7 Myths You Probably Believe About the Cold War

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Trivial Diversions

7 Myths You Probably Believe About the Cold War

7 Myths You Probably Believe About the Cold War


  1. JFK’s “I am a jelly donut.”

Kennedy’s famous speech in West Germany culminated with the line “Ich bin ein Berliner.” So the myth goes, this did not, in fact, mean “I am a Berliner,” as Kennedy intended, but instead “I am a jelly-filled donut.”

In reality, though, nobody thought the president meant to call himself a donut. The whole confusion is over the word “ein,” which is the German equivalent of the English article “a.” While the more usual way to say that someone is from Berlin is “Ich bin Berliner” (i.e. “I am from Berlin”), the phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” creates a tone of solidarity, especially since “ice bin Berliner” implies that someone is native to Berlin.

  1. The Cold War was a “Long Peace”

Not really. While there may not have been open fighting between the United States and the Soviet Union, crises were common, many that resulted in fighting and death – big examples include the Berlin Blockade, the Cuban Missile crisis, terrorism attacks, Chinese attacks on Taiwanese-held islands, or the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

  1. The Space Race had overwhelming support

We like to look back on the Space Race as a feverish time of the most brilliant minds of the day, cheered on by the multitudes of America, rushing to get our men to the moon before the Russians could get there. However, according to a Gallup poll in the 1960’s, many Americans thought the Space Race wasn’t worth the money – after the touchdown, only 53 percent of the public thought that it was worth it.

  1. JFK was the peaceful Cold War president

So the story goes, JFK was a peace-loving president – he defused the Cuban Missile Crisis, he set up the Peace Corps, and as some have suggested, if he had not been killed, America never would have gone into Vietnam.

Whether or not the Vietnam theory is true, JFK began a lot of assassinations, in particular the multiple attempts to kill Fidel Castro (which definitely did not endear the US to the Cubans who we kept trying to murder). Another assassination included the overthrow and death of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. While neither of these assassination targets could be called nice guys, trying to kill them can hardly be called a peaceful action.

  1. The Cold War was Capitalists vs. Communists

Americans tend to think of the Cold War as a sort of East v. West, Commies vs. Capitalists showdown. However, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were not the only tensions of the time. Despite a strong start, China and the Soviet Union did not get along very well. In the late ’50s, relations between the USSR and China worsened as the two competing ideologies of communism fought for supremacy. The situation nearly turned to open war in 1969 through a seven-month series of border clashes known as the Sino-Soviet border conflict, when a population of Uyghur people fled Chinese territory into the Soviet Union. Beijing accused the Soviets of stealing the population, and from there things worsened.

Then, while America never fought their allies in Europe, they certainly didn’t agree with the buildup of nuclear armaments. One English philosopher named Bertrand Russell suggested that, should World War III start, all of Europe should convert to Communism.

  1. The Berlin Airlift saved the starving people of West Berlin

In 1948, the Soviets decided that they didn’t like that whole “not owning all of Berlin” thing, especially since they controlled all of the area around it. So, they stopped allowing allied supplies from crossing to West Berlin. In response, the allies created the Berlin Airlift to simply fly the supplies into the hungry city.

However, the airlift didn’t achieve its goal to supply the city. Even though they flew 2.3 million tons of supplies in, this amount was not enough to fill Berlin’s food needs, and the planes left out other crucial supplies like coal to heat Berlin homes. West Berliners instead relied on the existing black market to barter and trade for what they needed, as well as simply going to the Soviet-controlled areas to acquire their goods.

  1. The United States won the Cold War

Americans (and Russians, according to USNews.com), seem to believe, incorrectly, that the United States somehow won the Cold War when the Soviet Union collapsed. However, this assumes that the Soviet Union collapsed due to U.S. Influence. However, communist rule ended more due to Mikhail Gorbachev’s efforts to maneuver it out of power, acting more in the Soviet Union’s interest rather than kowtowing to the United States. Reagan described the end of the Cold War as a “negotiated settlement between partners,” and that we should deal with the Soviets in future negotiations with respect and accept their legitimacy.

Related topics Berlin, capitalism, China, Cold War, communism, jelly donut, JFK, russia, Soviet Union, United States, USSR
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