Dr. Quintard Taylor, Jr.
Scott and Dorothy Bullitt
Professor of American History
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African American History | African American History in the West (Now available at www.blackpast.org)  

History 101:
Survey of the History of the United States
Manual - Chapter 8
World War II and the Cold War

Introduction | Chap. 1 | Chap. 2 | Chap. 3 | Chap. 4 | Chap. 5 | Chap. 6 | Chap. 7 | Chap. 8 | Chap. 9 | Appendix

Man on the Street Interviews following Pearl Harbor                             

Communism in Washington State--History & Memory Project  

Readings for Chapter  8 

Terms for Week 8


































Terms for Week 8 

        The Axis Powers 

        Executive Order 9066 

        Camp Harmony, Washington 

        Navajo "code talkers" 

        Rosie the Riveter 

        Zoot Suit Riot       

        Hanford, Washington       

        War Manpower Commission 

        Inez Sauer 


        Japanese American Citizen's League (JACL) 

        League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) 

        Josef Stalin       

        House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) 

        Albert F. Canwell 

        Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 

        Truman Doctrine 

        North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) 

        Warsaw Pact 


        proxy wars 

        Korean War, 1950-1953 

        Strom Thurmond\The Dixicrats 

        The Baby Boom 


        G.I. Bill 

        Cuban Missile Crisis 

        Gulf of Tonkin Resolution 

        Ethiopian‑Somali War, 1977‑1978 

        Angolan Civil War, 1975‑1976 

        Hungarian Revolution, 1956 

        Berlin Wall, 1961-1989 

        Tiananmen Square 

        Boris Yeltsin 



President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 is reprinted below. 

        WHEREAS the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national‑defense material, national‑defense premises, and national defense utilities...: NOW, THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.  The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded there from, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order. The designation of military areas in any region or locality shall supersede designations of prohibited and restricted areas by the Attorney General under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, and shall supersede the responsibility and authority of the Attorney General under the said Proclamations in respect of such prohibited and restricted areas.  I hereby further authorize and direct the Secretary of War and the said Military Commanders to take such other steps as he or the appropriate Military Commander may deem advisable to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable to each Military area hereinabove authorized to be designated, including the use of Federal troops and other Federal Agencies, with authority to accept assistance of state and local agencies.

        I hereby further authorize and direct all Executive Departments, independent establishments and other Federal Agencies, to assist the Secretary of War or the said Military Commanders in carrying out this Executive Order, including the furnishing of medical aid, hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, shelter, and other supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities, and services.  This order shall not be construed as modifying or limiting in any way the authority heretofore granted under Executive Order No. 8972, dated December 12, 1941, nor shall it be construed as limiting or modifying the duty and responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with respect to the investigation of alleged acts of sabotage or the duty and responsibility of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, prescribing regulations for the conduct and control of alien enemies, except as such duty and responsibility is superseded by the designation of military areas hereunder.  

Source: Roger Daniels and Harry Kitano, American Racism: Exploration of the Nature of Prejudice (Englewood Cliffs, 1970), pp. 135-136. 



Monica Sone in her autobiography, Nisei Daughter, describes the evacuation of her family from Seattle in the Spring of 1942.       

        On the 21st of April...[General] DeWitt gave us the shattering news. "All Seattle Japanese will be moved to Puyallup by May 1.  Everyone must be registered Saturday and Sunday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.  They will leave next week in three groups, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday...

        Our last Sunday, Father and Henry [Sone's brother] moved all our furniture and household goods down to the hotel and stored them in one room... Monday evening we received friends in our empty house where our voices echoed loudly and footsteps clattered woodenly on the bare floor....That night we rolled ourselves into army blankets...and slept on the bare floor.  The next morning Henry rudely shouted us back into consciousness.  "Six-thirty! Everybody wake up, today's the day!"

        I screamed, "Must you sound so cheerful about it?"

        "What do you expect me to do, bawl?"

        On this sour note we got up...jammed our blankets into the long narrow seabag, and carefully tied the white pasteboard tag, 10710, on our coat lapels... 

        We climbed into the truck... As we coasted down Beacon Hill bridge for the last time, we fell silent... We drove through bustling Chinatown, and...around the corner of Eight and Lane.  This area was ordinarily lonely and deserted but now it was filling up with silent, labeled Japanese, standing self-consciously among their...suitcases....

        Finally at ten o'clock, a vanguard of Greyhound busses...parked themselves neatly along the curb.  The crowd stirred and murmured.  The bus doors opened and from each, a soldier with rife in hand stepped out and stood stiffly at attention by the door.  The murmuring died.  It was the first time I had seen a rifle at such close range and I felt uncomfortable.  This rifle was presumably to quell riots, but contrarily, I felt riotous emotion mounting in my breast.

        Jim Shigeno, one of the leaders of the Japanese-American Citizens' League, stepped briskly up front and started reading off family numbers to fill the first bus.  Our number came up and we pushed our way out of the crowd.  Jim said, "Step right in." 

        We bumped into each other with nervous haste.  I glanced nervously at the soldier and his rifle, and I was startled to see that he was but a young man, pink-cheeked, his clear gray eyes staring impassively ahead... I suddenly turned maternal and hovered over Mother and Father to see that they were comfortably settled.  They were silent.

        Newspaper photographers with flash-bulb cameras pushed busily through the crowd.  One of them rushed up to our bus, and asked a young couple and their little boy to step out and stand by the door for a shot.  They were reluctant, but the photographers were persistent and at length they got out of the bus and posed, grinning widely to cover their embarrassment.  We saw the picture in the newspaper shortly after and the caption underneath it read, "Japs good-natured about evacuation." 

Source: Monica Sone, Nisei Daughter, (Seattle, 1953), pp. 165-171. 



In the following passage Seattle resident Ben Yorita, one of 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry interned during World War II, describes his experience in the Summer of 1942 in "Camp Harmony," a temporary holding area on the Puyallup fairgrounds, before being transferred to the Minidoka Internment Camp in Idaho. 

        Students weren’t as aware of national politics then as they are now, and Japanese-Americans were actually apolitical then.  Our parents couldn’t vote, so we simply weren’t interested in politics because there was nothing we could do about it if we were.

        There were two reasons we were living in the ghettos: Birds of a feather flock together, and we had all the traditional aspects of Japanese life—Japanese restaurants, baths, and so forth; and discrimination forced us together.  The dominant society prevented us from going else­where.

        Right after Pearl Harbor we had no idea what was going to hap­pen, but toward the end of December we started hearing rumors and talk of the evacuation started.  We could tell from what we read in the newspapers and the propaganda they were printing—guys like Henry McLemore, who said he hated all Japs and that we should be rounded up, gave us the idea of how strong feelings were against us. So we were expecting something and the evacuation was no great surprise.

        I can’t really say what my parents thought about everything be­cause we didn’t communicate that well.  I never asked them what they thought.  We communicated on other things, but not political matters.

        Once the evacuation was decided, we were told we had about a month to get rid of our property or do whatever we wanted to with it.  That was a rough time for my brother, who was running a printshop my parents owned.  We were still in debt on it and we didn’t know what to do with all the equipment.  The machines were old but still workable, and we had English type and Japanese type.  Japanese characters had to be set by hand and were very hard to replace. Finally, the whole works was sold, and since nobody would buy the Japanese type, we had to sell it as junk lead at 500 a pound. We sold the equipment through news­paper classified ads: "Evacuating: Household goods for sale."  Second­hand dealers and everybody else came in and bought our refrigerator, the piano, and I had a whole bunch of books I sold for $5, which was one of my personal losses.  We had to sell our car, and the whole thing was very sad.  By the way, it was the first time we had ever had a refrig­erator and it had to be sold after only a few months.

        We could take only what we could carry, and most of us were carrying two suitcases or duffel bags.  The rest of our stuff that we couldn’t sell was stored in the Buddhist church my mother belonged to.  When we came back, thieves had broken in and stolen almost every­thing of value from the church.

        I had a savings account that was left intact, but people who had their money in the Japanese bank in Seattle had their assets frozen from Pearl Harbor until the late 1960s, when the funds were finally released.  They received no interest.

        They took all of us down to the Puyallup fairgrounds, Camp Har­mony, and everything had been thrown together in haste.  They had converted some of the display and exhibit areas into rooms and had put up some barracks on the parking lot.  The walls in the barracks were about eight feet high with open space above and with big knotholes in the boards of the partitions.  Our family was large, so we had two rooms.

        They had also built barbed-wire fences around the camp with a tower on each corner with military personnel and machine guns, rifles, and searchlights. It was terrifying because we didn’t know what was going to happen to us.  We didn’t know where we were going and we were just doing what we were told.  No questions asked.  If you get an order, you go ahead and do it.

        There was no fraternization, no contact with the military or any Caucasian except when we were processed into the camp.  But the treat­ment in Camp Harmony was fairly loose in the sense that we were free to roam around in the camp. But it was like buffalo in cages or behind barbed wire.

        There was no privacy whatsoever in the latrines and showers, and it was humiliating for the women because they were much more modest then than today. It wasn’t so bad for the men because they were accus­tomed to open latrines and showers.  We had no duties in the sense that we were required to work, but you can’t expect a camp to manage itself.  They had jobs open in the kitchen and stock room, and eventually they opened a school where I helped teach a little.  I wasn’t a qualified teacher, and I got about $13 a month.  We weren’t given an allowance while we were in Camp Har­mony waiting for the camp at Minidoka to be finished, so it was pretty tight for some families.

        From Camp Harmony on, the family structure was broken down.  Children ran everywhere they wanted to in the camp, and parents lost their authority.  We could eat in any mess hall we wanted, and kids began ignoring their parents and wandering wherever they pleased.

        Eventually they boarded us on army trucks and took us to trains to be transported to the camps inland.  We had been in Camp Harmony from May until September. 

Source: Archie Satterfield, ed. The Home Front: An Oral History Of the War Years in America: 1941-45 (Chicago, 1981) pp. 330-338.  


The worst example of anti-Chicano violence in the 20th Century history of the United States is described below by historians, Julian Samora and Patricia Vandel Simon. 

        In the early 1940s many Mexican American teenagers wore "drapes."  This popular style of clothing resembled the zoot suits worn in Harlem.  It was designed to be comfortable to dance in, and was sometimes used as a signal that the wearer belonged to a club or gang.  Most Anglos called the outfit a zoot suit and assumed that only hoodlums wore them.

        In 1942, in the name of national security, all the Japanese Americans on the west coast had been taken from their homes and interred in camps.  With this group of scapegoats safely out of the way, Los Angeles newspapers began to blame crime in the city on the Mexican Americans.  They began to give prominence to incidents involving Mexican Americans, or as they called them, "zoot suiters."

        On the evening of June 3, 1943, eleven sailors on shore leave walked into one of Los Angeles's worst Mexican American slums and became involved in a fight with persons unknown, but who were thought to be Mexican Americans.  This incident stirred up the anger of the citizenry, as well as that of the many members of the armed forces who were stationed in Los Angeles.

        The next evening two hundred sailors hired a fleet of taxicabs and drove through the heart of the city to the Mexican American communities on the east side.  Every time they saw a Mexican American boy in a zoot suit they would stop and beat him up.  The city police did nothing to stop them.

