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US History: Cold War Intrigue 1950 - 1960

Updated on November 25, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of success in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, and aerospace education for Active USAF Civil Air Patrol.

Cold War Alliances

(Photos public domain)
(Photos public domain)

The Nuclear Threat Veiled A Decade

The Cold War began as World War II ended and continued until the fall of the Berlin Wall in1989 and the collapse of the USSR, around 1990 - 1991. It particularly darkened the decade of the 1950s.

The Cold War involved spies and counterspies, new technology, and the constant threat of nuclear destruction. School children were taught to "duck and cover", to hide underneath their chairs and cover up their heads with their arms. Unfortunately, this would not prevent death or severe cellular damage from nuclear radiation.

Additional Cold War Alliances Southward

Bomb Shelters and Radiation

The 1950s and early 1960s were times of the backyard Bomb Shelter.

In downtown Columbus, Ohio, at least one building in every block was equipped with a heavily reinforced basement area that could shield people against a nuclear attack. These shelters were advertised with a large metal image of a nuclear radiation insignia.

The USA tested nuclear bombs below ground in the American West and on what they thought were uninhabited islands. This was not always the case. People that lived close to these areas suffered some affects of radiation. The USSR tested nuclear bombs as well.

In the 21st century, Russian nuclear submarines for 40 years previously lie, still submerged, in the bays of St. Petersburg, their nuclear reactors and radioactive materials decaying into the surrounding waters and entering the food and water supply of the people. The book and film K-19 tells the true story of this ongoing mishap.

Real Wars were fight by America during this time, but named as somethings else: The Korean Conflict or Police Action and the Vietnam Conflict (begun with the French interest and picked up by the US in the late 50s via US military advisers that helped American to decide to escalate into the conflict status.)

Cold War Timeline

Timeline: Early Cold War Years

Early Cold War Years Timeline


  • Korean Conflict: 1950 - 1953
  • Senator Joseph McCarthy began a Communist witch hunt, alluded to in Arthur Millers Play The Crucible about Salem, Massachusetts' witch hunts. A modern treatment of the situation is found in the powerful novel Fellow Travelers.
  • President Harry Truman authorized the construction and use of the Hydrogen Bomb.


  • Truman signed a peace treaty with Japan. Some soldiers on the islands of the South Pacific were late in being notified of the end of WWII.


  • Polio vaccine was created by Dr. Jonas Salk.
  • Korean Conflict ended.
  • General Dwight David Eisenhower elected President, Richard Nixon, VP.


  • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried and executed for espionage against the US and the Allies in WWII. Portions of the proceedings were televised and some people giving testimony did so from a bulletproof glass chamber in the courtroom.


  • Segregation was decided illegal in the USA by Brown v. Board of Education.


  • Rosa Parks refused to move away from the front seats of the bus and became a national figure. Many years later, the old bus was found rusting in a yard, was restored, and now sits at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan.
  • The Warsaw Pact of the Cold War was signed.
  • McDonald's was founded by Ray Kroc,changing the nature of dining and of hiring practices in the USA .
  • Disneyland opened in California amid huge crowds.
  • November: A group of 14 men on assignment to test a new U2 spy plane at Area 51 in Nevada crashed into the Las Vegas Mountains.


  • USSR Premier Nikita Khrushchev denounced Josef Stalin and Marxism.


  • Soviet Satellite Sputnik is the first vehicle into space in the Space Race.


  • NASA was founded, and its first missiles launched.
  • Boris Pasternak (Dr. Zhivago) refused the Nobel Prize.


  • Fidel Castro became the leader of Communist Cuba. After 50 years, his brother would replace him.
  • An international treaty was signed to make Antarctica a scientific outpost and natural preserve.
  • The "Kitchen Debate" occurred, VP Nixon vs. USSR's Nikita Khrushchev.


  • The first televised presidential debates were aired: VP Richard M. Nixon vs. Senator John F. Kennedy. This event forever changed the nature of Presidential campaigning in the USA.
  • November 1960: America elected its first Irish Catholic President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

JFK Speeches That Apply to 9/11 and 21st Century America

Cold War Plans of USSR

Soviet Plans In the Cold War

Partial Soviet Plans during the Cold War.
Partial Soviet Plans during the Cold War. | Source

2010 Report: Did the CIA Run a Soviet Agency?

Involvement of Eastern Europe and Asia

Spies and Espionage

Spy vs Spy

A Cuban political cartoonist, Prohias noted that anyone that was not visibly and vocally for Communism under Fidel Castro was tagged as anti-communism. To portray this black and white thinking, he came up with the spy dressed in black and the spy dressed in white. They targeted only each other and no one else got hurt. although neither one stayed ahead of the spy game for very long.

