Beginnings of the Cold War Arms Race: The Truman Administration and the U.S. Arms Build-Up

Beginnings of the Cold War Arms Race: The Truman Administration and the U.S. Arms Build-Up

Beginnings of the Cold War Arms Race: The Truman Administration and the U.S. Arms Build-Up

Beginnings of the Cold War Arms Race: The Truman Administration and the U.S. Arms Build-Up

Synopsis

The Truman administration's decision to embark on an arms build-up in 1950 was a critical event. For the first time other than a World War, the United States became a global military presence. Unlike the World Wars, in this instance the deployment lasted decades, altering the nature of the Cold War and the United States' global role. The author details the strategy and politics behind this decision.

Excerpt

Charles Bohlen, a career U.S. Foreign Service officer specializing in Soviet affairs, described the scope and scale of the American arms build-up during the Korean War (1950–53) by saying:

Before Korea, the United States had only one commitment of a political or military nature outside the Western Hemisphere. This was the North Atlantic Treaty. Our bases in Germany and Japan were regarded as temporary, to be given up when the occupation ended. True, as a hangover from pre-war days, we felt it necessary to retain bases in the Philippines, but there was no pledge on their use. The only places we had military facilities were in England, where we had transit privileges, and Saudi Arabia, where we had an airfield. As a result of our overinterpretation of Communism’s goal [during the Korean War], we had by 1955 about 450 bases in thirty-six countries, and we were linked by political and military pacts with some twenty countries outside of Latin America. It was the Korean War and not World War II that made us a world military-political power.

This extension of American power entailed a renewed use of conscription, a reintroduction of World War II-style price and wage controls, and a near tripling of U.S. military budgets in a two-year period. The funds covered everything from new combat divisions to new navy super carriers to the construction of the largest nuclear weapons plants yet built. The motivation was the fear that unless the United States engaged in a militarized containment of Soviet power, the Korean War could be a prelude to a much wider conflict with the USSR.

The arms build-up began immediately after June 25, 1950, the start of the Korean War. Although many other events (such as the Turkish Straits

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