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Timeline of the Cold War

Timeline of the Cold War

Welcome to our timeline of the Cold War. 

The Cold War was a period of political and military tension between the United States and its Western allies and the Soviet Union and its Eastern bloc allies that lasted from the end of World War II in 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Some key dates in the Cold War include:


    • April 12: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies, and Harry S. Truman becomes the President of the United States.
    • May 7-9: Germany surrenders to the Allies, marking the end of World War II in Europe.
    • August 6 and 9: The United States drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, leading to Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II in Asia.
    • August 14: Japan announces its surrender, officially ending World War II.
    • September 2: Vietnam declares its independence from France, led by Ho Chi Minh.


  • March 5: Winston Churchill delivers his famous “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri, warning of Soviet expansionism in Eastern Europe.
  • September: The Soviet Union refuses to withdraw its troops from Iran, leading to a crisis known as the “Iran Crisis” or “Azerbaijan Crisis.”


  • March 12: U.S. President Truman introduces the Truman Doctrine, pledging to provide economic and military aid to countries threatened by communism.
  • June 5: U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall unveils the Marshall Plan, a plan to provide economic assistance to help rebuild war-torn European countries, including those in Eastern Europe.
  • June 24: The Soviet Union imposes a blockade on West Berlin, leading to the Berlin Blockade and the subsequent Berlin Airlift by the United States and its allies.


  • April 4: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is established, forming a military alliance among the United States, Canada, and several European countries.
  • May 14: The state of Israel is established, leading to conflict between Arab states and Israel in the Middle East.
  • May 23: The Federal Republic of Germany, commonly known as West Germany, is created, followed by the German Democratic Republic, commonly known as East Germany, in October.


  • April 4: NATO is officially established.
  • August 29: The Soviet Union successfully tests its first atomic bomb, leading to an arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • October 1: The People’s Republic of China is proclaimed by Mao Zedong, establishing a communist government in China.
  • May 14: The Soviet Union lifts the blockade of West Berlin, ending the Berlin Blockade.


  • June 25: The Korean War begins when North Korea invades South Korea, leading to a conflict between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and China, who support North Korea.


  • March 5: Soviet leader Joseph Stalin dies, leading to a power struggle within the Soviet Union.
  • July 27: The Korean War ends with an armistice agreement, establishing the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) along the 38th parallel, and the war remains unresolved to this day.
May 7: Battle of Dien Bien Phu ends with French defeat by Viet Minh forces.
July 21: Geneva Accords are signed leading to a ceasefire and eventual French withdrawal from Vietnam – Vietnam to be split into two states along the 17th parallel and an election in 1956 to unify the country. These elections would never take place leading to increasing attempts by North Vietnam to conquer South Vietnam. 


  • May 5: The Warsaw Pact is established, forming a military alliance among the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe as a response to NATO.
  • July 9-14: The Geneva Summit takes place, with leaders of the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and the United Kingdom meeting to discuss arms control and other issues related to the Cold War.


  • October 23-November 10: The Hungarian Revolution takes place, with Hungarians rising against Soviet control, but the uprising is crushed by Soviet forces.
  • November 4: The Suez Crisis begins when Israel invades Egypt, leading to a conflict between Egypt and Israel, with the Soviet Union and the United States intervening in the crisis.


  • October 4: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, sparking the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.


  • May 1: An American U-2 spy plane is shot down over Soviet territory, leading to increased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.


  • April 17: The failed Bay of Pigs invasion occurs, as U.S.-backed Cuban exiles attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s communist government in Cuba.
  • August 13: The Berlin Wall is constructed by East Germany, separating East and West Berlin and symbolizing the division between East and West during the Cold War.


  • October 14-28: The Cuban Missile Crisis occurs, as the United States discovers Soviet missiles in Cuba, leading to a tense standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union, narrowly avoiding nuclear war.


