Postwar Politics and the Origins of the Cold War

by Jeremi Suri

The late summer of 1945 marked the height of American power. The country that had suffered from dust bowls, economic depression, and a devastating attack on its Pacific naval fleet in the last decade-and-a-half emerged as the dominant global actor. American soldiers had decisively defeated the seemingly invincible German and Japanese militaries. Thanks to generous government investments and the immigration across the Atlantic of some of Europe’s best minds, American science and technology had advanced beyond all peers. The shocking atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki proved this point. Above all, the United States had developed the capability to produce more military and civilian goods (aircraft, cars, radios, and guns, among many other items) than the rest of the world combined. American farmers also benefited from mass production and distribution, selling enough food at war’s end to feed populations around the globe. For American citizens who saved and sacrificed in the 1930s and early 1940s, the next decade promised unprecedented security and abundance. Happy days, it seemed, were here again.More »

Featured Primary Sources

Press conference with Harry S. Truman, March 30, 1950 (Truman Library & Museum)

Harry S. Truman responds to McCarthy, 1950

Creator: Harry S. Truman Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Address of Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts at Executive Committee Meeti

John Kennedy compares US and Soviet military power, 1953

Creator: John F. Kennedy Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Manhattan District Scientists (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Physicists predict a nuclear arms race, 1945

Creator: Association of Manhattan District Scientists Curriculum Subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, World History Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
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Multimedia

The Origins of the Cold War

Speaker(s): John Lewis Gaddis

The US, the Middle East, and the Cold War

Speaker(s): Malcolm Byrne
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