        The following two nights the sailors were joined by other servicemen as the wandered freely through the city harassing Mexican Americans.  Los Angeles police arrested several severely beaten Mexican American boys on charges of rioting, even though no resistance had been offered by the Mexican Americans.  The newspapers featured headlines such as "44 Zooters Jailed in Attacks on Sailors."

        On June seventh, thousands of civilians joined in the riot.  Filipinos and Negroes as well as Mexican Americans were attacked.  At midnight military authorities decided the local police could not handle the situation and declared downtown Los Angeles off limits to military personnel.  The rioting spread to the suburbs for two more days before it finally subsided.

        The Los Angeles zoot suit riots touched off similar disturbances across the country in the summer of 1943; in San Diego; Beaumont, Texas; Detroit; Evansville, Indiana; Philadelphia and Harlem. 

Source: Julian Samora and Patricia Vandel Simon, A History of the Mexican American People, (Notre Dame, Ind., 1977), p. 157. 


Despite the internment of the vast majority of Japanese during World War II, a Japanese-American Army unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, fought in against the Germans in the Italian theater and became one of the most decorated American units during the war.  A brief account of their heroism is detailed below by one of their officers, Lt. Daniel Inouye who later became the U.S. Senator from Hawaii. 

        Few men fought in all of the 442nd's campaign and battles.  Our casualty rate was so high that eventually it took 12,000 men to fill the original 4,500 places in the regiment.  But fewer men still missed a battle as long as they could stand up and hold an M1.  The outfit has the lowest AWOL rate in the European theater of operations and the only men I ever heard about going over the hill had very special reasons....

        When we reached Leghorn [the site of a battle with German troops] we were trucked north to an area in the sector of the 92nd Division, to which the 442nd was now attached.  The 92nd was one of only two outfits in the army made up of Negro troops.  The had fought hard and lost many men and the Germans seemed to take a fiendish delight in bombarding them with propaganda leaflets--a white man making love to a Negro girl, and the inevitable caption: "Is this your wife?"  And the taunting questions: "What are you fighting for?  To go back to slavery to your white masters?"

        Our side didn't help much.  The division officers' clubs were segregated--this in the heart of a war zone--as was every other recreational facility.  One of the first things our regimental C.O. did was send word through the 442nd that we were to steer clear of both the white and colored clubs.  Since there was no way we could change a rotten situation, he wanted us to be as free of it as we could, and we kept very much to ourselves.

        The mission of the 92nd was to breach the western anchor of the Gothic Line, a system of rock and concrete fortifications high in the mountains of northern Italy.  Elaborate bunkers and fortified machine gun nests made it seem impenetrable.  When the commanding general...asked whether the 442nd could take Mt. Folgorito [part of the Gothic Line] in a week's time...our C.O. replied drily, "I think you can count on it."

        We jumped off at midnight of April 5, two battalions moving through an unreconnoitered gorge and scaling the cliffs on the enemy's right... Later we learned that some of the men had slipped and bounced as much as 100 feet down the steep slopes--one fell to his death--but not one of them cried out and the soundless advance went on.  We took the Germans by complete surprise...

        We moved up that slope and almost at once three machine guns opened up on us.... I looked down to where my right hand was clutching my stomach.  Blood oozed between my fingers... We were pinned down and now the moment was critical... I lobbed two grenades... And as I drew my arm back...I saw a German soldier...aiming a rifle grenade at my face from a range of ten yards.  As I cocked my arm to throw, he fired and his rifle grenade smashed into my right elbow and exploded and all but tore my arm off.... I turned to throw as the German was reloading his rifle.  But this time I beat him.  My grenade blew up in his face and I stumbled to my feet, firing my tommy gun left-handed, the useless right arm slapping red and wet against my side... 

Source: Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Journey to Washington, (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1967), pp. 141-142, 150-152. 



The vignette below is an account of Walter Higgans, a Navajo soldier in the U.S. Army who was captured by the Germans in World War II only to escape to the Soviet Union. 

        The Germans were tryin' to come down this mountain road and we were supposed to try to stop them.  We went into this heavy thick forest area where everything was so thick that you couldn't see far at all.  But the Germans kept sending out patrols, and there was firing back and forth, in patches like.  Then everything cut loose.  While those patrols were keeping us busy, their tanks had moved up practically right on top of us and they were so close you could hear the recoil from their guns when they fired.  So we started to fall back slowly and we had been doin' this for about three hours, and all of a sudden the platoon on our left ran through us and they were yellin' that the tanks had moved in and were coming this way fast.  They had only .30 caliber machine guns, and you can't fight tanks with that.  They left all their stuff behind.  We went down into this big arroyo where they had been.

        About that time, I was a squad leader, a buck sergeant.  I talked to the platoon leader and he talked to a lieutenant and the captain of the company, and they said to go get all the equipment that was left back up there, but nobody would go because the tanks were too close.  So the captain talked to the battalion commander, and he said to go back up and hold the line.  By that time three of us, and one of these was a cousin of mine from Blue Notch, we had already gone up there and brought back most of the rifles and grenades that they had left there.  Then the telephone line got knocked out with all the firing.  So two of us were sent up in the direction of the tanks to fix the telephone wire.  There was lots of cover--something like ferns growin' about shoulder high--and this other guy got separated from me.  All at once there were two Germans standin' right behind me and I was captured...

        We escaped because they were going to move us into Berlin, and we didn't want to be caught in the middle of the fighting.  We got through the Russian lines and into Poland to Danzig, because we had heard that it was an open city.  But that place was torn to pieces, so then we headed down to Warsaw and then from there to Lodz.  And from Lodz we went across to Kiev.  All this time we were waking, and while this was going on I got arrested about twelve times, because I was walking with these white boys and the Russians wanted to know who I was.  They didn't even know that I was an American and that I was born over here.  They'd throw me in jail and put me through interrogation by somebody who could speak English.  I kept tellin' them that I was an Indian, but they would just laugh and say that there were no Indians over here and I had to convince them.  They finally turned me loose one place and then I'd get arrested at the next town.  After the twelfth time, I asked them to give me a pass.  The Germans had taken all our identification from us.  When I was in jail, the others were good enough to wait for me.  There were twelve of them, and I was the odd one, the thirteenth.

        We finally walked down to Odessa and, boy, I never seen such an awful lookin' bunch of people in my life.  We had been tradin' our clothes for food, but we were still half starved and almost naked on top of that.  This was toward the end of March 1945, when we got down there... 

Source: Jack O. Waddell and O. Michael Watson, eds., The American Indian in Urban Society, (Boston 1971), pp. 373-375. 


The following vignette, taken from a 1993 article authored by Beth Bailey and David Farber, describes the complex racial order that African Americans found themselves in when they served as soldiers, sailors and war workers in Hawaii.  Their experience profoundly reshaped thinking about race among whites, blacks and Asians on both the islands and the mainland.  

        Well over a million service personnel and civilian employees of the military...were brought to Hawaii by reason of war.  Among those men and women were approximately 30,000 people of African descent--soldiers, sailors, war workers.  They came to a place that, before World War II, had no "Negro Problem," in part because few people on the islands recognized that "Negroes" lived in Hawaii.  In 1940, according to one estimate by the territorial government, approximately 200 "Negroes of American birth" lived on the islands... Most people on Hawaii did not bring the racist ways of the mainland into there daily lives. They did stereotype one another: many Americans of Japanese ancestry looked down on the Chinese, and often upon the haoles [whites].  The Chinese looked down on the Filipinos.  Round and round it went.  Each ethnic group had its suspicions of the others and definite hierarchies existed.  But such prejudices were not the white heat of the mainland's rigid caste society.  The lines were less absolute... It helped that no one group held a majority...  Hawaii was much more progressive on the issue of race than the rest of the U.S.

        The men and women who came to Hawaii from the mainland were uniformly shocked by what they found.  On the streets of Honolulu or in small towns on the Big Island, "white" ness was not the natural condition.  All newcomers were surprised, but reactions varied.  Some praised what they saw...others were mightily upset by it; still others just confused...

        Writing home in private letters to family and friends, wives and sweethearts, black men who had come to Hawaii as servicemen or war workers discussed the possibilities of Hawaii's wartime racial liminality.  A shipyard worker wrote: "I thank God often for letting me experience the occasion to spend a part of my life in a part of the world were one can be respected and live as a free man should."  Another young man tried to explain to his girlfriend: "Honey, its just as much difference between over here and down there as it is between night and day."  He concluded: Hawaii "will make anybody change their minds about living down there."  "Down there" was the Jim Crow South, the place about which a third man wrote, "I shall never go back."

        White men and women from the mainland also saw the possible implications of Hawaii's racial landscape: "They have come as near to solving the race problem as any place in the world," wrote a nurse.  "I'm a little mystified by it as yet but it doesn't bother anyone who had lived here awhile."  A teacher found it world shaking: "I have gained here at least the impulse to fight racial bigotry and boogeyism.  My soul has been stretched here and my notion of civilization and Americanism broadened."

        Not everyone was so inspired.  One hardened soul, in Hawaii with her husband and children, wrote the folks: "Down here they have let down the standards, there does not seem to be any race hatred, there is not even any race distinction... I don't want to expose our children too long to these conditions."  A white man wrote back home: "Imagine that the South will have some trouble ahead when these black bastards return.  Over here they're on the equal with everyone... They're in paradise and no fooling."  Others made it clear they did not believe the trouble would keep: "Boy the niggers are sure in their glory over here...they almost expect white people to step off the streets and let them walk by... They are going to overstep their bounds a little too far one of these days and those boys from the South are going to have a little necktie party." 

        If Hawaii was "paradise"...there was a snake in this paradise, too.  "As you know," one man wrote back to the mainland, "most sailors are from Texas and the South.  They are most[ly] Navy men here, and they have surely poisoned everyone against the Negro...with tales of Negroes carrying dreadful diseases, being thieves, murderers and downright no good." 

                                               *      *      *       

        In letters back home, black servicemen fumed about the spread of racial hatred. "They preach to the natives a nasty, poisonous doctrine that we must fight like hell to overcome.  They tell the native that we are ignorant dumb, evil, rapers, and troublemakers.  They have the native women to a point they are afraid to even speak to our Negro boys."

        The responses of the local people to the black malihini (newcomers) were complex and somewhat unpredictable.  Although some sociologists at the time speculated that the local population would not accept negroes...in fact local men often lent their support to blacks against whites... 

        This is not to say that the propaganda of African American inferiority had no effect...  Local women wrote frequently of their fears. "I am very scared of these Negro soldiers here in Honolulu.  They make my skin shrivel and myself afraid to go near them," wrote a Chinese girl.  A young Japanese woman wrote in almost identical terms: "They are so big and dark... Seeing them around while I'm alone gives me the 'goose-flesh.'"  Another Japanese woman was a little more reflective about her feelings.  After sharing a perfectly uneventful bus ride with four black soldiers she wrote a friend: "Gee, I was very frightened... Funny isn't it how I am about them.  One would be that way after hearing lots of nasty things about them."

