Classroom activity: Cold War


Following World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union entered a 46-year period of tension between the two countries known as the Cold War. It began with the failure of the Soviet Union to allow free elections in Eastern Europe (following the end of WWII) and the establishment of communist countries prompted the United States to engage in a policy of containment based on the domino theory. It continued as communism spread to Asia, causing the U.S. to become engaged in extended regional conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.   The Vietnam War was fought with widespread exposure through television, which would divide the United States as those at home could see first-hand the causalities of war. An anti-war movement would emerge and engulf the 1960s in a period of protest and change. The Cold War eventually came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union’s economy.

Directions: Use the content from the Citizen Bee website to help answer the following questions.


Roy Benavidez

  1. Why did Roy Benavidez receive the Congressional Medal of Honor?
  2. How was it explained that it took so long for Mr. Benavidez to receive the Medal of Honor?

John F. Kennedy

  1. How is the Cuban Missile Crisis a good example of the characteristics of the Cold War?
  2. What did President Kennedy do to fulfill his famous words from his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”?

Joseph McCarthy

  1. How did the fear of communism in the Cold War era support Senator McCarthy’s claims?
  2. How have the Venona Papers somewhat validated some of McCarthy’s claims?

Harry Truman

  1. What was the Truman Doctrine?
  2. What was the relationship between the Truman Doctrine and the characteristics of the Cold War?



John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address

  1. What did President Kennedy mean when he said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear? But let us never fear to negotiate.”?
  2. To what was President referring when he said, “the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science {that could} engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.”?

Douglas MacArthur’s “Duty, Honor, Country” Speech

  1. Why do you think the words, “duty, honor, and country” serve as the West Point motto?

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

  1. What did the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution do to the powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief?
  2. How did the provisions of the resolution lead to a deeper involvement in Vietnam by both President Johnson and President Nixon?

Economic Cooperation Act (The Marshall Plan)

  1. Why was the Marshall Plan believed to be so critical in the years following the end of World War II?
  1. How effective was the Marshall Plan?

Interstate Highway Act (Federal-Aid Highway Act)

  1. What two events prompted President Eisenhower to support passage of the Interstate Highway Act?
  2. What level of government had previously been responsible for the highway system?
  3. How has the interstate highway system changed the United States?



Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company v. Sawyer

  1. Why did President Truman want to seize control of and operate the nation’s steel mills?
  2. What was the Court’s reason when they ruled that the President have exceeded his power as Commander-in-Chief?

Connection Questions

  1. How would you define a “cold war”?
  2. Which document or person from the Cold War era do you feel has had the most impact on the current United States? Defend your choice.
  3. If you had been a member of the Supreme Court that heard the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company v. Sawyer how would you have voted and why?

Click here for a PDF copy of the questions.