In 1960, Prohias fled to America under extreme pressure from the Communist government in Cuba and practiced cartooning on his own until he took some samples to Mad Magazine, which began publishing them in the 1961 January edition (see slide show link to the right).

Prohias wrote the strip for the newspapers and Mad Magazine until the late 1980s and lived until 1998. He lived to see the Berlin Wall come down and the USSR come apart.

My favorite cartoonist with Mad Magazine, Prohias always signed his strip in Morse Code, a further indication of the intrigue of war and cold war:

_... _.__ .__. ._. ___ .... .. ._ ... (by Prohias).


"Defection" (1:44)


Silent Heroes of the Cold War National Memorial

Silent Heroes Memorial:
2525 Kyle Canyon Rd, Mt Charleston, NV 89124, USA

get directions

Area 51:
Range Rd, Nellis AFB, NV 89191, USA

get directions

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS


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    • profile image

      jack of amps 

      8 years ago

      Dr.Zhivago refused,,,very intereeesting ,now thares something to respect even as i wonder why

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thank you for your insights from Poland and a history to which you are closer then we are here; and for the Polish word, Wisla, since Eng. language maps use Vistula, which sounds like a medical prop.

    • profile image

      Greg Dombrowski 

      10 years ago

      Regarding the cannon meat crack-The tactics is as it goes , right we got some evil power to fight, but maybe we can find someone who hates him more than we do and lest arm him up and than send him first...

      And another interesting fact, until mid 60ties there were remiscense of the National Army(AK-armia krajowa), gurella fighters which fought the natzies STILL fighting in woods only this time agains the commies,since all their friends that went out of the woods were send by the russians to exile to unfair is that ladies and gents

    • profile image

      Greg Dombrowski 

      10 years ago

      First of all the S shaped river is called Wisla, not the twisted behemot of a word you try to encline on central europe"s biggest river.(Geographiclly poland is the center of europe, it has been put in the eastern europe hat becouse of , well the cold war) And sadly I would like to turn everones attention to the fact that after all the efford poles took in the second world war, fighting as cannon meat for the allies(tactic still used quite commonlly in modern day warfare)becouse of our motivation to reclaim poland, we were sold and condemmd by Churchill in Jalta and Teheran agreements with Jo Stalin to 50 years of communistic slavory. If the nuclear war were to accure, man weastern world would be the biggest asswholes there are, since well , you put as in hands of the reds and later on dumping a few nukes on the nation that has stood its ground for over a thousand years defending europe from whatever hordes were to come from Asia(ottomans,huns etc.etc)Should anyone question my post I would like him to Google books by Norman Davies, a welsh historian whos life work is to give the poles some credit and repay us for all the bloody neglect and tretury we had.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thank for info

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      20 lashes with a wet noodle to me!

      Thanks for the correction, ":) says" You were the first to notice it.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      hi. korean war ended at 1953.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hi Jonathan,

      I am not sure whether he is using China as a model completely, or whether there is a larger pendulum that is swinging back and forth between greater freedom and lesser freedom. Putin may be swinging toward lesser freedom, also keeping an eye on China for suggestions and ideas as well. There is a "fractal theory" of history that suggests repetitions of what went before.  It will be interesting to watch.

      Thanks for visiting!

    • vreccc profile image


      12 years ago from Concord, NH


      I'm truly amazed at this content. You have spent quite a bit of time on this. I'm impressed. Ok... enough praise. I have a question for you. What do you think about where Putin, and now his proxy, are taking Russia? They went for the abrupt shift to capalism and democracy which turned out quite chaotic. China, on the other hand, is taking the super slow incremental approach and having quite a bit of success with it. Is Putin learning from China's success and taking Russia in that direction? I don't think he has ever stated that he's using China as a model, but it certainly seems that way to me. Well, whether China is his model or not, he is tightening the reigns on freedom. So, I guess my question to you is: Is he using China as a model?




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