To understand what a popular history of the United States is, the work of historian Howard Zinn, and to find the summary of this history: go here Popular history of the United States society after 1945.
The beginning of the Cold War and the Truman Doctrine
Aid to Greece
Truman worked to create a Cold War atmosphere after World War II, and presented the Soviet Union as a real immediate threat.
In Greece, the left-wing coalition had been overthrown by British military intervention. A right-wing dictatorship ruled the country, giving rise to guerrilla warfare on the part of the left. Britain called for help, prompting Truman to develop the doctrine that now bears his name, the Truman Doctrine:
Truman made a speech to Congress in 1947, and asked to vote $400 million to help Greece and Turkey.
The material aid from the United States allowed the victory against the rebellion, which was definitive in 1949. However, aid continued to be sent.
The Korean War
In 1950, Truman became involved in the Korean War. Korea had been occupied for 35 years by Japan, until the end of the Second World War. It was then divided between South Korea and North Korea. When North Korea tried to invade South Korea on June 25, 1950, the United Nations retaliated, especially the United States on their behalf. About 2 million Koreans died in this conflict, both in the North and in the South.
The United States intensified its rispote, crossing the 38th parallel, and China intervened in the conflict. The old border was not re-established until 1953.
Fight against communism
Truman signed Executive Order 9835 on March 22, 1947. It established an investigation against possible infiltration by disloyal individuals. Although these measures did not uncover any cases of espionage, 500 people lost their jobs because of “questionable loyalty.
But this anti-communist policy was reinforced by international events, such as the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, the Berlin blockade, the victories in China, and the Soviet Union’s mastery of the atomic bomb.
The United States also feared independence movements in the colonial empires. In particular in Indochina, Indonesia, the Philippines, and in Africa in the form of demonstrations.
Joseph McCarthy was then a senator from Wisconsin, and took the fight against communism even further. Denouncing people working for the state who were supposed to be communists, tracking down books written by communists, McCarthy tackled the issue of the military in 1954. He criticized generals for not being strict enough against communists. The Senate condemned McCarthy for his “undignified” conduct. At the same time, however, Congress passed other measures against the Communists.
In 1950, the Republicans proposed a law to list organizations close to communism.
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg
The Rosenberg spy case
Sympathy or connivance with organizations banned by Truman’s 1947 executive order led to charges of disloyal behavior. The trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg reached a climax in public opinion.
Testimony from individuals already in prison or accused, such as David Greenglass of Julius Rosenberg’s family, accused the Rosenbergs of being spies for the Soviet Union. The testimony of Harry Gold, then a prisoner, corroborated this thesis. But it was later discovered that Gold had lied. The Rosenbergs received the death penalty, by the electric chair, despite protests from all over the world, for example from Einstein, Sartre and Picasso.
Culture in the service of anti-communism
The whole of American society was permeated with anti-communism. The press, such as the New York Times, television, Hollywood movies, and even the ACLU, American Civil Liberties Union, created to defend the rights of communists and political groups, gave in to the anti-communist atmosphere.
Mass-market books and comic books like Captain America’s helped to make Communists a threat to be fought. School safety drills simulated Soviet attacks in which children had to protect themselves.
The Military Budget
At the beginning of 1950, the United States budget was $40 billion, of which $12 billion was spent on military activities.
In 1955, with a budget of $62 billion, $40 billion was also spent on military activities.
From 1960 onwards, Kennedy only increased the share devoted to the military budget. The assurance of this great economic power did not prevent the United States from being publicly frightened by the military progress of the Soviet Union, in order to further strengthen its armaments: the equivalent of 1500 bombs such as Hiroshima were then in the hands of the United States.
In 1970, the share devoted to the military budget thus reached 80 billion dollars.
Marshall Plan and economic aid
The Marshall Plan, signed by Truman in 1948, offered 16 billion dollars to the countries of Western Europe over 4 years.
The aim was to re-establish a market and a good economy between the United States and Western Europe, but also as a means of political influence, particularly in countries where the Communist party was strong, such as France and Italy.
The Alliance for Progress, an aid program in Latin America, also served more the maintenance of political forces capable of resisting revolutions than the standard of living of the inhabitants.
The democratically elected government of Guatemala was overthrown in 1954 by CIA-trained forces, with American assistance, following the expropriation of 95,000 hectares belonging to United Fruit, an American company. In 1958, Eisenhower sent troops to Lebanon to preserve American interests in the country.
But these interferences were strongest in the case of Cuba. Fidel Castro and his revolutionary movement had taken power in 1959. The overthrown dictator, Fulgencio Batista, was supported by the Americans, especially since he favored the economic interests of the United States in the region. Under Fidel Castro’s government, U.S.-backed companies still controlled 80 percent of the country’s resources, including mines, livestock and oil refineries, and 50 percent of the railroads. But relations became more complicated as a result of the reforms undertaken by Castro and the agreements he made with the Soviet Union.
In 1960, Eisenhower authorized the CIA to train forces against the Castro regime. Kennedy continued this effort, and on April 17, 1961, these CIA-trained soldiers landed at the Bay of Pigs, hoping that the population would join them. But it was a failure, and the United States was criticized for its hypocrisy, and for its violations of the UN Charter.
Inequality of the American population
The distribution of wealth between 1944 and 1961 is contrasted. The richest 20% of families received 45% of the total national income.
And the budget presented by Kennedy when he was elected was not to change this situation.