Cold War Science
By: Drew "Timothy Tebow" Goodrich

The cold war is defined as: the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States and its NATO allies. Due to this, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a race in all aspects of life. A great deal of stress was put upon the science field to advance in all categories, including; weapons especially, but also daily life improvements, astronomy, and many other areas. Scientists received a great deal of funding, resources, ideas, and instruments in order to maximize output. Many research groups/foundations took advantage of the Cold War scientific boom including:National Laboratories, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the R&D units of the military service branches, R&D laboratories of defense contractors, the National Science Foundation, the AEC, and the Brookhaven National Laboratory. A major facility that held these science experiments was Silicon Valley. Funded by the government it worked to produce
microwave electronics, missile, satellite, and semiconductor industries.

Space Race

The US and Soviets raced in advancement of the unknown, outer space. The race to send the first satellite, the first organism, the first person, reach the moon first, and discover the universe was a huge competition between the two nations. Both nations thought that through space travel the other could drop H-Bombs, or other attacking methods to go unnoticed. Therefore the race to dominate space was a key to both countries.

-Sputnik was first satellite sent into space by the Soviet. (October 4, 1957)
-Satellites were used for better, safer, and more meaningful intelligence gathering activities. Later they would be used for other things such as GPS today.

-Although the Soviets landed the first man made object on
the moon, the US beat the Soviets to have The first space walk
and the first man on the Moon. (July 20, 1969)

Kennedy speaks on science, and going to the Moon.

-US lander, lands on Mars. (July 20, 1976)

-Used different animals to send to space. (Chimps,Dogs,etc)
-See the effects of being in space on organisms.

-In 1941, George de Mestral was walking in the forest when cockle burs stuck to his clothes.
-He used the same idea to create a fabric that would mimic the cockle bur hooks.
-Used nylon sewn into tiny hooks under bright infrared light.
-It was very ugly, but NASA was very interested.
-Astronauts did not want to deal with zippers and laces getting in and out of suits.
-Velcro was a much easier way.
-Also a way from keeping items such as food from floating away in zero gravity.

Nuclear Research
-Edwin McMillan invented the synchrocyclotron- A cyclotron able to achieve higher energies by decreasing the frequency of the accelerating electric field as the particles increase in energy and mass.
-Used to make high energy beams for nuclear physics experiments.
-Today they can be used to treat cancer.

-Congress gave the control of nuclear research to the Atomic Energy Commission and took it away from the military.
-The AEC was lobbied by scientist Earnest Lawrence.
-Another Scientific research group was Brookhaven National Laboratory.
-Bevatron- A synchrotron used to accelerate protons to energies in the billion electron-volt range.
-The study of nuclear energy led America to use it for a source of electrical power.

How A Cyclotron Works

Research in radiation and nuclear fields took off, and the difference between fission and fusion was a huge focus. The destructive force behind the A-Bomb was fission, and behind the H-Bomb was fusion. Therefore, the study to find out the cause and effect of each one was key to the production and use of each bomb. Clearly, fusion in the H-Bomb was much more powerful and effective.

The Hydrogen Bomb

-In order to one up the Soviets discovery of the A-Bomb, Truman and the US decided to create a much more destructive weapon. The H-Bomb.
-Kept Soviet's in peace with US due to fear of attack, and the fact that the Soviet's themselves only could produce an A-Bomb.


(US H-Bomb test on Tiny Atoll)
Daily Life Advancements
Not only were there advancements in weaponry, astronomy, etc but also in daily life. Appliances such as the refrigerator and microwave were invented and improved upon in order to make daily life easier. The radio was also improved by being able to be plugged into the wall, making it more affordable. Other improvements include miniature tubes for hearing aids, the Fathometer depth sounder, mass production of magnetron tubes, shipboard radar, missile guidance system, space communications system, mobile radio telephones, combat-proven air defense missile system, and Terminal Doppler Weather Radar.

(Terminal Doppler Weather Radar)

Science Fiction

In addition to all the fear caused by the Cold War, many people were starting to believe in extraterrestrial life, and UFOs (unidentified flying objects). The delusion and fear of many people caused them to think they sighted UFOs, and aliens. Such as in 1947, where a a UFO was reported to crash in New Mexico. The reality between whether there was really a crash or not, is all a blur, thus the unknown remains. Even today people still wonder about UFOs and alien life.

Medical Advancements
In addition to advancements in other fields scientists started to make progress in the medical field. Such as:
-Birth Control Pill
-Antihistamines to attack regular allergies and colds.
-Dr Jonas Salk --> Ended the epidemic with the creation of the Polio Vaccine.

The Computer:
-SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) was one of the first real time computer. It was enormous, and its role was to track any object in the sky, and protect the US from nuclear attacks.
-Wanted to use the technologies of Radar and the Computer in order to create a fast machine to detect any airborne objects coming towards the United States of America. (Whirlwind, Whirlwind I, Cape Cod System, etc)
-"A network of radar, computing and communication center."
-Buried the huge machines in order to protect them.
-Start the study on microchip.

-United States Air Force video; In Your Defense.
-Talks about SAGE.

The Internet:
-Used to protect against nuclear war.
-Thought could be used to store government information.
-Couldn't take out communication at one location.

-Isotopic Tracers- Isotopic labeling is a technique for tracking the passage of a sample of substance through a system.
-Ballistic Missile- A missile with a high, arching trajectory that is initially powered and guided but falls under gravity onto its target.
-Jet Plane- An airplane powered by one or more jet engines.

The Cold war brought a whole new perspective on the field of sciences. With all the great advancements in areas such as daily life, weaponry, space travel, computers, etc. As a result of the success, the American public saw the potential for a great future science. The competition to beat the Soviet's to every new discovery drove the science field to work harder, and receive more aid from the government. The fears brought on by the Cold War, and much of the competition was due to the advancement of sciences in both the US and Soviet.

The Cold War brought science into a whole new perspective for Americans. The scientific boom of the Cold War brought a new appreciation for the science in every day life, and all other aspects of life. People could now see the real importance of science, and the need to make it a priority. On the other hand, some advancements in the science field brought fear to every person, every second of their lives. The fear of being attacked by the new weapons, haunted people everyday and made some lives horrible. Despite, many inventions made in the Cold War are still made and used today, and are very important to everyday life.


"A Strategic Plan for Research in Science and Technology Studies." SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND DEMOCRACY IN THE COLD WAR AND AFTER. Cold War Connection, 2000. Web. 16 Jan 2012. <>.

Brune, Lester. Chronology Of The Cold War: 1917-1992. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

"Cold War Science." Cold War Science . American Institute of Physics, 2012. Web. 16 Jan 2012. <>.

Hanes, Sharon, and Richard Hanes. Cold War Almanac. 1&2. Detroit: Thomson & Gale, 2004.

Heinrich, Thomas. "Cold War Armory: Military Contracting in Silicon Valley." Enterprise & Society. 3.2 (2002): n. page. Web. 16 Jan. 2012.

