Acheson, Dean G.
Born April 11, 1893
Died October 12, 1971
Sandy Spring, Maryland
U.S. secretary of state, lawyer, and author
Secretary of State Dean Acheson played a critical role in developing U.S. foreign policy as the post–World War II (1939–45) rivalry with the Soviet Union was taking shape. He firmly believed in maintaining a position of strength through military might while seeking solutions through diplomacy. His influence would last throughout the Cold War (1945–91). The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Dean Gooderham Acheson was born on April 11, 1893, in Middletown, Connecticut. His father, Edward Campion Acheson, was...
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Born January 5, 1876
Died April 19, 1967
Rhoendorf, West Germany
West German chancellor
Konrad Adenauer was the first chancellor of West Germany, officially known as the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). He held the office from 1949 to 1963, taking West Germany from postwar military occupation to national independence. This was a critical period for reestablishing governmental relations with other nations and for encouraging economic recovery after Germany's defeat in World War II (1939–45). Adenauer's period of leadership coincided with the early years of the Cold War (1945–91). The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from 1945 to 1991.
Adenauer, a staunch anticommunist, created strong economic and military ties with the democratic West...
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Born July 26, 1908
Died September 11, 1973
Salvador Allende made history by being the first democratically elected socialist head of state in the Western Hemisphere. Socialism is an economic and political system in which the government owns most means of production and profits are shared with everyone. Trained as a doctor, Allende devoted most of his life to improving the lives of working-class Chileans. He wanted to create a true republic of the working class, in which democracy ruled—a country dedicated to their health, welfare, and development. He wanted to show that a peaceful road to socialism existed.
Allende's unique background allowed him to play a crucial role in the creation of the Popular Unity Coalition that brought him to power. He was able to unify traditional and revolutionary political parties to create a group to govern Chile. But in doing so,...
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Attlee, Clement R.
Born January 3, 1883
Died October 8, 1967
British prime minister
Clement Attlee was Britain's top leader from 1945 to 1951. Both before and after serving as prime minister, Attlee headed the British Labour Party, from 1935 to 1940 and from 1951 to 1955. The rise of the Labour Party made the British government a two-party system; the second party was the Conservative Party. Attlee substantially changed Britain's economic and political role in the world by dismantling the British Empire and bringing socialism, in the form of a national welfare system, to Britain. Socialism is a system in which the government owns or controls all means of production and all citizens share in the work and products. Operated by the national government, a national welfare system...
(The entire section is 2358 words.)
Born March 9, 1881
Winsford, Cheshire, England
Died April 14, 1951
British foreign minister
Immediately following the end of World War II (1939–45) in Europe, a general election was held in Great Britain for prime minister, Britain's top leadership position. Clement R. Attlee (1883–1967; see entry), leader of the Labour Party, defeated wartime hero Winston Churchill (1874–1965; see entry) for the office. After his election, Attlee asked Ernest Bevin to be his foreign secretary. According to Mark Stephens's 1985 book Ernest Bevin: Unskilled Labourer and World Statesman, 1881–1951, Attlee wanted "a heavy tank," not "a sniper."
Such was the hard-nosed, up-front character of Ernest Bevin. As British foreign minister from 1945 to 1951, Bevin had a major role in developing British foreign policy during the Cold War's early years. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry between the democratic United States and the communist Soviet Union...
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Born December 19, 1906
Died November 10, 1982
General secretary of the
Soviet Communist Party
When chosen to succeed Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971; see entry) as the leader of the Soviet Communist Party, Leonid Brezhnev was fifty-eight years old. Says author John L. Keep, in A History of the Soviet Union, 1945–1991: Last of the Empires, Brezhnev was "sturdily built, beetle-browed … a cheerful and sociable man who treated others courteously and had considerable charm. There was also a darker, more devious side to his character."
Apparently Brezhnev showed both his tough side and his charm early in his career in the Communist Party. He moved up through the party ranks swiftly while tackling challenging assignments. He would travel to rural areas to impose Soviet rule on peasants and replace local leaders with the Communist Party...
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Bush, George H. W
Born June 12, 1924
U.S. president, vice president,
and CIA director
George Bush was president of the United States as the Cold War came to an end. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from 1945 to 1991. In the final years of the Cold War, the world was dramatically changing. Eastern European countries were throwing out their Soviet-controlled communist governments. The Berlin Wall, dividing East and West Berlin, came down, and East and West Germany became one united country. And, stunningly, the Soviet empire collapsed. New independent nations and governments appeared.
