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Once it became clear that Josef Stalin wanted to push communism as far as his armies could carry it, the leaders in the West had the hard job of deciding what to do. No one wanted to let Stalin have his way. Too many lives had been lost protecting freedom and democracy during World War II to just walk away and let the Soviets erase those wins. But the world was tired of war, so unless they fought the Soviets, how else could the West stop communism from spreading?

Containment, the solution the United States picked, meant that there was not another war. Containment made the Cold War cold instead of hot but was containment the best choice?


When the Soviet Red Army began the long, slow process of pushing back the German army, it took over the small countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania along the Baltic Sea. As they went, communist armies took control of the governments of Romania and Bulgaria. By the fall of 1945, it was clear that the Soviet-supported communists had complete control of Poland. It was only a matter of time before Hungary and Czechoslovakia fell under Soviet control.

Western countries began to panic when Joseph Stalin ordered the creation of a communist government in East Germany. American leaders saw that the people of Europe were looking for strong leaders and needed help to recover from the war. If communists gave them the help they needed, they may turn to Stalin and choose communism. Would the Soviets get all of Germany? What about Italy and France? President Truman wanted to stop this from happening.

Americans were tired from fighting World War II and did not want to send soldiers into Eastern Europe to take land away from Stalin’s Red Army, so fighting the Soviet Union would have been impossible. Instead, George Kennan of the State Department suggested a different plan. His idea was called containment.

In places where communism might grow, American money would be used to stop it. By supporting freely elected governments, the United States might be able to contain communism where it was already but stop it from spreading. Using American money in this was became known as the Truman Doctrine.

Greece and Turkey were the first countries in danger of being taken over by communist leaders. They had not been occupied by the Soviet Army, but both countries were about to be taken over by Soviet-supported fighters. Truman decided to act. In March 1947, he asked Congress for $400 million to send to these two countries to help their armies and businesses. In just two years, the help from America had fixed the Greek and Turkish economies and helped restart law and order. The people began to see democracy and the free market system of the United States as the road to peace and a good economy instead of communism.

Emergency help for Turkey and Greece worked to fix those two countries, but all of Europe was damaged by the war. The war had ruined farms and destroyed roads and bridges. The people of the whole continent were in need. In 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall announced the European Recovery Program, which would do for all of Europe what had been done for Greece and Turkey. To avoid making the Soviet Union angry, Marshall said that the purpose of sending money to Western Europe was only to help people, not to fight communism, and even offered to give money to the communist countries in the East, but Stalin refused. He knew that American money could change the hearts and minds of the people in his half of Europe the same way it had in Greece and Turkey. In the end, congress agreed to spend $ 17 billion over four years in Great Britain, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Primary Source: Editorial Cartoon
Congress races to pass funding to save Western Europe from the chaos spread by communism in a cartoon arguing in favor of the Marshall Plan.

The Marshall Plan saved Western Europe. After four years, Western European factories were making twice as much as they had before war broke out. The money from America also led to more trade with American companies which helped the United States. Some Americans did not like how much of their money was being given away, but peace and freedom in Western Europe turned out to be a good deal.

Most importantly, none of the countries of Western Europe that got money under the Marshall Plan were ever close to becoming communist. Instead, the countries were, and continue to be, America’s closest friends.


Berlin, Germany’s capital city, was the hardest of all the problems between the United States and Soviet Union during the late 1940s and it became a symbol of the Cold War. Just like the rest of Germany, the city was split into four Zones of Occupation. However, the entire city lay within the Soviet zone of occupation, miles from the rest of West Germany. Once the country of East Germany was created, the allied parts of the capital, known as West Berlin, became an island of democracy and capitalism behind the Iron Curtain.

West Berlin made Stalin look bad. Thousands of East Germans were moving to West Berlin, and then on to West Germany to escape the new communist government in the East. Stalin wanted the Allies out of the city.