  • June 20: U.S. President John F. Kennedy delivers his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in West Berlin, expressing solidarity with the people of Berlin and reaffirming U.S. commitment to defending freedom in the face of communism.
  • August 2: Gulf of Tonkin Incident – alleged attacks against US Navy by North Vietnamese. The incident, which may never have even happened, were used justification for increased US involvement in Vietnam.


  • January 5-8: The Prague Spring occurs in Czechoslovakia, a period of political liberalization led by Alexander Dubcek, which is suppressed by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies.
  • January 30 – February 23: The Tet Offensive takes place, a major offensive launched by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces against South Vietnam and U.S. military installations, shifting public opinion in the U.S. against the war.
  • February 1: Viet Cong murderer Nguyen Van Lem is himself killed by Saigon Chief of Police, Nguyen Ngoc Loan. A photograph of the incident is captured by AP photographer Eddie Adams and became known as ‘Saigon Execution’. The image went on to have a significant impact on American public opinion against US involvement in Vietnam. 
  • August 20-21: The Warsaw Pact countries, led by the Soviet Union, invade Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring, further reinforcing Soviet control over Eastern Europe.
January 20: U.S. President Richard Nixon takes office on January 20 and begins implementing a policy of “Vietnamization,” gradually withdrawing U.S. troops and shifting responsibility for the war to the South Vietnamese forces.


  • May 26-27: U.S. President Richard Nixon visits Moscow for a summit meeting with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, resulting in the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), which aims to limit the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • January 27: The Paris Peace Accords are signed, calling for a ceasefire and withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam.


  • April 30: North Vietnamese forces launch a major offensive against South Vietnam in March, leading to the fall of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, on April 30, and the reunification of Vietnam under communist rule.
  • August 1: The Helsinki Accords are signed by 35 countries, including the United States, the Soviet Union, and most European countries, pledging to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and promoting détente in Europe.


  • December 27: The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan to support the communist government, leading to a prolonged and costly war against Afghan resistance fighters known as the mujahideen. This further escalates tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.


  • July 19: U.S. President Jimmy Carter announces a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.


  • March 23: U.S. President Ronald Reagan delivers his famous “Evil Empire” speech, condemning the Soviet Union as an oppressive regime and calling for increased military spending to counter Soviet aggression.


  • March 11: Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the leader of the Soviet Union, initiating a period of political and economic reforms known as Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring), aimed at revitalizing the Soviet economy and improving relations with the West.


  • December 8: The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is signed between the United States and the Soviet Union, eliminating an entire class of nuclear missiles from Europe and easing tensions between the two superpowers.


  • November 9: The Berlin Wall falls, leading to the reunification of East and West Germany and symbolizing the end of the Cold War era in Europe.
  • December: Protests against communist regimes erupt in several Eastern European countries, leading to the overthrow of communist governments in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, and paving the way for the collapse of communism in the region.


  • October 3: East and West Germany officially reunite to form a single, unified Germany.
  • November 21: The Charter of Paris for a New Europe is adopted at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, affirming principles of democracy, human rights, and cooperation among European states, marking a significant step towards ending the Cold War in Europe.


  • January 31: The START I Treaty is signed between the United States and the Soviet Union, setting limits on strategic nuclear weapons and reducing tensions between the two superpowers.
  • August 19: A failed coup attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev takes place in the Soviet Union, signaling the growing instability of the Soviet regime.
  • December 8: The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus sign the Belavezha Accords, dissolving the Soviet Union and declaring the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), marking the official end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War era.


The “Saigon Execution” photograph taken by Edward T. Adams – (Article about the infamous photograph of the execution of a member of the Viet Cong which won the Pulitzer prize and changed world wide perceptions of the Vietnam War).

What did the Nixon Doctrine do? – (Article explaining the ‘Nixon Doctrine’ and the impact it had on the war in Vietnam. 

The Communist Manifesto – (Article explaining this influential document and it’s wider impact)

The Berlin Wall – (Article about the infamous barrier erected in Berlin during the Cold War)


Cold War Collection – (Cold War themed merch from High Speed History)

Inside American Freedom Sticker by @highspeedhistory

ARVN Shirt by @highspeedhistory


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