Education and war
George Herbert Walker Bush was born to Prescott Bush and Dorothy Walker on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts. His father was a prominent Wall Street investment banker and served as U.S. senator from Connecticut...
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Byrnes, James F.
Born May 2, 1879
Charleston, South Carolina
Died April 9, 1972
Columbia, South Carolina
U.S. secretary of state, senator,
Supreme Court justice, governor
James F. Byrnes was the first American to serve as a U.S. congressman, U.S. senator, Supreme Court justice, secretary of state, and governor. In the early 1940s, he was sometimes called the "assistant president," but by the late 1940s he was a forgotten man in federal government.
Byrnes was at the side of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45) and Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53; see entry) as the Cold War was taking shape. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry between the democratic United States and the communist Soviet Union that lasted from 1945 to 1991. Byrnes strove hard to establish a friendship between the Soviet Union and the United States as World War II (1939–45) drew to a close, but he was...
(The entire section is 2325 words.)
Born October 1, 1924
U.S. president, governor,
humanitarian, and farmer
Inaugurated as the thirty-ninth U.S. president in January 1977, Jimmy Carter came to the White House with little experience in foreign affairs. Yet Carter's presidency coincided with an important period of the Cold War, the longstanding economic and political rivalry between the communist Soviet Union and the democratic United States. After two-and-a-half years of often rocky negotiations, Carter signed a new arms control agreement with the Soviets, SALT II. He granted formal diplomatic recognition to communist China. In response to a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Carter punished the Soviets by boycotting the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980; U.S. athletes were not allowed to participate in the Games.
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Born August 13, 1926
Cuba's proximity to the United States, only 90 miles (145 kilometers) from the Florida Keys, and its hard-line pro–Soviet Union communist government led successive U.S. presidential administrations to fear the island, both as a base for subversive activities throughout the Western Hemisphere and as a platform for a Soviet attack on the United States. These fears led to the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and American efforts to isolate the Cuban government and assassinate its leader, Fidel Castro. In the early twenty-first century, Cuba still operated under communism, a governmental system in which a single political party, the Communist Party, controls nearly all aspects of society. In a communist economy, private ownership of property and businesses is banned so that goods produced...
(The entire section is 3144 words.)
Born October 31, 1887
Qikou, Zhejiang Province, China
Died April 5, 1975
President of the Republic of China
Chiang Kai-shek was a longtime leader of China. First, he ruled Mainland China from 1927 to 1949. In 1949, Chinese communist forces defeated Chiang in a civil war. He fled to the island of Taiwan, where he established the Republic of China (ROC). He ruled over Taiwan in a dictatorial fashion into the 1970s.
Chiang Kai-shek was born in October 1887 in the village of Qikou, within the coastal Zhejiang Province, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the city of Shanghai. His father, a salt merchant, died when Chiang was nine years old. Chiang's early education was in the Confucian tradition, instilling him with strong self-discipline. Confucianism is an educational system based on the teachings of the early Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 B.C.E.); it includes...
(The entire section is 2154 words.)
Born November 30, 1874
Died January 24, 1965
British prime minister
Winston Churchill was one of the greatest political figures of the twentieth century. He led Britain from the brink of defeat to ultimate victory in World War II (1939–45). Churchill later became the first of the major Western leaders to warn of the communist threat, and he was the first to use the term "Iron Curtain" to describe the growing division or barrier between the communist East and the democratic West. Communism is a system of government in which a single political party, the Communist Party, controls almost all aspects of people's lives. In a communist economy, private ownership of property and business is prohibited so that goods produced and wealth accumulated can be shared equally by all.
Churchill's courage and independence of mind often created difficulties...
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Clifford, Clark M.
Born December 25, 1906
Fort Scott, Kansas
Died October 10, 1998
U.S. secretary of defense and counsel
Clark M. Clifford's public career spanned the years of the Cold War (1945–91). He was an influential advisor to every Democratic president from Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53; see entry) to Jimmy Carter (1924–; served 1977–81; see entry). As a special advisor to President Truman, Clifford assisted in the formulation of the Truman Doctrine, the U.S. policy of giving aid to forces engaged in resisting communist aggression. He was a political strategist in both foreign and domestic policy and was one of the most prominent and influential members of Truman's staff.
Clark Clifford guided the merger of the military service departments into the Department of Defense under the...
(The entire section is 1932 words.)