        Some local women recognized the unfairness of local fears.  One young woman of Japanese ancestry, writing in a private letter, criticized her peers: "They are going to have a dance for colored boys...only 18 girls are willing to go--such cooperation.  Imagine us here talking about color equality and when it come to those thing not enough cooperation.  I sure would like to have gone to it...but you know Mother."  

Source: Beth Bailey and David Farber, "The 'Double-V' Campaign in World War II Hawaii: African Americans, Racial Ideology, and Federal Power," Journal of Social History 26:4 (Summer 1993:818-821, 825-827. 


In the following vignette I describe how Seattle emerged as a major site of war production, a process which transformed both the city and the region. 

        The Second World War generated pro­found changes in economic and social conditions in the Pacific North­west, prompting historian Carlos Schwantes to describe the years 1941-45 as the beginning of the modern era for the region.  The Puget Sound area soon became a major center for ship and aircraft construction, which in turn stimu­lated other sectors of the economy.  The region's shipbuilding industry was re­vived in 1941 after its virtual collapse following World War I, as eighty-eight ship­yards, twenty-nine in Seattle alone, fur­nished vessels for the Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine.  Seattle's air­craft industry also came of age during World War II al­though the pro­cess of growth and transformation had begun long before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The Boeing Airplane Company in Septem­ber 1939 em­ployed 4,000 workers making mili­tary planes for the Army Air Corps and some commercial air­craft such as the Clip­per airships which crossed the Pacific.  After fighting broke out in Europe, the British Royal Air Force pur­chased the compa­ny's B-17 Flying Fortress bombers for use against Nazi Germa­ny.  As orders came in, Boeing's work­ force grew accordingly to nearly 10,000 by June 1941, 20,000 in Sep­tember, and 30,000 when the United States officially entered the war on December 8, 1941.  In 1943, Boeing began production of the Super Fortress a larg­er, longer-range B-29 bomber from its facil­ity in Renton, a Seattle suburb.  Boeing workers soon pro­duced one B-29 bomber every five days and one B-17 every twenty-four hours.  By 1944, at the peak of wartime produc­tion, Boeing employed nearly 50,000 work­ers in the Seattle area and amassed total sales of more than $600 mil­lion annually, sharply contrasting with the $70 million value of all Seatt­le manu­factur­ing in 1939.

        Although no other Seattle firm could rival Boeing in employ­ment or produc­tion, other companies also experienced spectacular growth during World War II.  Pacific Car and Foundry Company in Renton, which manufactured logging trucks before 1941, now pro­duced Sherman tanks and employed nearly 4,000 workers in 1944.  Shipyards in the Puget Sound area including the Navy's facility at Bremerton and twenty-nine yards in Seattle, employed 150,000 work­ers by 1944.  Seattle's wartime contracts totaling 5.6 billion dollars, ranked it among the nation's top three cities (after Detroit and Los Angeles) in per capita war orders. 

Source: Quintard Taylor, The Forging of A Black Community: Seattle's Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle, 1994), pp. 160-161.



In this account Inez Sauer, Chief Clerk in the Tool Room at Boeing in World War II, describes how here work experience changed her life. 

        I was thirty-one when the war started and I have never worked in my life before.  I had a six-year-old daughter and two boys, twelve and thirteen.  We were living in Norwalk, Ohio, in a large home in which we could fit about 200 people playing bridge, and once in a while we filled it.

        I remember my husband saying to me, "You've lived through a depression and you weren't even aware it was here."  It was true.  I knew that people were without work and having a hard time, but it never seemed to affect us or our friends.  They were all of the same ilk--all college people and all golfing and bridge-playing companions.  I suppose you'd call it a life of ease.  We always kept a live-in maid, and we never had to go without anything.

        Before the war my life was bridge and golf and clubs and children... When the war broke out, my husband's rubber-matting business in Ohio had to close due to the war restrictions on rubber.  We also lost our live-in maid, and I could see there was no way I could possibly live the way I was accustomed to doing.  So I took my children home to my parents in Seattle.

        The Seattle papers were full of ads for women workers needed to help the war effort. "Do your part, free a man for service."  Being a D.A.R. [Daughters of the American Revolution], I really wanted to help the war effort.  I could have worked for the Red Cross and rolled bandages, but I wanted to do something that I thought was really vital.  Building bombers was, so I answered an ad for Boeing.     

        My mother was horrified.  She said no one in our family had ever worked in a factory.  "You don't know what kind of people you're going to be associated with."  My father was horrified too...  My husband thought it was utterly ridiculous.  I had never worked.  I didn't know how to handle money, as he put it.  I was nineteen when I was married.  My husband was ten years older, and he always made me feel like a child, so he didn't think I would last very long at the job, but he was wrong. 

        They started me as a clerk in this huge tool room.  I had never handled a tool in my life outside of a hammer.  Some man come in and asked for a bastard file.  I said to him, "If you don't control your language, you won't get any service here."  I went to my supervisor and said, "You'll have to correct this man.  I won't tolerate that kind of language."  He laughed and said, "Don't you know what a bastard file is?  It's the name of a very coarse file." He went over and took one out and showed me...

        The first year, I worked seven days a week. We didn't have any time off.  They did allow us Christmas off, but Thanksgiving we had to work.  That was a hard thing to do.  The children didn't understand.  My mother and father didn't understand, but I worked.  I think that put a little iron in my spine too.  I did something that was against my grain, but I did it and I'm glad...

        Because I was working late one night I had a chance to see President Roosevelt. They said he was coming on the swing shift, after four o'clock, so I waited to see him.  They cleared out the aisle of the main plant, and he went through in a big, open limousine.  He smiled and he had his long cigarette holder, and he was very, very pleasant.  "Hello there, how are you?  Keep up the war effort.  Oh, you women are doing a wonderful job."  We were all thrilled to think the President could take time out of the war effort to visit us factory workers.  It gave us a lift, and I think we worked harder. 

        Boeing was a real education for me. It taught me a different way of life.  I had never been around uneducated people before, people that worked with their hands.  I was prudish and had never been with people that used coarse language... I didn't know there was such a thing as the typical male ego.  My contact with my first supervisor was one of animosity, in which he stated, "The happiest duty of my life will be when I say goodbye to each of you to the door."  I didn't understand that kind of resentment, but it was prevalent throughout the plant...

         The job really broadened me....  I had no contact with Negroes except as maids or gardeners.  My mother was a Virginian, and we were bought up to think that colored people were not of the same economic or social level.  I learned differently at Boeing... I fact, I found that some of the black people I got to know there were very superior--and certainly equal to me--equal to anyone I ever knew.

        Before I worked at Boeing I also had no exposure to unions.  After I was there for a while, I joined the machinists union.  We had a contract dispute, and we had a one-day walkout to show Boeing our strength.  We went on this march through the financial district in downtown Seattle.

        My mother happened to be down there seeing the president of the Seattle First National Bank at the time...  So my mother...walked outside to see what was happening.  And we came down the middle of the street--there were probably five thousand of us.  I saw my mother...and I waved and said, "Hello, mother."  That night when I got home, I thought she was never going to honor my name again.  She said, "To think my daughter was marching in that labor demonstration.  How could you do that to the family?"  But I could see that it was a new world.

        My mother warned me, "You will never want to go back to being a housewife."  At the time I didn't think it would change a thing.  But she was right...  I had always been in a shell; I had always been protected.  But at Boeing I found a freedom and an independence that I had never known.  After the war, I could never go back to playing bridge again, being a club woman and listening to a lot of inanities when I knew there were things you could use your mind for.  The war changed my life completely.  I guess you could say, at thirty-one I finally grew up. 

Source: David E. Shi and Holly Mayer, eds., For the Record: A Documentary History of America (New York, 1999), pp. 254-257 


World War II generated the growth of major shipyards from Seattle to San Diego which employed thousands of workers.  Three shipyards built by industrialist Henry Kaiser in the Portland-Vancouver area employed over 100,000.  The vignette below describes the Kaiser shipyard in Richmond, California. 

        All shipyard workers had to adjust to the regimen of prefabricated shipbuilding.  Using techniques developed in building Boulder Dam, west coast shipbuilders assembled whole sections of a ship's structure, boilers, double bottoms, deckhouses, preassembled elsewhere and lifted into place by huge cranes.  This technique allowed these yards to assemble vessels in record time.  The Robert E. Peary was built in four days [at the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond] in November 1942.  Since workers performed specific, repetitive tasks, training went rapidly.  But these workers faced a bureaucratized environment.  For the first time in their lives they used security badges, got company-sponsored health care, reported to timekeepers, and receive their paychecks (with income tax withheld) from pay windows.  The Richmond yards were laid out in a grid system of numbered and lettered streets.  One worker described the 900 acres of shipyards: "It was such a huge place... People from all walks of life, all coming and going and working, and the noise.  The whole atmosphere was overwhelming to me."

        West Coast shipyards pioneered new production techniques and labor-management relations but they also embraced old stereotypes.  The Chinese performed detail-oriented electrical work considered suitable for their skills.  White women held welding jobs, considered the easiest position on the yards, while black women were relegated to scaling (cleaning), sweeping and painting ship hulls.  Portland shipyard worker Beatrice Marshall described her job as a painter's helper: "We had to crawl on our hands and knees and carry our light on an extension cord...because it was pitch dark.  We...scraped the rust off the bottom of the boat where they had to paint... We had to wear masks, there [was] so much rust in there...you could hardly breathe." 

Source: Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990, (New York, 1998) p. 257. 


In the following vignette, black San Francisco shipyard worker Lyn Childs, describes how she came to the defense of a Filipino employee on the ship she was repairing.  Her account also discusses the reaction from her supervisor.  

        I was working down in the hold of the ship and there were about six Filipino men...and this big white guy went over and started to kick this poor Filipino and none of the Black men that was working down there in the hold with him said one word to this guy.  And I sat there and was getting madder and madder by the minute.  I sprang to my feet, turned on my torch, and I had a flame about six to seven feet out in front of me, and I walked up to him and I said (you want me to say the real language?) I said to him,

        "You so-in-so.  If you go lift one more foot, I'll cut your guts out."  That was my exact words.  I was so mad with him.

        Then he started to tell me that he had been trained in boot camp that any national group who was darkskinned was beneath all White People.  So he started to cry.  I felt sorry for him, because he was crying, really crying.  He was frightened, and I was frightened.  I didn't know what I was doing, so in the end I turned my torch off and I sat down on the steps with him.

        About that time the intercom on board the ship started to announce,

        "Lyn Childs, report to Colonel Hickman immediately." 

        So I said, "I guess this is it."  So I went up to Colonel Hickman's office, and behind me came all these men, and there lined up behind me, and I said,

        "Where are you guys going?" 

        They said, "We're going with you." 

        When we got to the office [Colonel Hickman] said, "I just wanted to see Lyn Childs," and they said, "You'll see all of us, because we were all down there.  We all did not have the guts enough to do what she did, [but] we're with her."

        Colonel Hickman said, "Come into this office." 

        He had one of the guards take me into the office real fast and closed the door real fast and kept them out, and he said,

        "What kind of communist activity are you carrying on down there?" 

        I said, "A communist!  What is that?" 

