking direct frontal assaults. He had been on-hand to accept the official Japanese surrender and then had been in charge of US-occupied Japan. But MacArthur was also a supreme egotist who had spent so much time in the Pacific that he had come to see himself as both invincible and above any other authority. Truman had twice summoned him home to receive America’s thanks for his role in the Pacific victory, but twice MacArthur had turned him down.

Truman rightly suspected that MacArthur was planning a triumphant return just in time to challenge the Democrats in the 1952 presidential election. To that end, MacArthur had quietly made strong ties with conservative Republicans in Washington. In the coming war, MacArthur would achieve his greatest success, and because of his flaws, his greatest failures as well. His ego would ultimately prove his undoing.

Right off the bat, MacArthur exceeded his authority by bombing North Korean airfields.  But this did not stop the North Korean advance, and when MacArthur returned to Tokyo after inspecting the situation, he reported that the only way to stop them was to introduce American troops.  Truman authorized the divisions MacArthur asked for, without seeking congressional approval, but he was wary of things escalating.  He tried to downplay his actions.  At a press conference on the 29th, he insisted that the United States was not at war. A reporter then asked, “Mr. President, would it be correct, against your explanation, to call this a police action under the United Nations? ”  Truman replied, “Yes. That is exactly what it amounts to.”

Very few of the American troops sent to Korea were combat-ready.  Only one in six had even seen combat. The American G.I. had grown soft while serving in Japan as an occupation force.  One of the top American generals in Korea later stated they had become “fat and happy in occupation billets, complete with Japanese girlfriends, plenty of beer and servants to shine their boots.”

Of the four American divisions stationed in Japan, the 24th Infantry Division was the least combat-ready. Yet they were extremely confident as they rolled into the theater of operations that the North Koreans would run away at the sight of American troops.  This fallacy was based on judging the enemy through the lens of racism, the dangers of which the American should have learned from WWII.  The North Koreans were good.  They were disciplined, they used camouflage effectively, and they had no trouble leaving the main roads and hiking overland.  They used battle tactics learned from the Chinese communists, which included infiltrating behind the American lines with small units that made the Americans think they were surrounded.  They attacked at night and engaged in close combat in order to reduce the effectiveness of American airpower.

On the morning of July 5, 540 men from the 24th Infantry Division moved north and took up a position north of Osan, where they soon encountered North Korean forces for the first time.  The Americans attacked North Korean tanks, but their small mortars and recoilless rifles proved useless against the T-34. Some brave bazooka men closed to within 30 yards and fired, but that weapon too was ineffective.  Only with a howitzer did they manage to knock out a few of the tanks, but the rest plowed right through them.  When the order to retreat was given, many of the Americans threw aside their weapons and ran away.  It took five days to round them all up.  Of the 540-man task force, 180 were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner, all of whom had to be left behind. An American colonel later wrote about the pathetic condition of his fellow troops:

They’d spent a lot of time listening to lectures on the differences between communism and Americanism and not enough time crawling on their bellies on maneuvers with live ammunition singing over them. They’d been nursed and coddled, told to drive safely, to buy War Bonds, to give to the Red Cross, to avoid VD, to write home to mother—when someone should have been telling them how to clear a machine gun when it jams.

Now, these troops were in a desperate fight for survival, in a place most Americans had never heard of and didn’t want to hear about, in brutally hot weather with no water.  Many of these soldiers became sick from drinking water directly out of muddy holes and paddies without first purifying it.


By the end of the first week, two divisions had been badly mauled, suffering some 3,000 casualties.  General MacArthur drew up a massive wish-list, most of which was approved, and some emergency equipment was rushed to Korea to help stop the North Korean tanks.  But each time the 24th regrouped and took a stand, they were hammered again.  By the end of the 3rd week they were at half strength.  After a fierce three-day struggle, the Americans withdrew from Taejon. Although they had failed to stop the North Korean advance, they had delayed it long enough for the other American divisions to establish a defensive perimeter around Pusan further south.

It was here the Americans would make their last stand.  But even as the Battle of Pusan Perimeter was about to being, there were signs that things were turning.  Fresh troops and better equipment continued to arrive.  The Americans cracked the relatively simple North Korean code, providing advanced notice of the enemy’s battle plans.  And by then the North Korean supply line was stretched thin.

The Battle of Pusan Perimeter began in August and ended on September 15, during which the Americans withstood numerous North Korean attacks. The United States Air Force interrupted enemy movements by destroying 32 bridges and bombing convoys, and they hammered anything that might be of material value to the North Koreans. Meanwhile, United Nations troops and material continued to pour in. By late August, the Americans in the Pusan Perimeter had some 500 tanks, while the North Korean tank force had been reduced from 150 to 40.

By early September 1950, South Korean and UN Command forces outnumbered the North Koreans by 180,000 to 100,000. As MacArthur planned his next move, a special representative of President Truman’s met with him in Tokyo to make sure he understood the administration’s intent to not widen the war by provoking Chinese intervention in Korea or possibly a Chinese takeover of Formosa. MacArthur responded that if the Chinese were to do such a thing, he would “deliver such a crushing defeat it would be one of the decisive battles of the world—a disaster so great it would rock Asia, and perhaps turn back Communism.” He went on to say that he prayed nightly that the Chinese would try something.

