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 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 casualties 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.


Roy Benavidez, born in 1935 in Cuero, Texas, is a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for his heroics in the Vietnam War. This native Texan was responsible for saving eight soldiers during an intense battle in 1968. He ran through enemy fire when he realized that his close friends and members of a Special Forces team were too injured to make it to the helicopter that had carried Benavidez to the battle site. He managed to reorganize the team and signaled for the helicopters to return and rescue them. As the helicopter was set to take off, it was hit with enemy fire. Benavidez managed to regroup the men and hold off the enemy as another helicopter arrived. He was gravely injured as he battled hand to hand with a Vietnamese soldier. His injuries were so severe that he was not expected to live, and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. His commanders did not expect him to live through the lengthy process required for a Congressional Medal of Honor. Years later, upon learning that he had survived, he was finally awarded the Medal of Honor.
John F. Kennedy, born in 1917, graduated from Harvard University in 1941. Afterwards, he served in World War II where his PT boat was sunk. Kennedy led several survivors to safety. He was elected to the U. S. Senate from Massachusetts in 1953. In 1955 he published Profiles In Courage which received the Pulitzer Prize in history. In 1960, he won the Democratic Party’s nomination for President. During this campaign, he participated in the first televised presidential debates with his Republican opponent, Richard Nixon. He defeated Nixon and was inaugurated as the first Catholic President and the youngest elected President. His inaugural speech is famous for the memorable words, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” He sponsored the creation of the U. S. Peace Corps. In 1961, a group of U. S. trained Cuban exiles launched the Bay of Pigs invasion in a failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro. Castro then let Khrushchev install Soviet missiles in Cuba capable of reaching the U. S. In what became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy ordered a naval blockade and after 13 tense days the missiles were removed. Secretly, the United States also agreed to remove missiles it had placed in Turkey. Kennedy’s presidency lasted around 1000 days before he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.
Joseph McCarthy, born in 1908, was a U. S. Senator from Wisconsin from 1947 to 1957 who accused numerous individuals in the United States government of being Communists. Many of these accusations were unsupported but gained credibility because of the tensions of the Cold War. McCarthy made many of these accusations during televised Senate committee hearings. In 1954 he made accusations against members of the Army. This eventually led to the U. S. Senate officially censuring him for his behavior. In 1995, the government declassified and made public a collection of papers from the Cold War era known as the Venona Papers. These papers seem to indicate that some of the individuals whom McCarthy had accused were in fact Communists. Some individuals argue that the papers thus vindicate some of McCarthy’s charges.
Harry Truman, born in 1884, served in World War I as a captain. He later served as a U. S. Senator from Missouri from 1934 to 1944. In 1944 he was elected Vice President of the U. S. on the ticket with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He became the 33rd President in 1945 when Roosevelt died. As Vice President, he had not been informed of the development of the atomic bomb, but as President, he made the decision to use the weapon against the Japanese to bring an end to World War II. In 1947 he convinced Congress to aid countries that were being threatened by communism. This became known as the Truman Doctrine and would be followed by subsequent presidents during the Cold War. In recognition of the outstanding service of African Americans during the war, in 1948 Truman issued an executive order directing the desegregation of the armed forces. To the surprise of many, Truman was elected to his own term as President in 1948. During the remainder of his presidency, he removed the popular General Douglas MacArthur from his command position in the Korean War and tried to seize the nation’s steel mills to avoid a strike that might have closed steel production, critical to the war effort. After he retired from the presidency in 1952, he returned to Missouri where he died in 1972.