"How Velcro Was Invented." Science & Tech. Neatorama, 06 Jun 2008. Web. 17 Jan. 2012. <>.

Liptak, Andrew. "The Cold War in Science Fiction." iO9 History . iO9, 11 Nov 2009. Web. 16 Jan 2012. <>.

N, Ashley. "Science and Technology." America During the 1950. The Decades Projects, 1999. Web. 16 Jan 2012. <>.

"SAGE- Computer of the Cold War." . I Programmer, 22 Aug 2011. Web. 16 Jan 2012. <>.

Shindell, Matthew. "How The Cold War Transformed Science." History of Science Society. 39.3 (2010): n. page. Web. 16 Jan. 2012.

Shregill, James. "Top 10 Technological Advances during Wartime (American)." LowVARates. N.p., 22 Jul 20009. Web. 16 Jan. 2012. <>.

"The Early Days." . Raytheon Company, 2011. Web. 16 Jan 2012. <>.

Thomas, Will. "Unfocused: Science, Technology, and the Cold War." Ether Wave Propaganda. (2010): n. page. Web. 16 Jan. 2012.

"UFO Crash In Roswell, New Mexico." Cold War Museum. The Cold War Museum, n.d. Web. 16 Jan 2012.




"Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right-- not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved."
- President John F. Kennedy in his address to the American public

*Cuba is a small island that posed many problems for the United States, the Soviet Union, and the rest of the world.*
*What the Cuban Missile Crisis brought to the world was the threat of "nuclear holocaust."*
*Despite the similarity in the patterns and colors of their flags, the United States and Cuba had a falling out that frightened the entire world.*

The People Running the Show
cartoon of Khrushchev and Kennedy
cartoon of Khrushchev and Kennedy

cartoon of Khrushchev and Kennedy

Fidel Castro
Born in Mayari, Cuba, a charismatic, and talented Fidel Castro grew up as a natural leader who fought for what he believed in. Castro was involved in school, politics, and his homeland events only to become a powerful Cuban revolutionary. Even at the mere age of thirteen, Castro organized a strike against his own dad! In school, Castro took a particular interest in the writings of Jose Marti and also, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, both of whom dedicated their lives to fight for independence. It was only destiny that this young man would soon rise up and do just what his heroes did for their native countries.
When Castro was young, the leader of Cuba was Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar. Batista was known for using force and terror in his oppressive dictatorship leaving most of Cuba's population in appalling poverty. While the Cuban civilians were not benefiting from their nation's economy, the United States was building huge business corporations and taking advantage of the island's sugar and oil industries. Due to the dire state of Cuba, revolution seemed inevitable and Castro was the man of the hour.
While organizing revolutions, Castro and followers were imprisoned and exiled, but that did not stop this fearless guerilla. The group of rebels, "The 26th of July Movement," began initiating military offensives against Castro and company. Finally, after a few months, Batista fled Cuba for the Dominican Republic with Castro impeding on Havana. On February 16, 1959, Castro became the premier of Cuba and took control of the country.
To the United States' delight, Castro seemed to be favoring a democratic government. Crowds in New York and Washington D.C. even greeted him with open arms and smiles, cheering and embracing a leader who they did not believe would fall into the Communist trap. However, when Castro returned to his homeland, the American system appeared to be far from his mind. He immediately took over all industries putting them under the control of the government. The next step he took, though, would plant the roots for many tensions and conflicts in the future. Castro drastically switched the policy of Cuba to that of a socialist society and furthermore, signed trade agreements with both the Soviet Union and China (both Communist nations). Finally, with open criticisms of the United States and their practice of imperialism, President Dwight D. Eisenhower cut off all U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations, setting the stage for another world crisis.

John F. Kennedy
The thirty-fifth president, originally from Brookline, Massachusetts :) took office as a young man in the middle of an intense economic and political rivalry between two of the biggest superpowers in the world. Kennedy was forced to lead America through both the Cuban Missile Crisis and the conflict of the Berlin Wall. As the Kennedy family moved to Washington, they "brought youth, vitality, and style." The many successes during his term seem to speak for themselves but Kennedy did encounter public embarrassment, of course involving Cuba. As he assumed presidency, Kennedy continued the same approach as former President Eisenhower. Containment and the dominance of U.S. interests were the main goals that he needed to uphold. However, being so young, Kennedy was more interested in more of an activist type of rule therefore, getting himself involved in confrontations that were much larger than himself. JFK was forced to make tough decisions and keep his country's reputation. Perhaps then, it is a good thing that Kennedy's support system stood by him and offered their assistance-- especially his brother, Robert F. Kennedy. President Kennedy played a major role in the Cuban Missile crisis and all the conflicts and tensions that came with it.

Nikita Khrushchev
The leader of the Soviet Union at the time of the crisis in Cuba, took measures that no one could have expected. Initializing the nuclear scare, Khrushchev strategically set up relations with Cuba when its relations with the United States was coming to a low point. Khrushchev took advantage of their rocky relationship and tried to do what was best for the Soviet Union, especially when their number one competitor/enemy felt threatened. By becoming friendly with Cuba, Khrushchev could not only spread communism in the Western Hemisphere, but he could also set up a "defense system" that more or less, scared the United States and kept the whole world on the brink of nuclear war.

Bay of Pigs
"How could that crowd at the CIA and the Pentagon be this wrong?"
-President Kennedy on the Bay of Pigs fiasco