In June 1948, he decided to close all roads and railroads going into West Berlin. Since the borders of West Berlin had been open since the end of the war, most of what the people of the city used, especially food and fuel, came from East Germany. Stalin thought that the Western countries were tired, and that they would not go to war to protect the city. Faced with hunger, he thought the Americans would give up and leave the city. Or, the people of West Berlin might throw the Americans out in order to end the blockade. Either way, he thought the United States would leave West Berlin and Stalin would be able to make the city part of communist East Germany.

Primary Source: Photograph
An American plane lands in Berlin during the airlift as young Berliners look on.

Truman had a hard choice. Giving up West Berlin to the Soviets would hurt his new idea of containment. Any deal would suggest that the Soviet Union could create a crisis at any time to get what it wanted. If Berlin was lost, the whole of West Germany might start to wonder if the United States really cared about German democracy. To Harry Truman, there was no question. “We are going to stay,” he said. Together, with Great Britain, the United States began moving huge amounts of food and supplies into West Berlin by air.

At first Stalin thought the airlift would fail and there was every reason to believe it would. After 1945, the Allies had gotten rid of many of the large airplanes in their air forces and most of the pilots had left the military. It was possible that there might just not be enough planes and pilots to deliver the food and fuel the people of West Berlin would need to keep from starving and freezing during the coming winter. There was also a problem of where to land. There were only three airports in West Berlin.

But once again, a leader rose to the challenge. General William Turner organized around-the-clock flights. By the time the airlift ended, the Allies were delivering 4,000 tons of supplies every day. At the height of the airlift, a plane was landing in West Berlin every minute.

With the airlift, Truman turned things around on Stalin. Now the choice between war and peace was in Stalin’s hands. Instead of the Americans starting a war to break the land blockade, Stalin would have to start a war to end the airlift by shooting down the Allied planes, and he decided not to give that order. Over the next 11 months, Stalin began to look bad in the eyes of the world. He was clearly willing to hurt innocent people in order to spread communism.

After more than a year, in May 1949, the Soviets ended the blockade. The United States and Britain had flown over 250,000 supply missions and the airlift had been a success. The idea of containment had worked, and even more importantly, the Americans and British had shown to the people of West Berlin, West Germany, and the world that they would stand up to the Soviet Union to defend freedom.


To help protect themselves from more trouble from Stalin, the Western allies made the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. The agreement used the idea of collective security. If any one of the member countries was attacked, all agreed to fight back together. The original NATO members were Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, and the United States. Later Greece and Turkey were added. These two countries were old enemies, and Turkey is a mostly Muslim country, but they are neighbors in the Black and Mediterranean Seas. With Greece, Turkey, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland all members of NATO, the West could keep an eye on the Soviet Navy as it came and went from the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas.

In his Farewell Address in 1796, George Washington had warned Americans not to get involved with other countries or make promises that might get them into a war. For most of its history, the United States had followed this isolationist way of thinking. By helping to start NATO, the United States finally said goodbye to isolationism and jumped forward as the most important superpower in the fight for freedom.

In 1955 West Germany joined NATO, which made the Soviet Union and the communist nations of the Eastern Bloc make their own mutual defense alliance. Because it was signed in the Polish city of Warsaw, their agreement was called the Warsaw Pact. Like the members of NATO, the Warsaw Pact countries worked together, trained together, and shared technology and bases. In time, NATO and the Warsaw Pact were names that people used to mean the free West and the communist East, even though there were countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain that did not want to join either alliance.

When the Cold War ended in 1991, the Warsaw Pact ended. NATO, on the other hand, still exists today. It has grown and now includes some of the old Warsaw Pact countries, which today’s Russian leaders do not like.


The crisis in Berlin was the first test of how much Truman believed in containment, but there was never any fighting in the Berlin Airlift. In Asia, however, a long land war was to be a great test of Truman’s determination.

Unlike in Europe, containment had not gone well in Asia. First, and most importantly, China had been taken over by communists. This was not that surprising. The change of China into a communist country had started long before the Cold War.

