The AP instructional strategies discussed below for Chapter 29 of American
History: A Survey focus especially, but not exclusively, on the following themes developed by the AP U.S. History Development Committee: American Identity, Culture, Demographic Changes, Economic Transformations, Globalization, Politics and Citizenship, and War and Diplomacy. This chapter, as well as the primary documents selected below, follow the content guidelines suggested for the twenty-ninth unit in the AP Topic Outline Truman and the Cold War.
Top-Ten Analytical Journal.
Defining the chapter terms in their journals will help students better understand:
The background of the United States’ relations with the Soviet Union before World War II.
The extent of collaboration between the United States and the Soviet Union during World War II and the differences of view that developed between the two nations concerning the nature of the postwar world.
The meaning of the doctrine of containment and the specific programs that implemented containment.
The problems of postwar readjustment in the United States, especially controlling inflation.
The nature of the Fair Deal -- its successes and failures.
The significance of China's becoming communist to American foreign policy in Asia.
The circumstances that led to United States’ participation in a "limited" war in Korea.
The reaction of American public opinion to President Harry Truman's handling of the "police action" in Korea, including his firing of General Douglas MacArthur.
The nature and extent of American fears of internal communist subversion during the early Cold War years.
Each of the terms below contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the Cold War era. As your students define these terms, encourage them to demonstrate why each person, event, concept, or issue is important to a thorough understanding of this chapter.
Getting students started on their journals. Remind students that they must analyze and synthesize their understanding of these terms in two ways:
by creating “Top-Ten” lists of their own within their journals at the end of each chapter; and
by justifying in their journal why their terms are essential to an understanding of “The Cold War.”
Journal entry example. Following is an example of how students might describe “containment” and its importance to and overall understanding of “The Cold War.”
Containment. Containment became the central component of what became known as the Truman Doctrine. His foreign policy goal a goal that American leaders sought for the next forty years became to contain Russian expansion in the post-war world. To accomplish the containment goal, Truman announced it would also be U.S. policy to support people around the world who were resisting the forces of communism. The policy was amended in 1950 in National Security Council Report 68. Thereafter, the U.S. announced it must assume firm and active leadership of the noncommunist world in order to stop the march of communism. To support this new role, the defense budget increased nearly four times over previous budgets.
In the years following World War II, many Americans supported the goals and actions of Senator Joseph McCarthy. How and why do you think McCarthyism appealed to Americans during this era? (Adapted from the 1997 A.P. United States History free-response question.)
Some things to look for in the student response.
Possible thesis statement: Directly after World War II, a series of events occurred both within and outside the United States that helped create an atmosphere of fear throughout the nation. Americans were not only afraid that communist enemies outside the nation were plotting to take over the world, but that communists operating within the U.S. government, living in our communities, leading our labor unions, and teaching in our schools were plotting to take over the nation. Consequently, when Senator Joseph McCarthy changed the course of HUAC investigations to get rid of communist influences in American society, most citizens applauded the effort.
The external enemy. Americans felt increasingly endangered as they watched the Soviet Union take over Czechoslovakia, divide Germany and Berlin, and march into other parts of Eastern Europe. Their fear increased when the Russians detonated a nuclear weapon in 1949, and when the U.S. spent four years fighting in Korea and witnessed the deaths and maiming of over 140,000 Americans without resolving the border skirmish. China and Russia emerged from the conflict stronger than ever in the American mind.
The internal enemy. HUAC began to investigate communist subversion in 1947, beginning with a group of Hollywood actors, producers, and screenwriters, and continuing with federal government employees like Alger Hiss. Around the same time, the Truman administration began a program to test the loyalty of federal employees, which by 1951 had resulted in the resignation under pressure of over 2,000 government employees and the dismissal of 212. The FBI began a campaign to harass and arrest alleged radicals. Congress passed the McCarran Internal Security Act in 1950 that required all communist organizations to register with the government and publish their records. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were found guilty of passing atomic energy secrets to the Soviet Union. All of these things created a type of anti-communist hysteria throughout much of the U.S.
If there were both external and internal enemies threatening to subvert American democracy and replace it with communism, then many Americans believed that a man like Joseph McCarthy who pledged to rid the nation of its enemies was a hero. McCarthy played on these fears and presented himself as a man of humble origins who was fighting the forces of communism, the liberal “eastern establishment,” and traitorous Democrats employed by the federal government.
Possible conclusion: McCarthyism captured the support of the American people because they were afraid of the external and internal enemies that appeared to threaten their government and their lives. In a time when many Americans were almost hysterical about this threat and when the federal government and Truman administration appeared to be “soft” on communism, McCarthy was a hero.