After President Kennedy took office, he took on the challenge of the "Cuban problem." Castro had allied himself with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev angering the United States. This anger soon evolved into taking action to free Cuba from communist leadership and oust Castro from power. These fumes escalated when the cocky Khrushchev "gloated that communism had gained a toehold in the Americas." Soon, however, the United States would have their "payback."
Cuban exiles began pouring into the ports of Florida after Castro came to power. There was no equality, people were still poor, the wealthy were losing all their businesses, and Castro did not keep his promise of free elections. Thinking of a clever plan, President Eisenhower gave the CIA permission to secretly train the anti-Castro exiles for an invasion in the near future. Hoping that the Cuban inhabitants would rise up against Castro with the 1500 trained exiles, the United States believed that the communist influence, just 90 miles off their coast, would disintegrate. When Kennedy took authority, it was ultimately his decision to follow through with the plan or forget about it.
Kennedy was more or less skeptical about the plan, receiving warnings that Cuba would not be taken easily. When the president was confronted with questions about a "confrontation," Kennedy denied any U.S. involvement, even saying in his first sentence, "...there will not be, under any conditions, an intervention in Cuba by the United States Armed Forces." However, despite his position on respect and trying to avoid the situation, he went ahead with the plan on April 17, 1961.
In one word, the Bay of Pigs invasion was a disaster! Nothing went as planned; the air strike failed to take down Castro's air force, the small advance group never made it to the shore, and the exile troops were easily crushed by an expectant Castro supported with Soviet tanks and jets. The clumsy display humiliated both the United States and President Kennedy. The blow seemed actually heartbreaking for the Cubans and the Americans who not only failed to overthrow the government, but also, left themselves publicly embarrassed in front of the entire world. The plan actually achieved the exact opposite of what the Americans wanted. The results of the invasion ended up driving the Cubans and the Soviets closer together. Furthermore, reactions at home were far from sympathizing. Americans criticized Kennedy and even questioned his ability to lead a superpower nation. One man even went so far as to say, "Kennedy and company have returned us to barbarism....I feel a desperate shame for my country. Sorry I cannot be with you. Were I physically able to do so, I would at this moment be fighting alongside Fidel Castro." Following the catastrophe, Kennedy announced that in the future he would "deal more effectively with the communist threat," and he would reconsider the advice given to him and how he responded to it.
The failure did not bring Kennedy down and instead made him more determined than ever to confront the Soviets. At the same time, the invasion led Fidel Castro to seek ties with the Soviet Union in order to protect the Cuban government. Kennedy further warned that he would not tolerate communist expansion and Castro, enthusiastically, welcomed more Soviet aid. Now allies, Nikita Khrushchev agreed to defend and protect Cuba with Soviet arms. Kennedy and the rest of the Americans were infuriated and had to take drastic measures to stop Castro. Operation Mongoose had the primary goal to get rid of Fidel Castro, either by overthrow or assassination. More than eight attempts to kill Castro were made by elite hit men, the mafia, poison, and the CIA. None could seem to take down an impenetrable Castro. Castro's reaction to this hostility was simply to irritate the United States even more. By introducing a communist-style political structure and setting up the Cuban Communist Party, an installment of defensive and offensive nuclear missiles within reach of the United States was the final straw.
Soviet Missile Sites
Soviet Missile Sites

Soviet Missile Sites

The Cuban Missile Crisis
Khrushchev's decision to place missiles in Cuba seemed like a just decision on his part. For an extended period
of time, Khrushchev had been complaining over the U.S. missiles that had been placed in countries situated near
the Soviet Union (Turkey, Italy, and the United Kingdom). Khrushchev simply wanted to "even the playing field."
Throughout the summer of 1962, the Soviet flow of weapons, including nuclear missiles, dramatically increased to
the small island nation. Ignoring Kennedy's warning, Khrushchev sent boat after boat to Cuba purely for "defensive
purposes." On the fourteenth of October, U.S. planes took astonishing photos, revealing numerous Soviet missile bases holding weapons that could reach major American cities in a matter of minutes. Taking time to fully absorb
the situation and make a decision, President Kennedy made a public announcement of the missiles and the plans to remove them, on October 22. He basically explained, in a calm manner, that a missile attack from Cuba meant that the United States would be involved in an all-out attack on the Soviet Union. There was multiple options that the Americans could have taken, but the United States announced a naval "quarantine" around Cuba.
For six torturous days, the entire world faced the horrifying possibility of a nuclear war. On their way to Cuba, Soviet ships carried even more nuclear weapons, while the United States Navy prepared to "quarantine" Cuba (since the term "blockade" was an act of war), preventing any Soviet vessels from coming within 500 miles of the island. Meanwhile, in Florida, 100,000 troops awaited their call to arms. Much to everyone's surprise, the Soviets stopped abruptly, mid-sea, trying to avoid a sea confrontation. Khrushchev knew that he faced an impossible situation. By fighting the United States,the Soviet Union faced a nuclear retaliation, possibly losing their communist "toehold" in the Western Hemisphere, or a military confrontation. In reality, the Soviet Union could not risk any of these results. Khrushchev attempted a compromise, agreeing to remove his missiles if the Americans promised not to invade Cuba. In addition, Kennedy secretly agreed to remove the missiles the United States had previously positioned in Turkey. With both countries, along with the rest of the world breathing a little easier, the next move that had to be made was how to prevent a worldwide holocaust from happening again. Soon, talks about a test-ban treaty, kept the two nations focused on the fate of humanity.

Kennedy Orders Blockade of Cuba
Kennedy Orders Blockade of Cuba

Kennedy Orders Blockade of Cuba

Soviet Launch Sites
Soviet Launch Sites

Soviet Launch Sites

Cuba had a powerful impact on the Cold War and all the countries that were involved with it, which unfortunately, included the entire world. The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs both played a role in changing the nuclear world, exposing the way countries view their leaders, and the terrifying threat of a nuclear holocaust. When the alarm was finally silenced, after days that might as well have been lived in hell, Kennedy and Khrushchev both faced criticism. Khrushchev's prestige was permanently damaged, and Kennedy was mocked for his practice of brinkmanship when some believed that private talks could have prevented the entire situation. On the other hand, Kennedy was further publicly insulted for not taking up an opportunity to invade Cuba and take out Castro. Cuban exiles even blamed the Democrats for "losing Cuba" and eventually switched their allegiance to the GOP.
Castro was also furious since he was not included in any negotiations and tensions between him and the United States persisted. He eventually closed off Cuba to exiles and banned all flights to or from Miami, Florida. Not until three years later, were Cubans allowed to join their relatives in the United States, and even still in 1973, Castro cut down on exit permits. Although, the Cubans still depended on a large amount of money in Soviet aid. But then in 1985, Khrushchev was ousted from power and Mikhail Gorbachev took over, forcing Castro to reduce his expenses. Eventually, Castro and Cuba came to rely so much on the Soviet Union, that when the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba entered a period of crisis. Facing severe depression, Cuba remains a suffering country, led into the 21st century by their dominant leader.
Perhaps the most important impact that the Cuban Missile Crisis had on the Cold War and the future, was the Limited Test Ban Treaty. Both countries needed to find a way to control these lethal weapons. After back and forth debating about inspections, the Treaty was signed on August 5, 1963 in Moscow. The Limited Test Ban Treaty banned nuclear testing in the atmosphere, underwater, and in any other environment. This treaty was significant in that it assisted in creating a a controlled climate for arms negotiations. The Limited Test Ban Treaty ultimately preserved the life of the planet.



"The Cuban missile crisis was the most terrifying confrontation of the cold war. At that time the world was closer to nuclear war than ever before and felt itself lucky to have survived."

The significance that Cuba played in the Cold War, mainly focused on the intense period in which the entire world "stood at the brink of disaster," for numerous days. One Saturday was even dubbed "Black Saturday," while the United States remained at DEFCON 2-- the highest state of alarm before nuclear war. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world came to nuclear annihilation and America actually felt for the first time, what it was like to feel threatened. The Cuban Missile Crisis tested the moral and military weakness of both the United States and the Soviet Union. The crisis showed that it may be impossible to keep an "atomic equilibrium" and pushed the urgency to find a solution to nuclear situations. Cuba set an example for the future, and even similarities can be seen to this day. In the twenty-first century, many Americans question whether the relationship between President Obama and Chavez is similar to that between Kennedy and Khrushchev. All the same, the Cuban Missile Crisis became a world renowned situation in which the world nearly became terminated through nuclear war and one can only wonder, is the world about to encounter another alarming period with a parallel relationship striking the world today? After all, history often repeats itself.