In 1912, the Qing family of Chinese emperors lost power as leaders in different parts of the country picked Sun Yat-sen to be the first president of the Republic of China. Although Sun became the first president, he was unable to keep control since leaders in many provinces also wanted power. Sun did not have an army of his own and over the next ten years, fighting, not peace, was common in China.

In the 1920s, Sun Yat-sen created a base in southern China and set out to join the divided country. With help from the Soviet Union, he made a deal with the growing Communist Party of China. After Sun’s death from cancer in 1925, one of his followers, Chiang Kai-shek, took control of the Kuomintang, Sun’s political party. Chiang was able to bring most of South and Central China together under his control in a fight called the Northern Expedition. In 1927, Chiang tried to make sure he had power and turned on the communists who had helped him. In 1934, pushed from their mountain bases, the communist forces started the Long March to the northwest, where they made a base in Shaanxi Province. During the Long March, the communists got a new leader, Mao Zedong.

Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang, or nationalists, and Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party put their fight on hold between 1937 and 1945 when they both fought against the Japanese. After Japan lost World War II 1945, the war between the nationalists and communists started up again.

After three years of fighting, Mao and the communists were about to win. Chiang Kai-shek and about two million Nationalist Chinese left mainland China and moved to the island of Formosa, which today we call Taiwan. Mao Zedong declared the People’s Republic of China with its capital in Beijing. In December 1949, Chiang declared Taipei, Taiwan, the temporary capital of the Republic of China. To this day, both the communist government in Beijing and the nationalist government in Taipei say they are the real leaders of all of China, but in reality, mainland China and the island of Taiwan are like two different countries.

Secondary Source: Map
The two Chinas. This map shows mainland China and Taiwan as well as the two capital cities.

Although the United States had not been involved in the Chinese Civil War, people did not like it that President Truman had not stopped the march of Mao’s army. China, the country with the most people on Earth, had become the world’s second communist country. How could he let this happen and what did it mean for the rest of Asia?


When the Soviet Union entered World War II against Japan, they sent their army into Japanese-occupied Korea. American soldiers landed in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and when Japan surrendered in 1945, and Korea split into a Soviet northern area, and an American southern area at the 38th Parallel. Korea began to look like divided Germany.

The United Nations wanted to have an election to choose leaders who would join North and South Korea together, but the North’s communist leaders thought the Americans would somehow cheat and refused to be a part of the election. The election went forward in the South and Syngman Rhee became president, but the Soviets supported Kim Il-Sung as leader of the North. When the American and Soviet armies left Korea in 1949, trouble began.

Kim Il-Sung did not want to be the leader of only the northern half of Korea. On June 25, 1950, his army crossed the 38th Parallel into the South. It took only two days for President Truman to promise that the United States would fight to protect South Korea. Truman hoped to build a coalition of many countries to help and went to the United Nations for support.

Of course, the Soviet Union had the right to veto any proposal in the Security Council, so normally they would have stopped the UN from doing anything about the war in Korea. But this time the Americans were in luck. The Soviets were refusing to come to the Security Council meetings because China’s seat at the UN was still held by the nationalist government in Taiwan. So the Council all voted to fight back against the army of North Korea. Many countries sent soldiers to defend the South but most came from the United States and South Korea.

The leader of the United Nations soldiers was Douglas MacArthur, the hero of World War II in the Pacific and leader of the American occupation of Japan. He had a hard fight, as the North had taken over all of Korea except for a small area around the city of Pusan in the far south.

MacArthur decided to land his soldiers on the beach at Inchon and attack the western side of Korea. It was one of the most brilliant plans of his career. Caught by surprise, the communist northern army pulled back. American soldiers from Inchon and Pusan quickly pushed the North Koreans to the 38th Parallel and then past it. MacArthur, Truman and the Americans saw a chance to join all of Korea and pushed Kim’s army up to the Yalu River, the border between Korea and China.