Born August 22, 1904
Guangan, Szechwan Province, China
Died February 19, 1997
Beijing, People's Republic of China
Leader of the People's Republic of China
Deng Xiaoping was the leader of the People's Republic of China (PRC) from 1977 until his death in 1997. Besides introducing major economic reforms, Deng strove to increase the PRC's economic ties with the West while keeping distant relations with the Soviet Union. Under former leader Mao Zedong (1893–1976; see entry), the PRC had operated in political and economic isolation; under Deng, the communist nation began to participate in international markets.
Deng Xiaoping was born in August 1904 to a wealthy landowner, Deng Xixian, in the Szechwan Province of China. In 1921, he went to Paris, France, on a work-study program. There, he met future Chinese premier Zhou Enlai (1898–1976; see entry), and in 1922 he joined the branch of the Chinese Communist Youth League Zhou had formed. Showing...
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Dulles, John Foster
Born February 25, 1888
Died May 24, 1959
U.S. secretary of state
John Foster Dulles was perceived by many as cold and combative, but he served six distinguished years as secretary of state for President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61; see entry). He worked hard at protecting the West from communist expansion.
A privileged start
John Foster Dulles was born in February 1888 in Washington, D.C., to Elizabeth Foster and the Reverend Allen Macy Dulles, a Presbyterian minister. His family had a rich history of involvement in international diplomacy and the ministry. One grandfather, John Watson Foster (1836–1917), was secretary of state for President Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901; served 1889–93). His other grandfather, John Welsh Dulles, was a prominent missionary. He also had an uncle, Robert Lansing...
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Eisenhower, Dwight D.
Born October 14, 1890
Died March 28, 1969
U.S. president and army general
Though highly respected for his key military role in guiding the U.S. armed forces to victory in Europe in World War II (1939–45), as president Dwight D. Eisenhower also skillfully guided the nation through eight years of the Cold War (1945–91), from 1953 to 1961. After reaching a truce in the Korean War (1950–53) during the early months of his first term in office, he succeeded in not sending U.S. troops into combat for the next seven and one-half years of his presidency. In his farewell speech as president in 1961 as the Cold War continued, the fabled war hero warned the nation of giving too much power and influence to the military services and the war industries that support them.
A pacifist background
Dwight David Eisenhower was born in Denison,...
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Born March 2, 1931
Privolnoye, Stavropol province, Russia
General secretary and president of Soviet Union
Mikhail Gorbachev spoke the following words in a televised address to the Soviet people on December 25, 1991, when he resigned as president of the Soviet Union, "Fate had decided that, when I became head of state, it was already obvious that there was something wrong in this country. We had plenty of everything: land, oil, gas and other natural resources, and God has also endowed us with intellect and talent—yet we lived much worse than people in other industrialized countries and the gap was constantly widening."
Gorbachev rose within the Communist Party the only way possible, by holding to the strict party line. But once he reached its highest office, he began to reform the system with an intensity and...
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Born July 18, 1909
Starye Gromyki, Belorussia (now Belarus)
Died July 2, 1989
Soviet foreign minister and president
For over forty years, Andrey Gromyko was a skilled representative and spokesman for the Soviet Union while serving in a number of positions under various Soviet leaders. He maintained a persistent loyalty to official Soviet perspectives in its prolonged Cold War rivalry with the United States. To many in the West, his was the most familiar face of the communist-ruled superpower.
Making use of the new communist system
Andrey Andreyevich Gromyko was born to Russian peasant farmers in the Belorussian village of Old Gromyki. Residents of that region would traditionally adopt the name of their village, so most inhabitants had the same last name: Gromyko. The Bolshevik Revolution occurred in 1917, when Gromyko was only eight years old. The Bolsheviks, mostly Russian peasants and workers rising in revolt against the Russian ruling class, professed the communist ideology of Vladimir I. Lenin (1870–1924), who established the Communist Party in Russia. Communism is a governmental system in which the Communist Party controls nearly all aspects of citizens' lives. In a communist economy, private ownership of property is banned,...
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Harriman, W. Averell
Born November 15, 1891
New York, New York
Died July 26, 1986
Yorktown Heights, New York
U.S. secretary of commerce, statesman, industrialist
W. Averell Harriman played a key role in many important political events of the twentieth century, including events during the Cold War. Born to privilege, Harriman believed passionately in public service; he believed in his ability—and obligation—to make the world better. He exercised his influence in major negotiations of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.