“Works Cited”

  • "A Tribute to JFK and RFK." Direct Democracy for the 21st Century. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • "Aerial Photograph of Missiles in Cuba (1962)." Important Writings, Papers, and Designs. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • "April 17, 1961- Bay of Pigs Invasion." Youtube. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • "Bob Dylan- A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." Youtube. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • “Castro, Fidel.” Cold War Reference Library. Ed. Richard C. Hanes, Sharon M. Hanes, and Lawrence W. Baker. Vol. 3: Biographies Volume 1. Detroit: UXL, 2004. 82-91. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
  • “Cuba Policy: Has U.S. Policy Toward Fidel Castro in Cuba been Prudent and Effective?” History in Dispute. Ed. Benjamin Frankel. Vol. 1: The Cold War: First Series. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 91-100. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
  • “Cuba: Was Cuba an Independent Participant in World Politics?” History in Dispute. Ed. Dennis Showalter and Paul du Quenoy. Vol. 6: The Cold War: Second Series. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 63-69. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
  • “Cuban Missile Crisis.” Cold War Reference Library. Ed. Richard C. Hanes, Sharon M. Hanes, and Lawrence W. Baker. Vol. 2: Almanac Volume 2. Detroit: UXL, 2004. 213-232. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
  • “Cuban Missile Crisis.” Cold War Reference Library. Ed. Richard C. Hanes, Sharon M. Hanes, and Lawrence W. Baker. Vol. 5: Primary Sources. Detroit: UXL, 2004. 232-235. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
  • "Cuban Missile Crisis." Youtube. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • "Cuban Missile Crisis Cartoon." Exploring Spaces: History. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • "Cuban Missile Crisis; Castro Builds Up Defenses 1962/10/25." Youtube. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • “Cuban Missile Crisis: Did the Kennedy Administration Handle the Cuban Missile Crisis Effectively?” History in Dispute. Ed. Dennis Showalter and Paul du Quenoy. Vol. 6: The Cold War: Second Series. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 70-76. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
  • “Kennedy, John F.” Cold War Reference Library. Ed. Richard C. Hanes, Sharon M. Hanes, and Lawrence W. Baker. Vol. 4: Biographies Volume 2. Detroit: UXL, 2004. 218-229. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
  • “Kennedy, John F.” Cold War Reference Library. Ed. Richard C. Hanes, Sharon M. Hanes, and Lawrence W. Baker. Vol. 5: Primary Sources. Detroit: UXL, 2004. 244-252. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
  • “Khrushchev, Nikita.” Cold War Reference Library. Ed. Richard C. Hanes, Sharon M. Hanes, and Lawrence W. Baker. Vol. 5: Primary Sources. Detroit: UXL, 2004. 253-262. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
  • "Khrushchev on the Cuban Missile Crisis." Youtube. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • "On the Brink in October." Planet PDF. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • "SA-2 Launch Sites in Cuba." NationalMuseum of The U.S. Air Force. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • "The Cuban Missile Crisis (The Red Threat) 1962-10-22." Youtube. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • "The Kennedy Detail- Cuban Missile Crisis." Youtube. Web. 18 Jan 2011. <>.
  • Danzer, Gerald, J. Jorge Klor de Alva, Larry Krieger, Louis Wilson, and Nancy Woloch. The Americans. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell, 2005. 879-883. Print.
  • Hanes, Sharon, and Richard Hanes. Cold War: Biographies. 1 vol. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 2004. 78-79, 87-89, 91-95, 134-135. Print.
  • Powaski, Ronald. The Cold War The United States and the Soviet Union 1917-1991. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1998. 136-137, 142-146, 166, 197. Print.

Military Industrial Complex

This is a featured page
This is a featured page

This is a featured page

Introduction to the Era
-The term “Cold War” was first used in 1947 by Bernard Baruch describing an era starting on September 2, 1945 which marked the end of WWII and continued until the Supreme Soviet recognized the collapse of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991. This decades long struggle for global supremacy, power, and ideology pitted the capitalist United States against the Soviet Union and international communism. Being the most important political and diplomatic issue of the early postwar period, it was fueled by mutual suspicion, augmented by profound distrust and misunderstanding. The Cold War got it’s name because both sides were afraid of fighting each other directly and instead the U.S. and Soviet Union fought indirectly by playing havoc with conflicts in other parts of the world and through the use of words as weapons, threatening and denouncing each other. The Cold War was separated into three groups; The U.S. led the West which included countries with democratic political systems. The Soviet Union led the East which included countries with communist political systems. There was also the non-aligned group including the countries that did not want to be tied to either the West or the East. In February 1946, George F. Kennan proposed a policy of containment. By containment he meant taking measures to prevent any extension of communist rule to other countries. First the Truman Doctrine on March 12, 1947 began by aiding Greece and Turkey. Then the Marshall plan assisted 16 countries with $13 billion in aid allowing the Communist appeal in Western Europe to diminish. Now that Western Europe was flourishing, the United States needed a powerful and modern military, to maintain and protect these nations, including a private defense industry to supply it. Eisenhower warned of a necessity for a system of checks and balances to prevent this military-industrial complex from becoming something that couldn’t be controlled.


- The military-industrial complex is a triad between industry, government defense, and the military. The first two elements are in it for profits and clout (influence/power) while the military is in it aiming for prestige, power, and success. To build a compact strong enough to steer a democratic country on the path of permanent war economy takes an alliance of interests between militarists, industrialists, politicians, sycophants, and propagandists. The military-industrial complex was established along with a massive increase in military spending. Without this increase, there would be insufficient funds to create such a complex. The military-industrial-congressional complex constitutes an “iron triangle,” exploiting the taxpayers, distorting defense policies, and blocking progress toward multilateral arms reductions. The military-industrial complex can be thought of as a “country-club” where the members are more concerned with the perks they are receiving opposed to serving the common good. By 1960, half of all U.S. federal government expenditures, or spending, went to the military and to the development of the latest military technology, including new aircraft, radar, ships, weapons, and electronic and telecommunication systems. Together, the U.S. military and the Department of Defense employed approximately 2.5 million people. The goal of the military-industrial complex to stay ahead of the Soviet Union in military might.