Korean War Summary: 1st Military Act of the Cold War

(See Main Article: Korean War Summary: 1st Military Act of the Cold War)

This Korean War summary is an excerpt from Lee Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards Spalding’s book A Brief History of the Cold War It is available to order now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Many events led up to the war, but to offer a short Korean War summary, it primarily came down to Cold War politics. In January 1950, while discussing vital U.S. security interests in the Pacific area, Secretary of State Acheson spoke of a “defensive perimeter” that ran along the Aleutians to Japan and the Ryukyu Islands and then to the Philippines. He described these islands as “essential parts” of the Pacific area that “must and will be held.” Because he did not specifically mention Korea, many observers (including the communists) assumed that the United States would not come to its aid if attacked. They should have read what Acheson said at the conclusion of his remarks “about the military security of other areas in the Pacific”: “Should such an attack occur . . . the initial reliance must be on the people attacked to resist it and then upon the commitments of the entire civilized world under the Charter of the United Nations.”


Eager to take advantage of what he wrongly perceived to be American indifference to Korea’s security, Kim Il Sung pressed Stalin hard for permission to “liberate” South Korea. In February, Stalin ordered the preparation of a “Preemptive Strike Operations Plan” and on June 10 gave Kim the final go-ahead. The Soviets prepared a cover story: the United States was allegedly developing an attack plan against North Korea to be executed in the summer of 1950 by some one hundred thousand South Korean troops armed by the United States. There was in fact no such U.S. plan.

Korean War Summary — The North Korean invasion

On June 25, 1950, a large North Korean army invaded the South and soon controlled most of the lower part of the Korean peninsula. As we now know from documents in the Kremlin archives, Stalin not only approved the invasion but provided substantial military and economic assistance to Kim, including up-to-date Soviet motorized equipment, artillery, aircraft, and manpower.

The communists expected no American interference in their imperial plans. But when informed of the invasion, Truman said to Acheson, “Dean, we’ve got to stop the sons-of-bitches no matter what.” He ordered an emergency session of his military and foreign policy advisors, who decided South Korea had to be defended both for the sake of its people and because of its strategic position across the straits from Japan. In accordance with NSC 68’s philosophy that a defeat of free institutions anywhere is a defeat everywhere, the president ordered General Douglas MacArthur, based in Japan, to counter the communist tide; he also asked for action by the United Nations Security Council.

The council ordered North Korea to desist and called on all UN members to come to the aid of South Korea. Ten members, led by the United States, eventually did. Since January 1950, the Soviet representative had been boycotting meetings of the Security Council because China’s seat was still occupied by the Republic of China (Taiwan). The Soviet Union could not therefore veto Truman’s moves to commit the UN to the defense of South Korea.

Truman placed the fighting in Korea in the broader context of “the struggle between freedom and Communist slavery.” While not playing down the military aspect of the Cold War, the president talked at a White House conference on children and youth about the moral and spiritual dangers of communist ideology: “Communism attacks our main basic values, our belief in God, our belief in the dignity of man and the value of human life, our belief in justice and freedom. It attacks the institutions that are based on these values. It attacks our churches, our guarantees of civil liberty, our courts, our democratic form of government.” The president wanted the American people to understand, as fully and deeply as they could, the larger meaning of the Cold War.


Under MacArthur’s leadership, UN forces began a counteroffensive that by mid-November had brought its forces deep into North Korea and close to the Yalu River and the Chinese border. To MacArthur’s surprise, the People’s Republic of China launched a massive counterattack, sending two hundred thousand Chinese troops across the Yalu River against the outnumbered American forces.

Forced to retreat, the American army was soon once again below the thirty-eighth parallel. By mid-March 1951, however, with heavy reinforcements and naval command of both coasts and under a new field commander, General James Van Fleet, the U.S.-UN army recaptured Seoul and recovered South Korea to just above the thirty-eighth parallel, a return to the status quo before the North Korean invasion.

For Douglas MacArthur, however, there was no substitute for victory. Ignoring a presidential order to make no public statements, MacArthur personally wrecked a U.S. armistice initiative by threatening that if the Chinese did not withdraw at once, they would be “forced to their knees.” With the concurrence of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his secretary of state, Truman on April 11, 1951, dismissed General MacArthur, a great American general with an even greater ego.

Armistice negotiations between North Korea and the United Nations began on July 10, 1951, and continued until March 1953, when the North Koreans finally agreed to an armed truce. No formal peace treaty has ever been signed. Regarding the repatriation of North Korean prisoners, the UN command rejected the communists’ demand that all of them be returned to North Korea. Every prisoner was allowed to decide his destination. Three out of four elected to stay in the South, a damning indictment of the communist regime.

To conclude this Korean War summary, some historians have described the outcome of the Korean war as a “tie,” but the eventual remarkable economic success and vibrant democracy of South Korea suggest strongly that it was a war worth fighting.

#2: How a Horse Became a Sergeant in the Korean War — Robin Hutton

(See Full Podcast: How a Horse Became a Sergeant in the Korean War — Robin Hutton)

he story of Reckless—a pack horse in the Korean War who was a beloved household name in the 1950s and the only animal in U.S. history to officially achieve the rank of Sergeant—is one of the strangest, most inspiring, and (sadly) unknown stories of the 20th century.

