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Timeline of the Cold War

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This is a timeline of the main events of the Cold War, a state of political and military tension after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc (the United States, its NATO allies and others) and powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union, its allies in the Warsaw Pact and later the People's Republic of China).









  • January 5: the UK recognizes the People's Republic of China. The Republic of China severs diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom.
  • January 19: China officially diplomatically recognizes Vietnam as independent from France.
  • January 21: the last Kuomintang soldiers surrender on continental China.
  • January 31: President Truman announces the beginning of the development of a hydrogen bomb.[24]
  • February 3: Soviet Union establishes diplomatic relations with the Indonesia through an exchange of telegrams between Indonesian Vice-president, Mohammad Hatta and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrey Vyshinsky.
  • February 9: Senator Joseph McCarthy first claims without evidence that Communists have infiltrated the U.S. State Department, leading to a controversial series of anti-Communist investigations in the United States.[25]
  • February 12: the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China sign a pact of mutual defense.
  • March 11: Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek moves his capital to Taipei, Taiwan, establishing a stand-off with the People's Republic of China.
  • April 7: United States State Department Director of Policy Planning Paul Nitze issues NSC 68, a classified report, arguing for the adoption of containment as the cornerstone of United States foreign policy. It would dictate US policy for the next twenty years.
  • May 11: Robert Schuman describes his ambition of a united Europe. Known as the Schuman Declaration, it marks the beginning of the creation of the European Community.
  • June 25: North Korea invades South Korea, beginning the Korean War. The United Nations Security Council votes to intervene to defend the South. The Soviet Union cannot veto, as it is boycotting the Security Council over the admission of People's Republic of China.
  • July 4: United Nations forces engage North Korean forces for the first time, in Osan. They fail to halt the North Korean advance, and fall southwards, towards what would become the Pusan Perimeter.
  • September 30: United Nations forces land at Inchon. Defeating the North Korean forces, they press inland and re-capture Seoul.
  • October 2: United Nations forces cross the 38th parallel, into North Korea.
  • October 6: Forces from the People's Republic of China enter Tibet, with the goal of annexing the region into China itself.
  • October 22: Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, falls to United Nations forces.
  • October 22: China intervenes in Korea with 300,000 soldiers, catching the United Nations by surprise. However, they withdraw after initial engagements.
  • November 15: United Nations forces approach the Yalu River. In response, China intervenes in Korea again, but with a 500,000 strong army. This offensive forces the United Nations back towards South Korea.


  • January 4: Chinese soldiers capture Seoul.
  • March 14: United Nations forces recapture Seoul during Operation Ripper. By the end of March, they have reached the 38th Parallel, and formed a defensive line across the Korean peninsula.
  • March 29: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted of espionage for their role in passing atomic secrets to the Soviets during and after World War II; they were executed on June 19, 1953.
  • April 11: U.S. President Harry S. Truman fires Douglas MacArthur from command of US forces in Korea due to him demanding nuclear weapons to be used on the enemy.
  • April 18: the European Coal and Steel Community is formed by the Treaty of Paris.
  • April 23: American journalist William N. Oatis is arrested in Czechoslovakia for alleged espionage.
  • May 23: the Seventeen Point Agreement is signed between Tibet and the People's Republic of China, formally annexing Tibet into China itself.
  • September 1: Australia, New Zealand, and the United States sign the ANZUS Treaty. This compels the three countries to cooperate on matters of defense and security in the Pacific.
  • October 10: President Harry S. Truman signs the Mutual Security Act, announcing to the world, and its communist powers in particular, that the U.S. was prepared to provide military aid to "free peoples".
  • November 14: President Harry Truman asks Congress for U.S. military and economic aid for the communist nation of Yugoslavia.
  • December 12: the International Authority for the Ruhr lifts part of the remaining restrictions on German industrial production and on production capacity.