2. Analyze the successes and failures of President Harry Truman’s foreign policy from 1945 to 1953. (Adapted from the 1984 A.P. United States History free-response question.)
Some things to look for in the student response.
Possible thesis statement: Harry Truman was unexpectedly propelled into the presidency after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. His responsibilities were almost overwhelming to end the war and shape the peace, to deal with the communist threats in the post-war world, and to help Americans at home cope with the changes brought about by war. Thus, it was no surprise that his foreign policy efforts met with some successes and some failures.
Potsdam. During Truman’s first meeting with Soviet leaders, he adopted a “Get Tough” policy, in which he chastised the Soviets for violating the accords at Yalta and insisted that the U.S. should get “85 percent” of what it wanted in terms of agreements. Despite the tough talk, Truman was forced to concede quite a bit to Stalin, especially in terms the Polish-German border.
Support of Nationalist Chinese. Truman choose to support the nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek rather than try to reach some accommodation with Mao Zedong’s communist forces that had been battling Chiang for control over China since 1927. Truman supported Chiang with weapons and money during what became a full-scale civil war in which Mao won. When the nationalists eventually lost, Truman decided to help revive Japan so it could become a strong western force in Asia.
Containment. Truman’s 1947 announcement that the U.S. would thereafter seek to contain communist aggression and to support those seeking to resist such aggression became the foundation of U.S. foreign policy for over 40 years. In this respect, it was certainly successful the policy lasted through seven presidential administrations. But it failed to contain communist aggression in many parts of the world first in Czechoslovakia, then in East Germany. The policy was amended in 1950 with an NSC68 report that called for the expansion of military power and the defense budget to support a greater U.S. role in stopping communist expansion virtually anywhere it occurred. This stepped-up role led the U.S. into the Korean War.
Marshall Plan. Truman’s plan to provide economic assistance to all European nations that would join together to plan a recovery program was extremely successful in the 16 Western European nations that elected to participate. By the end of 1950, European industrial production was at 64 percent and opportunities for American trade had increased, while the strength of communist nations declined.
Korean War. Korea was Truman’s first expression of the expanded containment foreign policy expressed in NSC68. However, upon U.S. entrance, Truman declared America would not just contain North Korea, but would also liberate the North Koreans. The U.S. achieved the former, but failed to achieve the latter goal. Furthermore, the war ended in a stalemate with no permanent peace.
Possible conclusion: Truman’s greatest foreign policy successes were the enunciation of containment a policy that guided the U.S. for over 40 years; the creation and support of the Marshall Plan that brought economic recovery and stabilization to Europe and guaranteed continued markets for American goods; and the prevention of a “hot” war with the Soviet Union and China. However, containment did not stop the march of communism into Eastern Europe and mainland China. Furthermore, while the U.S. did not directly engage the Soviets and Chinese in war, it indirectly fought them in the unpopular Korean War.
3. Dr. Brinkley states, “Few issues in twentieth-century American history have aroused more debate than the question of the origins of the Cold War.” (p. 768) Explain this debate. With which historical interpretation do you most agree and why?
Some things to look for in the student response.
Possible thesis statement: In the early years following the Cold War era, historians largely argued that leaders from the USSR were primarily responsible for the Cold War. Later revisionist scholars, however, argued that the U.S. was most responsible for Cold War tensions. By the early 1970s, many scholars supported a dual responsibility approach. This debate has continued into the 21st century.
Soviet responsibility. The early and traditional interpretation of Cold War origins was that Soviet expansion and Stalin’s duplicity created Cold War tensions. This viewpoint was formally explained in 1950, when Thomas Bailey argued that Stalin’s government violated its promises at Yalta, forced Soviet-controlled governments on Eastern European nations, and sought to spread communism throughout the world. America’s aggressive foreign policy was both a logical and necessary response.
U.S. responsibility. Revisionist interpretations argued that American imperial ambitions and political provocations created Cold War tensions. In 1959, William Appleman Williams argued that the responsibility for the Cold War fell to the Americans who were fighting to maintain a global commitment to an “open door” for American trade and capitalist expansion. He further argued, as did subsequent historians, that the USSR had no aggressive designs toward the West, was too weak at the end of WWII to pose any real threat, and that it had responded legitimately to the fear of American capitalist encirclement. Harry Truman, in turn, used his nuclear monopoly to intimidate Stalin and thus took a provocative, hard line stance against the Russians. In 1967, Walter LaFeber took this revisionist approach one step further by arguing that the post-WWII American vision of national self-determination was simply a façade for the real goal ensuring a world shaped in the American, capitalistic image.
