Va sol standard 12 What were the political, economic, and social consequences of World War ii?

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VA SOL Standard 12
What were the political, economic, and social consequences of World War II?
Postwar outcomes

  1. The end of World War II found Soviet forces occupying most of Eastern and Central Europe and the eastern portion of Germany.

  2. Germany was partitioned into East and West Germany. West Germany became democratic and resumed self-government after a few years of American, British and French occupation. East Germany remained under the domination of the Soviet Union and did not adopt democratic institutions.

  3. Following its defeat, Japan was occupied by American forces. It soon adopted a democratic form of government, resumed self-government, and became a strong ally of the United States.

  4. Europe lay in ruins, and the United States launched the Marshall Plan which provided massive financial aid to rebuild European economies and prevent the spread of communism.

  5. The United Nations was formed near the end of World War II to create a body for the nations of the world to try to prevent future global wars.

How did the U.S. respond to the threat of communist expansion?

What are the origins of the Cold War?
Origins of the Cold War

  • The Cold War lasted from the end of World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

  • The United States and the Soviet Union represented starkly different fundamental values. The United States represented democratic political institutions and a generally free market economic system. The Soviet Union was a totalitarian government with a communist (socialist) economic system.

  • The Truman Doctrine of “containment of communism” was a guiding principle of American foreign policy throughout the Cold War, not to roll it back but to keep it from spreading and to resist communist aggression into other countries.

What events characterize the early events of the Cold War?

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed as a defensive alliance among the United States and western European countries to prevent a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. Soviet allies in eastern Europe formed the Warsaw Pact and for nearly 50 years both sides maintained large military forces facing each other in Europe.

  • The communist takeover in China shortly after World War II increased American fears of communist domination of most of the world. Rather than strong allies, however, the communist nations of China and the Soviet Union eventually became rivals for territory and diplomatic influence, a split which American foreign policy under President Nixon in the 1970s exploited.

  • After the Soviet Union matched the United States in nuclear weaponry in the 1950s, the threat of a nuclear war that would destroy both countries was ever-present throughout the Cold War. America, under President Eisenhower, adopted a policy of “massive retaliation” to deter any nuclear strike by the Soviets.

The Korean War

  • American involvement in the Korean War in the early 1950s reflected the American policy of containment of communism.

  • After communist North Korea invaded South Korea, American military forces led a counterattack that drove deep into North Korea itself. Communist Chinese forces came into the war on the side of North Korea and the war threatened to widen, but eventually ended in a stalemate with South Korea free of communist occupation.


  • Cuba was also a site of Cold War confrontations.

  • Fidel Castro led a communist revolution that took over Cuba in the late 1950s. Many Cubans fled to Florida and later attempted to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro. This “Bay of Pigs” invasion failed.

  • In 1962, the Soviet Union stationed missiles in Cuba, instigating the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy ordered the Soviets to remove their missiles and for several days the world was on the brink of nuclear war. Eventually, the Soviet leadership “blinked” and removed their missiles

What was the impact of the Cold War on Americans at home?

Impact of the Cold War at home

  • The fear of communism and the threat of nuclear war affected American life throughout the Cold War.

  • During the 1950s and 1960s, American schools regularly held drills to train children what to do in case of a nuclear attack, and American citizens were urged by the government to build bomb shelters in their own basements.

  • The convictions of Alger Hiss, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for spying for the Soviet Union, and the construction of nuclear weapons by the Soviets using technical secrets obtained through spying, increased domestic fears of communism.

  • Senator Joseph McCarthy played on American fears of communism by recklessly accusing many American governmental officials and citizens of being communists based on flimsy or no evidence. This led to the coining of the term McCarthyism, or the making of false accusations based on rumor or guilt by association.

  • The Cold War made foreign policy a major issue in every presidential election during the period.

  • The heavy military expenditures throughout the Cold War benefited Virginia’s economy proportionately more than any other state, especially in Hampton Roads, home to several large naval and air bases, and Northern Virginia, home to the Pentagon and numerous private companies that contract with the military.

What was the impact of the Vietnam War on Americans at home?
The Vietnam War

  • American involvement in Vietnam also reflected the Cold War policy of containment of communism.

  • Beginning in the 1950s and continuing into the early 1960s, the communist government of North Vietnam attempted to install through force a communist government in South Vietnam. The United States helped South Vietnam resist.

  • The American military buildup in Vietnam began under President John Kennedy. After Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, the buildup was intensified under President Lyndon Johnson.

  • The scale of combat in Vietnam grew larger over the course of the 1960s. American military forces repeatedly defeated the North Vietnamese forces in the field, but could not force an end to the war on favorable terms by fighting a limited war.

  • The country became bitterly divided. While there was support for the American military and conduct of the war among many Americans, others opposed the war and active opposition to the war mounted, especially on college campuses.

  • After Johnson declined to seek re-election, President Nixon was elected on a pledge to bring the war to an honorable end. He instituted a policy of “Vietnamization,” withdrawing American troops and replacing them with South Vietnamese forces while maintaining military aid to the South Vietnamese.

  • Ultimately “Vietnamization” failed when South Vietnamese troops proved unable to resist invasion by the Soviet-supplied North Vietnamese Army, and President Nixon was forced from office by the Watergate scandal. In 1975, both North and South Vietnam were merged under communist control.

How did America’s military forces defend freedom during the Cold War?

American military forces during the Cold War

  • In President John Kennedy’s inaugural address, he pledged that the United States would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” In the same address, he also said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

  • During the Cold War era, millions of Americans served in the military, defending freedom in wars and conflicts that were not always popular. Many were killed or wounded. As a result of their service, the United States and American ideals of democracy and freedom ultimately prevailed in the Cold War struggle with Soviet communism.

  • President Kennedy, a World War II veteran, was assassinated in 1963 in Dallas, Texas, in an event that shook the nation’s confidence and began a period of internal strife and divisiveness, especially spurred by divisions over U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

  • Unlike veterans of World War II, who returned to a grateful and supportive nation, Vietnam veterans returned often to face indifference or outright hostility from some who opposed the war.

  • It was not until several years after the end of the war that the wounds of the war began to heal in America, and Vietnam veterans were recognized and honored for their service and sacrifices.

How did internal problems affect the collapse of the Soviet Union?
Internal problems of the Soviet Union

  • Increasing Soviet military expenses to compete with the United States

  • Rising nationalism in Soviet republics

  • Fast-paced reforms (market economy)

  • Economic inefficiency

  • Gorbachev “glasnost” and “perestroika” (openness and economic restructuring)

What was President Ronald Reagan’s role in the collapse of the Soviet Union?
Role of President Reagan

  • Challenged moral legitimacy of the Soviet Union; for example, speech at Berlin Wall (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”)

  • Increased U.S. military and economic pressure on the Soviet Union

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