In battle, Reckless made 51 trips—on her own—through 35 miles of rice paddies to deliver ammunition and supplies to her fellow Marines. She was trained to step over communications lines, get down at the sound of incoming fire, and ignore the noise of battle. She carried wounded soldiers to safety and was injured twice herself during the war, earning her two Purple Hearts. Not only was Reckless a great war hero, she fit in with her comrades like any other Marine—regularly swilling beer with the other Marines and inserting herself into group activities.

When Robin Hutton discovered her tale in 2006, she was so inspired by the little mare’s story that she was determined to reintroduce Reckless to the world.

To rediscover the story of this heroic horse, Hutton interviewed seventy-five Marines who served with Reckless and uncovered over 200 photos, spanning her war days and beyond. Sgt. Reckless reveals heartwarming and hilarious anecdotes about Reckless’s feats and antics, bringing to life the touching story of how a young Korean man’s horse became one of the greatest Marine wartime heroes of all time.

Here are other astounding facts about Reckless:

  • In just one day of battle, Reckless made 51 trips carrying 386 rounds (almost five tons) of ammunition, walking over 35 miles through rice paddies and up steep mountains with enemy fire coming in at the rate of 500 rounds per minute.
  • Reckless also carried wounded soldiers away from battle, and she herself was wounded twice, earning two Purple Hearts.

  • Reckless ate anything and everything—but especially scrambled eggs and pancakes in the morning with her morning cup of coffee, along with beer in the evening with her comrades.
  • The Marines loved Reckless so much that in the heat of battle, they threw their flak jackets over her to protect her when incoming fire was heavy, risking their own safety.
  • On April 10, 1954, Reckless was officially promoted to sergeant—an honor never bestowed, before or since, on an animal.

How did the Korean War End?

(See Main Article: How did the Korean War End?)

The Korean War was fought between North and South Korea, between 25 June 1950 and 27 July 1953. The United Nations, with the U.S. at its lead was aligned with the South, while China fought on the North’s side, with help from the Soviet Union. The war started because of the division of Korea, as well as the tension that already existed between countries during the Cold War.

End of the Korean War

Although the United States immediately intervened when North Korea started to invade South Korea on June 25, 1950, North Korea and China only retaliated and started heavy assaults against the U.S. and South Korean armies. Eventually, the war only became a battle of attrition and although peace talks have started by July 1951, it ended in a stalemate, with neither side backing down. Dwight D. Eisenhower was very critical about the way President Truman was handling the war in Korea and promised that he would go visit Korea to see how he could change things. After evaluating the situation, he started to pressure the South Korean president to compromise a bit and let go of some demands in order to speed up peace talks. He also publicly hinted at using nuclear weapons if the war doesn’t end soon. By July 1953, all countries that were involved in the war finally agreed to end the bloodshed and signed an armistice on July 27. The prisoners of war were allowed to choose which side they wanted to live on and yet a new border was drawn between South and North Korea with a demilitarized zone in between.

Cold War

(See Main Section: Cold War)

“The Cold War — Not WW2 — Was Arguably the Defining Event of the 20th Century”

For the full  “History Unplugged” podcast, click here!

During World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union fought together as allies against the Axis powers. However, the relationship between the two nations was a tense one. Americans had long been wary of Soviet communism and concerned about Russian leader Joseph Stalin’s tyrannical rule of his own country. For their part, the Soviets resented the Americans’ decades-long refusal to treat the USSR as a legitimate part of the international community as well as their delayed entry into World War II, which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Russians. After the war ended, these grievances ripened into an overwhelming sense of mutual distrust and enmity. (Source: History.com)

The Cold War: Causes, Major Events, and How it Ended

(See Main Article: The Cold War: Causes, Major Events, and How it Ended)

The Cold War was a geopolitical chess match between the United States, the Soviet Union, and both parties’ allies in which the major power players sought to project their respective ideologies across the globe in the wake of colonialism’s collapse following World War Two. The period occurred between 1947, the year of the Truman Doctrine, and 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed.


Scroll down to see articles about the Cold War’s beginnings, the foreign policies of American presidents regarding the Cold War, the end of communism in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, and the final Soviet collapse in 1991.

Click here to read more articles in this category.

Alternatively, if you would like to learn about the conflict in video form, check out this nine-minute explainer video.


