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Origins of the Cold War

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Welcome to the Cold War

- What is the message of the photo on the left?

- Can we trust it to show how the US and USSR really thought about one another? Explain......

- Using the Revision Tip activity on the right, copy the diagrams and label correctly .

- Using the Factfile on the right,create a mindmap like the one below on Cold War differences...... 

- Click on box to the left for Crash Course World History episode on Capitalism v Socialism

- Q+A sheet available via Book icon


What exactly was the Cold War?  


In diplomatic terms there are three types of war:


1) Hot War : this is actual warfare. All talks have failed and the armies are fighting.


2) Warm War : this is where talks are still going on and there would always be a chance of a peaceful outcome but armies, navies etc. are being fully mobilised and war plans are being put into operation ready for the command to fight.


3) Cold War : this term is used to describe the relationship between America and the Soviet Union 1945 to 1980. Neither side ever fought the other - the consequences would be too appalling - but they did ‘fight’ for their beliefs using client states who fought for their beliefs on their behalf.  For example:


- South Vietnam was anticommunist and was supplied by America during the war while North Vietnam was pro-Communist and fought the south (and the Americans) using weapons from communist USSR and communist China.


- In Afghanistan, the Americans supplied the rebel Afghans after the Soviet Union invaded in 1979 while they never physically involved themselves thus avoiding a direct clash with the Soviet Union.


The Cold War is the name given to the relationship that developed primarily between the USA and the USSR after World War Two. The Cold War was to dominate international affairs for decades and many major crises occurred - the Cuban Missile CrisisVietnamHungary and the Berlin Wall being just some. For many, the growth in weapons of mass destruction was the most worrying issue.

A clash of very different beliefs and ideology - capitalism versus communism - each held with almost religious conviction, formed the basis of an international power struggle with both sides vying for dominance, exploiting every opportunity for expansion anywhere in the world.


USSR by 1945 had emerged from the old Russian Empire that collapsed in 1917 and included all the various countries that now exist individually (Ukraine, Georgia etc) but which the war were part of this huge country up until the collapse of the Soviet Union (the other name for the USSR) in 1991.


Logic would dictate that as the USA and the USSR fought as allies during World War Two, their relationship after the war would be firm and friendly. This never happened and any appearance that these two powers were friendly during the war is illusory. Before the war, America had depicted the Soviet Union as almost the devil-incarnate. The Soviet Union had depicted America likewise so their ‘friendship’ during the war was simply the result of having a mutual enemy - Nazi Germany. In fact, one of America’s leading generals, Patton, stated that he felt that the Allied army should unite with what was left of the Wehrmacht in 1945, utilise the military genius that existed within it (such as the V2’s etc.) and fight the oncoming Soviet Red Army. Churchill himself was furious that Eisenhower, as supreme head of Allied command, had agreed that the Red Army should be allowed to get to Berlin first ahead of the Allied army. His anger was shared by Montgomery, Britain’s senior general.


So the extreme distrust that existed during the war, was certainly present before the end of the war……..and this was between Allies. The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, was also distrustful of the Americans after Truman only told him of a new terrifying weapon that he was going to use against the Japanese. The first Stalin knew of what this weapon could do was when reports on Hiroshima got back to Moscow.


So this was the scene after the war ended in 1945. Both sides distrusted the other. One had a vast army in the field (the Soviet Union with its Red Army supremely lead by Zhukov) while the other, the Americans had the most powerful weapon in the world, the A-bomb and the Soviets had no way on knowing how many America had.

This lack of mutually understanding an alien culture, would lead the world down a very dangerous path - it led to the development of weapons of awesome destructive capability and the creation of some intriguing policies such as MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction.


Berlin - Front line of the Cold War


Berlin was both the end of the Second World War in Europe, and the first battleground of the Cold War which was developing between Harry Truman's USA and the USSR under Joseph Stalin.

Berlin had been separated into four quarters with the East of the city under Soviet Union control.  The three Western districts were French, British and American.  The real issue was that Berlin was inside the Soviet Union's portion of Germany, which like Berlin had been divided into four with the East supposedly all under Stalin's control.