Harriman is often considered the architect of the Cold War policy of containment, the strategy of keeping communist influence within the borders of existent communist nations. Communism is a political and economic system in which the Communist Party controls nearly all aspects of citizens' lives and private ownership of property is banned. It is not compatible with American political and economic values. Harriman had a strong, long-term relationship...
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Minh, Ho Chi
Born May 19, 1890
Nghe An Province, Vietnam
Died September 3, 1969
Hanoi, North Vietnam
President of the Democratic
Republic of Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh was a leading figure in the international communist movement and the principal force behind the Vietnamese struggle against French colonial rule. Founder of the Vietnamese Communist Party and its chief strategist, Ho became president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Today, he remains the symbol of national pride in Vietnam. One of the most influential political figures of the twentieth century, Ho Chi Minh had magnetic appeal as well as practical leadership skills.
At a time when most of his Vietnamese colleagues were trained only in China or the Soviet Union, Ho Chi Minh traveled extensively and developed a broad world view. Ho spoke and wrote a number of languages, including English, French, Chinese, and Russian, as well as his native Vietnamese.
Ho Chi Minh's birth name was Nguyen Sinh Cung. The youngest of three children, he was born in...
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Hoover, J. Edgar
Born January 1, 1895
Died May 2, 1972
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover joined the Bureau of Investigation (later called the Federal Bureau of Investigation) in 1917 and became its director in 1924. He would remain in that position for the next forty-eight years until his death in 1972, serving under both Democratic and Republican presidents. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Hoover transformed the organization from a scandal-ridden agency into an elite corps of highly regimented special agents. The American public was hungry for a return to law and order. Its confidence in law enforcement was badly shaken by the lawlessness of the Prohibition Era (1920–33), a period when liquor was illegal and organized crime grew wealthy by supplying Americans with various forms of alcohol. Then, just as Prohibition...
(The entire section is 2659 words.)
Johnson, Lyndon B.
Born August 27, 1908
Gillespie County, Texas
Died January 22, 1973
San Antonio, Texas
U.S. president, vice president, senator
Lyndon B. Johnson suddenly became president during one of the darkest times in U.S. history—following the assassination of the popular John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63; see entry). Johnson proceeded to fight hard for the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, but is best remembered for serving during the tumultuous period of the Vietnam War (1954–75). In his 1986 book Big Daddy from the Pedernales: Lyndon Baines Johnson, historian Paul K. Conkin said Johnson "was confused and almost helpless." The personal toll on the president "was almost overwhelming. He had aged ten years in only two and was now visibly an old man, shaken, ineffective, almost beleaguered in a White House surrounded...
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Kennan, George F.
Born February 16, 1904
U.S. diplomat, historian, and author
George F. Kennan is considered one of the greatest diplomats and statesmen of the United States. Kennan played a major role in formulating U.S. foreign policy, especially on the issue of Soviet-U.S. relations during the early stages of the Cold War. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from 1945 to 1991. After World War II (1939–45), Kennan was the person who first suggested the policy of containment to control Soviet expansion. Kennan continued to have an important impact on foreign policy into the 1980s. His ideas frequently spurred considerable public debate. A historian, he authored many books of exceptional scholarly standards.
George Frost Kennan was born into an affluent family...
(The entire section is 3374 words.)
Kennedy, John F.
Born May 29, 1917
Died November 22, 1963
U.S. president, senator
In 1960, John F. Kennedy became the youngest person elected to the presidency of the United States. He was forty-three years old. He assumed the office in the midst of the Cold War, an intense political and economic rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from 1945 to 1991. Kennedy successfully led the country through two of the most alarming Cold War crises: the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Soviet construction of the Berlin Wall. The Kennedy administration also crafted sweeping civil rights legislation that was signed into law in 1964. Kennedy's presidency came to a shocking end on November 22, 1963, when he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the second of nine children born to Joseph Patrick...
(The entire section is 3682 words.)
Born April 17, 1894
Died September 11, 1971
Petrovo-Dalneye, Soviet Union
Soviet premier and first secretary of Communist Party
Nikita Khrushchev was the most colorful Soviet leader during the Cold War. After being a loyal supporter of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1879–1953; see entry) through his early political career, Khrushchev denounced Stalin's policies when he assumed Soviet leadership in the mid-1950s. Khrushchev had a loud and blunt personality that took other leaders by surprise. His efforts to introduce major domestic reforms within the Soviet Union during his long period of leadership while fending off pressures from old guard Soviet communists led to erratic foreign policies that confounded U.S. leaders, including presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61; see entry) and John F. Kennedy...
