This visual is the cover page of The Huntsville Times, in Huntsville, Alabama, in April 12 1961. The impactful title of the newspaper is “Man Enters Space”. The day before, the Soviets had launched the first man, Yuri Gagarin, on orbit around the Earth. His flight had lasted for 108 minutes and he successfully landed on Earth. This was a very tragic blow to the US, as they had also prepared to send Alan Shepherd to space, but the launch was delayed several months, meaning that the Soviets could get the achievement. This visual is very relevant to the era, as the two superpowers of the world competed in technology and who could be the first to send a man in space. This era was also called the Space Race and eventually, the US claimed a landmark progress as the first to send a man to the Moon in 1969.
The Iron Curtain was an ideological border in Europe between the communist countries and the democratic nations. It was first used by Winston Churchill, who used the term to describe the political situation of Europe in 1946. During the Cold War, the two ideologies ruled across the world – democracy, represented by the US, and communism, the superpower being USSR. This term was used, that it would be easier to control satellite states and prevent the spread of democracy. The Curtain lied in Central and East Europe, separating Germany to 2 parts: the pro-Moscow East-Germany and democratic West-Germany. The border lasted until the end of the Soviet Union at the end of the 20th century.
Truman doctrine, policy of containment, arms race
After the Second World War, European countries Greece and Turkey were financed by the UK. However, in 1947, the government informed USA that it could not support the nations anymore. President Harry S. Truman was certain, that the countries are susceptible to communism and he wanted to prevent such instance. He then declared, that the United States must provide aid, both financial and military, to protect countries from communist influence. Eventually, he proposed to give 400 million dollars to both Greece and Turkey to help these countries in the fight against communism. The proclamation is considered to be the declaration of the Cold War and President Truman convinced the general public, that the Soviet Union had influenced the international affairs between Greece and Turkey with the US. Surprisingly, it was later discovered that Turkey and Greece were influenced by Yugoslavia.
The policy of containment was the foreign policy of the US in the 1940s and 50s. It was proposed by President Truman. A diplomat George Kennan proposed a “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies” until the union collapses. As the two superpowers established allies, both countries knew the importance of a large and dominant military force. USA and USSR began the arms race. The newest superweapon at that time was the atomic bomb, which the US had already used in WWII. At its peak, the US had over 30,000 atomic bombs at its disposal in the 60s, but the Soviet Union is believed to have about 40,000 nuclear warheads for using in the 80s.
After the Second World War, the public was scared of the Soviets. The government began investigating, whether Communist spies live in the US. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was founded to inquire on the problem and detect pro-communists in the country. Joseph McCarthy was a Senator of Wisconsin and he attracted attention, when in a speech in 1950 he claimed to own the list of some 200 communists working in the State Department. However, an investigation concluded that no pro-communist activity was detected. But McCarthy was determined to find anti-Americans in the union. He began interviewing members of labour unions and teachers-lecturers in universities. During his interviews with suspects, he violated the basic rights of the interviewees. It is estimated that over 50,000 people lost their jobs in the State Department during the investigation conducted by McCarthy. He also accused the Army of spies infiltrating the armed forces. Eventually, the Congress imposed a censure on McCarthy in 1954. His legacy of fear politics continued through to the 70s and this era is considered to be one of the most embarrassing moments in American politics.
The Korean War was the first military action in the Cold War and it started in 1950, when Soviet-backed North Korean troops marched over the border between the Koreas, also known as the 38th parallel. The USA declared war against North Korea, fearing that communism will spread around if South Korea had been conquered, because the local government was a puppet government. The communists had an advantage at first over the US troops, as they were more trained and determined. As the skirmish progressed, the war came to a standstill and many casualties were as a result. The Allies changed their war strategy to liberating the North from communism and an invasion near Seoul pushed the communists back to the 38th parallel. The democratic states moved forward, but China began to deploy troops to its border with North Korea, warning the US to not come closer. The war ended in 1953, where a ‘demilitarised zone’ (DMZ) was created between the Koreas, but nearly 5 million people died in the conflict between ideologies. The war saw the first action for UN soldiers.
Role of J. F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 to 1963. Being the youngest president to ever be elected, he ordered anti-communist Cubans to spark a revolution against Fidel Castro, known as the Bay of Pigs. He met with Khrushchev in June to discuss the situation of Germany and to build a wall, separating Berlin. He went to West Berlin to deliver one of his most famous speeches, supporting the locals. In 1962 he once again met the Soviet leader during the Cuban missile crisis. After he resolved the conflict, he got the US, USSR and the UK to sign a nuclear test ban treaty. His main view of foreign politics was to stop the growth of communism, which escalated in Vietnam. Many Americans thought of him as a very popular president. He promoted the civil rights movement and physical fitness, and he was opposed to the tension between the leader countries. He was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.