        He said, "You know what I am talking about.  You're a communist." 

        I said, "A communist!  Forget you!  The kind of treatment that man was putting on the Filipinos, and to come to their rescue.  Then I am the biggest communist you ever seen in your life.  That is great.  I am a communist."

        He said, "Don't say that so loud."

        I said, "Well, you asked me was I a communist.  You're saying I am.  I'm saying I'm a...

        "Shh! Shh! Shh! Hush!  Don't say that so loud."  Then he said, "I think you ought to get back to work."

        "Well, you called me  Why did you call me?"

        "Never mind what I called you for," he said, "Go back to work."  

Source: Paul R. Spickard, "Work and Hope: African American Women in Southern California During World War II," Journal of the West 32:3 (July 1993):74-75. 


The origins of the Cold War can be found in the tension between the United States and Britain and the Soviet Union while allies in World War II.  From June, 1941, to June, 1944, Soviet Armies absorbed the brunt of the Axis onslaught with relatively little assistance from Britain and the United States.  By the summer of 1943 Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin, sent a secret note to Winston Churchill demanding a second front after learning of Churchill's remark that the British and Americans were not yet prepared for an invasion of Europe. 

        ...When you write that "it would be no help to Russia if we threw away a hundred thousand men in a disastrous cross‑Channel attack," all I can do is remind you of the following:

        First, your own Aide‑Memoire of June 1942, in which you declared that preparations were under way for an invasion, not by a hundred thousand, but by an Anglo‑American force exceeding one million men at the very start of the operation.

        Second, your February [1943] message which mentioned extensive measures preparatory to the invasion of Western Europe in August or September 1943, which, apparently, envisaged an operation, not by a hundred thousand men, but by an adequate force.

        So when you now declare: "I cannot see how a great British defeat and slaughter would aid the Soviet armies," is it not cleat that a statement of this kind in relation to the Soviet Union is utterly groundless and directly contradicts your previous and responsible decisions....about extensive and vigorous measures by the British and Americans to organise the invasion this year, measures on which the complete success of the operation should hinge?

        I shall not enlarge on the fact that this responsible decision, revoking your previous decisions on the invasion of Western Europe, was reached by you and the President [Roosevelt] without Soviet participation and without inviting its representatives to the Washington conference, although you cannot but be aware that the Soviet Union's role in the war against Germany and its interest in the problems of the second front are great enough.

        There is no need to say that the Soviet Government cannot become reconciled to this disregard of vital Soviet interests in the war against the common enemy.

        You say that you "quite understand" my disappointment.  I must tell you that the point here is not just the disappointment of the Soviet Government, but the preservation if its confidence in its Allies, a confidence which is being subjected to severe stress.  One should not forget that it is a question of saving million of lives in the occupied areas of Western Europe and Russia, and of reducing the enormous sacrifices of the Soviet armies, compared with which the sacrifices of the Anglo‑American armies are insignificant. 

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R., Correspondence Between the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. and the Presidents of the U.S.A. and the Prime Ministers of Great Britain during the Great Patriotic War of 1941‑1945, Vol. II, (Moscow: 1957), pp. 75‑76. 


General John R. Deane, the chief U.S. military liaison officer in Moscow during World War II, found the Soviets reluctant allies who wanted American military hardware but who feared American personnel would spy on Soviet defenses and promote dissent among Soviet citizens.  Here he provides an account of Soviet suspicion of American efforts at cooperation. 

        Whatever the reasons, the fact that Russia desired, insofar as possible to play a lone hand was proved by undeniable evidence.  In her darkest days she refused to allow a group of Allied bombers to base in the Caucasus in order to assist her at Stalingrad.  Our well‑meant voluntary efforts to support her advance in the Balkans with our Air Force operating from Italy brought forth protests rather than gratitude.  No single American was allowed to enter the Soviet Union without pressure from the Ambassador or me, and then a visa was granted only after an exhaustive study of the background of the individual involved.  Under these circumstances it was clear that nothing much could come of a partnership in which one of the principals was not only reluctant, but proficient in sabotaging its effectiveness...

        When General Eisenhower visited Moscow after the war, he held a press conference at which he stated that after January 1945 he was kept fully informed at all times of the essentials of the Red Army's plans, particularly the timing of their offensives, their objectives, and the direction of their main efforts.  This was true, but his possession of such information was a far cry from the co‑operative action that might normally be expected between allies.  All the information Eisenhower had concerning the Red Army's plans was the result of our initiative in seeking to obtain it, and then it was only obtained after continuous pressure at the highest levels.

        Not once during the war did Stalin or his subordinates seek a meeting with British or American authorities in order to present proposals for improving our co‑operative effort.  It was either the President or the Prime Minister [Churchill] who proposed [conferences at] Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam.  No single event of the war irritated me more than seeing the President of the United States lifted from wheel chair to automobile, to ship to shore and to aircraft, in order to go halfway around the world as the only possible means of meeting J.V. Stalin.

        There were innumerable little ways in which our joint war effort could have been made more effective.  We might have learned something of immeasurable value in defeating the German submarines had we been allowed to see Gdynia [naval base] as soon as it was taken; we might have brought Germany to her knees quicker had we been allowed to establish radar triangulation stations in Russia as navigational aids to our bomber formations in eastern Germany.  We might have defeated Germany more quickly had we shared our operational experience by having observers on each other's fronts.  We might have, we might have‑on and on.  No!  In Soviet Russia each such venture would have meant a closer association with capitalistic foreigners.  Well, perhaps we were among friends, but it was difficult to believe it. 

Source: Thomas A. Bailey & David M. Kennedy, The American Spirit, Vol. II, (Lexington, Mass: D.C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp. 795‑796.  



In a special report on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of World War II U.S. News and World Report, describes the manner in which the Second World War shaped the post-War world. 

        It was the work of a moment for a handful of German soldiers to snap the frail barrier at the frontier with Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, but the convulsions of that moment are still reverberating.  Six years of global conflict was only the beginning.  Only now, in the fifth decade since, do we seem to be emerging from the postwar era and entering a new one....

        The post-war era saw the decline and collapse of the traditional colonial empires.  What followed was a competition between Communism and capitalism, and between Soviets and Americans, to fill the vacuum the old European powers had left.  The Third World became the principal theater for U.S.-Soviet competition.  The cost of competing for influence in so many unstable, poverty-stricken and often insignificant nations frequently went far beyond the point of diminishing returns, especially for the Soviets, who could ill-afford the cost.

        The post war period ushered in a type of international conflict not seen since the Crusades.  The cold war was not just a battle for survival between two states; it was a conflict of ideologies that recognized no borders and achieved the zealousness of religious wars.  It openly and deliberately tested the potential and performance of opposing economic and political systems, both of which proclaimed their universality.  In the past, any conflict of such intensity would assuredly have ended in a world war.  But because nuclear weapons promised Armageddon, the cold war remained a conflict of wills rather than of weapons‑-not the hot wars of tanks and artillery, but the cold wars of politics, propaganda, subversion and espionage.

        Today, as Soviet aggressiveness abroad appears to be declining, smaller states see a diminishing logic in their own participation in the cold war.  America's allies now see little danger from the Soviet Union and are uninterested in the global vision of the United States.  On the Soviet side, the captive nations and regimes of Eastern Europe are groping for ways to escape Soviet domination....A new era is opening with the prospect of a counterrevolution as momentous at the end of the 20th century as the Russian Revolution was at the beginning. 

Source: "The World War Created," U.S. News and World Report, Sept. 4, 1989, pp. 68-72. 


The following accounts describe the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima August 6, 1945.  The first is a discussion of the "hypocenter" of the blast by Peter Wyden and the second is a description of the city by Iwao Nakamura a 5th grader at a local school, during the first hour after the explosion. 

        Wyden:  The hypocenter was in the courtyard of the Shima Hospital.  It was ground zero, the hub of the nuclear death wheel, the point on the ground directly underneath the explosion.  The Shima hospital and all its patients were vaporized, but its owner, the fatalistic Dr. Shima, kept pedaling unscathed on his bicycle.  He was between house calls in the suburbs.  Eighty-eight percent of the people within a radius of 1,500 feet died instantly or later on that day.  Most others within the circle perished in the following weeks or months.  All who where in Hiroshima on August 6 would come to know precisely how far fate had placed them from the hypocenter at 8:15.  And everyone would learn at least one new English word:  hypocenter, the place from which all life and death was measured....In less than half a second, heat rays with temperatures of more than 3000 degrees Celsius caused primary burn injuries within two miles of the hypocenter.  About 130,000 of Hiroshima's 350,000 people would die. 

        Nakamura: We were…surrounded by a sea of fire.  The streets were blocked with the fire and smoke of the ruined houses....There was no one in sight, and only once in a while we heard a moaning voice like that of a wild beast coming out of nowhere.  I had the feeling that all the human beings on the face of the earth had been killed off, and only the five of use were left behind in an uncanny world of the dead....As we passed the Nakajima School and came to Sumiyoshi Bridge, I saw several people plunging their heads into a half-broken water tank and drinking the water.  I was very thirsty too, and I was so happy to see some people again that without thinking I left my parents' side and went toward them.  When I was close enough to see inside the tank I said, "Oh!" out loud and instinctively drew back.  What I had seen in the tank were the faces of monsters reflected from the water dyed red with blood.  They had clung to the side of the tank and plunged their heads in to drink and there in that position they had died.  From their burned and tattered middy blouses I could tell that they were high school girls, but there was not a hair left on their heads; the broken skin of their burned faces was stained bright with blood.  I could hardly believe that these were human faces....As we....crossed Sumiyoshi Bridge, for the first time we met some living people of this world.  No, rather than humans of this world it might be more correct to say we met humans of that other world, of Hell.  They were all stark naked, their skin was rust-colored with burns and blood, their whole bodies were swollen like balloons....Among them we saw old people begging for water; youngsters crying for help; delirious students calling the names of their fathers and mothers....Yet we who were not even sure of our own lives could do nothing for them. 

Sources:  Peter Wyden, Day One:  Before Hiroshima and After, New York, 1984, pp. 253-255; Arata Osada, Children of the A-Bomb:  The Testament of the Boys and Girls of Hiroshima, New York, 1959, pp. 165-166. 



On Monday, August 6, 1945, the Seattle Times announced to the world that the first atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima with the following headline: ATOMIC BOMB, EQUIVALENT OF 20,000 TONS, TNT, HITS JAPAN.  Under that banner headline appeared another, "Hanford--War's Greatest Mystery--Cleared; 17,000 Workers Making Fantastic Explosive."  The vignette below includes the first paragraphs following the second headline. 

        The secrecy of the Hanford Engineer Works--one of the America's best-kept secrets of the Second World War--was swept aside today as a new atomic bomb of catastrophic destructive force was dropped on the Japanese homeland and President Truman announced that the materials for it were produced in the 400,00-acre Hanford Project in South Central Washington.  President Truman's announcement cleared the way for revelation of how at feverish speed the huge sprawling project of towering smokestacks was built on what had been farm and sagebrush-covered lands extending into three Washington counties, Benton, Yakima and Grant, and how a new model government city was constructed at Richland, a few miles north of Pasco.