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Sung, Kim Il
Born April 15, 1912
Died July 8, 1994
P'yongyang, North Korea
Premier of North Korea
Kim Il Sung was a communist dictator who ruled North Korea throughout the Cold War. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from 1945 to 1991. Asserting his rule with an iron hand, Kim Il Sung was the longest-serving leader of a communist government in the twentieth century. He created an almost mythical cult status for himself within North Korea, but he was little known elsewhere because he purposely kept North Korea isolated from the outside world.
Kim Il Sung was born Kim Sung Ju in April 1912 to a middle-class Korean family in the village of Man'gyondae,...
(The entire section is 2342 words.)
Born November 19, 1926
Jeane Kirkpatrick was the first American woman to be named a permanent representative to the United Nations (UN). The UN is an international organization that was established at the conclusion of World War II (1939–45); its purpose is to peacefully resolve conflicts before they lead to war. Kirkpatrick held this post from 1981 to 1985. She exercised greater influence over the formulation of U.S. foreign policy than any other representative before her. Respected for the strength and conviction of her views, she remained active in American political life long after leaving office. In 1985, Congress awarded Kirkpatrick its highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Born Jeane Duane Jordan on November 19, 1926, Jeane Kirkpatrick was the daughter of Leona Kile Jordan and Welcher F. Jordan, an oil-drilling contractor in the town of Duncan,...
(The entire section is 1483 words.)
Born May 27, 1923
U.S. secretary of state and
national security advisor
German-born Henry Kissinger was a major influence on U.S. foreign policy through most of the Cold War. He worked as an author and as a consultant to various federal agencies and later became national security advisor and secretary of state. He was the architect of détente, the policy of easing tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. He led the effort to reestablish formal relations with communist China, and he was a key negotiator of the peace settlement in the Vietnam War (1954–75). He was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for facilitating the peace agreement. Kissinger also negotiated the first strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT I) with the Soviet Union, which was signed in 1972.
An international beginning
Henry Kissinger was born in Fürth, Germany,...
(The entire section is 3663 words.)
Born April 3, 1930
Helmut Kohl became the chancellor of West Germany in the early 1980s. After West Germany and East Germany reunited on October 3, 1990, he became chancellor of the entire country, winning Germany's first nationwide elections since World War II (1939–45). At the end of the war, Germany had been divided along zones of Allied occupation. The Soviet zone was called East Germany; like the Soviet Union, East Germany had a communist government. The three other occupied zones, controlled jointly by the British, the French, and the Americans, were called West Germany. Like the occupying Western countries, West Germany had a democratic government and a capitalist economy.
Kohl engineered the reunification of his country and then oversaw its rise to economic dominance in Europe. He was the longest-serving German leader since 1945, acting as...
(The entire section is 2932 words.)
Born February 20, 1904
St. Petersburg, Russia
Died December 18, 1980
Moscow, Russia, Soviet Union
Soviet chairman of the
Council of Ministers
For many years, Aleksey Kosygin played an important role in government administration and economic planning for the Soviet Union. At the peak of his power, he served sixteen years as chairman of the Council of Ministers, a top leadership position in the Soviet Union. He attempted to reform the failing Soviet economic system, but because of strong resistance from other Soviet leaders, he had little success in this effort. He was also involved in several key foreign affairs issues, including the Vietnam War (1954–75) and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). Unlike many other Soviet leaders, Kosygin's overall philosophy regarding government policy involved using pragmatism, or common sense, rather than communist ideology as the basis for his decision making.
Early years and education
Aleksey Nikolayevich Kosygin was born to a working-class family in St. Petersburg, Russia, a city later known as Leningrad. His father was a lathe operator in a local factory. Young Aleksey became caught up in the revolutionary fervor of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, when Vladimir I. Lenin (1870–1924) and his communist...
(The entire section is 1805 words.)
Born January 8, 1903
Southern Ural Mountains, Russia
Died February 1960
St. Sarov (or Arzamas-16),
Russia, Soviet Union
Nuclear physicist and
developer of the Soviet atomic bomb
Abrilliant nuclear physicist, Igor Kurchatov headed the development of the atomic bomb in the Soviet Union. Kurchatov's successful development of the bomb played an important role in Cold War politics. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from 1945 to 1991. When the United States discovered by way of spy planes that the Soviet Union had detonated its first atomic bomb, it felt compelled to accelerate its own nuclear weapons program. Like his American counterpart, J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904–1967; see entry), Kurchatov in his...