This meant that the West had an open display window visible to all East Germans and therefore all Soviet citizens - a situation that Stalin felt was too threatening to the complete control he liked to hold over his population.

As a result Berlin came to be a city which rather than being the centre of a new cooperative post-war world, instead emerged as a divided city which would witness the first military action taken by one wartime ally against another - the Berlin Blockade.  Click the top cartoon to find out what happened between June 1948 - May 1949... 

The video on the left tells the story of how Berlin changed from 1945-49 and the first book icon below on the left provides the qs to be answered as the video is watched + from Walsh 331-2..

The second book icon is a further reading article to read before completing the next activity.


Consequences of the Berlin Blockade....

  • Read the text underneath

  • Focus Task p91 - click on book icon on left

  • Complete the googledoc sections by your name

  • How did the Blockade affect the Cold War?

  • Does this match your judgement on who was responsible for the Cold War?

  • What does this tell us about history as knowledge?


iGCSE revision lecture playlist - origins

iGCSE revision lecture playlist - containment​

Crash Course US History - episodes 39-46

Cuban missile crisis doc

BBC Cold War series - 1917-1991

Does the Berlin Wall still exist?

Photos from Vietnam War

The Fall of Yugoslavia 1991-1999 - digital chronology and map

BBC Cold War series playlist - excellent depth and explanation

                                                                                     German V2 rockets used in WW2 & CW links



World at War - episode 1

iGCSE revision lectures - Hitler & TOV; Rhineland; Munich; App; Nazi-Soviet Pact; War

- digital copy of Ruth Henig's Origins of the Second World War

-Holocaust Survivor Israel Arbeiter revisits Auschwitz


Apocalypse: The Second World War - Aggression (1933--1939)

Apocalypse: The Second World War - Crushing Defeat (1939--1940)

Apocalypse : The Second World War - Shock (1940--1941)

Apocalypse : The Second World War - World Ablaze (1941--1942)

Apocalypse: The Second World War - The Great Landings/The Noose (1942--1943)

BATTLEFIELD series - all battles covered, except Bulge & Iwo Jima - see below....


Battle of Britain & the Blitz - BBC Battlefields of Britain (1 hr) - BBC Timewatch - London Blitz (1 hr) - BBC Timewatch - Coventry Blitz (1 hr)

How German's lost the battle of Britain rather than the UK winning it


Operation Overlord inc D-Day landings (Operation Neptune) - doc on D-Day landings (1hr 30 mins) - doc on Operation Overlord (1 hr) - Saving Private Ryan (esp 1st 30 mins) - Band of Brothers Ep 2 (and rest of series!)


Battle of the Bulge (Bastogne) - US perspective on Bastogne (1hr 30min)


Bombing of Germany - Timewatch on civilian bombing of German cities (1 hr)


Battle for Berlin - Defeat of Nazi Germany (1hr 30 mins)





Operation Barbarossa & the Eastern Front - BBC4 documentary "Stalin - 1941 and Man of Steel" (1 hr 30 min) - "War of the Century - When Hitler fought Stalin" (3 hr 20 min


Stalingrad - BBC 20th Century Battlefields (1 hr)


Kursk - Timewatch BBC - Mother of all battles - Documentary on tank battle at Kursk between G & USSR (1 hr) - Soviet Storm on Kursk...and loads of other excellent WW2 vids linked underneath





Pearl Harbour - BBC Timewatch "Sacrifice at Pearl Harbour" (1 hr)


Midway - BBC 20th Century Battlefields (1 hr)


Iwo Jima


Hiroshima - BBC Days that shook the world (1 hr)





BBC docs - end of WW2 Europe and Eurasia

- 1941, Stalin and Man of Steel (1941-45 - USSR v Axis Powers - E Europe & USSR)

- Hitler's Soft Underbelly (1942-45 - Allies v Axis powers - N Africa; Italy)

D-Day in colour

Battle for Normandy

- D-Day to Berlin (1944-45 - Allies v Axis powers - France; Holland; Germany)



Bletchley Park, computers and code breaking






Alliances during the Second World War, January 1942


Western Allies (independent countries)

Western Allies (colonies or occupied)

Eastern Allies

Axis (countries)

Axis (colonies or occupied, including Vichy France)






"Spanish Civil War" ITV Granada 6 part documentary - excellent detail, testimony from veterans etc...