        Necessarily on a project of such magnitude...thousands of workers and others knew of the development but only a few high-ranking military officers and scientists knew the exact nature...of the project--the adaptation of the basic force of the universe in a terrific weapon of war.

        To impress the necessity of the secrecy which surrounded the project, officials have from time to time let drop quiet remarks which gave a hint of what they were working on, saying: "It will shorten the war and bring victory to the Allies."  And after Germany was beaten the remark was: "It will finish off Japan."

        But today, as American airmen rocked a portion of Japan with the tremendous explosive, officials at the project headquarters, Richland, Benton County, made known how workers who did not know what the were making, produced the ingredients for the explosive by operating complicated machinery from behind thick concrete safety walls.

        Situated about 30 miles north of Richland, the production area is divided into three principal subareas to insure that individual workers learn as little as possible about the overall project.  Separate passes are required to move from one area to another.  There is a series of plants [sic], each behind high wire fences and each removed several miles from its nearest neighbor.

        One of the areas contains raw materials; the second, three huge chemical plants, and the third area contains three large plants where the explosive material is produced.

        The project employs 17,000 persons at present, officials said, and one of the big problems was to design manufacturing processes which would permit the fantastically powerful explosives to be made safely.  

        Postwar use of the huge Hanford project has been the source of much optimistic speculation.  It is looked upon generally as a potential industrial center, producing fertilizer and synthetics such as nylon and plastics.  But the government has been silent on its future, indicating that it will be put in a reserve status, guarded, and kept available for future emergencies...

Source: Seattle Times, August 6, 1945, pp. 1, 2.  


As the Cold War rapidly developed Henry A. Wallace, a former Secretary of Agriculture and Vice‑President of the United States, became a rare political voice who urged the United States to refrain from confrontations with the Soviet Union and to reduce the tension between these former allies who were now fast becoming implacable enemies.  In the speech below he explains why the United States should seek accommodation with the Soviets. 

        We are reckoning with a force which cannot be handled successfully be a `Get tough with Russia' policy.  `Getting tough' never bought anything real and lasting‑‑whether for schoolyard bullies or businessmen or world powers.  The tougher we get, the tougher the Russians will get... I believe that we can get cooperation once Russia understands that our primary objective is neither saving the British Empire nor purchasing oil in the Near East with the lives of American soldiers...

        On our part, we should recognize that we have no more business in the political affairs of Eastern Europe than Russia has in the political affairs of Latin America, Western Europe and the United States.  We may not like what Russia does in Eastern Europe.  Her type of land reform, industrial expropriation, and suppression of basic liberties offends the great majority of the people of the United States.  But whether we like it or not the Russians will try to socialize their sphere of influence just as we try to democratize our sphere of influence...

        We cannot permit the door to be closed against our trade in Eastern Europe any more than we can in China.  But at the same time we have to recognize that the Balkans are closer to Russia than to us‑‑and that Russia cannot permit either England or the United States to dominate the politics of that area...  Under friendly peaceful competition the Russian world and the American world will gradually become more alike.  The Russians will be forced to grant more and more of the personal freedoms; and we shall become more and more absorbed with the problems of social‑economic justice. 

Source: Henry A. Wallace, Speech at Madison Square Garden, September 12, 1946. 



In 1948 the Truman Administration prompted by rising concern over Communist infiltration into the federal government and by Republican attacks on its foreign policy as passive in the face of Soviet expansionism, generated a loyalty oath to test American patriotism and to ferret out potentially "disloyal" citizens.  The test, eventually used both inside the federal government and by state governmental agencies and by private organizations, asked the following questions among others: 

        "Have you ever read Karl Marx?" 

        "What do you think of Henry Wallace's third‑party effort?" 

        "Have you ever had Negroes in your home?" 

        "There is a suspicion in the record that you are in sympathy with the underprivileged.  Is this true?" 

        "Did you ever write a letter to the Red Cross about segregation of blood?" 

        "Have you ever read Thomas Paine?  Upton Sinclair?" 

        "When you were in ________'s home, did ________'s wife dress conventionally when she received her guests?" 

Source: Howard H. Quint, Milton Cantor and Dean Albertson, Main Problems in American History, (Chicago: The Dorsey Press, 1987) p. 278.   


Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy burst into national prominence in 1950 following a speech he delivered to a Republican women's club in Wheeling, West Virginia, when he declared the United States was losing the Cold War because the Truman administration was filled with Communists.  McCarthy claimed to have the names of 205 Communists in the government but never produced the list.  Nonetheless his sensational charges gave a new name to hysteria and political scapegoating--"McCarthyism."  Part of the Senator's speech appears below. 

        Today we are engaged in a final all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity.  The modern champions of communism have selected this as the time, and ladies and gentleman, the chips are down--they are truly down... Five years after a world war has been won, men's hearts should anticipate a long peace, and men's minds should be free from the heavy weight that comes with war.  But this is not such a period--for this is not a period of peace.  This is a time of the "cold war."  This is a time when all the world is split into two vast, increasingly hostile camps..

        At war's end we were physically the strongest nation on earth... Our could have bee the honor of being a beacon in the desert of destruction, a shining living proof that civilization was not yet ready to destroy itself.  Unfortunately, we have failed miserably and tragically to arise to the opportunity.

        The reason we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because our only powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this nation.  It has not been the less fortunate or members of minority groups who have been selling this Nation out, but rather those that have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer--the finest homes, the finest college education, and the finest jobs in Government we can give.

        This is glaringly true in the State Department.  There the bright young men who are born with silver spoons in their mouths are the ones who have been the worst... In my opinion the State Department, which is one of the most important government departments, is thoroughly infested with Communists.

        I have in my hand 205 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card carrying members of or certainly loyal to the Communist party, but who nevertheless are still helping to shape our foreign policy.

        One thing to remember in discussing the Communists in our Government is that we are dealing with spies who got 30 pieces of silver to steal the blueprints of a new weapon.  We are dealing with a far more sinister type of activity because it permits the enemy to guide and shape our policy. 

Source: Congressional Record, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., 12 February 1950, pp. 1954-7 


Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith was in 1950 one of the few public officials willing to openly criticize Senator McCarthy.  In a speech before the U.S. Senate she outlines her objections to his tactics. 

        I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its Members to do some real soul searching, and to weigh our consciences as to the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America, and the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.

        Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism‑

        The right to criticize.

        The right to hold unpopular beliefs.

        The right to protest.

        The right of independent thought.

        The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood, nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs.  Who of us does not?  Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own.  Otherwise thought control would have set in.

        The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as Communists or Fascists by their opponents.  The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed....

        Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of "knowing nothing, suspect everything" attitudes....

        As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicly platform for irresponsible sensationalism.  I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this [Republican] side of the aisle.  I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges which have been attempted in retaliation from the other [Democratic] side of the aisle.

        I do not like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity.   I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity, and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the floor of the Senate.

        As an American, I condemn a Republican Fascist just as much as I condemn a Democratic Communist.  I condemn a Democratic Fascist just as much as I condemn a Republican Communist.  They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As a American, I want to see our Nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves. 

Source: Congressional Record, 81st Congress, 2nd Session, pp. 7894‑95 (June 1, 1950) 


In 1948, two years before "McCarthyism" became a household word nationally, a special state legislative committee led by Spokane Republican Albert F. Canwell, held week-long hearings on campus to investigate whether there were "no less than 150 Communists or Communist sympathizers on the faculty" as charged by state senator Thomas Bienz.  Numerous faculty and administrators were called to testify.  However six faculty who refused to cooperate with the committee, Joseph Butterworth (English), Ralph Gundlach (Psychology), Herbert Phillips (Philosophy) Harold Eby (English), Garland O. Ethel (English) and Melville Jacobs (Anthropology) were assumed to be members of the Communist Party and consequently fired by the university in 1949.  In the passage below local historian Jane Sanders describes the political climate in the state that led to the Canwell Hearings.         

        In the State of Washington, the 1946 elections featured a campaign by Republicans against “Communist-controlled Democrats.” The focus of this effort was a clique of Democratic legislators who had espoused “United Front” politics during the 1930s, and were mem­bers of the Washington Commonwealth Federation. The WCF was an alliance of unemployed and/or disaffected liberals, laborers, and farmers which supported candidates favorable to an expansion of the New Deal locally and nationally... A special subject of Republican attack was Hugh DeLacy, a one-time University of Washington English instructor...and leader of the WCF, who had won election to Congress [from Seattle] in 1944. In his campaign for reelection, wide publicity was given to the fact that DeLacy had been cited twice by the House Un-American Activities Committee for membership in Communist “front” organi­zations. In his stead, Washingtonians elected a former state com­mander of the American Legion; they also chose a Republican senator and a Republican-controlled legislature.

        After the elections, conservative Democratic leaders resolved to rid themselves of the alleged Communists in their ranks. The 1947 legis­lature had not yet convened when a coalition of Democrats and Re­publicans held a caucus to discuss the possibility of a legislative investigation into Communist infiltration of the Democratic party and state institutions. With regard to one of those institutions, the University of Washington, the caucus report stated: “It is common knowledge in many quarters that the Communists have infiltrated the University of Washington campus and that their supporters have found important places on the faculty...the Communists are trying everything in the book to reach American youth through the schools.”

        In succeeding days, the Post-Intelligencer reported the demands of leading Democrats for a purge of their party. Among these were University of Washington regents State Senator Joseph Drumheller and Teamster Union leader Dave Beck. Drumheller, a member of a pioneer Washington family and grandson of University of Washington President Leonard J. Powell (1882-87), was the head of a Spokane chemical firm. Beck had been active in Seattle labor politics since 1918; in the course of his battles with more radical labor groups, such as Harry Bridges’ CIO-backed Longshoremen and Warehouse-men’s Union, he brought his own type of peace to the city’s unions and gained the respect of businessmen, politicians, and the Hearst-owned Post-Intelligencer. Beck had helped elect Democratic Governor Mon C. Wallgren in 1944; Wallgren, in turn, appointed Beck to the Board of Regents in l946¼.

        Aside from conforming to the national pattern, and in some ways anticipating it, [the Red Scare] in Washington State resembled a family feud. The political and economic fortunes of the state were historically tied to the basic industries of forestry, shipping, farming, and fishing. Within those industries there had always been pockets of right and left radicals who asserted themselves in times of stress. Attempts by workers to organize often involved violence... Populism at the turn of the century, the activities of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the Red Scare and union battles of the 1920s and 1930s, and the disorders of the Depression left scars on the memories of Washingto­nians. Despite the fact that state govern­ment was generally in the hands of conservatives, the state was con­sidered progressive in labor and welfare legislation. Some thought matters had gone too far. “There are forty-seven states and the Soviet of Washington,” a remark widely attributed to Postmaster General James Farley, both embarrassed and delighted the citizenry.