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Born January 26, 1880
Little Rock, Arkansas
Died April 5, 1964
Considered a war hero in World War II (1939–45) as commander of the U.S. Army and Air Forces in the Pacific campaign against Japan, Douglas MacArthur played a crucial role in rebuilding Japan during the early years of the Cold War. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry from 1945 to 1991 between the United States, the Soviet Union, and China with limited military conflict. MacArthur later led U.S. forces during the first year of the Korean War (1950–53). Holding very strong anticommunist views, he became the most controversial U.S. military figure of the Cold War. Promoting a military conquest of communist China and reunification of Korea, he was a major critic of U.S. foreign policy toward the Far East.
A military family
MacArthur was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on January 26, 1880, to Arthur MacArthur, a soldier and decorated Civil War...
(The entire section is 2657 words.)
Born February 10, 1894
Died December 29, 1986
Birch Grove, Sussex, England
British prime minister
Harold Macmillan served in the British government from 1924 to 1963. During that period, he was one of the first in British government to oppose German aggression in Europe, established later useful relations with other Allied leaders during World War II (1939–45), and then guided Britain through some difficult years of the Cold War (1945–91). The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry from 1945 to 1991 between the United States and the Soviet Union falling just short of military conflict. During his period of leadership, it became clear that Britain had lost much world influence that it had wielded for centuries before. The two new superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union clearly held domination in world events.
Born into British privilege
Harold Macmillan was born to an upper-middle-class family in...
(The entire section is 2409 words.)
Born December 26, 1893
Shaoshan, Hunan Province of China
Died September 9, 1976
Chairman of the People's Republic of China
Mao Zedong imposed an ideology upon an entire society and created a regime that eliminated opposition. He led the long struggle that made China a communist nation in 1949. Communism is a system of government in which a single party, the Communist Party, controls all aspects of people's lives. In economic theory, it prohibits private ownership of property and business, so that goods produced and wealth accumulated are shared relatively equally by all. Communism was adapted from the theories of German philosopher Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Russian revolutionary Vladimir I. Lenin (1870–1924). Mao's interpretation of Marxism for colonial and peasant-based economies became known...
(The entire section is 2449 words.)
Marshall, George C.
Born December 31, 1880
Died October 16, 1959
U.S. secretary of state, army general, and
U.S. Army chief of staff
George Marshall was a highly respected U.S. military leader and U.S. official. He served as an army general, secretary of state, and secretary of defense. He was the first military person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the European economic recovery following World War II (1939–45). Most importantly, the Cold War (1945–91) took shape during his time as secretary of state. The policies he developed would influence the next forty years of rivalry with the Soviet Union.
The young officer
George Catlett Marshall Jr. was born on New Year's Eve in 1880 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, son of Laura Bradford and George C. Marshall Sr., a...
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McCarthy, Joseph R.
Born November 14, 1908
Died May 2, 1957
Joseph McCarthy, an infamous and highly controversial U.S. senator from Wisconsin, became America's leading anticommunist figure. His influence peaked between 1950 and 1953. McCarthy gained national attention by asserting that communists had infiltrated the U.S. government at its highest levels. Some called McCarthy a patriot; others accused him of making vicious, untrue charges against innocent Americans, ruining their careers. McCarthy's sensationalized committee investigations greatly contributed to the anticommunist hysteria sweeping the country. The United States' diplomatic efforts toward the communist countries of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Asia were adversely affected for several decades.
(The entire section is 2255 words.)
McNamara, Robert S.
Born June 9, 1916
San Francisco, California
U.S. secretary of defense
Robert S. McNamara played an important role in U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War period of the 1960s. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry from 1945 to 1991 between the United States and the Soviet Union, falling just short of direct military conflict. Smart and ambitious, McNamara came from the business world to serve as U.S. secretary of defense under Presidents John F. Kennedy (1919–1963; served 1961–63; see entry) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973; served 1963–69; see entry).
McNamara was one of a group of superior managers emerging from World War II (1939–45)—smart, arrogant, and seemingly capable of tackling anything. He was young and vigorous and seemed—along with the rest of young President Kennedy's advisors—to be the new face of the new superpower, the United States. McNamara became famous for applying his sharp, mathematical mind to the problems of troop deployment...
(The entire section is 2181 words.)