Truman liked the idea of joining North and South Korea, but his hopes were broken in November when over 400,000 Chinese soldiers crossed the Yalu River. Both Truman and MacArthur thought that the Chinese would want to stay out of the fight, but Mao Zedong had decided to come to help his communist neighbor.

American troops were once again pushed south of the 38th Parallel. General MacArthur saw the war as a great struggle against the evil forces of communism. He thought the war in Korea was like World War II, and wanted nothing less than total victory. He wanted to bomb China, and even talked about using nuclear weapons. In MacArthur’s mind, not winning was the same as losing.

Truman did not think so. He was afraid that attacking China could lead to another world war, especially if the Soviet Union decided to help China. Actually, China was also holding back. They could have attacked American bases in Japan that were used to support the war in Korea, but like Truman, had decided to fight the war only in Korea.

MacArthur was unhappy with Truman’s ideas and took his case directly to the American people by saying that he did not agree with Truman in public. The Constitution gives the power of commander-in-chief of the military to an elected president. Truman thought that if he gave in to MacArthur it might look like that the president was taking orders from the military, rather than the other way around, so Truman ordered that MacArthur be replaced as leader in Korea and Japan.

Primary Source: Photograph

President Truman and Douglas MacArthur at a meeting they held in Hawaii.

Truman’s decision was unpopular! Some Republicans in Congress wanted to remove him as president. MacArthur was a war hero. When he flew home to the United States, 500,000 people came to watch him in a parade. MacArthur was invited to give a speech to Congress, the only military leader ever to do so. At the same time, only 22% of people said they liked Truman, the lowest ever for any president since people started taking this poll.

In his speech MacArthur said, “It has been said… that I was a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war there can be no substitute for victory.” In the end, though, Truman was president, and his idea was that the best end of the war in Korea was not total victory against every communist country, but to split Korea into North and South.

The war itself had turned into a stalemate in which no side was winning, and Korea was still split mostly along the 38th Parallel where things had started three years before. It took two more years, but finally in 1953 an armistice was signed to stop the fighting. North Korea was still a communist dictatorship under Kim Il-sung, and South Korea was still under the control of Syngman Rhee who ruled for 12 years as a dictator, but, in the opinion of the United States, at least not a communist dictator.

Over 5 million people died in the Korean War and only half of these were soldiers. In all, 37,000 Americans died in the war. Today, Korea is still divided by a three-mile wide demilitarized zone (DMZ) guarded on both sides by watching armies. Kim Il-sung was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-il and then by his grandson Kim Jong-un. Helped today only by China, North Korea is one of the world’s poorest and most isolated countries.

Over time, South Korea started holding elections, became a modern country, and is an important trading partner of the United States. Korean products such as Samsung electronics and Hyundai cars can be found everywhere in America, and American products and soldiers are easy to find in South Korea. In 2017, there were still 37,500 American soldiers in South Korea standing guard against another attack from the North.


The 1800s and early 1900s was a time of imperialism. The United States took Hawaii and the Philippines. Great Britain took over India. And all the major countries of Europe split up Africa. The lands of Southeast Asia where Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are today, were once a part of the French colony of Indochina.

After World War I, an independence movement started in Vietnam led by Ho Chi Minh. Ho had lived in Europe where he had learned about communism. Ho did not like the French and fought against them, and when the Japanese attacked Vietnam during World War II, Ho fought them as well. His independence movement, called the Viet Minh, was able to take over many cities by 1945. When the Japanese lost World War II, Ho gave a victory speech in Hanoi. Using words from Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, Ho announced a new independent country of Vietnam.

But things were not going to be easy for the Vietnamese who wanted independence because France wanted to take back all its colonies after World War II. The United States now had an interesting problem. Americans usually like to help people become independent. Normally the United States would have helped Ho Chi Minh. The American army had helped him during World War II in his fight against Japan. However, given Truman’s new strategy of containment, helping the communist Viet Minh was just not possible.