Historiography of the SCW


ww2 - Goettingen - song by Barbara re post war F-G reconciliation - role of women 2ww - us home front in ww2 -
 last heroes - ww2 last heroes - europe vets docs

German V2 rockets used in WW2 - moon landings & CW links




World War Two: Summary Outline of Key Events


From the invasion of Poland to the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - here's a guide to the main events of World War Two.



(also see Historyplace - )



  • Hitler invades Poland on 1 September. Britain and France declare war on Germany two days later.


  • Rationing starts in the UK.

  • German 'Blitzkrieg' overwhelms Belgium, Holland and France.

  • Churchill becomes Prime Minister of Britain.

  • British Expeditionary Force evacuated from Dunkirk.

  • British victory in Battle of Britain forces Hitler to postpone invasion plans.


  • Hitler begins Operation Barbarossa - the invasion of Russia.

  • The Blitz continues against Britain's major cities.

  • Allies take Tobruk in North Africa, and resist German attacks.

  • Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, and the US enters the war.


  • Germany suffers setbacks at Stalingrad and El Alamein.

  • Singapore falls to the Japanese in February - around 25,000 prisoners taken.

  • American naval victory at Battle of Midway, in June, marks turning point in Pacific War.

  • Mass murder of Jewish people at Auschwitz begins.


  • Surrender at Stalingrad marks Germany's first major defeat.

  • Allied victory in North Africa enables invasion of Italy to be launched.

  • Italy surrenders, but Germany takes over the battle.

  • British and Indian forces fight Japanese in Burma.


  • Allies land at Anzio and bomb monastery at Monte Cassino.

  • Soviet offensive gathers pace in Eastern Europe.

  • D Day: The Allied invasion of France. Paris is liberated in August.

  • Guam liberated by the US - Okinawa and Iwo Jima bombed.


  • Auschwitz liberated by Soviet troops.

  • Russians reach Berlin: Hitler commits suicide and Germany surrenders on 7 May.

  • Truman becomes President of the US on Roosevelt's death, and Attlee replaces Churchill.

  • After atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrenders on 14 August.


Events of 1939


Three years of mounting international tension - encompassing the Spanish Civil War, the Anschluss (union) of Germany and Austria, Hitler's occupation of the Sudetenland and the invasion of Czechoslovakia - culminated in the German invasion of Poland on 1 September. Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later. While the USA proclaimed neutrality, it continued to supply Britain with essential supplies, and the critical Battle of the Atlantic between German U-Boats and British naval convoys commenced.

Western Europe was eerily quiet during this 'phoney war'. Preparations for war continued in earnest, but there were few signs of conflict, and civilians who had been evacuated from London in the first months drifted back into the city. Gas masks were distributed, and everybody waited for the proper war to begin.

In eastern Europe and Scandinavia, however, there was nothing phoney about the war. With the Ribbentrop Pact signed between the Soviet Union and Germany in late August, Russia followed Germany into Poland in September. That country was carved up between the two invaders before the end of the year, and Russia continued this aggression by going on to invade Finland.


Events of 1940


Rationing was introduced in Britain early in the New Year, but little happened in western Europe until the spring. The 'winter war' between Russia and Finland concluded in March, and in the following month Germany invaded Denmark and Norway.

Denmark surrendered immediately, but the Norwegians fought on - with British and French assistance - surrendering in June only once events in France meant that they were fighting alone.

On 10 May - the same day that Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister of the UK - Germany invaded France, Belgium and Holland, and western Europe encountered the Blitzkrieg - or 'lightning war'.

Germany's combination of fast armoured tanks on land, and superiority in the air, made a unified attacking force that was both innovative and effective. Despite greater numbers of air and army personnel - and the presence of the British Expeditionary Force - the Low Countries and France proved no match for the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe. Holland and Belgium fell by the end of May; Paris was taken two weeks later.