Causes of the Cold War: What caused the Cold War? A number of geopolitical factors that emerged in the wake of the Second World War, pitting Russia against the U.S. World War II ended with the Soviet Union and the United States as allies that triumphed over Nazi Germany. But how did two countries that used to fight on the same side end up a couple of years later as mortal enemies in a Cold War of distrust that prevailed for years to come? Possible Causes for the Cold WarAlthough The U.S. and Soviet Union were allies during WWII, there were many tensions early on and once the common threat of Germany and Japan were removed, it was only a matter of time before the shaky relationship fall apart. Here are some possible factors that contributed to the Cold War:

  • The Soviet Union refused to become part of the UN for a long time
  • Stalin felt that America and Britain were delaying D-Day, causing more Soviet losses in a plot to weaken the Soviet army. Almost sixty times more Soviets died in the war than the Americans.
  • The “Big Three” clashed during the Tehran Conference about Poland and other Eastern European countries that bordered Germany. Stalin felt independent countries were a security threat to Russia because they have been weak enough to let Germany attack the Soviet Union through them several times. Britain and America wanted these countries to be independent, not under communist rule.
  • The Soviets and Germans had a non-aggression pact in the first two years of the war with a secret protocol
  • The support of the Western allies of the Atlantic Charter
  • The Eastern Bloc of Soviet satellite states that was created
  • The Allies allowing Germany to rebuild an industry and army, scrapping the Marshall and Morgenthau plans
  • The Allies allowing Germany to join NATO
  • American and British fears of communist attacks and the Soviet Union’s dislike of capitalism
  • The Soviet Union’s fear of America’s nuclear weapons and refusal to share their nuclear secrets
  • The Soviet Union’s actions in Eastern Germany, in the Soviet zone
  • The USSR’s aim was to promote communism across the world and their expansion into Eastern Europe

The Truman Doctrine: Freedom Precedes OrderThe combination of one of the worst winters in history and the economic consequences of World War II reduced Great Britain in early 1947 to near bankruptcy. On February 21, the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., informed the State Department that Britain could no longer play its traditional role of protecting Greece and Turkey against threats external and internal and would have to withdraw from the region by April 1. Since Greece faced internal agitation by communists and Turkey confronted the hostile Soviet Union, only a firm American commitment could prevent Soviet control of the two strategically located countries. There was no one to protect the strategic interests of the United States but the United States itself. Great Britain’s withdrawal from the international stage had left a political vacuum, and the United States moved to fill it, not for narrow commercial or territorial reasons, but to protect freedom, independent states, and allies in a crucial area of the world.

THE PRAGMATIC ROOTS OF THE TRUMAN DOCTRINE: On On February 26, Secretary of State George Marshall and Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson brought their recommendations to President Truman. Greece needed substantial aid and quickly; the alternative would be the loss of Greece and the extension of the Iron Curtain across the eastern Mediterranean. Truman wrote in his memoirs, “The ideals and the traditions of our nation demanded that we come to the aid of Greece and Turkey and that we put the world on notice that it would be our policy to support the cause of freedom wherever it was threatened.”Central to the development of the Truman Doctrine was the president’s February 27 session with congressional leaders. Republicans controlled both houses of Congress following the mid-term elections, and Truman understood that he needed the help of the Republican leaders to craft a bipartisan foreign policy. At the White House meeting, Truman asked Marshall to summarize the case for Greek and Turkish aid, which the secretary did in his usual matter-of-fact way. There was a tepid response from the congressional group. Understanding what was at stake, Acheson intervened with a dire warning that the Soviets were playing “one of the greatest gambles in history.” The United States alone was in a position “to break up the play.”Silence ensued, broken at last by a solemn Senator Arthur Vandenberg, the Republicans’ foreign policy leader, who said, “Mr. President, if you will say that to the Congress and the country, I will support you, and I believe that most of its members will do the same.”Truman based the assistance on the belief that governments suited to the peoples of Greece and Turkey would not develop or succeed if tyranny prevailed in those countries. But his concern went farther than the hopes of the Greek and Turkish peoples for a democratic future. He also stressed the implications of communist pressure on the entire region and on the world, asserting that the totalitarian pattern had to be broken. The consolidation of Soviet power in Eastern Europe depended on the local conditions in each country, the strength of the communist-led wartime resistance movements, and the degree of direct Soviet intervention. The Kremlin had promised in the Paris peace treaties to remove its troops from Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary but had failed to do so. As a result, the communists were able to force the socialists to join them in coalitions they dominated. Moscow had also manipulated the Polish elections to eliminate Stanisław Mikołajczyk and his Polish Peasant Party, with the help of a hundred thousand Polish security police agents, modeled on the Soviet NKVD. Because the Red Army did not occupy either Greece or Turkey, Truman saw an opportunity to encourage liberty in the two countries by strengthening domestic conditions and preventing Soviet intervention on behalf of the local communists. He signed the Greek and Turkish aid bill into law on May 22, 1947, declaring, “The conditions of peace include, among other things, the ability of nations to maintain order and independence and to support themselves economically.” Although he did not name the Soviet Union, Truman said that totalitarianism was hindering peace and encroaching on peoples’ territories and lives and called for an unprecedented American involvement in foreign affairs in peacetime. The assertion of the Truman Doctrine was truly historic—the first time since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 that an American president had explicitly defined a principle of foreign policy and put the world on notice. In the absence of an effective United Nations, the president said, America was the one nation capable of establishing and maintaining peace. The international situation, he said, was at a critical juncture. If America failed to aid Greece and Turkey “in this fateful hour,” the crisis would take on global proportions. While political and economic means were preferred, military strength was also needed to foster the political and economic stability of threatened countries. The Truman Doctrine was a primary building block of containment. The president sounded themes that endured throughout his and successive administrations. The United States, he said, must support free peoples who were resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures so that free peoples can “work out their own destinies in their own way.”

