Cold War Vocabulary

A compilation of vocab dealing with the Cold War era

Arms Race

An arms race is a competition between two or more parties to have the best armed forces or military technology. During the Cold War, an arms race was escalating between America and the USSR

Fallout Shelters

A fallout shelter is any protected and enclosed space designed for the purpose of protecting inhabitants from nuclear radiation or fallout from a nuclear explosion. Many of these shelters were built during the Cold War.

House Un-American Activities Committee

The HUAC was a committee of the US House of Representatives that lasted from 1938-1975. Their primary goal was to investigate disloyalty and subversive organizations in order to root out or prevent communism in the US.

Alger Hiss

Alger Hiss was an American government official who was convicted of perjury in 1950 after being accused of being a Soviet spy in 1948. On August 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers, a former Communist Party member, testified under subpoena before the HUAC that Mr. Hiss had secretly been a Communist while in federal service.

Rosenberg Case

Julius and Ethel Elizabeth Rosenberg were American citizens who were also spies for the Soviet Union, giving them secret information on nuclear weaponry. They were both tried on March 6, 1951, convicted on March 29th, and executed on June 19, 1953.

Joseph McCarthy

Joseph McCarthy was an American senator from Wisconsin who spent nearly five years attempting to expose Communism in America.

Hollywood Blacklist

The Hollywood Blacklist was a movement in the early 20th century to deny actors, writers, producers, directors, musicians, and multiple other forms of entertainment due to suspected involvement in communism.

Space Race

The Space Race was a 20th century competition between the US and the USSR to advance space travel and space technology.


NASA was a US space organization that became operational in 1958 in order to compete with the Soviet space program.

Iron Curtain

The "iron curtain" was a term used to refer to the imaginary boundary dividing Europe into two separate sections during the Cold War.

Berlin Airlift

The Berlin Airlift was a method utilized by supporters of West Berlin in order to transport supplies and goods to them after Stalin shut down aid from East Berlin.

Truman Doctrine

The Truman Doctrine was an American policy created to counter the spread of communism. It promised that America would lend aid to any democratic nation threatened by internal or external authoritarian forces.


Containment is a military tactic utilized to prevent the expansion of an enemy. It was most notably used by America during the Cold War.

Marshall Plan

The Marshall Plan was an American initiative to aid Western Europe by giving them $13 billion dollars in order to help rebuild economics after WW2.

38th Parallel

The 38th parallel is a circle of latitude that is 38 degrees north of the equatorial plane. It is also what divides North and South Korea.

Douglas MacArthur

Douglas Macarthur was an American general who commanded American forces in the Pacific during WW2, as well as leading forces in the Korean War.

Suez Canal Crisis 1956

The Suez Canal Crisis was an invasion of Egypt by Israel in an attempt to overthrow Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Geneva Accords

The Geneva Accords were an agreement set upon during the 1954 Geneva Conference, which temporarily separated Vietnam into two zones, a northern zone to be governed by the Việt Minh, and a southern zone to be governed by the State of Vietnam, then headed by former emperor Bảo Đại.

17th Parallel

The 17th parallel was the provisional military demarcation line established in Vietnam by the Geneva Accords.

John Foster Dulles

Dulles served as the Secretary of State under Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1959, advocating a stern and aggressive stance against communism.

Massive Retaliation

Massive retaliation is a military tactic in which a nation vows to respond with even greater force in the event of an attack from an enemy.

Central Intelligence Agency

The CIA is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States, founded in 1947 and dedicated to investigating and combating threats to national security.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an international governmental alliance that was founded in 1949, in an attempt to stop the spread of communism worldwide.

Warsaw Pact

The Warsaw Pact was a collective defense treaty among the Soviet Union and several other communist states formed in 1955, similar to NATO.


SEATO was an international defense organization created by the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty in 1954.

U-2 Incident

The U-2 incident was an international incident in which the Soviet Union shot down an American spy plane on May 1st, 1960, while it was in Soviet airspace.

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro is a Cuban politician and revolutionary who served as the Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976 and then as its President from 1976 to 2008.

Bay of Pigs

The Bay of Pigs invasion was a failed military invasion of Cuba in 1961, organized by the US and carried out by the CIA sponsored paramilitary group Brigade 2506

Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a tense 13-day confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1962, over Soviet ballistic missiles deployment in Cuba.


Brinkmanship is a governmental tactic characterized by seeming to approach the verge of war in order to persuade one's opposition to back down.