Bay of Pigs and the Cuban crisis
In 1959, a communist Fidel Castro rose to power in Cuba. The CIA tried to infiltrate and weaken the regime, but to no avail. Eventually, the US sent over 1,000 trained Cuban exiles to Cuba to start a revolution against Castro. However, the invasion was a total fiasco: many things went wrong, most of the exiles were killed by numerous Cuban soldiers and fighting cessated in 24 hours. Kennedy wanted to have good relations with Cuba, he believed, that it was the key to winning the Cold War. But tensions grew even further in the Cuban missile crisis. Cuba had received economical aid from the Soviet Union and the Soviets eventually placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, as a response to US missiles in Italy and Turkey. This escalated to a 13-day period, when America could have been obliterated by nuclear missiles and World War III would have started. The US imposed a naval embargo on Cuba and in October 26, 1963, the Soviet leader sent a letter to Kennedy, offering to dismantle rockets on Cuba, if the US will not invade Cuba. This letter ended the tense 13-day period, where nuclear rockets were only 90 miles away from the US.
During the Cold War, both superpowers (USA and USSR) wanted to assert dominance in militaristic and technological capabilities. Another competing theater was in space exploration and the Soviets got a hefty head start, when on October 4, 1957, the first man-made object Sputnik was sent to space on an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), modifies to hold the satellite. The US wanted to catch up with the communists, as satellites could survey the US mainland. President Kennedy addressed the nation in 1961, that the US will go to the Moon in that decade. The US sent up their first satellite Explorer I on January 31, 1958. It was designed by a captured German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. The Soviets were working with Korolev, a renowned rocket scientist, who was the father of Soviet rocketry. When he passed away, the US had the upper hand and conquered the Moon in 1969. These achievements were mostly as propaganda, to show the technological capabilities of the countries.
|First man-made object in space||Explorer I (1958)||Sputnik I (1957)|
|First animal in orbit||Enos (1961)||Laika (1957)|
|First man in space||Shepard (1961)||Gagarin (1961)|
|First full orbit around Earth||Glenn (1962)||Gagarin (1961)|
|First woman in space||Ride (1983)||Tereshkova (1963)|
|First space walk||White (1965)||Leonov (1965)|
|First space station||Skylab (1973)||Salyut (1971)|
|First man on Moon||Armstrong (1969)||–|
Vietnam War (causes, outcome and consequences)
In the Cold War, Vietnam was divided to 2 parts, communist North Vietnam, supported by the USSR and China, and South Vietnam, supported by the US. President Johnson ordered many thousand troops to be sent to Vietnam in June 1965. However, amid an anti-war movement, many advisors had doubts against joining the war. In Vietnam, many soldiers did not trust the decision of the government and in 1967, nearly 500,000 troops deserted in the US from the army. Many protests against the war ensued, fueled by the actions of soldiers in Vietnam, such as the My Lai massacre, where over 400 innocent locals were killed by US troops. The US finally pulled out of the war in 1973, where over 57,000 American troops were killed. The war in Vietnam continued and in 1975, North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam. Even today, Agent Orange, which was used by the US as a nerve agent, has poisoned the local rice crops in Vietnam.
Richard Nixon and the Watergate Affair
Early in the morning of June 17, 1972, several burglars were arrested inside the office of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), located in the Watergate building in Washington, D.C. This was no ordinary robbery: The prowlers were connected to President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign,and they had been caught while attempting to wiretap phones and steal secret documents. While historians are not sure whether Nixon, a republican, knew about the Watergate espionage operation before it happened, he took steps to cover it up afterwards, raising “hush money” for the burglars, trying to stop the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from investigating the crime, destroying evidence and firing uncooperative staff members. In August 1974, after his role in the Watergate conspiracy had finally come to light, the President resigned. His successor, Gerald Ford, immediately pardoned Nixon for all the crimes he “committed or may have committed” while in office. Although Nixon was never prosecuted, the Watergate scandal changed American politics forever, leading many Americans to question their leadership and think more critically about the presidency.
