History Review Sample: Cold War and the Fifties


Harbutt, F. J. (2010). Yalta 1945: Europe and America at the Crossroads. New York: Cambridge University Press.

On February 4, through to February 11, 1945, the three big allied leaders came together and held a conference, commonly referred to as The Yalta Conference, in Crimea in Russia during World War II. These three big leaders were Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S. President at the time, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and British Premier Winston Churchill. They discussed the fate of Europe, its re-organization after the World War II. The conference’s main aim was to come up with ways of re-establishing the nations that had been destroyed and conquered by Germany. Important resolutions concerning the impending direction of the wartime and the post-war world were reached. When these leaders came to the conference they knew well beforehand that a victory in Europe for the Allied Nations was inevitable; however, they were much less convinced of the ending of the Pacific war. Great Britain and the United States recognized that defeating the might of the Japanese would take more protracted fight; thus they hoped to seek the participation of the Soviet Union, something that they saw as a strategic advantage in the Pacific theatre. Thus, one of the issues discussed during the Yalta Conference was the conditions under which Stalin’s Soviet would take part in the war against Japan. In this regard, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin agreed that, upon the surrender of Japan, the Soviets for their crucial participation in the war would be granted control over Manchuria, which included, the occupancy of Port Arthur, the Kurile Islands, the Southern part of Sakhalin, and a part in the Manchurian railroads operations.

As has already been mentioned, the three Allied leaders also deliberated on the potential future of Eastern Europe, Germany, and the United Nations. Particularly, the leaders made the decision to include the French in the governing of Germany post-war, as well Germany assuming some responsibilities, not all, for restitutions following the war. The British Premier and the U.S. President agreed with the Soviet Premier that the Eastern European nations’ that border with the Soviet should be friendly allies to the Soviet regime and that, in reciprocal, the Soviet agreed to allow all the territories that were liberated from the Nazi Germany to hold free elections.

The conference also made a decision on Poland and released a declaration, which allowed for the Communists to be included in the post-war government. Discussions were also held regarding the future and the composition of the UN Security Council, which had since been increased to five permanent members as a result of the addition of France, who would each hold a veto on decisions on issues that would be brought before the Security Council; this followed an American plan on voting procedures.

These decisions and decrees from the Yalta conference were received with celebratory manner with most Americans, led by President Roosevelt considering it a proof of the relationship and spirit of Soviet-U.S. wartime cooperation, which would carry on into the post-war era.

Upon the untimely, death of U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 25, 1945, the Vice President at the time, Harry S. Truman took office and became America’s 33rd president. This meant that the sentiment regarding the wartime corporation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was short lived. Truman continued with most of the policies and diplomatic efforts that had been initiated by Roosevelt’s administration; however his approach towards the Soviet Union was a little sterner.

It suffices to say that Truman was early on in his administration, was confronted by enormous challenges both in regards to foreign policy and domestic affairs. In fact, his foreign policy, specifically towards the Soviet Union, in the emerging cold war that would define America’s foreign policy for generations that have followed. Domestically, Truman, reinforced and protected the New Deal reform put in place by his predecessor Franklin D. Roosevelt, and guided the American economy to a peace-time footing form a war-time.

Most importantly, his administration advance African-American civil rights cause. By the beginning of May, 1945, the Truman administration had confronted and disagreed with the Soviets over the United Nations and their purported influence and control of Eastern Europe. Most Americans, until now accuse Roosevelt of poorly handling the Yalta Conference negotiations and easily giving the Soviet Union control over Northeast Asia and Eastern Europe.

Trachtenberg, M. (1999). A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945-1963. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Once again, just after the Yalta Conference, the three big Allied leaders, British Premier Winston Churchill, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, and the new U.S. President Harry Truman met in July 17 through to August 2, 1945, in Potsdam, Germany – yet another conference commonly referred to as the Potsdam Conference. This time the three leaders met to negotiate terms for ending the World War II. This had earlier been scheduled in the Yalta conference where the three Allied leaders had agreed to meet following the surrender of Germany so as to determine the post-war European borders.