British troops retreated from the invaders in haste, and some 226,000 British and 110,000 French troops were rescued from the channel port of Dunkirk only by a ragged fleet, using craft that ranged from pleasure boats to Navy destroyers.

In France an armistice was signed with Germany, with the puppet French Vichy government - under a hero of World War One, Marshall Pétain - in control in the 'unoccupied' part of southern and eastern France, and Germany in control in the rest of the country.

Charles de Gaulle, as the leader of the Free French, fled to England (much to Churchill's chagrin) to continue the fight against Hitler . But it looked as if that fight might not last too long. Having conquered France, Hitler turned his attention to Britain, and began preparations for an invasion. For this to be successful, however, he needed air superiority, and he charged the Luftwaffe with destroying British air power and coastal defences.

The Battle of Britain, lasting from July to September, was the first to be fought solely in the air. Germany lacked planes but had many pilots. In Britain, the situation was reversed, but - crucially - it also had radar. This, combined with the German decision to switch the attacks from airfields and factories to the major cities, enabled the RAF to squeak a narrow victory, maintain air superiority and ensure the - ultimately indefinite - postponement of the German invasion plans.

The 'Blitz' of Britain's cities lasted throughout the war, saw the bombing of Buckingham Palace and the near-destruction of Coventry, and claimed some 40,000 civilian lives.


Events of 1941


With continental Europe under Nazi control, and Britain safe - for the time being - the war took on a more global dimension. Following the defeat of Mussolini's armies in Greece and Tobruk, German forces arrived in North Africa in February, and invaded Greece and Yugoslavia in April.

While the bombing of British and German cities continued, and the gas chambers at Auschwitz were put to use, Hitler invaded Russia . Operation Barbarossa, as the invasion was called, began on 22 June. The initial advance was swift, with the fall of Sebastopol at the end of October, and Moscow coming under attack at the end of the year.

The bitter Russian winter, however, like the one that Napoleon had experienced a century and a half earlier, crippled the Germans. The Soviets counterattacked in December and the Eastern Front stagnated until the spring.

Winter in the Pacific, of course, presented no such problems. The Japanese, tired of American trade embargoes, mounted a surprise attack on the US Navy base of Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, on 7 December.

This ensured that global conflict commenced, with Germany declaring war on the US, a few days later. Within a week of Pearl Harbor, Japan had invaded the Philippines, Burma and Hong Kong. The Pacific war was on.


Events of 1942


The first Americans arrived in England in January - 'Over paid, over sexed and over here' as the gripe went - and in North Africa Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps began their counter-offensive, capturing Tobruk in June.

The Blitz intensified in both England and Germany, with the first thousand-bomber air raid on Cologne, and German bombing of British cathedral cities.

In the Pacific, the Japanese continued their expansion into Borneo, Java and Sumatra. The 'unassailable' British fortress of Singapore fell rapidly in February, with around 25,000 prisoners taken, many of whom would die in Japanese camps in the years to follow.

But June saw the peak of Japanese expansion. The Battle of Midway, in which US sea-based aircraft destroyed four Japanese carriers and a cruiser, marked the turning point in the Pacific War.

The second half of the year also saw a reversal of German fortunes. British forces under Montgomery gained the initiative in North Africa at El Alamein, and Russian forces counterattacked at Stalingrad. The news of mass murders of Jewish people by the Nazis reached the Allies, and the US pledged to avenge these crimes.


Events of 1943


February saw German surrender at Stalingrad: the first major defeat of Hitler's armies. Battle continued to rage in the Atlantic, and one four-day period in March saw 27 merchant vessels sunk by German U-boats.

A combination of long-range aircraft and the codebreakers at Bletchley, however, were inflicting enormous losses on the U-boats. Towards the end of May Admiral Dönitz withdrew the German fleet from the contended areas - the Battle of the Atlantic was effectively over.

In mid-May German and Italian forces in North Africa surrendered to the Allies, who used Tunisia as a springboard to invade Sicily in July. By the end of the month Mussolini had fallen, and in September the Italians surrendered to the Allies, prompting a German invasion into northern Italy.

