Postwar Challenges

When Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945, Americans were ecstatic. The American military was now the most powerful in the world. Even Americans who did not fight were proud of the factory work Americans did to support the war.

The euphoria did not last long. The Soviet Union and the United States had been allied in their struggle against Hitler's Germany, but the Americans distrusted Josef Stalin's Communist government and were upset by his takeover of Eastern European countries immediately after the war. More Soviet citizens were killed in World War II than any other nation, and Stalin was determined to guarantee that the Soviet people would never again meet such a fate.

The United States was unwilling to stand by while another form of totalitarianism spread across Europe, this time from Moscow. And so began the Cold War.

Across the globe from Eastern Europe to China and Korea, the Truman Administration was faced with the challenge of halting the advance of communism. As decolonization was sweeping through the southern part of the globe, the competing superpowers tried to befriend each newly independent nation. In 1950, American troops were sent to South Korea to halt the advancing communist forces of North Korea.

The Cold War was the single most important foreign policy issue for the United States through the end of the twentieth century. President Truman set the general U.S. response with the Truman Doctrine, his containment policy. Crises in Berlin, China, and Korea forced Truman to back his words with actions. The Cold War kept defense industries busy, but pushed the United States to the limits of its power in Vietnam. Democracy was also tested with outbreaks of Communist witch hunts.

Source: Postwar Challenges
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