Documents/Supreme Court Cases
After John F. Kennedy became the nation’s youngest elected President as a result of the 1960 election, he delivered his Inaugural Address in January,1961. This was during what is called the Cold War between the U. S. and the Soviet Union when the American public’s fears of a nuclear attack were high. Kennedy spoke of “the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science [that could] engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.” He urged his fellow Americans to feel honored in having the opportunity to courageously defend freedom and work for peace. He said: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate….” He concluded his Inaugural Address by referring to the responsibilities of citizenship. In doing so, he uttered the following, one of the most memorable and often quoted sentences from any presidential inaugural address: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
General Douglas MacArthur delivered this Duty, Honor, Country speech in 1962 to West Point graduates when he received the Thayer Award which is given to a citizen whose service and accomplishments in the national interest exemplify personal devotion to the ideals expressed in the West Point motto. In his address, MacArthur described the West Point motto, “Duty, Honor, Country,” and the code of perseverance and responsibility and “conduct and chivalry” of the American soldier. He said, "Duty, Honor, Country – those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you want to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”
On August 4, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced that he had been informed by American armed forces personnel that North Vietnam had fired on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin near Vietnam. He ordered retaliatory bombing of targets in North Vietnam and asked the U. S. Congress for a resolution supporting his actions. On August 7, 1964, with very little debate, Congress responded by adopting the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964 by a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives and by an 88-2 vote in the Senate. It contained the following key language which expanded the war power of President Johnson, and later President Richard Nixon, and was used to legally justify their actions leading to greater American involvement in Vietnam: “To promote the maintenance of international peace and security in Southeast Asia, Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attacks against the forces of the U. S. and to prevent any further aggression.” In the undeclared war that followed, the Resolution became the subject of much controversy. At the peak of U. S. involvement in Vietnam in 1969, more than 500,000 U. S. military personnel were involved, and opposition to American involvement grew. The Resolution was finally repealed in January, 1971, and American involvement in Vietnam ended in 1973 even though the war continued until 1975. It is estimated that from 1965-1973, the U. S. spent more than $120 billion on the conflict. Over 50,000 Americans and over 2,000,000 Vietnamese died. In 1975, the Communists seized control of Saigon, ending the Vietnam War, and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The nation’s involvement in Vietnam drew attention away from Johnson’s Great Society programs for social reform and civil rights. The unpopularity of the war with many Americans also took a toll on Johnson personally, so much so that he eventually decided not to seek re-election as President in 1968. As time passed, doubts arose as to whether or not the North Vietnamese had launched an attack on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin or at least whether the Johnson administration had exaggerated or inflated what had happened.

Europe in the summer of 1945 has been described in the following way: “Much of Europe lay in ruins. In the hardest hit areas, cities were reduced to rubble, bridges destroyed and highways made impassable, crops could not be planted; factories were either crippled or demolished, and production fell to dangerously low levels. Everywhere in areas hit hardest by war, there were refugees and displaced people, many having lost everything but the clothes on their backs.” … “Then came the winter of 1946-1947, the worst in memory, hitting Britain and Western Europe particularly hard, blanketing much of the area with massive snow drifts, downed power lines, and disruption of transportation; an alarming number of people suffered from frostbite and many thousands were on the verge of starvation.” As if all of this were not enough, historians point out that “these hardships were accompanied by political and social upheavals throughout the world. China was on the brink of civil war; the Middle East was in turmoil with the agitation for a new state of Israel; the government of Greece was challenged by insurrectionists; Iran and Turkey were threatened by the Soviet Union; communist parties were growing in strength and number in France and Italy; and France, Britain, and the United States were at odds with the Soviet Union over the division and destiny of Germany. Eastern European countries fell under the political and military control of the Soviet Union, and shortly the world was talking about an ‘iron curtain’ drawn between East and West in Europe and a ‘cold war’ between the Soviet Union and the West.” The United States, like it or not, had been thrust into the role of a world leader, and, for an important moment in American history, the Republican-controlled Congress and the Democratic administration, bitterly scrapping against each other on many domestic fronts, came together to create a bipartisan foreign policy. In a short speech at Harvard University in June 1947, President Harry Truman’s Secretary of State George Marshall outlined what became popularly known as the Marshall Plan. Marshall was highly respected by members of both parties in Congress and by world leaders as well and, perhaps most important, he was not a partisan politician. The legislation provided a little over $6 billion in economic assistance ($13.5 billion over a four-year period): sixteen nations in Western Europe plus West Germany received $5.3 billion, and China, Greece, and Turkey received $700 million in economic and military aid. The Act had to go through annual reauthorizations to fulfill its full $13.5 billion in assistance. Great Britain, France, Italy, and West Germany were the greatest recipients. The Marshall Plan ended in June 1952. In 1955, former President Harry Truman wrote: “The Marshall Plan was one of America’s greatest contributions to the peace of the world. I think the world now realizes that without the Marshall Plan it would have been difficult for Western Europe to remain free from the tyranny of Communism.” Speaking in 1997, the former West German leader Helmut Schmidt said: “The United States should not forget that the emerging European Union is one of its own greatest achievements: it would never have happened without the Marshall Plan.” The plan helped stabilize democratic governments, assisted European countries to begin the first steps toward economic and political integration, and demonstrated to both former ally and foe, that the United States was willing to provide much-needed assistance at critical times. The plan thrust the United States into the role of international leader.