Dual responsibility. In 1973, Thomas Patterson argued that both American efforts to dominate the post-war world and Soviet hostility toward those efforts brought about the Cold War. In the several scholarly works of John Lewis Gaddis, the argument is made that neither side could claim sole responsibility for Cold War hostilities. Americans were limited by domestic pressures in terms of how they could handle the Soviet Union. Stalin was obsessed with maintaining power and securing absolute security for his nation. Melvyn Leffler added in 1991 that American policymakers were genuinely worried about a Soviet threat and responded by trying to remain stronger than their enemies. Ernest May believed that both the U.S. and USSR were “doomed” to a hostile relationship after WWII. Their past histories, belief systems, and traditions were so different that antagonism and conflict was inevitable.
Possible conclusion: While contemporary scholars still debate the origins of the Cold War, most now agree that both the USSR and the US contributed to the suspicion and hostility that characterized the Cold War era after World War II and made a permanent peace impossible. (The remainder of this answer will vary from student to student.)
Historians, Historical Detection, and Primary Documents. The following primary documents and suggested assignments will give your students a more thorough, first-hand knowledge of the Cold War era.
Provide your students with some background about the great actor, singer, and political activist, Paul Robeson. Be sure to explain that 1949, Robeson publicly stated that African Americans would not fight in “an imperialist war.” Subsequently, in 1950, the U.S. State Department revoked his passport. Several years later, Robeson refused to sign an affidavit stating that he was not a communist. In his 1956 testimony to HUAC, Robeson refused to answer questions concerning his political activities and lectured the committee members about African-American history and civil rights. Then, have students read excerpts from the hearing. (Available at http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6440/.) After a discussion about this speech, tell your students that in 1958, the Supreme Court held that Robeson’s passport must be returned upon ruling that a citizen’s right to travel could not be taken away without due process. Ask if they agree or disagree with the decision and why.
Have your students learn more about the Truman Doctrine by accessing the Online Learning Center for Chapter 29. Once at the site, refer them to the “Primary Sources” section. Have them click on the “Truman Doctrine” excerpt from the President’s March 1947 speech. Then ask them to respond to the following questions: What were the implications of a president who unilaterally issued what was, in essence, a treaty-like commitment? Was the speech based on a false dichotomy between communist and "free" peoples? What in the speech foreshadows the economic containment approach of the Marshall Plan? Does American foreign policy continue to be based on the assumptions of containment and the Truman Doctrine?
Have your students read excerpts from Joseph McCarthy’s “red baiting” speech by accessing the Online Learning Center for Chapter 29. Once at the site, refer them to the “Primary Sources” section. Have them click on the “Joseph McCarthy” excerpt delivered in Wheeling, West Virginia on February 9, 1950. Then, ask them to respond to the following questions: How did McCarthy, a Roman Catholic, incorporate religion into his appeal? What sentiments does he express about those who are better educated than he? What specific individual(s) might he have been alluding to? How would such charges help McCarthy's own political career and the general fortunes of the Republicans?
Read Senate Resolution 301, December 2, 1954 (Primary Source Investigator document) in which the U.S. Senate censured Senator McCarthy and finally ended his reign of terror. Then ask them to respond to the following questions: For what actions did the Senate censor McCarthy? Do you think this formal statement was appropriate when compared with the damage McCarthy inflicted? Why or why not? Why do you think it took the Senate four years to silence McCarthy? Do you think the same thing could happen today? Why or why not?
Have your students read the July 26, 1948 Executive Order 9981 that desegregated the nation’s armed forces. (Primary Source Investigator document ) Then ask them to respond to the following questions: Specifically, what did the order require? Why was Truman’s decision to sign the order so controversial? Do you agree or disagree with some historians who believe this was one of the first major steps of the Civil Rights Movement? How and why?
Creative Extensions. 1. Before reading Chapter 29, ask students to take 510 minutes to respond to the following journal prompt: “What is a ‘cold war’? How does it differ from a conventional war? Is the war on terrorism a cold or a hot war?” When done, have students share their answers.