Germany had surrender on May 8, 1945, thus paving the way for the Potsdam conference in the summer. Since the war in Europe had ended, the Allied had no common enemy and although, having committed to fighting in the Pacific war together, they had difficulties in reaching consensus regarding the partition and post-war reconstruction of Europe. According, the key issue addressed at the Potsdam conference was the question of how the three Allied Nations would handle post-war Germany.

During the February, 1945 Yalta Conference the Soviet Union had suggested for heavy reparations of post-war Germany, with half of it going to the Soviet Union, demand which Franklin D. Roosevelt had acceded to. However, Harry Truman, and James Byrnes, U.S. Secretary of State were determined, during the Potsdam conference to mitigate how Germany was to be treated by asserting that the nations occupying post-war Germany to exact compensations from the zones that they occupied.

Harry Truman held this position since it was his belief that a repetition of the situation that the Treaty of Versailles created should not occur; the treaty had exacted high compensation payments from Germany after the World War I. these harsh compensations that the Treaty of Versailles had exacted on Germany, according to many experts, had crippled the German economy and led to the rise of Nazis.

Miscamble, W. D. (2007). From Roosevelt to Truman: Potsdam, Hiroshima, and the Cold War. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Numerous heated arguments aside, the Potsdam Conference resulted in the Allied leaders reaching some key agreements and decisions such as the confirmation of the status of disarmed and demilitarized Germany under zones controlled and influenced by the Allied occupation. The conference decreed a Protocol that required the complete demilitarization and disarmament of Germany; in fact, all industries in Germany that were meant for military purposes were to be destroyed.

The production of any military hardware in Germany was prohibited, and all German paramilitary and military forces were to be abolished. In fact, the conference further decreed that the Germany society and politics was to be reorganized along democratic lines and all the discriminatory laws established by the Nazis be repealed; those German considered as war criminals were to be arrested and tried.

Likewise, the German judicial and education systems were also to be cleaned of any discriminatory and authoritarian influences. asserts that democratic political parties were encouraged to take part in the management and administration of Germany at the state and local levels. However, the Potsdam conference postponed indefinitely, the reconstitution of Germany’s national government; the country was to be run by the Allied Control Commission, which was made up of four occupying powers including Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and France.

The Potsdam Conference, however, addressed one very controversial matter, which were the revision of the Soviet-German-Polish borders and the removal of millions of Germans from the disputed zones. Poland, therefore, became a major beneficiary of a large band of German territory and soon started deporting millions of German from the said territories. This led to the Potsdam conference declaration that any deportation should be carried out in a humane and orderly manner.

Additionally, the Potsdam Conference also agreed to the formation of the Council of Foreign Ministers, which would act on behalf of the Allied nations including China. The Council was also to be responsible for drafting treaties with former allies of Germany. The participants in the Potsdam Conference also agreed to revisit and revise the Montreux Convention of 1936, which had given the control of Turkish Straits to Turkey.

The Allied Nations, the United States, China, and Britain, released the Potsdam Conference Declaration, which warned and threatened Japan with utter and prompt destruction if it failed to surrender and end the Pacific war; however, the Soviet Union refused to sign the declaration since it had not yet began participating in the pacific war.

While the Potsdam conference was still ongoing, the U.S. President, Harry Truman on July 24, 1945 had a conversation with the Soviet Union Premier in which he informed him of a successful detonation of the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945. This was and has been seen by historians as President Truman’s way of maintaining a stern position during the negotiations with the belief that the nuclear capability of the United States enhanced its bargaining power.

However, this was not the case, since Stalin and the Soviet were already aware of the U.S. nuclear activities as a result of their strong intelligence network; thus, Stalin also held a stern position at the negotiations. This, in fact, made the negotiations become more difficult and challenging. After this conference, the Allied nation’s leaders who had been allies throughout the war despite their numerous differences never had another meeting to discuss, collectively, the post-war reconstruction…

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