Until just before World War I, road building was almost exclusively a county or state government enterprise. Since 1916, the federal government has provided financial assistance and technical support for state primary, secondary and urban highways, and in 1944, after many years of hesitation, Congress enacted legislation to develop an interstate highway system yet failed to appropriate funds for its construction. A few years later, President Dwight Eisenhower played a key role in the passage of the Interstate Highway Act of 1956. An experience which then Lt. Colonel Eisenhower had in the summer of 1919 had a lasting impression on the future President and led him later to become an enthusiastic advocate for an interstate highway system. Eisenhower was an officer in an expedition which the War Department undertook to demonstrate the need for better roads. A caravan of seventy-five trucks, cars, ambulances, and repair cars began a trip across the United States on July 7 at a location near the White House in Washington, D. C. and sixty-two days later ended in San Francisco on September 6. The other experience which left a lasting impression on Eisenhower, was his exposure in World War II to the Autobahnen, the advanced highway system of Hitler’s Germany. These experiences led Eisenhower to make improvement of the nation’s highway system a major domestic priority of his years as President. The Interstate Highway Act provided $31billion ($26 billion federal) for interstate highways with a funding formula of 90% federal and 10% state. A Highway Trust Fund was created to raise $14.8 billion over a sixteen-year period from increases in taxes on gasoline, diesel, and special motor taxes. The interstate highway system was to be completed by 1969, and was to be at its inception the most complex and expensive public works project ever undertaken in the United States, meeting the burgeoning demand for safe, dependable limited access highway transportation for a growing, increasingly prosperous nation. The project took much longer than expected, cost far more than planned, and was twenty years behind the original schedule. However, it must be noted the interstate highway system has proven to be a remarkably efficient means of transportation and a catalyst for economic growth and prosperity. It comprises less than 1 percent of all highway mileage in the United States, yet transports nearly a quarter of all road traffic. It has spurred lower freight transportation costs, has permitted productivity gains through just-in-time shipping methods, and has been a critical boost to businesses dependent on safe, reliable, highway transportation. Suburban economic growth has been greatly assisted by the interstate system and urban nodes, created around interstate beltways and corridors, have blossomed miles away from downtown. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been spared major injury or death because motorists use the far safer interstate system. It is difficult to imagine what America’s transportation network would look like, or how it would function, without the limited-access multi-lane highway system established by Congress in 1956.


In the years leading up to and following World War II, the British controlled the area known as Palestine in the Middle East. Historically, the Arabs and Jews in this area fought over control of this land they both considered holy. As more and more Jews from around the world began to return to Palestine, fighting broke out in 1947, and continued to escalate. When the United Nations recommended a partition of Palestine into the Arab state of Palestine and the Jewish state of Israel in 1948, tensions increased. When the head of the Jewish group, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the establishment of Israel on May 14, 1948, President Harry Truman recognized the new nation the same day. Palestine and other Arab nations immediately responded by declaring they were dedicated to the destruction of Israel and attacked. At first the United States attempted to stay out of the conflict, but as the war continued, the U.S. began selling weapons and sending military advisors to Israel. Earlier in 1947 the Soviets began supplying Egypt and other Arab nations in the Middle East with arms and pledging their support if needed. As a result, the Middle East became another regional area involved in the Cold War struggle between the two superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union.
