The Threat of Nuclear Warfare During Cold War
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During the post World War II time, fears and tensions were generally high as the Soviet Union attempted to expand their power through the post war crippled Europe. The stronger alliance between Britain and America, and the creation of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) all formed to limit the spread of communism. The Soviets wanted to control Eastern Europe and expand their influences. The Soviet Union wanted the countries around them to protect them from future invasions. Additionally, the advancement of new weapons like the hydrogen bomb changed the way war was fought. Total annihilation was now so easily possible, war became more about containment rather than destruction. After World war II, the Eisenhower administration attempted to address the Cold War fears of the American people, such as the threat of nuclear warfare and the spread of communism to America and around the world, by increasing government spending on education and defense resulting in limited success.
The great advancements to technology during this time period enhanced nuclear weaponry and how it affected war. However, it opened up new problems as now one country had the power to totally annihilate a very large population with little or no warning. “Warning systems will be able to give next to no time for alert before the blow falls” (Doc E). This shows just how little time people would have before a catastrophic event happened. Before the “Missile age” their was “warning systems can alert defences, to blunt any attack” (Doc E). During this time the world didn’t have the proper defenses if one of these missiles were to be launched. The American people were genuinely scared that the Soviet Union or one of its allies could launch a attack on American cities at any moment with no defenses. The American people did what they could to be prepared for the little warning time they would be given if a nuclear strike occurred. Nuclear bunkers were built beneath peoples homes that contained beds, canned food, water, and a radio as pictured in (Doc C). People wanted to be prepared to live through a nuclear strike that they believed was unavoidable. The picture that was published in Life magazine whose general audience was urban and suburban, white, and middle class. The picture shows that in order to keep your family protected in 1950’s society you need a nuclear bunker. This then pressured the audience to get a bunker to fit in with society and to protect their kids. The fear of nuclear warfare was a very common one during this time period.
The American people also feared the spread of communism in America and around the World.The United States and their allies were trying to stop the spread of communism. For example, the Korean War was fought to stop the invasion of the communist North Korea. In the United States the everyday person feared being accused of being a communist and their life ruined. President Eisenhower said “There is too much hysteria. You know, the world is suffering from a multiplicity of fears. We fear the Kremlin, we fear what they will do to our friends around them; we are fearing what unwise investigations will do to us here at home as they try to combat subversion or bribery or deceit within” (Doc A). To truly understand the meaning of this quote, you need to understand the point of view of the author. It is the President of the United States claiming that his people are too scared of communism and they world is waiting to see what they do next. This is very important because he is addressing the common view of the American people and their general fear of communism at this time. As President Eisenhower said there is “ too much hysteria” when it comes to communism in America. For example, the fear of Mccarthyism is the ability of one man to wildly and randomly accuse fellow Americans of being communist and his accusations are taken seriously. To be factual, there were communist spies found in the government, but nowhere near the extent that Mccarthy claimed. On the global front, the U.S. government was trying to stop the spread of communism. Secretary of State, John Dulles says “If world communism captures any American state, however small, a new and perilous front is established which will increase the danger to the entire free world and require even greater sacrifices from the American people” (Doc B). The capture of an American allied state or land, will result in dangerous situation for the world and the American people. The American people were scared that any conflict could result in America’s involvement and using the nuclear bomb as a alternative. A simple conflict could end in total annihilation. The reality of this obviously scared the American people and created fear and hysteria of the communist party.
Moreover, the Eisenhower administration tried to calm these fears that were created during the Cold War time period. They attempted to calm the fears through the increase of education and general government spending, but this was not entirely successful. Though the government was increasing its’ spending, they were spending their money on the defense and missile programs. The car barn pictured is broken by the size of the missile program which pushes the other cars (government programs) that get pushed off of a cliff (Doc F). This political cartoons’ purpose is to illustrate and show what the governments increased spending on the missile program instead of using the funds to help calm the people’s fear not raise them by putting the country closer to total annihilation. They should be spending it on other programs like space development and civil services. It does not calm the fears of the people by building bigger and bigger bombs that have the potential to kill more and more people. The Eisenhower administration did give funding to the education system to help encourage the youth into the math and engineering fields. “ If we are to maintain a position of leadership, we must see to it that today’s young people are prepared to contribute the maximum to our future progress” (Doc G). This is good for the American people to better educate their children and keep the position of leadership. The reasoning behind the statement that was given by the President was because he felt, “ the national security interest in the quality and scope of our education system” (Doc G)was the answer. This shows that President Eisenhower smart in his decision to increase the education system for the country. Although this was a good thing the change to the education system, it was not the only government service that needed more money, this then shows how the Eisenhower administration did help the american people but failed to address the Cold War fears of the people.
Overall, the Eisenhower administration attempted but did not succeed at addressing the Cold War fears of the American people. The same fear and hysteria that ruined careers and had the potential to create an all out nuclear war at any moment was a driving force behind these fears. The threat of nuclear warfare and the general fear of communism was a great problem in society and the increasing of government spending help only a minute amount to calm these grave fears of the American people.