Social Studies - 2018-19

USII.8c - Cold War

The student will apply social science skills to understand the economic, social, and political transformation of the United States and the world between the end of World War II and the present by

c) examining the role of the United States in defending freedom during the Cold War, including the wars in Korea and Vietnam, the Cuban missile crisis, the collapse of communism in Europe, and the rise of new challenges;

Adopted: 2015



The United States and the Soviet Union emerged from World War II as world powers, triggering a rivalry over ideology and national security.

The Cold War was the central organizing principle in global affairs for over 40 years.


Term to know

 Cold War: The state of tension without actual fighting between the United States and the Soviet Union, which divided the world into two camps

Origins of the Cold War

 Differences in goals and ideologies between the United States and the Soviet Union (the two superpowers); the United States was democratic and capitalist while the Soviet Union was dictatorial and communist

 The Soviet Union’s domination over Eastern European countries (Iron Curtain)

 American policy of containment (to stop the spread of communism)

 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) vs. Warsaw Pact (defense alliances)

Major conflicts in the post-World War II era that reflected Cold War tensions

 South Korea and the United States resisted Chinese and North Korean aggression. The conflict ended in a stalemate.

 Disagreements arose between the United States and the Soviet Union over the status of Berlin, eventually leading to the construction of the Berlin Wall.

 The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred when the Soviet Union placed missiles in Cuba. The Soviets removed the missiles in response to a United States blockade of Cuba, and the United States removed missiles from Turkey.

 The United States intervened to stop the spread of communism into South Vietnam (domino theory). Americans were divided over whether the United States should be involved militarily in Vietnam. The conflict ended in a cease-fire agreement in which United States troops withdrew.

 The Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union was a contest to gain technological superiority (e.g., Sputnik, landing on the moon).

 The Arms Race was the stockpiling of nuclear weapons as a deterrent to nuclear war.

Collapse of communism in Europe

 Breakup of the Soviet Union into independent countries

 Destruction of the Berlin Wall

New challenges

 Role of United States military intervention

 Environmental challenges

 Global issues, including trade, jobs, diseases, energy

 Rise/emergence of China as a global economic and military power


Updated: May 16, 2018