Born February 25, 1890
Kukarka, Nolinsk region,
Vyatka province, Russia
Died November 8, 1986
Moscow, Russia, Soviet Union
politician, and statesman
Vyacheslav Molotov was the closest friend and loyal aide of Joseph Stalin (1879–1953; see entry) throughout Stalin's reign as leader of the Soviet Union. Won over to communism as a teenager, Molotov never strayed from the strict party line and always viewed Stalin's policies, however terror-filled, as correct. Molotov's talks with Western powers in the years following World War II (1939–45) helped fuel the Cold War (1945–91). The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry from 1945 to 1991 between the United States and the Soviet Union, falling just short of military conflict.
Vyacheslav Mikhaylovich Scriabin was born to middle-class parents...
(The entire section is 2658 words.)
Nixon, Richard M.
Born January 9, 1913
Yorba Linda, California
Died April 22, 1994
New York, New York
U.S. president, vice president,
senator, and congressman
Richard Nixon was the thirty-seventh president of the United States. He also served as vice president for both terms of U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61; see entry) through the 1950s and before that was a member of the U.S. Congress from 1947 to 1953. As a result, his public career spanned over half of the forty-six years of the Cold War (1945–91). Politically benefiting from a strong public anticommunist position in the 1940s and 1950s, Nixon would open the door to formal relations with communist China and pursue détente, or the easing of tensions, with the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. He would also become the first U.S. president to resign from office after facing almost certain impeachment over a domestic scandal....
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Oppenheimer, J. Robert
Born August 22, 1904
New York, New York
Died February 18, 1967
Princeton, New Jersey
Physicist and developer of the
U.S. atomic bomb
At 5:30 A.M. on July 16, 1945, the United States successfully detonated the world's first atomic bomb. The scientist in charge of the U.S. project to develop the bomb was J. Robert Oppenheimer. A brilliant physicist, Oppenheimer watched in amazement as the New Mexico sky and landscape lit up brighter than a hundred sunrises. That moment marked the dawning of the nuclear age. Nuclear weapons developed and manufactured for decades thereafter influenced Cold War (1945–91) politics more than any other single issue after 1945. Oppenheimer's part in the Cold War would be a push for arms control and turning nuclear power into a benefit for mankind....
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Born February 2, 1905
St. Petersburg, Russia
Died March 6, 1982
New York, New York
Novelist and philosopher
In describing her beliefs, Ayn Rand stated, as noted on the Ayn Rand Institute Web site, "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievements as his noblest activity, and reason … his only absolute [most important quality]." Rand's early experiences while growing up in Russia, coupled with the philosophy of objectivism (which says a person's own life and happiness is the ultimate good; see box), made her a vocal opponent of communism. Her position as an internationally published author and widely read philosopher made her a prominent and highly respected figure during the Cold War (1945–91).
Alissa (Alice) Zinovievna Rosenbaum, later known as Ayn Rand,...
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Born February 6, 1911
U.S. president, governor, and actor
Ronald Reagan was the fortieth president of the United States. Previously a radio sportscaster and Hollywood actor, his exceptional skills as an orator brought him the label "the Great Communicator" during his political career. Appearing easygoing with a folksy charm, he brought a hardline anticommunist direction to the White House. Reagan has been credited as one of the key individuals responsible for ending the Cold War (1945–91). The Cold War was a prolonged conflict for world dominance between the two superpowers, the democratic, capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union. The weapons of conflict were commonly words of propaganda and threats.
Sportscaster and movie actor...
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Born November 14, 1954
U.S. national security advisor
Condoleezza Rice was America's top advisor on the Soviet Union during the administration of President George Bush (1924–; served 1989–93; see entry), helping to write U.S. policy regarding the unification of Germany at the end of the Cold War in November 1990. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry from 1945 to 1991 between the United States and the Soviet Union, falling just short of military conflict. For her part, Rice said she felt fortunate to have been given the chance to help shape America's response to these extraordinary events.
Rice was front and center at one of the most historic scenes in modern political history—the end of the Cold War era: In 1991, the Soviet Union broke apart and relations between the...
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Born May 21, 1921
Died December 14, 1989
Physicist and Soviet dissident
Andrey Sakharov, one of the greatest theoretical physicists of the twentieth century, was often called the father of the Soviet Union's hydrogen bomb. He also spoke out internationally against the oppressive Soviet system of government. His wife, Yelena Bonner (1923–), was also greatly involved in protecting the human rights of Soviet citizens. Together, they were among the leading advocates of democracy, economic reform, and intellectual freedom in their country. A democratic system of government allows multiple political parties whose members are elected to various government offices by popular vote of the people. Sakharov and...