        In the eyes of some Washingtonians, the University of Washington had contributed to the state’s reputation for radicalism. Over the years its faculty members were involved in controversial movements.  J. Allen Smith’s crusade for public ownership of utilities caused powerful men to call for his dismissal. [Just before] he died in 1924, Smith was still urging his students to disdain the excesses of the government exemplified by Attorney General Palmer’s campaign against "Bolsheviks," and by the enforcement of prohibition. In the 1930s faculty members continued to outrage citizens. They sought solutions to the problems of the Depression and the dangers of Fascism through organizations such as the Communist party, Bellamy Clubs, the Technocrats, the Washington Commonwealth Federation, and the American Federation of Teachers.

        Of course, political activism among professors was not unique to the University of Washington, nor was the reservoir of suspicion of pro­fessors peculiar to Washingtonians. But as the university poised for an era of unprecedented growth and national recognition, the threaten­ing gestures of the 1947 legislature revived questions that had lain dormant since the 1930s. Colleagues wondered again whether activist faculty members were endangering the willingness of the public to support university programs.

Source: Jane Sanders, Cold War On Campus: Academic Freedom at the University of Washington, 1946-64. (Seattle, 1979), pp. 15-16, 17-18. 


Today the vast majority of Americans live in suburbs rather than central cities or rural areas.  The following vignette, excerpted from a 1950 Time Magazine article, describes one of the first of these post-war communities, Levittown a New York City suburb on Long Island which was created by homebuilders William Levitt who is often credited with being the founder of modern suburbia. 

        On 1,200 flat acres of potato farmland near Hicksville, Long Island, an army of trucks sped over new-laid roads.  Every 100 feet, the trucks stopped and dumped identical bundles of lumber, pipes, bricks, shingles, and copper tubing--nearly as neatly packaged as loaves from a bakery.  Near the bundles, giant machines with an endless chain of buckets ate into the earth, taking just 13 minutes to dig a narrow, four-foot trench around a 25-32 ft. rectangle.  Then came more trucks, loaded with cement, and laid a four-inch foundation for a house in the rectangle.

        After the machines came the men.  On nearby slabs already dry, they worked in crews of two and three, laying bricks, raising studs, nailing lath, painting, sheathing, shingling.  Each crew did its special job, then hurried on to the next site.  Under the skilled combination of men & machines, new houses rose faster than Jack ever built them; a new one was finished every 15 minutes.

        Three years ago, little potatoes had sprouted from these fields.  Now there were 10,600 houses inhabited by more than 40,000 people, a community almost as big as 96-year-old Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Plainfield, N.J., or Chelsea, Mass.  Its name: Levittown.

        Levittown is known largely for one reason: it epitomizes the revolution which has brought mass production to the housing industry.  Its creator, Long Island's Levitt & Sons, Inc., has become the biggest builder of houses in the U.S...

        The houses in Levittown, which sell for a uniform price of $7,990, [ed. These houses now sell for $500,000 to $700,000] cannot be mistaken for castles.  Each has a sharp-angled roof and a picture window, radiant heating in the floor, 12 by 16 foot living room, bath, kitchen, two bedrooms on the first floor, and an "expansion attic" which can be converted into two more bedrooms and bath.  The kitchen has a refrigerator, stove and Bendix washer; the living room a fireplace and a built-in Admiral television set...

        By insuring loans up to 95% of the value of a house, the Federal Housing Administration made it easy for a builder to borrow the money with which to build low-cost homes.  The Government made it just as easy for the buyer by liberally insuring his mortgage...  Government-guaranteed mortgages were so liberalized that in many cases buying a house is now as easy as renting it.  The new terms: 5% down (nothing down for veterans) and 30 years to pay.  Thus an ex-G.I. could buy a Levitt house with no down payment and installments of $56 a month.  The countless new housing projects made possible by this financial easy street are changing the way of life of millions of U.S. citizens, who are realizing for the first time the great American dream of owning their own home.  No longer must young married couples plan to start living in an apartment, saving for the distant day when they can buy a house.  Now they can do it more easily than they can buy a $2,000 car on the installment plan...

        Like its counterparts across the land, Levittown is an entirely new kind of community... It has no movies, no nightclubs and only three bars (all in the community shopping centers). 

        And Levittown has very few old people.  Fe of its more than 40,000 residents are past 35; of some 8,000 children, scarcely 900 are more than seven years old.  In front of almost every house along Levittown's 100 miles of winding streets sits a tricycle or a baby carriage.  In Levittown, all activity stops from 12 to 2 in the afternoon; that is nap time.  Laid one Levittowner last week, "Everyone is so young that sometimes it's hard to remember how to get along with old people."

        Though most of the incomes are about the same (average: about $3,800), Levittowners come from all classes, all walks of life.  Eighty percent of the men commute to their jobs in Manhattan, many sharing their transportation costs through car pools. Their jobs, as in any other big community, range from baking to banking, from teaching to preaching.  Levittown has also developed its own unique way of keeping up with the Joneses.  Some Levittowners buy a new house every year, as soon as the new model is on the market... 

Source: "Up from the Potato Fields," Time Magazine (3 July 1950):67-69, 72, reprinted in David E. Shi and Holly A. Mayer, For the Record: A Documentary History of the United States (New York, 1999), p. 288. 



The McCarthy period had a profound influence on the opinions and ideas of an entire generation of Americans.  A national survey of teenagers in 1958 revealed scant tolerance for diversity or dissenting opinion. 

        "Only forty‑five percent  of the nation's young adults believe that newspapers should be allowed to print anything they want except military secrets... 

        "Twenty‑six percent believe that the police should be allowed to search a person or his home without a warrant... 

        "Twenty‑five percent agree that some groups should not be allowed to hold public meetings. 

        "Seventeen percent say that it may be right for police to jail people without naming the charges against them. 

        "Thirty‑three percent say that people who refuse to testify against themselves be made to talk or should be severely punished.  An additional 20 per cent are uncertain about the point... 

        "Fourteen percent think there is something evil about scientists... 

        "Thirty percent declare that one can't raise a normal family and become a scientist. 

        "Thirty‑five percent believe that it's necessary to be a genius to become a good scientist and forty‑five per cent think their own school backgrounds are too poor to permit them to choose science as a career. 

        "Thirty‑seven per cent feel that the greatest threat to democracy in the United States comes from foreign ideas and foreign groups."  

Source: Richard Current, American History: A Survey, (New York: Knopf, 1961), p. 854. 


President John F. Kennedy in a 1963 speech given five months before his assassination, describes his attitude and approach toward the Soviet Union.  Here Kennedy suggests a type of accommodation between the superpowers, a recognition of their economic and political differences tempered by the realization that despite those differences the two nations, and indeed the rest of the nations, must a small planet. 

        What kind of peace do we seek?  Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.  Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave.  I am talking about genuine peace... Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament‑‑and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude.  I hope they do.  I believe we can help them do it.  But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude‑‑as individuals and as a Nation‑‑for our attitude is as essential as theirs... World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor‑‑it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement.  And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever.  However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors....

        It is sad to read these Soviet statements‑‑to realize the extent of the gulf between us.  But it is also a warning‑‑a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.  No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue... We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counterweapons... If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.  For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children's future.  And we are all mortal. 

Source: John F. Kennedy, Speech at American University, Washington D.C., June 10, 1963. 


In August, 1964, following a purported attack on U.S. military forces off the coast of Southeast Asia, President Lyndon Johnson sought and received overwhelming Congressional authorization to send combat troops to defend South Vietnam.  This "escalation" initiated the longest war in the history of the United States.  What follows are both the President's message to Congress concerning the incident and its response, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. 

President Johnson's Message to Congress August 5, 1964  

        Last night I announced to the American people that the North Vietnamese regime had conducted...deliberate attacks against U.S. naval vessels operating in international waters, and I had therefore directed air action against gunboats and supporting facilities used in these hostile operations. This air action has now been carried out with substantial damage to the boats and facilities. Two U.S. aircraft were lost in the action.

        After consultation with the leaders of both parties in the Congress, I further announced a decision to ask the Congress for a resolution expressing the unity and determination of the United States in supporting freedom and in protecting peace in southeast Asia.

        These latest actions of the North Vietnamese regime has given a new and grave turn to the already serious situation in southeast Asia. Our commitments in that area are well known to the Congress. They were first made in 1954 by President Eisenhower. They were further defined in the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty approved by the Senate in February 1955.

        This treaty with its accompanying protocol obligates the United States and other members to... meet Communist aggression against any of the parties or protocol states.

        Our policy in southeast Asia has been consistent and unchanged since 1954. I summarized it on June 2 in four simple propositions:  

        America keeps her word. Here as elsewhere, we must and shall honor our commitments.  

        The issue is the future of southeast Asia as a whole. A threat to any nation in that region is a threat to all, and a threat to us.  

        Our purpose is peace. We have no military, political, or territorial ambitions in the area.  

        This is not just a jungle war, but a struggle for freedom on every front of human activity.

        Our military and economic assistance to South Vietnam and Laos in particular has the purpose of helping these countries to repel aggression and strengthen their independence... In recent months, the actions of the North Vietnamese regime have become steadily more threatening... As President of the United States I have concluded that I should now ask the Congress, on its part, to join in affirming the national determination that all such attacks will be met, and that the United States will continue in its basic policy of assisting the free nations of the area to defend their freedom.

        As I have repeatedly made clear, the United States intends no rashness, and seeks no wider war. We must make it clear to all that the United States is united in its determination to bring about the end of Communist subversion and aggression in the area. We seek the full and effective restoration of the international agreements signed in Geneva in 1954, with respect to South Vietnam and Laos...


2. Joint Resolution of Congress H.J. RES 1145 August 7, 1964  

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,  

That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.  

Section 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.  

Section 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress.  

Source: Department of State Bulletin, August 24, 1964  © 1996 The Avalon Project.  The Avalon Project : The Tonkin Gulf Incident; 1964 was last modified on: 12/13/2002 14:40:05. www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/tonkin-g.htm  



The number of American servicemen and women stationed in South Vietnam peaked at 538,000 by the end of 1968.  Virtually all of them were aware of the growing unpopularity of the war in the United States and were both angered and bewildered at the lack of support.  One Oregon serviceman wrote a letter home in 1966 expressing his dismay at the anti‑war protest.  Part of the letter is reprinted below. 

        How are the people taking to the war in Portland?  I've read too much ...about the way some of those cowardly students are acting on campuses.  They sure don't show me much as far as being American citizens.  They have the idea that they are our future leaders.  Well, I won't follow nobody if he isn't going to help fight for my freedom.

        A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk with some Marines who had come to Okinawa for four (lousy) days of leave.  They were more than happy because they had been fighting for six months with no let‑up.  We sat in a restaurant all the time, and I wish I could have taped it on my recorder.  What they had to say would have had an impact on the people back home.  One showed me where he had been shot.  I asked if it hurt, and he didn't feel it.  Not until after he got the that shot him.  He was more angry than hurt.  They told me  of some of their patrols and how they would be talking to a buddy one minute and watch him die the next.  Or wake up in the morning and see a friend hung from a tree by hooks in his armpits with parts of his body cut and shoved into his mouth.  From what they said, the Vietcong aren't the only ruthless ones.  We have to be, too.  Have to.  You'd be surprised to know that a guy you went to school with is right now shooting a nine year‑old girl and her mother.  He did it because if they got the chance they would kill him.  Or throwing a Vietcong out of a helicopter because he wouldn't talk.