The role of Henry Kissinger
Henry Alfred Kissinger was an American diplomat and politician, who served as the United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He became the National Security Advisor in 1969 and later the United States Secretary of State in 1973. For his actions negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam, Kissinger received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize under controversial circumstances, with two members of the committee resigning in protest. Kissinger later returned the prize after the ceasefire failed.
Counterculture, Summer of Love and Woodstock
The counterculture of the 1960s refers to an anti-establishment cultural phenomenon that developed first in the United Kingdom and the United States and then spread throughout much of the Western world between the early 1960s and the 1970s. The movement gained popularity as the African-American Civil Rights Movement continued to grow, and would later expand to the U.S. government’s extensive military intervention in Vietnam. It took the form of protests on the street against the government. Woodstock was a music and art festival in 1969, which attracted over 400 000 people from all over the world on a farmland. The period was commonly associated with the Hippie lifestyle, which supported pacifism and was overall relaxed.
The film “Full Metal Jacket” is a Stanley Kubrick-directed program depicting the conditions and lifestyle of Marines in a training camp and in war in Vietnam. Firstly the movie shows us the brutal workouts in a bootcamp, where the drill instructor tries to dehumanise the recruits to become killing machines. Private Joker, who graduated camp, is sent to Vietnam as a journalist to report on news. The film focuses mainly on ‘the duality of man’ and it is thought that the movie successfully conveyed its message.
The movie itself is based on the novel “The Short-Timers”, written by co-director Gustav Hasford, who actually was a correspondent in Vietnam. It is believed that he plays the role of Joker in the book. This made the movie even more authentic, even in training camp. The introduction showed the recruits with no emotions and as in a real Corps, the instructor tries to mold them into soldiers. A critic comments on the process: “He presents the gradual and deliberate assault on individuality and privacy that is basic training; the connections between sex and aggression; the combat soldier’s ultimate and even stirring realization that he has left his better nature far behind him.” (1) Many people agree with this opinion, that these Marines had to lose their sense of independence and individuality.
The second part of the film was depicting the Tet Offensive, where the North Vietnamese soldiers invaded many southern bases. The movie accurately depicted the situation of the war in Vietnam and the invasion of communist troops. The movie references an event during the offensive, where the US embassy was attacked and many American troops were killed. The main goal for journalists was to only boost morale in the troops, as a journalist depicts it: “As the film correctly shows, reporting from Vietnam had been tightly controlled.” (2) The movie also showed, how lies were fabricated, for example the kill count, in order to encourage the soldiers in Vietnam.
To conclude, the film was very accurate concerning the historical side. The conditions and mental abuse at training were as authentic as it could have been and the war was fairly precisely portrayed and how the news were broadcast to the mainland were censored. Many critics praised the film for its main message, being the duality of a person between ideals and values.
(1) The cover page of The Huntsville Times in April 12, 1961. Source: worldhistory.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/gagarin-and-shepard-man-enters-space.jpg
(2) The Iron Curtain, described by Winston Churchill. Source: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/47/The_Iron_Curtain_as_described_by_Churchill.png
(3)Graph showing the amount of nuclear warheads in the Cold War, owned by USA and USSR. Source: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/bb/US_and_USSR_nuclear_stockpiles.svg/1200px-US_and_USSR_nuclear_stockpiles.svg.png
(4) A portrait of Joseph McCarthy. Source: www.biography.com/.image/t_share/MTE5NDg0MDU1MDQ3NzM0Nzk5/joseph-mccarthy-9390801-1-402.jpg
(5) A portrait of John F. Kennedy. Source: snworksceo.imgix.net/upb/7c7afbda-ca81-492d-ac6a-296c0eefe795.sized-1000×1000.jpg?w=1000
(6) A photograph showing a Soviet missile outpost in Cuba. Source: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/57/Cuban_missiles.jpg
(7) A portrait of Richard Nixon. Source: www.biography.com/.image/t_share/MTE5NTU2MzE2MzMxMjc5ODgz/richard-nixon-9424076-1-402.jpg
(8) A portrait of Henry Kissinger. Source: www.americanacademy.de/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Kissinger.jpg
(1) Maslin, J. (1987) ‘Inside the ‘Jacket’: All Kubrick’, The New York Times, July 5. Available at: archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/library/film/070587kubrick-jacket.html [Accessed 3.06.2019]
(2) von Tunzelmann, A. (2010) ‘Full Metal Jacket: history unzipped’, The Guardian, June 24. Available at: www.theguardian.com/film/2010/jun/24/full-metal-jacket-stanley-kubrick [Accessed 3.06.2019]