- Americans believe we use our military to defend freedom and democracy, to protect America, but not to dominate other countries for we are defenders, not aggressors. The containment policy from 1952 until the demise of the S.U. in 1991 would remain the central strategic vision of U.S. foreign policy. We use military threats and intervention as a central instrument of foreign policy, including overthrowing democratically elected governments. Our domestic affairs are severely affected by the global role of our military; we are a heavily militarized economy. We spend vastly more than any other country in the world on the military. A well-entrenched military-industrial complex has been warned against as being intrinsically inimical to democracy and liberty. American’s gradually accepted the alliance commitments, a sizable professional military establishment that stressed readiness, and even a peacetime draft. The Spanish-American War launched U.S. militarism on a global scale. WWI provided a decisive turning point for the formation of a substantial, modernized economy. After WWI there was a substantial demilitarization, we did not become a militarized economy. WWII was by far the greatest military mobilization in American history. The Cold War ended a possibility of demilitarization; the result is more than half a century of military budgets over $300 billion dollars and often over $400 billion. Antimilitarism contributed to the end of the Cold War draft, leaving the Army with the difficult task of adjusting to an all-volunteer force. Truman’s implementation the NSC-68 as a statement of U.S. policy gave an origin to the U.S. military-industrial complex, for it began the U.S. global buildup.

How It Works
- The military-industrial complex needs wars, many and successive wars, to prosper. It was necessary in the U.S. to deter the Soviet Union from becoming more aggressive. Defense contractors’ profit when expenditures on weapons procurements increase. Defense contractors are also big employers of former generals and former admirals from the U.S. military establishment. The 1950’s and early 1960’s was the perfect environment for the ‘military-industrial complex’ to flourish unchecked because of the nations need for a strong military. The military-industrial complex capitalized repeatedly on the public’s fear of the Soviet Union with exaggerated estimates of Soviet capabilities. To convince the public, and thereby Congress, of the need for additional defense spending, administration officials needed a crisis. Events came when the Communists took over the Czechoslovakian government early in 1948. Think tanks, whose mission is to orient American foreign policy provide government officials with policy papers on various topics, usually on the very conservative side; and, they serve as incubators for government departments. The pro-war economy propagandists are also to be found in the fundamentally right-wing American media industry. The most potent propaganda tool is television. The most committed to supporting new American wars is Fox News. Fox News is biased toward war and in unabashedly promoting U.S. global domination. The conjunction of these five pro-war machines; the bloated military establishment, the large American arms industry, the Neocon pro-war administration with Congress being strongly under the influence of militarist lobbies, the pro-war think tanks network and the pro-war media propagandists help constitute the framework of the military-industrial complex. Given the demands of the Cold War and the higher prestige of the military, Americans accepted an increased level of military involvement in traditionally nonmilitary sectors than ever before. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were a bonanza for the American military-industrial complex for it gave the perfect pretext to keep military expenses, at a high level.

Interstate Highway System
- The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways were created under the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 and/or the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. It is the largest highway system in the world, and also the largest public works project, ever. Built under the administration of President Eisenhower, he called for 41,000 miles of expressway to be constructed. Construction of highways was justified as a national defense issue. Ike saw how Hitler used the Autoban in WWII to move his soldiers and used that as an influence. The major reason for this highway construction was so we could move our military easily within our country. Therefore, every few miles of interstate must have a straight mile so military aircraft could land on it and all bridges must be a certain height so tanks and military trucks can go underneath them. Any highway funded by the federal government is called an interstate highway even if it doesn’t cross state lines. Even Hawaii has 3 interstates H1, H2, and H3, connecting important military facilities on the island of Oahu.

Effects Today
- While the effects today are mostly negative, for the military-industrial complex managed to create problems without meaning to, the fact is that obviously defense was, and is, necessary. It is a small price for countless Americans to have their lives disrupted through military service in support of the national security of our country. Post-Cold War, new centers of power emerged, China and India, but neither has shown any desire to play a role in world politics. Also, NATO, which has provided a shield for Europe, had the threats that caused the alliance to vanish; yet new threats have replaced them. In September 2000, the Pentagon issued its famous strategy document entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” Close to two-thirds of all arms exports in the world originate from North America. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Defense employed 2,143,000 people, while it estimates that private defense contractors employ 3,600,000 workers, for a grand total of 5,743,000 defense-related American jobs, or 3.8% of the total labor force. One of the largest American Defense contractors, Raytheon in Waltham, MA draws close to 100% of their business from defense contracts.

Defense Budget
- In 1991, at the end of the Cold War, the U.S. defense budget was $292.9 billion. Compared to today, Cold War levels for defense spending were modest. In 2010, the U.S. spends about $700 billion annually on national security, $708 billion for “Military Defense” to be exact. The U.S. Military gobbles up a minimum of 21% of the total American federal budget. American military expenditures represent, at a minimum, close to half of total world military outlays. This can be compared to the mere $46.7 billion the Department of Education receives. The National Defense Education Act of 1958, called for spending $5 billion on higher education in the sciences, foreign languages, and humanities to counter the perceived Soviet threat. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), by the end of WWII, was the largest non-industrial defense contractor. Almost all graduate students who didn’t go into university teaching would end up in the missile and aircraft industries. In 1946 Stanford’s government contracts came to $127,000; 10 years later they were $4.5 million. After another decade, it was among the top three universities in government contracts. In 1966, it added Project 100,000, a program to annually induct and train to a standard of competence 100,000 soldiers who normally would not qualify for military service. The massive mobilization of the early 1940s drove the military share of GNP to more than 41% at its peak. Although, as a percentage of GNP, military spending declined from fiscal year 1958 to 1966.
Real Military Purchases (in Billions of 1982 Dollars), 1948-87

The Soviet Union versus The United States
- The capitalist United States pitted itself against the communist Soviet Union during the Cold War era. During WWII however, the two countries found themselves allied and downplayed their differences to counter the Nazi threat. This changed when the Soviet Union launched the first earth orbiting satellite,Sputnik I, on October 4, 1957. Due to fear, the United States boosted its space program allowing America’s first successful satellite, Explorer, to be placed into orbit on February 1, 1958. Although this feat also meant that the Soviet Union had developed an intercontinental ballistic missile. The more nuclear weapons the Americans targeted on the Soviet Union, the more nuclear weapons the Soviets aimed at the United States. In the late fifties, the pressure generated by the military-industrial complex compelled Eisenhower to accelerate the U.S. missile program. The growing imbalance in Soviet-American strategic power was the major factor behind Khrushchev’s decision to place ballistic missiles in Cuba in 1962 nearly producing a nuclear war. In Soviet society, their military-industrial complex was hidden in secret cities where industry and research facilities coexisted, often in a setting much like a university campus. The Soviet military-industrial complex brought prosperity to only a small number of Soviets. One of the potential abuses of the military industrial complex was that is could shape the U.S. policies toward the Soviet Union.

Influence on the Space Program
- The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 acted as a catalyst allowing a coalition of defense contractors, Democratic politicians, and the Pentagon (military-industrial complex) to accuse the administration of wholesale neglect of national defense and called for a massive increase in spending on missile development. The Army benefited from this and was able to add to its list of contributions to society in the sectors of science and technology. In the 1960’s the Army contributed to the space program by constructing launch facilities, designing complicated communications systems, and producing simulators, special foods, protective clothing, and maps of the moon’s surface. Army researchers contributed heavily to the development of improved communications, including transistors, miniaturization, and satellite signals. While working on missiles, the Army developed the Jupiter rocket that propelled the first American satellite, Explorer I, into space in 1958. The Army also continued its long tradition of contributions to meteorology by developing devices to record and transmit weather data from the upper atmosphere and outer space.