By 1948, the tension over the occupation of Germany and specifically Berlin intensified between the Soviets and the United States. The U.S., French, and British zones of Germany joined together into the Federal Republic of Germany, better known as West Germany. The zone of Germany occupied by the Soviets became the German Democratic Republic or East Germany. As for the capital city of Berlin, which also had been divided into four zones and was located deep within East Germany, the British, French, and the Americans combined their sectors of the city into West Berlin with the Soviets in East Berlin. The Soviets responded to this action by blockading West Berlin in hopes of gaining complete control of the capital. The two million people living in West Berlin became hostages of the Soviets, unable to get necessary supplies. In 1948, as the situation grew more serious, the United States organized a massive airlift to fly supplies into West Berlin for the next year. By the end of the Berlin Airlift in 1949, 277,000 flights had delivered 2 million tons of food and supplies to people in West Berlin. Many thought that World War III might break out over this crisis. However, in 1949 the Soviets lifted their blockade of Berlin. As a result, the nation of Germany divided into East and West Germany and the city of Berlin, East and West Berlin became permanent until the late 1980s.
Soon after President Truman sent U.S. troops to join with the United Nations peacekeeping troops to South Korea, Truman and General Douglas MacArthur quickly began to disagree over the best course of action in the war. General MacArthur wanted to invade China and use atomic weapons, but Truman felt that was too dangerous. When General MacArthur defied Truman’s order by getting too close to the Chinese border, President Truman fired him. Many people in the U.S. opposed this controversial event. Historians agree that firing World War II war hero General MacArthur contributed to the decline in President Truman’s public approval ratings, but they also agree that Truman was correct in firing MacArthur for insubordination.
The ongoing war in Korea became a campaign issue when General Dwight Eisenhower ran for the presidency in 1952. One of Eisenhower’s campaign promises was to end the Korean War as soon as possible. After he was elected, he fulfilled that promise by agreeing to a ceasefire in 1953. The agreement returned Korea to the status quo prior to the war with a communist government in North Korea and a non-communist government in South Korea. The 38th parallel served as the border between the two, with a demilitarized zone (DMZ) along the boundary. Over 54,000 thousand soldiers lost their lives in the war. Many disagreed with the compromise and were disappointed at the lack of a clear victory. However, the boundary between North and South Korea set by the cease-fire still holds today.
In 1938, Congress created the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) to continue investigations of possible communist activity in the United States. A Second Red Scare kicked off in 1948, when a member of the Communist Party USA and a Soviet spy testified before HUAC and accused several influential people of being members of the Communist Party USA. Alger Hiss, a respected government official, denied the allegation. Nevertheless, Hiss was tried, convicted for perjury and sentenced to five years in prison.
In 1949, a military alliance known as NATO (North American Treaty Organization) was formed. It began with twelve member nations from Europe and North America. When Finland joined NATO in 2023 the number of members reached thirty-one. The primary goal of the alliance is to protect the freedom and security of member nations either by political or military means if necessary.

The major reason behind the creation of NATO was to unify and strengthen any response that might be necessary to counter the Soviet Union and later its Warsaw Pact allies. The Warsaw Pact was created in 1955 during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and seven other Central and Eastern European socialist nations to attempt to balance power with the nations in the NATO alliance. Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact illustrated the political tension present during the Cold War.

The Arms Race illustrated a crucial part of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The race began when the Soviet Union exploded an atomic bomb in 1949 after the United States had used atomic bombs to end World War II in 1945. In 1953, the Soviet Union announced they had tested a hydrogen bomb. This bomb has the potential to be over a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bombs that were used to end World War II. The hydrogen bomb causes a bigger explosion with the radiation reaching much further in 1954, the United States tested a hydrogen bomb. From this point, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union believed the nation with the largest arsenal would be superior since the weapons stockpile would serve as a deterrent to future attacks.

Over the last part of the 20th century, the Soviet Union and the U.S. signed treaties attempting to control the number of nuclear weapons each possessed. It is believed that the race to build the costly nuclear arsenal led to the Soviet Union to end the Cold War and eventually break apart. However, the nuclear arsenal previously held by the Soviet Union was now in the hands of Russia.

