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Archive for '- Cold War'

From Our Film Archives: “The March”

This Sunday is the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. To commemorate the event, the National Archives is displaying a program from the march in the East Rotunda Gallery and screening The March on August 27 and 28.

But if you are not in Washington, DC, you can still watch the entire film on our YouTube channel.

The first reel of this documentary (embedded below) shows the lead-up to the march—from assembling thousand of picket signs to making 80,000 cheese sandwiches for bagged lunches to the long bus rides into the Washington, DC. The first 12 minutes gives a different view of the event from the usual clips of the March on Washington.

The film was directed by James Blue, who was later nominated for an Oscar in 1969 for another documentary, A Few Notes on Our Food Problem.

The March was made as part of a series of films created by the United States Information Agency (USIA), founded by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953. These films were meant to promote American policies in foreign countries, without being overt propaganda. (You can read about the agency’s anticommunism message in this Text Message post about the race to the Moon.)

But these USIA films were rarely seen in America because of concerns about the U.S. Government propagandizing its own people. The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act mandated that no USIA film could be shown domestically … [ Read all ]

The Berlin Wall, now a vital piece of history

Americans often associate the month of August with family vacations and the summer heat, but that was not the case in 1961. Fifty years ago this month, a Cold War chill filled the air as construction began on the Berlin Wall.

After the end of World War II, the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union each occupied a piece of postwar Germany. The four powers intended to jointly govern through the Allied Control Council until the country could be reunified under one government. But as relations between the West and the Soviet Union deteriorated in the late 1940s, Germany became a central part of the Cold War.

In 1949, the the three western zones merged to form the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Soviet Union responded by establishing the German Democratic Republic. Although the capital city of Berlin was located within Soviet-controlled East Germany, it remained divided as a multinational area.

Between 1949 and 1961, millions of East Germans defected from the German Democratic Republic by crossing into West Berlin. The mass exodus of young, well-educated individuals—which led to both economic stagnation and political turmoil—compelled Communist leaders to refortify East Germany’s borders.

East German troops and workers began construction on the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961. The first phase of the wall included 27 miles of barbed-wire fencing, covering the entire … [ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesdays: Dinner Diplomacy Thaws the Cold War

Sometimes sharing a good meal is the best way to resolve the differences you may have with another. For the United States and China, this strategy helped normalize relations during the peak of the Cold War.

Today, the U.S. and China share a public relationship, but after Mao Tse-tung’s Chinese Communist Party founded the People’s Republic of China, the two countries severed all diplomatic communication for more than two decades. Relations between the two powers did not reopen until President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to mainland China in 1972.

The first evening of the trip, Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai hosted an elaborate banquet in honor of President Nixon in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square. The dinner, which was broadcast live around the globe, consisted of both of customary and exotic Chinese dishes.

In an effort to accommodate the President and his party, chefs prepared familiar items like Chinese sausage, shrimp, roast pork, roast duck with pineapple, and vegetable slices. The menu also included native cuisine like shark’s fin soup, black mushrooms with mustard greens, and spongy bamboo shoots. President Nixon skillfully used chopsticks to sample each dish served to him, maintaining proper Chinese etiquette.

The main beverages served at the banquet were boiled water, orange juice, wine, and, of course, mao-tai. Photographs of Nixon and Chou En-lai toasting each other … [ Read all ]

The Beginning of the End: MacArthur in Korea

It was 61 years ago today that General Douglas MacArthur was named commander of United Nations forces in Korea. The final command in an illustrious career, MacArthur’s tenure in Korea led to a controversial feud with President Harry Truman and ultimately his dismissal.

The Korean War began on the morning of June 25, 1950, when troops from communist North Korea crossed the 38th parallel and attacked the Republic of Korea. Within hours the United Nations Security Council convened to adopt Resolution 82, which called for the withdrawal of all North Korean forces. When no withdrawal occurred, the UN passed a subsequent resolution asking member nations to provide military assistance for the removal of all aggressive forces below the 38th parallel.

Since the United States military was leading the aid effort, the United Nations authorized the American government to select the commander-in-chief of UN forces. The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously proposed that General MacArthur lead the coalition.

By early September, MacArthur’s forces had pushed most of the North Korean troops back beyond the 38th parallel. Filled with confidence after a major tactical victory at Inchon, MacArthur lobbied to push up into North Korea and crush further aggression. This request, however, made many inside the Truman administration wary.

President Truman and his advisers believed that since North Korea shared its northern border with China, an aggressive … [ Read all ]

The Pentagon Papers, now online after 40 years

If you opened the the New York Times this morning in 1971, you would have seen the first part of the secret ”Pentagon Papers” that the newspaper published—without authorization from the government.

Today in 2011, the National Archives and the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon Presidential libraries will release the entire official Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force (commonly referred to as the Pentagon Papers).

Although the unauthorized publication of the Papers fueled opposition to the Vietnam War and provided historians with unique insight into the U.S. policymaking apparatus, today’s release will finally provide the American public with unimpeded access to this historic text.

The release will feature over 2,300 pages of previously undisclosed material not included in the Senator Gravel Edition of the Pentagon Papers, the most commonly referenced compilation of the Papers.

So what were the Pentagon Papers?

Following the 1954 Geneva Accords, the United States assumed a substantial role in the political and military development of South Vietnam. In order to prevent the new nation from falling into the communist sphere of influence in Southeast Asia, the Eisenhower administration provided the government of Ngo Dinh Diem with billions of dollars in economic and military aid. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson continued authorizing similar assistance prior the introduction of U.S. combat troops in 1965.

In 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara commissioned the … [ Read all ]