MAIN POINTS OF THE TRUMAN DOCTRINE: Faced with a war unlike any previous one, Truman laid the groundwork for a policy of peace through strength. Against the backdrop of postwar domestic needs and wants, he had to educate the American people and persuade congressional leaders that decisive U.S. engagement in a new world struggle was necessary. Between 1946 and 1950, he reached three conclusions regarding global politics:

  • Freedom must precede order, for freedom provides the deepest roots for peace. He rejected the realist preference for order above all.
  • What kind of government a people choose is decisive in both domestic and international politics. He did not echo President Woodrow Wilson’s call for self-determination with a secondary concern for governing principles. For Truman, a commitment to justice was the overriding principle.
  • Security and strength go hand in hand. Truman’s definition of strength included political order and military muscle, that is, a government and people embracing and then maintaining their liberty and justice.

President Truman and his administration proceeded to build on this political foundation. The impending economic collapse of Britain, France, and most of Western Europe in the winter of 1946 and the spring of 1947 led the United States to take action in the economic sphere in the form of the Marshall Plan. Soviet expansionism, including the establishment of puppet governments in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Czechoslovakia, Communist agitation in Italy and France, and the Berlin blockade spurred the United States and its allies to form NATO, America’s first military alliance in peacetime. NSC 68 added an international dimension to the concept of peace through political, economic, and military strength. The Truman Doctrine was the linchpin to foreign affairs in this period.

Policy of Containment: America’s Cold War StrategyShortly after Stalin’s death in March 1953, Eisenhower gave a speech notably titled “The Chance for Peace,” in which he made clear that the United States and its friends had chosen one road while Soviet leaders had chosen another path in the postwar world. But he always looked for ways to encourage the Kremlin to move in a new direction. In a diary entry from January 1956, he summarized his national security policy, which became known as the “New Look”: “We have tried to keep constantly before us the purpose of promoting peace with accompanying step-by-step disarmament. As a preliminary, of course, we have to induce the Soviets to agree to some form of inspection, in order that both sides may be confident that treaties are being executed faithfully. In the meantime, and pending some advance in this direction, we must stay strong, particularly in that type of power that the Russians are compelled to respect.”One of Eisenhower’s first acts upon taking office in January 1953 was to order a review of U.S. foreign policy. He generally agreed with Truman’s policy of containment except for China, which he included in his strategic considerations. Task forces studied and made recommendations regarding three possible strategies:

  • A continuation of the policy of containment, the basic policy during the Truman years;
  • A policy of global deterrence, in which U.S. commitments would be expanded and communist aggression forcibly met;
  • A policy of liberation which through political, economic, and paramilitary means would “rollback” the communist empire and liberate the peoples behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains.

The latter two options were favored by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who counseled the use of the threat of nuclear weapons to counter Soviet military force. He argued that having resolved the problem of military defense, the free world “could undertake what has been too long delayed—a political offensive.”Eisenhower rejected liberation as too aggressive and the policy of containment as he understood it as too passive, selecting instead deterrence, with an emphasis on air and sea power. But he allowed Dulles to convey an impression of “deterrence plus.” In January 1954, for example, Dulles proposed a new American policy—“a maximum deterrent at a bearable cost,” in which “local defenses must be reinforced by the further deterrent of massive retaliatory power.” The best way to deter aggression, Dulles said, is for “the free community to be willing and able to respond vigorously at places and with means of its own choosing.”As the defense analysts James Jay Carafano and Paul Rosenzweig have observed, Eisenhower built his Cold War foreign policy, largely based on the policy of containment, on four pillars:

  • Providing security through “a strong mix of both offensive and defensive means.”
  • Maintaining a robust economy.
  • Preserving a civil society that would “give the nation the will to persevere during the difficult days of a long war.”
  • Winning the struggle of ideas against “a corrupt vacuous ideology” destined to fail its people.

The Eisenhower-Dulles New Look was not, as some have charged, a policy with only two options—the use of local forces or nuclear threats. Covert means were used to help overthrow the pro-Marxist regime of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in Guatemala in 1954, economic pressures were exerted in the Suez Crisis of 1956, and U.S. Marines were used in Lebanon in 1958. The U.S. Navy was deployed in the Taiwan Straits as part of Eisenhower’s ongoing, staunch commitment to the protection of the Nationalist Chinese islands of Quemoy and Matsu—and by extension the Republic of China itself, Japan, and the Philippines—against communist aggression. With the president’s full endorsement, Dulles put alliance ahead of nuclear weapons as the “cornerstone of security for the free nations.”During the Eisenhower years, the United States constructed a powerful ring of alliances and treaties around the communist empire in order to uphold its policy of containment. They included a strengthened NATO in Europe; the Eisenhower Doctrine (announced in 1957, protecting Middle Eastern countries from direct and indirect communist aggression); the Baghdad Pact, joining Turkey, Iraq, Great Britain, Pakistan, and Iran in the Middle East; the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, which included the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand; mutual security agreements with South Korea and with the Republic of China; and a revised Rio Pact, with a pledge to resist communist subversion in Latin America. As Eisenhower said in his first inaugural address, echoing NSC 68, “Freedom is pitted against slavery; lightness against the dark.” Like Truman, he believed that freedom—rooted in eternal truths, natural law, equality, and inalienable rights—was the foundation for real peace, and he sharpened the idea that faith in this freedom ultimately united everyone: “Conceiving the defense of freedom, like freedom itself, to be one and indivisible, we hold all continents and peoples in equal regard and honor.”Dulles, who had closely studied Soviet history and shared Eisenhower’s deep Christian faith, regarded the very existence of the communist world as a threat to the United States and considered the policy of containment as a righteous duty. While George Kennan argued that communist ideology was an instrument not a determinant of Soviet policy, Dulles argued the opposite. The Soviet objective, Dulles said flatly, was global state socialism. Eisenhower agreed: “Anyone who doesn’t recognize that the great struggle of our time is an ideological one . . . [is] not looking the question squarely in the face.”The common thread running through all the elements of the Eisenhower strategy—nuclear deterrence, alliances, psychological warfare, covert action, and negotiations—was a relatively low cost and an emphasis on retaining the initiative. The New Look was “an integrated and reasonably efficient adoption of resources to objectives, of means to ends.”Not all of Eisenhower’s challenges were external— some originated within the borders of the United States and indeed his own Republican party. The most visible and contentious problem was how to deal with the outspoken, unpredictable Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.