A Wisconsin Senator by the name of Joseph McCarthy seized on the growing fear of communism resulting from the tensions of the Cold War. Speaking in 1950, McCarthy claimed there were over 205 card carrying members of the Communist Party working in the State Department. This fueled paranoia and set off a new round of accusations against Americans in the government, the army, the motion picture industry, as well as literary figures and prominent intellectuals in American society. Senator McCarthy’s technique, called McCarthyism, included making sweeping accusations, employing guilt by association, and using documents out of context as supporting evidence. While some of the accused people had briefly dabbled with the Communist Party in the 1930s during the Depression, they quickly recognized the difference between the ideals of communism versus the reality of putting it into practice. Over 250 actors, writers, and directors were “blacklisted” and denied work as a result of McCarthy’s accusations. McCarthy even accused former U.S. general and Secretary of State George Marshall and others in the military of being instruments of the Soviets. He threatened to have Truman impeached for being soft on communism. He was finally stopped in the first years of the Eisenhower administration when his attacks on army officials intensified. He was condemned and censored by the U.S. Senate. McCarthy died a few years after leaving the Senate. Even with Senator McCarthy gone, the search for suspected Communist spies continued. In 1954, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted and executed for allegedly giving atomic bomb secrets to the Soviets.
Advances in science and medicine have often been driven by researchers’ determination to meet society’s current needs. In 1901, following the death of his grandson from scarlet fever, John D. Rockefeller founded the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research to research the underlying causes of the disease. The flu pandemic of 1918 that killed between 3-5% of the world’s population prompted researchers to examine how to prevent its spread. In addition to an understanding of the use of quarantining the ill, the research also produced the concept of sterilization. In 1921, Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted polio. As a result, he founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938, now known as the March of Dimes. This organization focused on researching the causes of polio and helping those with the disease. By 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk developed a polio vaccine to stop the spread of this infectious disease. Continued research and advances in medicine continue to provide hope that cures may one day be found for many more diseases.
Cold War tension manifested itself in a race between the U.S.S.R and the U.S. to achieve firsts in space. In 1957 the Soviets launched the first unmanned satellite (Sputnik) into space; the U.S. responded by launching the Explorer satellite a few months later, and the race to be the first to the moon began. In 1961, the Soviets achieved a major step in the moon race with the first human to travel into space. Later that same year, Alan Shepard became the first American in space. The Americans eventually won the race in 1969 when Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. Although the space race highlighted the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, the research that resulted from the drive to be the first had positive benefits for Americans. Scientists created many products we use today, including Ziploc bags, Velcro, freeze dried foods, and insulation, as they prepared for astronauts to go into space. Benefits also included increased federal government funding of educational initiatives in math and science.
In 1959, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara led a communist revolution on the island of Cuba. This became the first successful communist revolution in the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. government formally recognized and supported former President Batista in Cuba, while the Soviets supported Castro’s regime. President Kennedy, concerned that Cuba was just 90 miles from Florida, ordered an unsuccessful invasion of the island at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Tension over Cuba continued to increase between the two superpowers.
In 1962, the U.S. uncovered images of a secret missile base in Cuba, stocked with nuclear missiles from the Soviet Union. President Kennedy ordered a blockade of the island to prevent further shipments coming into Cuba. He also demanded that the missiles be dismantled and withdrawn. Kennedy threatened to attack the Soviet Union directly if any missiles were launched at the U.S. from Cuba. For several days it appeared as if nuclear war were inevitable. Finally, the Soviets, under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, agreed to dismantle and withdraw the missiles, thus ending the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy responded by withdrawing the blockade as well as withdrawing some of the U.S. missiles in Turkey aimed at the Soviet Union. The U.S. also promised not to invade the island of Cuba in the future. Historians believe that Khrushchev’s unsuccessful gamble of placing missiles in Cuba was partly responsible for his removal from office two years later.
Belief in the domino theory and fear that more countries would fall to communism like a stack of dominos prompted U.S. action when the Cold War continued in Southeast Asia in the country of Vietnam. In 1954, communist leader Ho Chi Minh led a successful revolt in the former French colony of Indochina. As a result, Indochina was divided into independent Laos and Cambodia, while Vietnam was divided into communist North Vietnam and non-communist South Vietnam. The plan was to reunite Vietnam after free elections were held in 1956. The Soviet Union and China sent aid to North Vietnam, while the U.S. sent military advisors and even more aid to South Vietnam under Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy after the French withdrew. During the two years prior to the election, Ho Chi Minh established a strong communist dictatorship in the North with plans to control South Vietnam. Tensions mounted in the area. Communist soldiers, called Viet Cong, began to wage a guerrilla war in the South, raiding villages and killing supporters of the South Vietnamese government. When it appeared that elections would not be held due to unrest, the U.S. government felt stronger action must be taken and began to send more military aid and troops.