Mussolini was audaciously rescued by a German task force, led by Otto Skorzeny, and established a fascist republic in the north. German troops also engaged the Allies in the south - the fight through Italy was to prove slow and costly.

In the Pacific, US forces overcame the Japanese at Guadalcanal, and British and Indian troops began their guerrilla campaign in Burma. American progress continued in the Aleutian Islands, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

As the Russian advance on the Eastern Front gathered pace, recapturing Kharkov and Kiev from Germany, Allied bombers began to attack German cities in enormous daylight air raids. The opening of the Second Front in Europe, long discussed and always postponed, was being prepared for the following year.


Events of 1944


With advances in Burma, New Guinea and Guam, Japan began its last offensive in China, capturing further territory in the south to add to the acquisitions made in central and northern areas following the invasion of 1938. However, their control was limited to the major cities and lines of communication, and resistance - often led by the Communists - was widespread.

The Allied advance in Italy continued with landings at Anzio, in central Italy, in January. It was a static campaign. The Germans counter-attacked in February and the fighting saw the destruction of the medieval monastery at Monte Cassino after Allied bombing. Only at the end of May did the Germans retreat from Anzio. Rome was liberated in June, the day before the Allies' 'Operation Overlord', now known as the D-Day landings.

On 6 June - as Operation Overlord got underway - some 6,500 vessels landed over 130,000 Allied forces on five Normandy beaches: codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

Some 12,000 aircraft ensured air superiority for the Allies - bombing German defences, and providing cover. The pessimistic predictions that had been made of massive Allied casualties were not borne out. On Utah beach 23,000 troops were landed, with 197 casualties, and most of the 4,649 American casualties that day occurred at Omaha beach, where the landing was significantly more difficult to achieve, meeting with fierce German resistance.

Overall, however, the landings caught the Germans by surprise, and they were unable to counter-attack with the necessary speed and strength. Anything that was moving and German was liable to be attacked from the air.

Despite this, in the weeks following the landings Allied progress was slowed considerably, by the narrow lanes and thick hedgerows of the French countryside. Nevertheless, Cherbourg was liberated by the end of June. Paris followed two months later.

Hitler's troubles were compounded by a Russian counterattack in June. This drove 300 miles west to Warsaw, and killed, wounded or captured 350,000 German soldiers. By the end of August the Russians had taken Bucharest. Estonia was taken within months, and Budapest was under siege by the end of the year.

One glimmer of light for Germany came in the Ardennes, in France, where in December a German counteroffensive - the Battle of the Bulge - killed 19,000 Americans and delayed the Allies' march into Germany.


Events of 1945


The New Year saw the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz, and the revelation of the sickening obscenity of the Holocaust, its scale becoming clearer as more camps were liberated in the following months.

The Soviet army continued its offensive from the east, while from the west the Allies established a bridge across the Rhine at Remagen, in March.

While the bombing campaigns of the Blitz were over, German V1 and V2 rockets continued to drop on London. The return bombing raids on Dresden, which devastated the city in a huge firestorm, have often been considered misguided.

Meantime, the Western Allies raced the Russians to be the first into Berlin. The Russians won, reaching the capital on 21 April. Hitler killed himself on the 30th, two days after Mussolini had been captured and hanged by Italian partisans. Germany surrendered unconditionally on 7 May, and the following day was celebrated as VE (Victory in Europe) day. The war in Europe was over.

In the Pacific, however, it had continued to rage throughout this time. The British advanced further in Burma, and in February the Americans had invaded Iwo Jima. The Philippines and Okinawa followed and Japanese forces began to withdraw from China.

Plans were being prepared for an Allied invasion of Japan, but fears of fierce resistance and massive casualties prompted Harry Truman - the new American president following Roosevelt's death in April - to sanction the use of an atomic bomb against Japan.

Such bombs had been in development since 1942, and on 6 August one of them was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later another was dropped on Nagasaki. No country could withstand such attacks, and the Japanese surrendered on 14 August.

The biggest conflict in history had lasted almost six years. Some 100 million people had been militarised, and 50 million had been killed. Of those who had died, 15 million were soldiers, 20 million were Russian civilians, six million were Jews and over four million were Poles.

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