        One guy (who had broke down and cried) said that his one desire is to get enough leave to go home and kick three of those demonstrators in a well‑suited place and bring him back.  I tell you, it's horrible to read a paper and see your own people aren't backing you up. 

Source: Thomas A. Bailey and David Kennedy, ed., The American Spirit, Vol. II, (Lexington, Mass.:  D. C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp. 890‑891. 


In 1966, David Harris, a former Boy‑of‑the‑Year from Fresno, California, and student body president at Stanford University, chose to protest the war in Vietnam by resisting the draft.  Harris was arrested and spent two years in a federal penitentiary for his actions.  In his 1982 autobiography, Dreams Die Hard, he explains his decision. 

        The more we learned about the war, the worse it seemed.  Late in July, I attended a lecture by a Canadian journalist who had just returned from North Vietnam.  Dennis [Sweeney] and the Channing Street Group were at the lecture as well.

        With what amounted to only a fledgling air defense system, explained the journalist, North Vietnam had no hope of turning the American Air Force back.  Theoretically, strategic air power destroys the enemy's industrial, logistic, and transportation systems, but North Vietnam possessed little centralized industry and only a rudimentary transportation system.  Consequently, the target increasingly became the population itself.  The American strategy's starting point was a calculation by Defense Department planners that it took only two Vietnamese to deal with one of their dead countrymen, but one wounded required five.  Mass woundings, it was assumed, would tie the enemy's hands, and the American arsenal had developed wounding devices in great variety... The CBU was a small explosive package stuffed with hundreds of one‑inch steel darts, each shaped with fins, designed to "peel off" the outer flesh, make  "enlarged wounds," and "shred body organs" before "lodging in the blood vessels."  The BLU 52 was 270 pounds of "riot control" chemical that induced vomiting, nausea, and muscle spasms, occasionally fatal to old people and children.  The M‑36 was an 800‑pound casing containing 182 separate "incendiary bomblets," the most horrendous of which were manufactured from phosphorus, commonly lodging in the flesh and continuing to burn for as long as fifteen days, causing its victims' wounds to glow with an eerie green light.

        Without looking at Dennis, I spoke up.

        "You know," I said, "those bastards have got to be stopped."

        Three weeks later I sat at my typewriter and wrote local Draft Board 71 in Fresno, California, a letter "To whom it may concern."  I enclosed a Selective Service classification card indicating that the bearer, David Victor Harris, possessed a student deferment.  The letter informed my draft board that I could no longer in good conscience carry the enclosed document or accept the deferment it signified.  It was a privilege I found unwarranted for any student.  It also signified tacit assent on my part for both the task the Selective Service System was performing and the power it had assumed over my life.  Being even implicitly a party to the destruction of Indochina was not part of my plans.  If they ordered me for induction, I warned them, I would refuse to comply.

        I was prepared to abandon what seemed a promising future and pit myself against the war one on one, believing I would redeem my country and realize myself in the process.  It seemed that to do anything else would have dishonored both. 

Source: Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy, The American Spirit (Lexington, Mass: D.C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp. 894‑896. 


By the 1970s some Soviet youth, like their Western counterparts, were increasingly rebellious against the political system.  In this account written in 1979, a visiting American university student describes "Volodya," who although disenchanted with the Soviet political system eventually succumbed to it. 

        As a teenager, Volodya was an idealistic Komsomol member who worked in a construction brigade.  "I helped to build the Moscow State [University] tower where you live....To me, it was like building a shrineevery stone laid with sweat and strong beliefs."  After that, he attended a forestry institute, and was finally assigned to patrol a game preserve several hundred miles north of Moscow.  This solitary job was a turning point in Volodya's life.  "Until then I was a childloyal to the State, unquestioning.  But up there, I spent my days walking or skiing alone through the woods.  I slept alone in a hut.  My job was just sillinessit didn't exist....I wasn't building Communism as I had been taught to believe.  What I was doing wasn't any use, and nobody cared whether I lived or died in that forest.  So I began to read, which turned me into a rebel."

        For Volodya, rebellion meant abandoning his job, moving illegally back to Moscow, and buying a motorcycle... Volodya, with his cycle and his leather jacket and his anti-establishment stance, seems to have been a bit like a Soviet James Dean.  He went to dances and created a scandal by dancing the boogie-voogie...he lived like an outlaw in friends' apartments, spending entire days immersed in Russian literature.  This changed him, he says, from a simple discontented worker to an intelligent, or proletarian intellectual, a thinker schooled in Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and the bitter political satire of Saltykov-Shchedrin.  His anger became more specific, directed at the government, which he saw as corrupt, as having failed to set a moral and spiritual example for its citizens.  Eventually he went back to work, this time in a forest outside of Moscow, but his awakening had been permanent.  A few years later he formed a circle of young men like himself, who pledged themselves to revolution.  "We planned to take on the State with arms...  I was slowly providing us with rifles stolen from my forestry job."

        The group met for a year, until they were all suddenly arrested.  "One of us, damn him, was a planted informer...  They locked us up in Lubyanka [a Moscow prison and the KGB headquarters] for a week, beat us up and interrogated us.  They wanted me to denounce my comrades and recant my own beliefs."  One day he was brought before a high KGB official, who unexpectedly granted him his freedom.  "They struck a bargain with me.  I was to give up my former friends and my politics and they would let me alone.  `Lead a simple life,' they told me, `and if you ever touch politics again, we'll throw you so far into the camps you'll never see the light of day.'  And I agreed.  They had beaten me on the head in prison, and that did something to me.  I didn't even care any more.  They let me out, and just as I had promised, I got rid of my old friends and my big ideas.  I met Anna [his wife] and settled down.  When you get older, you want different things; you realize you have to survive.  I hardly even read any more.  Books are dangerousthey disturb you." 

Source:  Andrea Lee, Russian Journal, (New York, 1981), pp. 60-61. 



The Cold War had prompted such fear and suspicion between the peoples on either side of the Iron Curtain that we often forgot that all of us shared common aspirations, hopes, and concerns for a better world.  In 1986 the letter reprinted below was sent to one of my Cal Poly students from her friend in Yugoslavia.  She granted me permission to share it with you.  Ironically, her country, Yugoslavia, no longer exists. 

Dear ________:

        Thank you for your letter.  Have you visited your sister yet?  Have you seen New York, how do you find it?

        I understand that you don't have much free time.  I'm in the same situation.  Before two months I started instructing math a 13 year girl.  I was very lucky to get that job because there were many students who wanted to do it but not so many people who had troubles in a school and were willing to pay instruction.

        I passed two exams in the beginning of March.  After that I went to France to ski for one week.  The trip was organized by Skiing Club.  Conditions for downhill skiing were very good, the weather was sunny almost all the time.  The week was over too soon!  Now I'm back in [her hometown] and all work and worries are coming to me again.

        Last week our Labrador Retriever has brought back 8 young dogs.  We hoped that the last one of them will be gold‑yellow as their mother, but they are all completely black! Now they are one week old and still cannot hear and see anything.  They are only sleeping and drinking milk.

        I don't think that communism helped Yugoslavia to become a stronger nation.  But the fact is, that communists organized one of the strongest guerilla against German nazism in Europe.  When the 2nd World War started Yugoslavia was a poor monarchy with a small group of rich and crowds of poor people.  When Hitler attacked Yugoslavia, the king with family and government escaped to England and left their nation alone, without army, without help in occupied Yugoslavia.  Then illegal communist party organized a strong guerilla movement against Germans.  A lot of civilists helped guerilla called partisans.  That was the reason why they were so successful.  Partisans became very popular among Yugoslav people and after the 2nd World War the partisans (communists) won elections and Tito became president.  The Soviet Union had a big influence on Yugoslav communists.  They made a state very similar to Soviet Union.  But Tito soon recognized that Stalin wanted to create our political, economical and social circumstances.  Tito refused Stalin in 1948 and started independent, nonaligned polity.  Many things have changed after 1948.  The country became more democratic, the government is less totalitarian, workers have more chances to take part in managing factories.  If Yugoslav communists were not successful in 2nd WW, if they didn't make Yugoslavia free of Germans, the Soviet Union would do it and after war the least eastern parts of Yugoslavia would be in a pact with Soviet Union.  Now Yugoslavia is independent and nonaligned country and we must admit that communists have made it.

        Well, I think that Yugoslav foreign polity is good, but our economy!  We have about 80% inflation (it will increase this year), Yugoslavia has many debts in west countries, many unemployed young people etc., etc.  One of the reasons is that communist government does not have an opposition.  Opposite organizations are forbidden and this is very bad, because government can make mistakes and here is no organization or party to change them on their position, we can only be critical, but it does not help much.  Things are changing, it's true, but very slow.

        I don't think that communism had much influence in our family life.  I lived one month with a British family in Great Britain and I was for a month in Soviet Union before 2 years.  So when I compare our life with life of families in the two countries I'd say, that our life is more similar to British one.

        Let it be enough about polity, I really didn't mean to bore you too much.  But let me ask you one question:  What do you (and other Americans) think about war between USA and Libya?  I think this war is too dangerous to continue.  USA and UN have to find a better solution, a better way to suppress international terrorism.  Violence always causes new terrorism.

        Bye for now my friend, take care of yourself and please, keep in touch. 

Your Friend, 



The Cold War has hovered over the lives of three generations of the world's people since 1945.  In the lyrics of his 1987 song "Leningrad," Billy Joel captures the essence of the Cold War dilemma.  Part of the song is reprinted below. 

        Victor was born the Spring of '44

                  and never saw his father anymore.

        A child of sacrifice, a child of war.

        A child who never had a father

                  after Leningrad.

        Went off to school, to learn to serve

                  the state.

        Followed the rules and drank his

                  vodka straight.

        A Russian life was very sad,

                  and such was life in Leningrad.


        I was born in '49

                  A Cold War kid in the coffee time.

        Stop them at the 38th parallel,

                  blast those yellow Reds to hell.

        The Cold War kids were hard to kill,

                  under their desks in an air raid drill.

        Haven't they heard we won the war

                  What do they keep on fighting for?


        Children lived in Lenintown,

                  hid in the shelters underground,

        'till the Soviets turned their ships around,

                  and tore all the Cuban missiles down.

        And in that bright October sun,

                  we knew our childhood days were done.

        And now I watched my friends go off to war.

                  What do we keep on fighting for? 

Source:  Billy Joel, "Leningrad" Copyright (1987) by Columbia Records, New York, N.Y. Reprinted with permission. 



In July 1979, Washington Senator Henry 'Scoop' Jackson addressed a Conference on International Terrorism in Jerusalem, Israel.  Although his speech cast the Soviet Union as the major sponsor of terrorism at the time, his words resonate even in this post-Cold War era when superpower rivalry is history but international terrorism is not. 

        I believe that international terrorism is a modern form of warfare against liberal democracies.  I believe that the ultimate but seldom stated goal of these terrorists is to destroy the very fabric of democracy.   I believe that it is both wrong and foolhardy for any democratic state to consider international terrorism to be "someone else's" problem.

