People: Cold War
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 8 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.