The Cold War Home Front: McCarthyism

(See Main Article: The Cold War Home Front: McCarthyism)

McCarthyism: Introduction

Shortly after WWII a phenomenon known as McCarthyism began to emerge in American politics.  McCarthyism was the practice of investigating and accusing persons in positions of power or influence of disloyalty, subversion (working secretly to undermine or overthrow the government), or treason. Reckless accusations that the government was full of communists were pursued by Republican-led committees with subpoena power and without proper regard for evidence. The two Republicans most closely associated with McCarthyism were the phenomenon’s namesake, Senator Joseph McCarthy, and Senator Richard Nixon, who served as Vice President from 1953-1961, and then President from 1969-1974.  Both men were driven by personal insecurities as much as by political gain.

Government employees, the entertainment industry, educators, and union activists were the primary targets of McCarthyism.  Their communist (or leftist) associations were often greatly exaggerated, and they were often dismissed from government jobs or imprisoned with inconclusive, questionable, and sometimes outright fabricated evidence.  Most verdicts were later overturned, most dismissals later declared illegal, and some laws used to convict later declared unconstitutional.  The most famous examples of McCarthyism are the investigation into the leftist influence of the motion picture industry by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and investigations conducted by Senator McCarthy’s Senate sub-committee, culminating in 1954 with hearings about subversion within the Army.  Both committees were provided information by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under Director J. Edgar Hoover.


In addition to these investigations, several high profile Americans were smeared by McCarthyism, including General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff during WWII and chief architect of the Marshall Plan, and Dean Acheson, President Truman’s Secretary of State and chief architect of American foreign policy during the early stages of the Cold War.  McCarthyism, now discredited by all but the most rabid right-wingers, caused enormous conflict within American society.

The Origins of McCarthyism

McCarthyism began well before Senator Joseph McCarthy arrived on the scene, and its origins are complicated. Much of it was rooted in fear and anxiety within the Republican Party’s reactionary fringe. The United States had experienced a similar phenomenon from 1917-1920 in reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which represented the emergence of communism as a political movement. Civil liberties were strictly curtailed by the Espionage and Sedition Acts, especially free speech.

After the war, a wave of leftist bombings, labor discontent, and a distrust of immigrants resulted in the First Red Scare, characterized by aggressive Justice Department investigations, severe violations of civil liberties, mass arrests and deportations, and several high-profile convictions. But during the 1930s the Communist Party of the United States gained influence as the image of Communism improved. They championed labor rights and were the bitter enemies of right-wing fascists, especially Nazis. During the worst of the Great Depression, some Americans questioned whether capitalism had failed. Some sincerely believed in the egalitarian promise of communism (and were later bitterly disappointed by its repressive tendencies). Others experimented with leftist ideas as a youthful indiscretion–because it had become popular on campus or within their social circles. During WWII, with the United States and the Soviet Union temporarily allies, anti-communist rhetoric mostly ceased. With the war’s end, however, the Soviets quickly reneged on the promise to hold free elections in territory conquered from Germany and instead installed repressive puppet regimes. Much of Central and Eastern Europe had been freed from Nazism only to become satellite nations of the Soviet Union.

The disillusionment of the post-war failure to free the peoples of Europe gave rise to the bitter winds of the Cold War. Fear and anxiety of Soviet domination were aggravated by revelations of Soviet spying on the West. Just a month after V-J Day, a cipher clerk working in the Soviet Embassy in Canada defected, bringing with him 109 documents detailing Soviet spying in Canada. Another Soviet Spy, this time an American, defected in 1945. Elizabeth Bentley had taken an interest in communism in the 1930s through her studies abroad and at Columbia University in New York. She joined the Communist Party of the United States in 1935. Bentley eventually became a spy for the Russians, first unwittingly, then willingly, through a lover. All of her spying was done during WWII, and the information passed to her by spies in the American government, which she then passed on to Moscow, had to do with what the United States knew about Germany. In 1945 she became disillusioned with her role and contacted the FBI. She subsequently named about 150 persons within the government as her contacts, many of whom were already known to investigators. The American public found out about Bentley in July 1948, and it fanned the flames of McCarthyism.

