East German borderguards look
througha hole in the Berlin
wall after demonstrators pulled
down one segment of the wall at
Brandenburg gate on November
11, 1989.

Victorious allies in World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States became enemies soon afterward. Postwar America understood the Soviet Union’s Communist ideology to be dedicated to world domination and totalitarian control over its own people. Soviet possession of Eastern Europe seemed to justify these beliefs, and proxy wars between the two nuclear powers in Africa and Asia escalated the hostilities.

The U.S. saw itself as the bulwark of the free world against Soviet aggression and vulnerable to domestic subversion by Communists. Blacklists prevented many ordinary people from working because they were deemed progressive or, worse, denounced as Reds.

Senator Joe McCarthy, who led investigations into alleged Communist activity in the U.S., became the symbol of the “Red Scare” era. In the 1950s, televised hearings investigating accusations that the U.S. Army harbored Communists forever tarnished his reputation.

For $1,250, a family could
buy an atomic bomb shelter
in 1951, to “survive” a
nuclear war with the Soviet
Union. .

President Roosevelt had declared “Freedom from Fear” to be one of the essential Four Freedoms, but a new fear had taken hold – of growing atomic arsenals and the possibility of nuclear annihilation. The arms race threatened Americans’ most basic freedom – life itself. Nuclear war appeared menacingly close in October 1962 when the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev placed missiles in America’s backyard, Cuba. A possible World War III was averted when President John F. Kennedy’s blockade of Cuba led the Soviet Union to remove its missiles.

In the 1980s, the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev understood that he had to liberalize a society which was repressing its citizens and bankrupting its economy through an escalating arms race. He and both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush negotiated reductions in the U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals. In November 1989, when East Germans broke through the Berlin Wall into the West and Soviet and East German soldiers did nothing to stop them, the long Cold War was at an end.

President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev arm wrestle with their fingers on the nuclear buttons in a cartoon by Leslie Gilbert Illingworth during the Cuban Missile Crisis published in the The Daily Mail on October 29, 1962.

A Soviet SS-21 tactical short-range nuclear missile is shown for the first time in Red Square, Moscow, at the Victory Day (their V-E day) parade, May 9, 1985.

Special Army Counsel Joseph Welch, left, responds to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., right, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?” after McCarthy charged a member of Welch's law firm with Communist associations during the televised Army-McCarthy hearings on June 9, 1954.

Bert the Turtle taught children to “Duck and Cover” to protect themselves in case of an atomic attack in a 1951 U.S. Civil Defense film.