After reading Chapter 29, spend a week reading Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. Be sure to take time in class to read aloud those parts of the play that lend themselves to dramatic dialog. While students are reading the play, have them keep a journal in which they discuss the parallels between the Salem witchcraft trials and the HUAC trials under Senator McCarthy in the early 1950s. On the day the journals are due, read excerpts from “Why I Wrote The Crucible” an article Miller wrote for The New Yorker in 1996 writing the screenplay for The Crucible. (Available at http://www.newyorker.com/archive/content/?020422fr_archive02.) Begin a discussion about the effectiveness of The Crucible in the 21st Century as a mechanism for learning about mistakes of the past and for preventing a future outbreak of witch hunting in America.
3. Stage a classroom debate on any one of the following:
Resolved: The United States was responsible for the Cold War.
Resolved: The Korean War was worth fighting.
Resolved: Harry Truman was one of the best presidents of the 20th Century.
Resolved: Labor was to blame for its own demise.
Resolved: Harry Truman was less effective in his domestic and foreign policy than Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Resolved: Truman made a good choice by relieving General MacArthur of his military command.
4. Give students a homework assignment in which they learn more about “The Hollywood Ten” and then address the following questions in a brief essay: Who were they? What were their goals? What did they accomplish? Do you agree with HUAC that they were involved in “subversive activity?” Why or why not? For extra credit, have students watch a movie fo which one of the Hollywood Ten wrote the screenplay. Then, ask them if they saw any actual or symbolic evidence of subversion as HUAC would have defined it.
5. Have students listen to Richard M. Nixon’s famous 1952 “Checkers Speech” available in the Primary Source Investigator. What are his problems with the Truman administration? What is his “truth?” If you were one of the 55 million people who heard this speech, would you have been convinced of his innocence? What were the three things that made this speech convincing or not to you? Who was Checkers and how does Nixon use him to make his case for innocence? How do the accusations against Richard Nixon compare and contrast with early 21st Century accusations against Senators and Congress people? Why do you think corruption in public office has been such a constant in American history?
6. Ask students to write a persuasive speech in which they accuse a public official in the 1950s of being “soft” on communism. Have students read the best ones aloud to the class. Then, begin a discussion on the following: How are these speeches similar and dissimilar? How effective do you think these speeches would have been in the 1950s? How did the fear of being “soft” on communism shape politics at the federal level in the 1950s? Do they see any 21st Century parallels with public officials feeling fearful that they would appear to be “soft” on terrorism?
7. Prepare and present an in-depth discussion entitled “Korea The Forgotten War.” Be sure that you not only include a detailed history about the causes and consequences of the war, but also a discussion about the 21st century relationships between North and South Korea and between the two Koreas and the United States. Then, begin a discussion in which you ask the following: Why is Korea often called “the forgotten war?” What did the United States achieve after several years of fighting in Korea? What was the price? How did the Korean War shape our 21st century foreign policy with both North and South Korea? Then, have students write an exit journal as follows: If you could meet with presidential advisors, what would you tell them about how to carry out future relations with the two Koreas?
8. Show students “Duck and Cover,” the U.S. Federal Civil Defense Administration’s educational film designed to prepare Americans for an atomic attack, available on the Primary Source Investigator. Then, ask them the following questions: Do you think the producers of the film believed that the "duck and cover" response would save lives? Why or why not? If not, what do you believe was their motivation for promoting “duck and cover?” Do you think the "duck and cover" film helped to alleviate the anxiety of Americans in regard to their Cold War fears, or do you think the campaign aggravated the fear and paranoia of the era? For homework, have the students design a cartoon character and slogan that might help Americans in the early 21st century deal with their fears related to the war on terrorism.
9. Divide students into nine groups, five of which will examine the origins, activities, and the short- and long-term successes and failures of the following national and international agencies created in the Cold War era: Economic Cooperation Administration; National Security Council; Central Intelligence Agency; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and House Un-American Activities Committee. The other four will examine the origins, activities, and short- and long-term successes and failures of the following federal acts passed during the Truman administration: the Marshall Plan; Taft-Hartley Act; National Housing Act; and the McCarran Internal Security Act. After each group gives a brief presentation that addresses the above issues, begin a class discussion on the following questions: What common post-World War II and Cold War concerns are apparent in the origins of each of these agencies? Which of these organizations continued to operate after the Cold War? To what do you attribute their long-term existence? How are their contemporary goals and activities the same as and different from their goals and activities during the Cold War?
Invite students to watch any of the following movies at home either with their family or with a group of friends from class: Dr. Strangelove; Failsafe; Invasion of the Body Snatchers; and Atomic Café.
What does this production tell you about the Cold War?
Do you think this film was a realistic portrayal of a historical event? Why or why not? Be specific.
In your opinion, is this movie of any real use to understanding this period in American history? Be specific about how and why or why not.