Even more troubling was the revelation that the Soviets had spied on the West’s atomic research. In 1946 the U.S. and Great Britain cracked one of the Soviet codes and learned that a scientist who had worked on the Manhattan Project and was currently working in Great Britain’s atomic research facilities was a spy. Klaus Fuchs was a German communist who had fled his homeland to escape the Nazis. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, he sincerely believed that the Soviets had a right to the atomic secrets being kept from them by their allies. Fuchs was arguably the most important spy in the Cold War. He passed on secrets that enabled the Soviet Union to end the U.S. monopoly on atomic weapons only 4 years after Hiroshima, and gave them critical information about American atomic capabilities that helped Joseph Stalin conclude the U.S. was not prepared for nuclear war at the end of the 1940s, or even in the early 1950s.

With this information, the Soviets strategized that the U.S. could not deal simultaneously with the Berlin blockade and with the communist’s victory in the Chinese Civil War. Fuchs was convicted in England in 1950. Closer to home, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were arrested in 1950, also for passing along atomic secrets to the Soviet Union during WWII. Events seemed spiraling out of control. Within months of the Soviet Union had successfully tested its first atomic bomb (years before U.S. intelligence had predicted), Mao Zedong’s communist army gained control of the Chinese mainland, forcing the U.S.-backed Chiang Kai-shek to flee to Formosa. Months later, communists in North Korea invaded South Korea. All of these events had a direct impact on McCarthyism.

But other forces also contributed to McCarthyism.  Many had long been wary of liberal, progressive policies, particularly Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.  As far as many were concerned, “New Dealism,” was heavily influenced by communism, and by the end of WWII, it had ruled American society for a dozen years.  During the McCarthyism era, much of the danger they saw was about vaguely defined “communist influence” rather than direct accusations of being Soviet spies. In fact, throughout the entire history of post-war McCarthyism, not a single government official was convicted of spying. But that didn’t really matter to many Republicans. During the Roosevelt Era, they had been completely shut out of power.  Not only did Democrats rule the White House, but they had also controlled both houses of congress since 1933.  During the 1944 elections, the Republican candidate Thomas Dewey had tried to link Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal with communism. Democrats fired back by associating Republicans with Fascism.  By the 1946 midterm elections, however, fascism had largely been defeated in Europe, but communism loomed as an even larger threat.  Republicans found a winning issue.  By “Red-baiting” their Democratic opponents—labeling them as “soft on communism,” they gained traction with voters.

One of the early successful Red-baiters was an ex-Navy officer from California named Richard Nixon. Nixon was recruited into politics by a committee of Republicans in California’s 12th congressional district who were bent on ousting incumbent Democrat Jerry Voorhis, a loyal supporter of the New Deal with a liberal voting record. Nixon came on strong and suggested that Voorhis’s endorsement by a group linked to communists meant that Voorhis must have radical left-wing views. In reality, Voorhis was a staunch anti-communist. He had once been voted by the press corps as the “most honest congressman.” But Nixon was able to successfully link Voorhis to the group, even though Voorhis refused to accept any endorsement unless it first renounced communist influence. Nixon won by over 15,000 votes. Meanwhile, another young WWII veteran from Wisconsin named Joe McCarthy won the election to the U.S. Senate.

In those mid-term elections of 1946, the Republican Party won a majority in both the House and Senate.  Much of that had to do with voter discontent with Harry Truman over his refusal to lift wartime price controls and his handling of several high-profile labor disputes, but Red-baiting played a role.  Being in the majority meant control of committee chairs, including the House Un-American Activities Committee, which had existed in various forms since 1934. This committee, known as HUAC, initiated a major revival of anti-communist investigations.

J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI

Reacting in part to Republican gains in the midterm elections and allegations that he was soft on communism, President Truman initiated a loyalty review program for federal employees in March 1947. The background investigations were carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This was a major assignment that led to a dramatic increase in the number of agents in the Bureau. It also gave more power to the FBI’s director, J. Edgar Hoover, who reigned over the agency for decades as an untouchable. Possessed with an ego that required constant flattering by his subordinates, even Congressmen and Senators were reluctant to challenge his methods (which included illegal wiretapping) for fear that he might have files on them.  The legendary Hoover’s extreme anti-communism and loose standards of evidence resulted in thousands of government workers losing their jobs. Hoover insisted on keeping secret the identity of his informers, so most of the investigated were not allowed to cross-examine or even know who had accused them. In many cases, they were not even told what they were accused of.

Hollywood Blacklisting

In October 1947 HUAC investigated whether communist agents and sympathizers had been secretly planting communist propaganda in American films. This was the moment for conservatives to push back against the leftist politics of the Hollywood elite going back to the 1930s. “Friendly” witnesses who testified before the committee included Walt Disney, Screen Actors Guild president (and future U.S. President) Ronald Reagan, and actor Gary Cooper. The friendly witnesses testified to the threat of communists in the film industry, and some of them named names of possible communists. HUAC assembled a witness list of forty-three people, some of whom were known to have been members of the American Communist Party. Nineteen of the forty-three said they would not give evidence, and of those, eleven were subpoenaed to appear before HUAC and answer questions. One of these ultimately cooperated. The remaining ten, known as the “Hollywood Ten,” were labeled “unfriendly” witnesses.