Presidential Influence on the MIC
- For Republicans who sought to lower taxes from the Roosevelt-Truman levels, the military-industrial complex was a potential obstacle. Nevertheless, each postwar administration experienced pressure to build more nuclear weapons from the military-industrial complex.
President Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)
- In March 1948, President Truman called for a supplemental defense appropriation (A response to the Communist takeover of the Czechoslovakian government) of more than $3 billion, which Congress quickly passed. The Korean War proved to be another catalyst for in FY 1951, President Truman officially implemented NSC-68 as a statement of U.S. policy. Truman requested $13.5 billion for defense. The final authorization that year ended up being over $48 billion. Truman resisted recommendations for a huge increase in military spending, facilitated by either increasing taxes or imposing economic controls, because “he was convinced that these courses were not economically or politically feasible.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
- Eisenhower was the only post-WWII president to hold the military in check. Eisenhower’s primary concern was how the growing military-industrial complex would alter American domestic order over time, entrenching and expanding a powerful federal state to pursue social and national security. The Army under the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower sought an organization and doctrines to support the nation’s policy of containing communism over the “long haul” without wasting American resources or bankrupting the American economy. It also adjusted its organization to fight a tactical nuclear war, adopting atomic artillery and a new divisional organization, the so-called pentomic division, which used self-contained battle groups that could supposedly fight under the confused conditions of a nuclear battlefield with only minimal direction from higher headquarters. Eisenhower believed the public was unlikely to understand the complexities of superpower politics. This posed two dangers: they might ignore international affairs and allow the new military apparatus to set policy autonomously, or they might be active but misled into endorsing unwise policies. In his farewell address, he warned of a military-industrial complex and also of a “technological revolution” and its implications for academia. Originally, Eisenhower was going to use the term ‘military-industrial-congressional complex’ in his address, but refrained from this so as not to offend the members of Congress.
President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
- The administration of President John F. Kennedy adopted the strategy of “flexible response.” The Army dropped the pentomic organization in favor of the Reorganization Objectives Army Division (ROAD). The ROAD division consisted of brigade task forces that were supposed to be flexible enough to fight in any environment, nuclear or non-nuclear, and to have a plausible chance of defending Western Europe without resort to tactical nuclear weapons.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
- In early 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson began a process of escalation that put 184,000 American troops in South Vietnam. Then, in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson eliminated the restrictions on percentages of women and promotions, opening the door to the first female generals in the Army in 1970.
President Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)
- President Richard M. Nixon sought to balance the need to respond to domestic pressure for troops withdrawals with diplomatic and military efforts to preserve American honor and ensure the survival of South Vietnam.
President Ronald W. Reagan (1981-1989)
- Ronald Reagan made good on his promises by dramatically increasing the defense budget. The “full-court press” launched during Reagan’s first term included a military buildup capped by the Strategic Defense Initiative (denied economic assistance to the Soviet Union, and a willingness to challenge the Soviet Union in the Third World.
President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)
- President George W. Bush and VP Dick Cheney epitomize the image of politicians devoted to the growth and development of the military-industrial complex. Under the Bush-Cheney administration, the arms industry had become very profitable.

- The United States emerged from the Cold War as the only superpower in the world. This involved great responsibilities as far as world peace was concerned. The U.S. is feared and suspected by weaker nation, not only by their neighbors. The U.S. uses military power to defend its narrow economic interests. Starting in 1943, due to the creation of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), women are allowed to achieve full military status in the United States. The military-industrial complex is a sort of government within a government. Defense contracts are the single most important way the government intervenes in the economy, providing jobs, research, technical change, and economic stimulation. This depends upon military spending. In the absence of war it is almost impossible to maintain over a long period of time huge military spending, so the dependency of the economy on militarism itself promotes militarism. Military spending breeds corruption. Military contracts are surrounded by secrecy under the shield of “national security” and “classified information” causing it to be almost impossible to have adequate monitoring of military spending. By exaggerating military threats, it creates a constant strategy to maintain military spending through fear and desire for national security by the American people. The military-industrial complex generated good living for the millions of American people employed in defense contracting. Few would argue that the time has come to abolish police and other security forces on the domestic level. Even today, when in the face of tough fiscal times, the President freezes government spending but gives the military a pass.


- Post-Cold War there existed a balance of terror; there was mutual deterrence because there was a big arsenal of devastating weapons. The Cold War had not put an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other means of mass destruction, but it had slowed it down. The National Security Act of 1947 created the NSC and CIA setting in motion, a “cult of secrecy.” They possess a near-monopoly over critical defense-related information. As Sidney Lens observed, “mostly, secrecy is used against the people of the United States.” Elite management for information and manipulation of public opinion operate within different constraints for domestic, as opposed to defense-related, matters. It is virtually IMPOSSIBLE for anyone outside that elite to know much about the military capabilities and intentions of our potential adversaries. Militarism is the center of the politics of fear; terrorism provides a reason to further military standards. Terrorism fueled by religious and nationalist fanaticism is more dangerous than ever before. Origins of terrorism can be grouped into poverty and oppression as the main causes. Terrorism can operate only in free, or relatively free, societies. Referring back to the post-war time period, the power of the United Nations was questioned. The UN could do no more than the League of Nations could during the two world wars. It was proven that the UN is powerless if diplomacy breaks down. As can be assumed, Russia has not yet accepted its new status in the world; there is resentment, not unnaturally, as the result of the loss of empire. The past 5 years have lead to a significant intensification of previous militarism. The military-industrial complex has harmful effects on U.S. policy through a REVOLVING-DOOR RELATIONSHIP in which retired military officers become consultants to defense contractors, and some are later appointed to important civilian positions in the Pentagon. There is a looming economic catastrophe for the U.S. as our national debt increases massively under the pressures of military spending. The result could be an economic MELTDOWN.

Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How does the government get the public’s support of defense spending even in peacetime?
A: They instill fear in the American people with weapon gap scares.
  • the bomber gap in the mid 1950’s
  • the missile gap between 1958 and 1961
  • antimissile gap in the early 1960s
  • first-strike missile gap in the mid 1960s
  • the ABM gap in the late 1960’s
  • the throw-weight gap in the 1970s
  • space weapons gap in the 1980s
  • star wars gap 1990’s
Gaps are periods where America pretended the Soviet Union was ahead of them in order to receive more money to build up the military. A feeling of falling behind instilled fear in the American people and therefore they agreed to support another increase in spending. In actuality, the U.S. was almost always ahead of the Soviet Union and these gaps were used to gain support for more spending from the American people. The endless succession of such episodes has helped to sustain an atmosphere of tension, distrust, and insecurity that fosters the maintenance of an enormous ongoing arms program. Most have proved to be false, exaggerated, and nonexistent.