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Born January 25, 1928
Mamati, Georgia, Soviet Union
Soviet foreign minister and
president of Georgia
Eduard Shevardnadze, foreign minister of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1990, helped reform and transform the internal structure and international relations of his country. Led by Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev (1931–; see entry), their overall policies were known as glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring).
Shevardnadze encouraged cooperation and compromise with the United States. He and Gorbachev became the much-heralded architects who brought about the end of the Cold War (1945–91). The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry from 1945 to 1991 between the United States and the Soviet Union, falling just short of military conflict. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Shevardnadze returned to his native Georgia to head its government.
Eduard Amvros'evich Shevardnadze, the son of a teacher, was born in the village of Mamati in western Georgia. Georgia was then a republic in the Soviet Union. As a youth, he joined the Komsomol, the Communist Youth League, and rose to leadership positions within the organization. He graduated from K'ut'aisi State Pedagogical...
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Born December 21, 1879
Gori, Georgia, Russia
Died March 5, 1953 Kuntsevo, Russia, Soviet Union
Premier of the Soviet Union
Joseph Stalin was the brutal and absolute leader of the communist Soviet Union from 1929 until his death in 1953. By the late 1930s, Stalin staunchly opposed the growth across Europe of the Nazi Party of Germany's Adolf Hitler (1889–1945). When cutting deals with Hitler failed to halt the Nazi army, Stalin allied with the United States, Great Britain, and France during World War II (1939–45).
At the end of the war, Stalin immediately imposed communist rule over the countries of Eastern Europe, giving government positions to men who adhered to the strict Communist Party line and answered directly to him. Yet soon the Soviets became locked in the Cold War (1945–91). The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, falling just short of military conflict. Stalin was the dominant figure in the...
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Born October 13, 1925
Grantham, Lincolnshire, England
British prime minister
It was in May 1979 that Margaret Thatcher became Britain's first female prime minister. She would be reelected in 1983 and again in 1987 to become the first British prime minister of the twentieth century to win three consecutive general elections. Thatcher served for eleven-and-a-half years until her resignation in November 1990. Her Conservative Party victory in 1979 was a major triumph over the Labor Party, which had held power for much of the previous fifty years.
The perceived threat of the communist Soviet Union had come to be a dominant concern of the Western world at the time. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance of Western-styled democracies, was founded in 1949 at the key instigation of Great Britain. It was a response to the growing efforts by the Soviets to control Eastern European...
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Tito, Josip Broz
Born May 7, 1892
Kumrovec, Croatia, Austria-Hungary
Died May 4, 1980
President of Yugoslavia and revolutionary
Josip Broz Tito established a communist government in the country then known as Yugoslavia. Fiercely independent, Tito managed to successfully distance himself and his country from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1879–1953; see entry) and Soviet control. During the entire Cold War period, Tito took his country down a liberalized path in agriculture, management of workers, trade with Western nations, art, education, and travel between Western nations and Yugoslavia. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry from 1945 to 1991 between the United States and the Soviet Union falling just short of military conflict. Tito stressed nonalignment, the right of nations to be neutral and not align with either superpower, the United States or the Soviet Union.
Josip Broz was born the seventh child in a large peasant family of fifteen children (he acquired the...
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Truman, Harry S.
Born May 8, 1884
Died December 26, 1972
Kansas City, Missouri
U.S. president, vice president, senator
"I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me." Harry S. Truman spoke these words to a reporter on April 13, 1945, the day after being sworn in as U.S. president. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45) had died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage, and Truman was faced with leading the American people through mounting international crises.
Harry S. Truman, the thirty-third president of the United States, would be cast as a central player in the quickly developing Cold War (1945–91). The Cold War was an intense political, ideological, economic, and military global rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and their allies, involving hostility and conflict but not direct warfare between...
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Born March 5, 1898
Huaian, Kiangsu province, China
Died January 8, 1976
Peking, People's Republic of China
Premier and foreign minister of
People's Republic of China
Zhou Enlai was a leading figure of the People's Republic of China (PRC) from its founding in 1949 to 1976. He served as premier (head of state) throughout this lengthy time period and was also the PRC's foreign minister from 1949 to 1958, but remained the country's leading foreign affairs expert for decades. As a result, Zhou was the most visible PRC official and gained great respect from other world leaders for his superb negotiating skills.
Zhou was responsible for all of communist China's foreign policy through most of the Cold War and much of the PRC's domestic policy as well. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry from 1945 to 1991 between the United States and the Soviet Union, falling just short of military conflict.
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