        If you believe as I do, then you must join me in wondering why the community of liberal democracies had not bended together more effectively to opposed those international murderers and to loudly and vigorously expose those states which cynically provide terrorists with comfort and support...

        I am not talking about individual acts of madmen.  I'm talking about highly organized groups with international connections and support who systematically rely on major acts of violence as a political instrument...      

        International terrorism is a special problem for democracies...  A democratic government...rests on the consent of the governed.  It is responsible for assuring the democratic freedoms of speech, assembly, travel, press and privacy.  These conditions, obviously facilitate terrorist operations directed against a particular government...        Terrorism is not a new phenomenon.  What is new is the international nature of terrorism.  Today's terrorists have modern technology to help them, permitting rapid international communications, travel, and the transfer of monies; they can work with others of like mind across the international borders of the world's free nations.  Modern terrorism is a form of "warfare by remote control," waged against free nations or against nondemocratic but moderate states which...sympathize with freedom...

        What can be done?

        First, and foremost, liberal democracies must acknowledge that international terrorism is a "collective problem." Everything else follow from this.  When one free nation is under attack, the rest must understand that democracy itself is under attack, and behave accordingly.  We must be allied in our defense against terrorists...

        Secondly...the idea that one person's "terrorist" is another's "freedom fighter" cannot be sanctioned.  Freedom fighters or revolutionaries don't blow up buses containing noncombatants; terrorist murderers do.  Freedom fighters don't set out to capture and slaughter schoolchildren; terrorist murderers do.  Freedom fighters don't assassinate innocent businessmen or hijack and hold hostage innocent men, women and children; terrorists do.  It is a disgrace that democracies would allow the treasured word "freedom" to be associated with the acts of the terrorists.

        We can do more.  For instance, is it moral to trade openly and freely with states who use the profits from such trade to finance the murder of innocents?  Why should those who conduct remote control warfare against us rest easy that we will contribute to financing our own destruction?

        [Finally] within each of our own countries, we must organize to combat terrorism in ways consistent with our democratic principles and with the strong support of our citizens... In my country, we are making some progress in organizing federal, state, and local agencies to deal more realistically with terrorists threats... 

Source: William Safire: Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History (New York, 1992) pp. 582-585. 


                         THE SUPERPOWERS COMPARED, 1989

                                                   The Soviet Union          The United States


Political Leader:                            Mikhail Gorbachev        George H. W. Bush

                                                   General Secretary,       President

                                                   Communist Party               


Population                                    277,930,000                238,848,000

Land Area in sq. mi.                      8.6 million                   3.5 million

Density per sq. mi.                        31.2                            65.9

Gross National Product                  $1.8 trillion                 $3.6 trillion

Per Capita Income                         $ 4,550                       $ 12,700


Railroad Mileage                            141,800                      286,000

Road Mileage                                1.3 million                   6.2 million

Passenger Cars                             17 million                    170 million


Doctors                                         896,000                      361,000

Infant Mortality per

1,000 live births                            26                               11

Life Expectancy at birth

Males                                           62                               72

Females                                        73                               76

Births per 1,000 inhabitants           20                               16

Deaths per 1,000 inhabitants         11                               9


Largest Cities:                               Moscow  8.8 million     New York  7.1 million

                                                   Leningrad  4.7 million   Los Angeles  3.1 million

                                                   Kiev  2.4 million           Chicago  2.9 million

Work Force:

Industrial Workers                         45%                           32%

Agricultural Workers                      20%                           3%               

Average Monthly Industrial Wage   $ 320                          $ 1,486



Annual Movie Attendance               4.1 billion                    1.0 billion

Annual Movies seen per capita       15.7                            4.7

Movie Theaters                             144,000                      13,331

1980 Film Production                     184                             248

TV Sets                                        85 million                    134 million

Radio Sets                                    164 million                  484 million

Daily Newspapers                          639                             1,800

1980 Books Published                    80,000 titles                85,000 titles

1980 Periodicals                            4,700                          59,000

Museums                                      1,465                          4,609

Public Libraries                              1.6 million                   387,000

Literacy Rate                                99.8%                         99.5%

Nobel laureates                             14                               175


Men & Women in the Military         3.6 million                   3.2 million

Nuclear Missiles: Land Based          1,398                          1,026                          

Sea Based                                    982                             592

Bombers                                       1,170                          5,070 



Chalmers Johnson, Professor of Pacific International Relations at the University of California, San Diego, provides his assessment of events leading to the student uprising in China in 1989 and the possible future consequences. 

        The year 1989 not only marks the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution; in future centuries it may be celebrated as a new watershed in revolutionary behavior.  A general crisis of communism engulfed the Marxist‑Leninist states.  The problem of attempting to reform failed economic systems overtaxed the gerontocratic remnants of politburos in most communist systems and left them with the options of either repression or a sharing of power.

        ...During 1989, de facto insurrections occurred in every communist capital except those ruled by family dynasties...

        Communism, of course, aims not at economic efficiency but at social justice.  But in the modern world, particularly after the advent of the information‑based, electronics‑driven industrial structure, state‑owned and ‑controlled enterprises cannot operate efficiently enough to finance a modern welfare system.  For communism to try distributing benefits equitably, there must be some benefits.  By the late 1970s it had become apparent to virtually all Chinese that Mao's 27 years in power had produced nothing more than that:  27 years of personal dictatorship.  The system had run out of benefits.

        Dictatorship was the second problem.  The communist revolutions of the 20th Century differed from the English revolution of the 17th Century or the French Revolution of the 18th Century in that they did not culminate in "Thermidor."  By Thermidor, students of revolution mean that stage in the process of revolution when the masses assert themselves and send the revolutionary vanguards back to their customary occupations as clerks, lawyers and functionaries.  Thermidor means that the peoples whose victimization justified the revolution finally decide to take their winnings and call it quitsconsolidating the new order and preserving gains.

        Where Thermidor did not occurlargely because the masses are too unsophisticated to understand what their vanguards are up towe see a typical pattern.  The vanguards first attempt to force their ideology on the massesthe Reign of Terror in the French Revolution, Stalin's purges, China's Great Leap Forward.  Then the vanguard dictatorship becomes solidified and makes its rule routine.  This latter phase, the sleepy but policed indolence of the Leonid I. Brezhnev years, is typified by massive cynicism and corruptionthe world of dachas in Russia, the East German communist elites guarded paradise at Wandlitz, the beach resorts and party stores of China's party plutocracy.

        Deng tried to restart China's economy without disturbing the dictatorship's entrenched vanguards.  Although the terms had not yet been invented, Deng sought perestroika without glasnost.  This was not a particularly unusual project.  There are innumerable historical examples of similarly placed monopolists without political reform, including those of the late Manchu China, czarist Russia and Meiji Japan.  It does not work.

        Reform of a Soviet‑type economy, much like the attempt to achieve an outward orientation among less developed countries, is not a unilinear process.  There are different ways to do it, each with different trade‑offs.  Economic reform certainly must be accompanied by political reform, but that is an inadequate way to put it.  What is needed is a set, or critical mass, of reforms together with a clear understanding of what markets do and cannot do for economic systems....Nothing is easy about this process, but as the economic dynamism of the non‑communist Pacific reveals, there are many possible forms of political economy other than Marxism‑Leninism or Adam Smith's bedrock capitalism.

        Deng attempted economic reform without political change.  But neither he nor his hand‑picked managers of reform, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, ever touched the privileges of the old communist vanguards...Instead of studying such nearby functioning states as South Korea and Taiwan, China seemed to have taken Ferdinand E. Marcos' Philippines as its model....According to the Chinese government's own statistics, 70% of all reported economic crimes during 1987‑88 were committed by officials, including members of the People's Liberation Army.  Corruption extended all the way to the top political leadership, known as the 14 Big Families.  These are the families of Deng, President Yang Shangkun, Premier Li Peng, the deposed party leader Zhao, plus heirs and descendants of the old vanguards.  Many of the students who gathered in Tiananmen Square came from families of lesser officials or professionals on fixed incomes.  Inflation affected them personally and focused their attention on families not troubled by inflation because those families were on the take.  Calls for democracy were not so much for institutions of the West as they were for Thermidorto get the entrenched old vanguards off the backs of the people and to hold public officials accountable.

        The 14 Big Families reacted precisely as Marx, Engels, and Lenin had predicted such a ruling class would act under similar circumstances:  in their own interest.  Instead of compromising with the students...Deng and company used the army...

        In the worldwide 1989 crisis of communism, China behaved worse than any other communist nation and with less excuse...The reply of the students of Tiananmen was apt:  "Only power grows from the barrel of a gun; our cause is democracy."  The next time the students' cause will not be democracy but anti‑communism. 

Source:  Los Angeles Times, December 17, 1989. 



The passage below by historian Pauline Meier describes the collapse of the Soviet Union and of four decades of superpower rivalry and potential nuclear war. 

        When he entered the White House in 1989, George Bush was suspicious of the genuineness of Mikhail Gorbachev's commitment to perestroika and glasnost. But Bush's caution was overwhelmed by volcanic demands for freedom that redrew the political map of Central Europe with stunning speed.  During the first year of his presidency, Hungary cast off most of its Communist leadership, and so did Poland, where, with the help of the administration, free elections were arranged, and Solidarity, the union movement that had initiated the drive for liberalization, won control of the National Assembly.  In May, Estonia and Lithuania declared themselves independent of the Soviet Union, and in August Latvia broke free.  Upheaval followed in East Germany, where in early November, with Gorbachev having declared a hands‑off policy, thousands forced the regime to open the gates to the West and started tearing down the hated wall dividing Berlin.  That winter, the Communist governments in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania were overthrown, and a pro‑democracy playwright became president of Czechoslovakia.

        ...In East and West Germany, sentiment for reunification was mounting rapidly.  Gorbachev, anxious about Russian security in the face of a united Germany and under pressure from hard‑liners at home, resisted the union.  But Bush opted for it, fearing otherwise an unpredictable instability in East Germany.  In May 1990, during a summit in Washington, he granted Gorbachev a trade package to help shore him up against the hard‑liners, and Gorbachev, in exchange, agreed to German reunification by 1994.  In July 1991, at a summit in Moscow, Bush and Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1), an agreement to cut strategic nuclear weaponry ultimately by 30‑40 percent.

        The following month, however, Russian hard‑liners attempted a coup against Gorbachev and his reforms.  In defiance, hundreds of thousands of people protectively cordoned off the parliament, and Boris Yeltsin, the president of the Russian republic, rallied the crowd, courageously mounting a tank to denounce the plotters.  Although the coup failed and Gorbachev retained power, he was increasingly overshadowed by Yeltsin and, in the end, overwhelmed by the liberalizing forces he had unleashed.  In December 1991, the Soviet Union came to an end, replaced by a Commonwealth of Independent States comprising the eleven former Soviet republics.  Gorbachev resigned, and Yeltsin reigned over Russia.  In January 1993, Bush and Yeltsin signed START II, which called for a two‑thirds reduction in long‑range nuclear weapons within ten years and complete elimination of land‑based missiles.  The Cold War was now indisputably over. 

Source: Pauline Maier, Inventing America: A History of the United States, vol. 2 (New York, 2003), p. 1044-1045.






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