Q: What allowed the Cold War to come to a final end?
A: The Cold War came to an end primarily because of the inherent weaknesses in the Soviet system. The U.S. won the Cold War partly by outspending the Soviet Union. This struggle officially ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, having been a conflict between Bolshevism and Democracy. The end is also sometimes believed to be in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was torn down.

Q: What was the euphoria in the world post-war?
A: A feeling of relief swept the world although skeptics feared that there was plenty of conflict left in the world, which had, however, been overshadowed or suppressed by the Cold War. The Cold War had served as a stabilizing factor.

Q: Why did veterans receive jobs with defense contractors?
A: The Defense Department spends almost $4 million annually on congressional liaison, employing about 340 people for the task. Representatives of the big firms are sometimes called MIC’s. To compete successfully, their companies have to know what the military is likely to want. The big contractors find the military to be an excellent source for such experts.

Q: How much does it cost to maintain an army during peacetime?
A: The cost of a standing military, has soared to $459,000 per trooper, 78% higher than during President Reagan’s defense buildup, 95% higher than in 1989, and 3 times higher than during the Vietnam-era average.

Q: What is military mobilization?
A: Periods of military mobilization are to be defined by a rapid, uninterrupted, multiyear increase of real military outlays, and periods of demobilization are defined by a substantial decrease of real military outlays. In the U.S. since 1948, three mobilizations have occurred, during 1950-1953, 1965-68, and 1978 to the present. The first two were followed by demobilizations.

Q: What is the fastest-growing part of the Defense Department budget?
A: The Budgetary outlays of the Defense Department include a substantial sum for transfer payments such as military retirement pay. Since the mid-1960’s, retirement pay has been the fastest-growing part of the Defense Department budget. In 1985, it accounted for $15.4 billion, or about 6% of the Pentagon total.

Q: Who funds the Defense Department budget?
A: In short, during the cold war period, the private sector alone has borne the full cost of military buildups. This has created a sort of resent amongst the public. A point will be reached when the allocation of additional resources to the military threatens to destroy the very thing the defense establishment is supposed to protect.
Ordinary citizens, almost none of whom have any direct contact with conditions or evidence bearing on national security, may easily suspect that too much is being spent, that genuine national security does not really require such vast expenditures, and that military interests, especially the uniformed services and the big weapons contractors, are using bogus threats as a pretext for siphoning off the taxpayers’ money.
Countless political cartoons, featuring bloated generals bedecked with battle ribbons, have promoted this image. Frequent newspaper and television reports of waste, fraud, mismanagement, and widespread bribery foster the public’s tendency to doubt what defense authorities say.
Private citizens in their capabilities as consumers, investors, and living human beings – not the decision-making elite or the beneficiaries of government’s nonmilitary spending programs – will bear the costs of the military activities entailed by policies of ill-considered global interventionism.

Q: What factors affect public opinion?
A: The biggest problem for defense authorities who would wield ideology, control information, and mold public opinion arises from that proverbially inevitable duo, death and taxes. Every time American casualties increased by a factor of 10, support for the war dropped by about 15 percentage points.

Q: How did WWII receive public support?
A: WWII received unparalleled support because people were violently provoked and angered by Japan’s devastating surprise attack on U.S. citizens and territory at Pearl Harbor. They felt threatened and for the first time ever, it was on their home front. Americans wanted to avenge the actions of the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. Wars of geopolitical maneuvering, on the other hand, have proved harder for the American people to understand and support once the costs begin to mount. Authorities were able to draw from the pool of patriotism in this case, but that pool can easily run dry once the price keeps going up and the threat diminishes.

Work Cited
Ball, Christopher. "What is the Military-Industrial
Complex?." Iowa State University, 22 Jul 2002.
Web. 15 Jan 2011.

Donaldson, Gary A.America at War since 1945
Politics and Diplomacy in Korea, Vietnam, and the
Gulf War. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1996.
26, 61. Print.

"Eisenhower warns us of the military-industrial
complex."Youtube. Web. 18 Jan 2011.

"General Douglas MacArthur."Naval Historical
Center. Web. 18 Jan 2011.

Hanes, Sharon M. and Richard C.Cold War: Almanac.
2. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2004. 277-
278. Print.

Higgs, Robert. "U.S. Military Spending In The Cold
War Era: Opportunity Costs, Foreign Crises, and
Domestic Constraints."Policy Analysis. Oxford
University Press, 1988. Web. 17 Jan 2011.

"James Madison."America's Story. Web. 18 Jan 2011.

Kennard, Spencer. "Interstate Highway System!!!."
Honors U.S. History II. AHS. Room 2006, Auburn,
MA. 14 Jan 2011. Lecture.

Laqueur, Walter. "The euphoria did not last."After the
Cold War. N.p., 01 Apr 2006. Web. 18 Jan 2011.

"Militarism & Democracy." Sociology 125, Lecture 24.
December 2, 2010. Lecture.

"Nation: What Is the Military-Industrial Complex?."
11 Apr 1969: n. pag. Web. 16 Jan 2011.

Pike, John. "Military: Cold War.", 07 Sep 2010. Web. 16 Jan 2011.

Powaski, Ronald E.The Cold War: The United States
and the Soviet Union 1917-1991. New York, NY:
Oxford University Press, Inc., 1998. 122-123, 302-
303. Print.

"President Dwight D. Eisenhower."Ueno Murakami
Incorporated. Web. 18 Jan 2011.

"President George Washington."Hist 1901 United
States History, 1600-1877 (Honors). Web. 18 Jan
2011. <>.

Sobel, Robert. "The Cold War and American Science:
The Military-Industrial-Academic Complex at MIT
and Stanford."Electronic News [1991]40.2024.40
(1994): General One File. Web. 14 Jan 2011.

"The Cold War Army."U.S. Army Center of Military
History. CMH, 2006. Web. 17 Jan 2011.

Thompson/Washington, Mark. "Broken Government."
In Lean Times, Military Spending Still Gets a Pass
24 Feb 2010: n. pag. Web. 16 Jan 2011.

Tremblay, Rodrigue. "The five pillars of the U.S.
military-industrial complex."Commentary1241
(2007): n. pag. Web. 13 Jan 2011.