Other Hollywood elite also resisted HUAC. They founded the Committee for the First Amendment as a protest against government abuse. Members included Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Henry Fonda, Gene Kelly, Edward G. Robinson, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, and Frank Sinatra. In October 1947 the group traveled to Washington to watch the hearings.   After each unfriendly witness was sworn in, he was asked the same question:  “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

Membership in the Communist Party was not and had never been illegal. Each of the witnesses had at one time or another been a member (most still were), while a few had been in the past and only briefly. The unfriendly witnesses refused to answer the questions on First Amendment principles. Sometimes the questioning generated intense hostility, as in the case of screenwriter John Howard Lawson’s testimony.  After the hearings, proceedings against the Hollywood Ten took place in the full House of Representatives. On November 24, they voted 346 to 17 to cite the Hollywood Ten for contempt of Congress. The next day Motion Picture Association of America president Eric Johnston issued a press release declaring that the Hollywood Ten would be fired or suspended without pay until they were cleared of contempt charges and had sworn that they were not communists. This was, in effect the first Hollywood blacklist. The Hollywood Ten were convicted and sentenced to one-year prison terms.

Humphrey Bogart felt enough pressure from the backlash of his involvement with the Committee For The First Amendment that he felt compelled to publish an article in Photoplay titled, “I’m No Communist.”

Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television

The investigation of the entertainment industry continued for several years. In June 1950 a right-wing journal called Counterattack published a book with the names of 151 actors, writers, directors, producers, musicians, broadcast journalists, and other entertainers, and the organizations they were linked to which were supposedly communist.  No evidence was provided linking these organizations to communism. Many were labor organizations and newsletters. Called Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television, it claimed these entertainers were actively engaged in manipulating the entertainment industry. Red Channels effectively blacklisted these entertainers. Executives in the movie and growing television

industries avoided hiring persons on the list to avoid controversy and risk losing advertising sponsors.  For example, veteran film and radio actress Jean Muir was scheduled to play the character of Mrs. Aldrich in the new NBC television series, The Aldrich Family. Just weeks before the season premiere, Muir was listed in Red Channels.  After receiving a flood of phone calls, the show’s sponsor, General Foods, canceled the first episode, fired Muir, and replaced her with another actress. The first episode was quickly reshot and aired a week later. Lawrence Johnson, an official in the National Association of Supermarkets, pressured the manufacturers of products sold in supermarkets to not buy TV advertising for any program that used an actor listed in Red Channels.

When the TV series Danger tried to use one of these actors, Johnson told the show’s sponsor, the makers of Amni-dent toothpaste, that all grocery stores would put up a sign next to Amni-dent suggesting their programs employed communists. Meanwhile, they would put a sign next to a competitor’s toothpaste, Chlorodent, saying, “Its programs use only pro-American artists and shun Stalin’s little creatures.” The actor in question was quickly removed.  By 1951, the major radio and TV networks had set up their own blacklist offices to clear actors with people like Johnson, always over the phone. The voice at one end would go down the list of proposed actors, and the person on the other end would respond with “yes” or “no.”  Questions were not asked. Many careers were ruined, and nervous movie studios stayed away from scripts with plots that could be seen as controversial, resulting in nearly a decade of fluff, westerns, and patriotic war films.

Fall of the Soviet Union: The Cold War Ends

(See Main Article: Fall of the Soviet Union: The Cold War Ends)

The following article on the fall of the Soviet Union is an excerpt from Lee Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards Spalding’s book A Brief History of the Cold War It is available to order now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The fall of the Soviet Union was a decades-in-the-making outcome of Cold War politics, but it happened quite suddenly in the late 80s and early 90s, primarily at the level of U.S.-USSR politics. Even then the end was not clear. The first of the three Bush-Gorbachev summit meetings did not take place until December 1989 in Malta, where Bush emphasized the need for “superpower cooperation,” choosing to overlook that the Soviet Union was no longer a superpower by any reasonable criterion and that Marxism-Leninism in Eastern Europe was headed for Reagan’s “ash-heap of history.”

The second summit was in May 1990 in Washington, D.C., where the emphasis was on economics. Gorbachev arrived in a somber mood, conscious that his country’s economy was nearing free fall and nationalist pressures were splitting the Soviet Union. Although a virtual pariah at home, the Soviet leader was greeted by large, friendly American crowds. Bush tried to help, granting most-favored-nation trading status to the Soviet Union. Gorbachev appealed to American businessmen to start new enterprises in the USSR, but what could Soviet citizens afford to buy? In Moscow, the bread lines stretched around the block. A month later, NATO issued a sweeping statement called the London Declaration, proclaiming that the Cold War was over and that Europe had entered a “new, promising era.” But the Soviet Union, although teetering, still stood.


Below are the main categories of topics that you can find to learn more.


Cite This Article
"World War One, Korean War, And Cold War" History on the Net
© 2000-2022, Salem Media.
November 26, 2022 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/world-war-one-korean-cold-war>
More Citation Information.