  • January 5: the Eisenhower Doctrine commits the United States to defending Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan from Communist influence.
  • January 22: Israeli forces withdraw from the Sinai, which they had occupied the previous year.
  • February 15: Andrei Gromyko begins his long tenure as Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union.
  • March 6: Ghana becomes independent from the UK under Commonwealth status.
  • May 2: Senator Joseph McCarthy succumbs to illness exacerbated by alcoholism and dies.
  • May 15: the United Kingdom detonates its first hydrogen bomb.
  • August 31: Malaya gains independence from the United Kingdom.
  • October 1: the Strategic Air Command initiates 24/7 nuclear alert (continuous until termination in 1991) in anticipation of a Soviet ICBM surprise attack capability.
  • October 4: Sputnik 1 satellite launched. The same day the Avro Arrow is revealed.
  • November 3: Sputnik 2 was launched, with the first living being on board, Laika.
  • November 7: the final report from a special committee called by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to review the nation's defense readiness indicates that the United States is falling far behind the Soviets in missile capabilities, and urges a vigorous campaign to build fallout shelters to protect American citizens.
  • November 15: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev claims that the Soviet Union has missile superiority over the United States and challenges America to a missile "shooting match" to prove his assertion.
  • December 16–19: NATO holds its first summit in Paris, France. It is the first time NATO leaders have met together since the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in April 1949.


  • January: Mao Zedong initiates the Great Leap Forward.
  • January 29: NASA was founded.
  • January 31: the U.S. Army launches Explorer 1, the first American artificial satellite.
  • February 1: the United Arab Republic is formed.
  • May 18: On a bombing mission in support of the anti-Sukarno Permesta Rebellion, a B-26 bomber supplied by the CIA is shot down in Ambon, Indonesia. The pilot, US citizen Allen Lawrence Pope is captured and imprisoned.
  • June: a C-118 transport, hauling freight from Turkey to Iran, is shot down. The nine crew members are released by the Russians little more than a week later.[32]
  • July 14: a coup in Iraq, the 14 July Revolution, removes the pro-British monarch. Iraq begins to receive support from the Soviets. Iraq will maintain close ties with the Soviets throughout the Cold War.
  • July 15: a political crisis occurred in Lebanon.
  • August: Thor IRBM deployed to the UK, within striking distance of Moscow.
  • August 23: Second Taiwan Strait Crisis begins when China begins to bomb Quemoy.
  • September 1: Iceland expands its fishing zone. United Kingdom opposed the action and eventually deploy some of its navy to the zone, thus triggering the cod wars.
  • October 4: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA is formed.
  • October 8: Guinea becomes independent from France.
  • October 11: Pioneer 1 was launched.
  • November: start of the 1958–1959 Berlin crisis, Nikita Khrushchev asks the West to leave Berlin.
  • November 8: Pioneer 2 was launched.
  • December 6: Pioneer 3 was launched.


  • January 1: Fidel Castro wins the Cuban Revolution and becomes the dictator of Cuba. In the next several years Cuban-inspired guerrilla movements spring up across Latin America.[33]
  • January 2: Luna 1 is launched in an attempt to impact the Moon but due to an error in device's control systems, resulted in the device missing its target by 5,990 kilometres (3,720 mi).
  • March 3: Pioneer 4 was launched in an attempt to photograph the Moon. The probe failed to achieve its intended target of 32,000 kilometres (20,000 mi) from the Moon, reaching only 60,000 kilometres (37,000 mi), too distant for its scanners to photograph the Moon.
  • March 10–23: the Tibetan uprising occurs.
  • March 24: New Republic government of Iraq leaves Central Treaty Organization.
  • May 23: the Laotian Civil War begins.
  • July 24: during the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow US Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet First Secretary Khrushchev openly debate the capacities of each Superpower. This conversation is known as the Kitchen Debate.
  • July 31: the Basque conflict officially begins, with the aim of creating an independent state for the Basque people.
  • August 7: Explorer 6 is launched into orbit to photograph the Earth.
  • September: Khrushchev visits U.S. for 13 days, and is denied access to Disneyland. Instead, he visits SeaWorld (then known as Marineland of the Pacific).[34]
  • September 13: Luna 2 is launched and becomes the first man-made object to reach the surface on the Moon.
  • October 4–22: Luna 3 is launched to take photographs of the far side of the Moon. Approximately 70% of the far side was captured; however, on October 7, only 17 of the 29 photos successfully transmitted back to Earth due to issues with signal strength. On October 22, further contact with Luna 3 was lost.[35]
  • November: the Rwandan Revolution begins.
  • December: formation of the NLF (often called Viet Cong) by North Vietnam. It is a Communist insurgent movement that vows to overthrow the anti-communist South Vietnamese regime. It is supplied extensively by North Vietnam and the USSR eventually.

