In 1964, it was reported that North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. This action caused President Lyndon Johnson to ask Congress to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the president to take “all necessary measures to repel any armed attack.” When Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Johnson ordered airstrikes against naval bases in North Vietnam. When American bases were attacked in the South, Johnson increased the air strikes to include military targets, further escalating the war. He also increased the number of American forces to over 500,000 personnel in response to the increase in aid coming from communist nations to North Vietnam. New weapons, including Agent Orange, were used in the attempt to halt the Vietcong. Agent Orange destroyed the jungle foliage that hid the enemy. This herbicide not only caused harm to the environment but also was toxic to those who came in contact with it.
Because of the increased presence of the media reporting the war, Americans saw its destructiveness first-hand and began to form their own opinions. A credibility gap emerged between the government and the public who began to distrust what they were being told about American victories and what they were seeing on television. From 1965 until the end of the war, this distrust and unrest was especially evident among the youth who began to stage anti-war protests across the country. They burned their draft cards to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the war. Anti-war sentiment spilled over into novels, music, and the movies of the day. The line was clearly drawn between the “doves” who saw the war as immoral and the “hawks” who saw the war as one of the best ways to stop communist aggression.
Despite campaign promises of “peace with honor,” Richard Nixon expanded the war in Vietnam after he became president in 1968. He continued because he believed the “silent majority” of American citizens still supported the goal of "containing" communism. However, by 1972, when he realized the war needed to come to an end, Nixon announced his policy of “Vietnamization.” Under this policy, the U.S. planned to equip and train South Vietnamese forces while gradually pulling out U.S. troops.
In January of 1968, a surprise offensive by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong armies, known as the Tet Offensive, occurred on the Tet holiday to celebrate the Vietnamese New Year. Both sides suffered heavy casualties in the offensive. The Viet Cong gained control of the American Embassy in Saigon for a short time. Later the South Vietnamese and American forces regained Saigon at a considerable cost.

At home, the American public realized that the ground war was not going as well as the U.S. commanders claimed due to television and news feed of the Tet Offensive.

Despite President Richard Nixon's belief that he had the support of the "Silent Majority," protests against the war—especially among the young—continued. In May 1970 at Kent State, a university in Ohio, four students were killed and nine injured by the Ohio National Guard. Several of the students who were shot were involved in the protest of Nixon’s Cambodian Campaign, while others killed and injured were innocent bystanders.
In 1973 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated the Paris Peace Accords with the North Vietnamese. Along with a ceasefire, the Americans agreed to withdraw from Vietnam and by August of 1973, 95 percent of all U.S. troops had left Vietnam. Additionally, the North Vietnamese agreed to release any remaining American prisoners of war they still held. Several of those released POWS went on to long distinguished political careers. John McCain served as a Senator from Arizona and was nominated as the Republican candidate for President in the 2012 presidential election. Sam Johnson served as a Congressman from Texas for twenty-eight years.
The fighting between the North and South Vietnamese forces continued after the U.S. troops withdrew, but the South Vietnamese army was no match for the North Vietnamese. In 1975, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam fell to the North Vietnamese, marking the official end of the war. The conflict in Vietnam had several significant effects. Over 1,000,000 Vietnamese were killed along with close to 60,000 Americans. The war also caused Americans to become wary of future conflicts and commitments of American troops and resources.
The end of the Cold War began in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Constructed in 1961, the wall symbolized the division between the East and the West. In 1980, when President Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, he realized his government could not continue the Cold War or the arms race with the United States. Gorbachev introduced reforms in the Soviet Union, withdrew Soviet troops, and eased control of the Eastern European nations previously behind the Iron Curtain of communist control. As a result, communist regimes in many of the satellite nations began to collapse as the people rebelled against the dictatorial rule of their governments. Gorbachev even agreed to a reduction of some nuclear missiles. Some historians believe these actions were a direct result of President Ronald Reagan’s policies and plan to build up a stronger military arsenal than the Soviet Union. President Reagan called this policy “Peace through Strength.” Others believe that the Soviet Union recognized their economy was no longer able to sustain the cost of military spending along with subsidizing the economies of the Eastern European satellite nations, Cuba, and other communist countries around the world. The Cold War officially came to an end with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.