Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Cold War Study Unit
David Pearson
US History
Time Frame:
9-10 weeks
Cold War
Cold War

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

A series of lectures, document analysis, Cooperative learning and individual assignments


This course is designed to provide students with the analytic skills and factual knowledge necessary to evaluate critically the period of the Cold War 1945-1989. Students will learn to assess historical materials (relevance, reliability, importance) and to weigh the evidence and interpretations presented in order to arrive at informed conclusions relating to the cause, nature and consequences of the Cold War.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:


2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)



Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the Cold War (1945-1990).

1. (K) explains why the United States emerged as a superpower as the result of World War II.

2.(A) analyzes the origins of the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the Soviet Bloc, Mao’s victory in China, Marshall Plan, Berlin Blockade, Iron Curtain).

3. (A) evaluates the foreign policies of Truman and Eisenhower during the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the United Nations, containment, NATO, Truman Doctrine, Berlin Blockade, Korean War, Iron Curtain, U-2 incident).

4. (A) evaluates the foreign policies of Kennedy and Johnson during the Cold War (e.g., Cuban Missile Crisis, Berlin Wall, Vietnam War, Peace Corp).

5. (A) analyzes domestic life in the United States during the Cold War era (e.g., McCarthyism, federal aid to education, interstate highway system, space as the New Frontier, Johnson’s Great Society).

6. (A) analyzes the cause and effect of the counterculture in the United States (e.g., Sputnik, reaction to the Military Industrial Complex, assassinations of Kennedy and King, draft, Vietnam War, Watergate Scandal).

7.(K) examines the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil rights (e.g., Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Little Rock Nine, Martin Luther King, Jr., Montgomery Bus Boycott, Voting Rights Act of 1965, Betty Friedan, NOW, ERA, Title IX).

8. (K) discusses events that contributed to the end of the Cold War (e.g., Détente, Nixon’s visit to China, SALT talks, expansion of the military-arms race, relationship between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev).

9. (A) evaluates the causes and effects of the reform movements of the 1960s and 1970s (e.g., environmentalism – Rachel Carson, EPA; consumer protection – Ralph Nader; changes in the American labor movement – Cesar Chávez).

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Required Reading


  1. 1.    John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History (The Penguin Press: New York, 2005)
  2. 2.    D.M. Kennedy, T.A. Bailey, The American Spirit 10th Ed. Volume II: From 1877 (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)

Supplemental Reading


As always, students are encouraged to read as widely as possible around the subject area.


  1. 1.    R. Ovendale, Britain, the United States and the Cold War in Europe
  2. 2.    M. Hastings, The Korean War
  3. 3.    J.F. Kennedy, 13 Days
  4. 4.    A.J. Languth, Our Vietnam
  5. 5.    V. Tismaneanu, Reinventing Politics: Eastern Europe from Stalin to Havel
  6. 6.    J. Olson, Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying
  7. 7.    C. Anderson, For the President’s Eyes: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush
  8. 8.    J. Issacs and T. Downing, Cold War: An Illustrated History 1945-1991
  9. 9.    A. Beichman, CNN’s Cold War Documentary: Issues and Controversy



  1. http://www.un.org/  (The United Nations)
  2. http://www.isn.ethz.ch/php/ (Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact)
  3. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/ (Cold War International History Project)

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:


Technology Required:

Computer Access

Full description of activity or assignment.

Cold War Detailed Syllabus





Handout / Notes


  • Discussion: “What is the Cold War”
  • Preface
  • Prologue
  • Ch1: The Return to Fear

1a. Document – Harry Truman Justifies the Bombing (1945), p. 393

1b. Essay – What Caused the Cold War?





  • Lecture – The Origins of the Cold War




  • DVD – PBS Truman (Decision to Drop the Bomb)






  • Ch 1 Confirmation – Discussion
  • Ch2: Deathboats and Lifeboats

2a. Document – George Kennan Proposes Containment (1946), p. 409





  • DVD – PBS Truman (Truman Doctrine & Marshall Plan)




  • Discussion – Varying Viewpoint






  • Ch 2 Confirmation – Discussion
  • Ch3: Command Versus Spontaneity

3a Essay Writing

  • The Red Scare and McCarthyism
  • Video – The Berlin Airlift



  • Movie Night: Dr. Strangelove
  • Essay 1b Planning




  • Discussion – The Red Scare and McCarthyism






  • Ch 3 Confirmation – Discussion
  • Ch4: The Emergence of Autonomy

4a. Essay – Assess the success of the U.S. policy of containment in Asia between 1945 and 1975.

4b. Map: Decolonization in Asia and Africa

  • Decolonization on the World Stage: Anglo-American Handling of Colonial Issues at the UN 1945-63
  • Document Interpretation Exercise – The Spy’s Dilemma




  • The Korean War



  • Movie Night: 13 Days
  • Discussion – Decolonization on the World Stage: Anglo-American Handling of Colonial Issues at the UN 1945-63






  • Ch 4 Confirmation – Discussion
  • Ch5: The Recovery of Equity

5a. Cold War Cartoon Analysis

  • The Cold War and Civil Rights
  • The Vietnam War




  • The Vietnam War




  • Discussion – The Cold War and Civil Rights






  • Ch 5 Confirmation – Discussion
  • Ch6: Actors

6a. Essay Writing

  • Détente, International Order, and Human Rights in the 1970s
  • DVD – CNN – The Cold War




  • Essay 4a Planning




  • Discussion – Détente, international Order, and Human Rights in the 1970s






  • Ch 6 Confirmation – Discussion
  • Ch7: The Triumph of Hope

7a. Essay – Account for the Collapse of Communism in Europe


  • Cold War Intelligence




  • Student Essay Research




  • DVD – CNN – The Cold War






  • Ch 7 Confirmation – Discussion
  • Epilogue: The View Back

8a. Document Analysis: Four Views on the End of the Cold War (1994), p. 576





  • Lecture – The End of the Cold War




  • DVD – The End of the Cold War in Europe






  • Epilogue Confirmation – Discussion


9a Essay Writing


  • Essay 7b Planning







  • Student Feedback
























Weekly Routine


  1. 1.     Read and take notes from the designated chapter of The Cold War: A New History. Your notes, supplemented by classroom lectures, homework assignments, multi-media and document exercises, will provide the informational basis necessary to successfully answer the specified essay questions.
  2. 2.     Hand in the weekly homework assignment each Thursday and essays on the Monday immediately following the essay planning lesson as per the syllabi.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

A Series of Essays will be graded as well as weekly homework activities