  • January 27: the Paris Peace Accords end American involvement in the Vietnam War. Congress cuts off funds for the continued bombing of Indochina.
  • February: Balochi separatists launched a five-year long guerilla war against the Pakistani government in order to create a separate Balochistan nation.
  • February 21: Vientiane Treaty is signed as a cease-fire agreement for the Laotian Civil War. The treaty calls for the removal of all foreign soldiers from Laos . The treaty calls for a coalition government to be created but never materialized.
  • June 21: West Germany and East Germany are each admitted to the United Nations.
  • July 10: The Bahamas becomes independent from the UK.
  • September 11: Chilean coup d'état — The democratically elected Marxist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, is deposed and dies of a gunshot wound during a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.
  • October 6: Yom Kippur WarIsrael is attacked by Egypt and Syria, the war ends with a ceasefire.
  • October 14: an uprising occurred in Thailand.
  • October 22: Egypt defects to the American camp by accepting a U.S. cease-fire proposal during the October 1973 war.
  • November 11: the Soviet Union announces that, because of its opposition to the recent overthrow of the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende, it will not play a World Cup Soccer match against the Chilean team if the match is held in Santiago.





  • January 1: Charter 77 is signed by Czechoslovakian intellectuals, including Václav Havel.
  • January 20: Jimmy Carter becomes President of the United States.
  • March 8: a rebellion occurred in the Shaba Province, Zaire.
  • May 30: The Mozambican Civil War begins.
  • June 6: U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance assures skeptics that the Carter administration will hold the Soviet Union accountable for its recent crackdowns on human rights activists.
  • June 27: Djibouti becomes independent from France.
  • June 30: the Carter administration cancels the planned Rockwell B-1 Lancer bomber.
  • July 21–24: Egypt and Libya fought a war at the Egyptian-Libyan border.
  • July 23: the Ogaden War begins when Somalia attacks Ethiopia.









  • January: U.S. President Ronald Reagan outlines foreign policy which reinforces his previous statements.
  • January 1: Brunei gains independence from the UK.
  • February 13: Konstantin Chernenko is named General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.
  • May 24: the U.S. Congress ratifies the Boland Amendment banning U.S. aid to the contras.
  • June 1–10: Operation Blue Star begins.
  • July 28: various allies of the Soviet Union boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics (July 28 – August 12) in Los Angeles.
  • August 11: during a microphone sound check for his weekly radio address, President Ronald Reagan jokes about bombing the Soviet Union. "My fellow Americans", Reagan says. "I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." The quip is not aired but is leaked to the press.[56] The Soviet Union temporarily puts its defense forces on high alert.
  • October 31: Indira Gandhi assassinated.
  • December 16: Margaret Thatcher and the UK government, in a plan to open new channels of dialog with Soviet leadership candidates, meet with Mikhail Gorbachev at Chequers.









See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Arms, Thomas S. Encyclopedia of the Cold War (1994).
  • Brune, Lester H. Chronology of the Cold War, 1917–1992 (Routledge, 2006) 720 pp of brief facts
  • Hanes, Sharon M. and Richard C. Hanes. Cold War Almanac (2 vol 2003), 1460pp of brief facts
  • Parrish, Thomas. The Cold War Encyclopedia (1996)
  • Trahair, Richard C.S. and Robert Miller. Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations (2012). excerpt
  • Tucker, Spencer C. and Priscilla Mary Roberts, eds. The Encyclopedia of the Cold War: A Political, Social, and Military History (5 Vol., 2007). excerpt
  • van Dijk, Ruud, ed. Encyclopedia of the Cold War (2 vol. 2017) excerpt

External links[edit]