Ugulini, Michael. "The Military-Industrial Complex in
the Cold-War era of the 50's and 60's."Rewind the
Fifties. N.p., 2008. Web. 15 Jan 2011.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
President Dwight D. Eisenhower

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military- industrial complex."
President Dwight D. Eisenhower Farewell Address
Tuesday, January 17, 1961

"Over-grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty."
President George Washington
Farewell Address, 1796

President George Washington
President George Washington
President George Washington

"It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear."
General Douglas MacArthur
May 15, 1951

General Douglas MacArthur
General Douglas MacArthur
General Douglas MacArthur

"Of all enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, debt and taxes are the known instrument for bringing the many under the domination of the few."
James Madison


Cold War Science in American Life

The Cold War was a treasure trove for valuable information in the field of science. Constant competition between the Soviet Union and United States caused each country to invest and produce scientifically. Whether it was a matter of nuclear power or vaccines for diseases, the U.S. and the Soviet Union always tried to beat each other. Research command centers proved important in a war that was not fought with weapons, but science that impacted the military, the government, and even everyday life. Every bit of information was top-secret, every source used.

Cold War - Styx

Cold War Science Video

Silicon Valley

A main source of science and technology was, and still is Silicon Valley in California. Funding and research was key in producing new Cold War technologies and military armaments. By focusing on a "dynamic, high-tech economy" the major companies were able to withstand the Cold War and bring in enough profit to continue manufacturing. By the 1980's, Silicon Valley, like other major military contractors, began to decline. Currently, Silicon Valley remains business oriented and is thriving in the San Francisco Bay area.
Silicon Valley, known for its "continuous innovation," was partly responsibly for microwaves, various electronics, missiles, satellites, and semiconductors. Some are everyday objects, most are everyday words.

James Madison
James Madison
James Madison

National Science Foundation

Science, due to the thermonuclear nature of the Cold War, was extremely important for the United States. Because of the high stakes tension, free-flowing information ceased to exist. President Dwight D. Eisenhower believed that the Cold War was supported by a "technological revolution" sparked by "intellectual curiosity." Heading the National Science foundation, was a committee that acted as a sort of Cold War think tank. These qualified scientists would discuss major technological advances and generate ideas regarding the use of these new advancements. They would discuss major issues such as military industrial complexes, weapons, and NATO. These workshops would result in the progression of numerous fields of science and technology.

Space Race Science

America was troubled by the launching of Sputnik, the world's first satellite spearheaded by the Soviet Union. Due to the increase in space race pressure, new materials were needed.

Major Science Corporations

Many companies joined forces, or worked independently to achieve scientific success. Many companies put effort and research into various materials to better the United States in case the Cold War becomes an all-too-real threat. There were two companies that were especially active in Cold War preparations: Raytheon and DuPont. Raytheon and DuPont were both started in the early 20th century. Raytheon was especially vital in everything from military jet fighters to space exploration. DuPont contributed more than 20 high-tech polymers to the space race. One of these polymers, Kevlar became a household item in kitchenware, mattresses, and bulletproof vests. Neil Armstrong's space suit contained "25 layers, 23 of which were made of DuPont materials."


Supernatural Science-Fiction

The looming Soviet Union had a frightening affect on the U.S. Many Americans, constantly on edge, took science for granted. Many abnormal events such as documented UFO crash landings and witnesses depicting fictional events took place during the Cold War.
After an alleged UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, an interest in supernatural science was sparked. Morticians and Scientists were called to the scene to observe the debris and corpses from the wreckage. Debris was transported to the nearest military base where it was never heard from again.
New technology led to an increase in imagination for many American people. The scientific advancements made during the Cold War generated many authors and writers to take part in the science-fiction movement. George Orwell, a famed writer of that time, wrote Animal Farm and 1984 about the poisons of communism and the danger our country faces. This mass media informed the American people about not only communism, but the consequences and benefits of science in American life.

Nuclear Power Goes Awry

In 1986, an unforeseen disaster occurred in Chernobyl, Ukraine, but at the time it was controlled by the Soviet Union. The nuclear power plant essentially exploded during a test run, killing two workers immediately and 30 operators in the coming weeks. The dangers of nuclear science became very real for the rest of the world. The area was contaminated with radioactivity for decades, and relocation has just started. Many Ukrainian natives wish to return to their once safe area, but that cannot be accomplished until there is no threat of raditation poison.
As a result of this problem, the United States has become increasingly aware of the dangers of nuclear power. Many Americans, already fearful of nuclear weapons in their daily life, became engrossed with the many bereavements of nuclear power plants. This problem is still evident today, but the Cold War brought these issues to the forefront. Science was not only a bearer of safety, but a bearer of devastation. And because of the Cold War, many Americans began to understand that in their daily life.


Advancements in Daily Life

During the early stage of the Cold War, new appliances such as the microwave became available. The first microwave cooker went on sale in the United States in 1947. U.S. scientists were able to do something no other scientist could do: make a plane fly at supersonic speeds. X-Rays were discovered in 1947, but not perfected until the 1980's. Televisions were widespread and transcontinental. The 1940's, was a technological sonic boom in regards to American daily life.
Meanwhile, biological scientists discovered DNA and reinforced the elements of chemistry. Lasers, were perfected as well, and by the 1960's lasers were actually effective in the science industry. Astronomy and planetary observation became extremely relevant again because of the scientific advancements made since the ages of Galileo and Copernicus. Human biology and the immune system were subsequently studied and relayed to the public. Robots in the 1960's not only became a reality, but a way to manufacture items in various factories across the nation. All of these advancements led to a new age of information and convenience for the American people. Most of this was accomplished during the "heat" of the Cold War.

Star Wars

In the waning era of the Cold War, the United States employed a strategy known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or simply "Star Wars." The military was the main benefactor of this initiative, and it was accepted by the American people because of it's ties to the popular science fiction movie and it's promise of "new and creative technologies." Unfortunately this idea was abandoned in the end due to budget problems and international pressure. The revolutionary defense system was still an option until 2001, but it has minimal value due to a more stable relationship with what is now known as Russia.



The Cold War fought only in the American mind, was a boom in the science industry. Many of the technological advancements made impacted the American people directly through their daily life. New materials, textiles, and appliances created an age of innovation for Cold War companies. Americans, who lived in constant fear of Soviet attack or invasion, came to feel the effects of Cold War competition. Scientists pushed to work harder and faster to beat the Soviet Union in any way possible.


As a result of this innovation, many Americans came to appreciate the technological developments made during the Cold War. Science was a hazard and a helper. Americans could witness the benefits of science everyday, but feel the terror that was caused by Soviet science. It was a double-headed sword during the Cold War. Destruction was evident as much as construction due to the many uses of scientific discoveries. The effects of Cold War science are still felt today, and many inventions and breakthroughs are still used in hospitals, schools, and even major business corporations.


Works Cited

CBC Digital Archives. 2011. Radio-Canada. May 2, 2011. <>

Cold War Connection. 2000. Carnegie Mellon University. April 28, 2011 <>

DuPont. 2011. DuPont. April 28th, 2011

Hellemans, Alexander, and Bryan Bunch. The Timetables of Science. New York: Touchstone, 1988.

"Nuclear Energy." Earth Sciences for Students. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2011. Gale Science In Context. Web. 2 May. 2011.

Oxford Journal. 2011. Business History Conference. April 29, 2011

Raytheon. 2011. Raytheon Company. April 28, 2011