Vietnam was a small country compared to China, Korea or Japan, and most Americans had never heard of it and probably couldn’t find it on a map. However, for America’s leaders, Vietnam was very important. They believed in the Domino Theory. Like a line of dominos in which a first falling domino knocks down the next, which knocks over the next, and so on, a communist victory in Vietnam might lead to communist victories in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. This would have been a nightmare for American leaders who believed in containment.

President Truman decided to support France as it tried to take back Indochina. The United States gave almost one billion dollars each year. For Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese, America’s help for the French seemed like a betrayal. How could a country who they so admired help the colonizers?

The French, for their part, found Ho Chi Minh to be a strong enemy. Between 1945 and 1954, a fierce war went on. Slowly but surely, the Viet Minh wore down the French. In the end, a large group of French soldiers was surrounded by the Vietnamese under communist general Vo Nguyen Giap at Dien Bien Phu. After a long fight, the French gave up. This final loss convinced the French to give up their hopes of taking back their lost colony.


The French left Vietnam, leaving Ho Chi Minh in control of the northern half of the country. An agreement signed in Geneva, Switzerland split Vietnam at the 17th Parallel. The land north of this line would be led by Ho Chi Minh with Hanoi its capital.

The southern half named the city of Saigon its capital and Ngo Dinh Diem its leader. Splitting Vietnam was supposed to only be for a short time. In 1956 there was going to be an election to choose a new leader for all of the country. But since they knew that Ho Chi Minh was popular and would win the election, the South made sure these elections were never held.

President Eisenhower and Kennedy gave money, weapons, and sent military helpers to South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh turned North Vietnam into a communist dictatorship and started a new group of fighters called the Viet Cong. Their job was to take over the South and make all of Vietnam country again.

In the first of many times during the Cold War, the United States helped an unpopular leader in Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem used his power to help his friends, did not let people vote, and favored Catholics which made most of Vietnam’s people, who were Buddhist, unhappy. But Diem was not a communist, which was the most important thing that the United States was looking for around the world during the Cold War.

Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon and Ford all tried to find a way to stop the spread of communism in Southeast Asia without being on the wrong side of history. In the end, America’s leaders failed. The United States ended up in a long, hard war that we lost. Ho Chi Minh succeeded in bringing all of Vietnam together as a communist country.


Although containment stopped the spread of communism in Europe and Korea, the United States lost the fight to stop communists from taking over Vietnam. Containment was mostly peaceful in Europe but led to wars in Asia. Also, containment did not free people from communism. At best, it protected some people from having to live in communist countries. So, was containment the right way to stop with the spread of communism?



BIG IDEA: Rather than fighting another war to defeat communist nations, Americans chose to try to stop the spread of communism. This led the United States into conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and also led to standoffs in Europe, especially related to the status of the city of Berlin.

Americans did not want to continue fighting to stop communism. They had just finished fighting the Germans and Japanese and fighting the Soviets to stop communism would have been unpopular with voters. Instead, leaders like President Truman decided to prevent communism from spreading to new places. This was called containment.

Americans were afraid that poverty and political instability in Europe would give communists an opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of people in many countries, not just the nations that were occupied by Soviet troops. A solution was to promote economic recovery. In theory, if people had jobs and the economy was doing well, they would not want to give up prosperity to experiment with communism. To do this, the United States gave billions of dollars to places like France, West Germany, Greece and Japan to help them rebuild.

Stalin was angry that the city of Berlin was divided and wanted to unite the city under communist rule. To force the Americans, British and French out, he blockaded the city, preventing fuel and food from being brought in. He believed that the allies would give up the city rather than fight. Truman saw the conflict as a test of his willingness to stand up to stop the spread of communism and organized an airlift to supply everything the people of West Berlin needed by air transport. After more than a year, Stalin gave up and allowed ground transport into the city again. It was an important early victory for containment.

Both the United States and Soviet Union wanted allies. The United States and its allies in Western Europe formed NATO. The Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe formed the Warsaw Pact. Both alliances were for mutual defense. It any country was attacked, everyone would join the fight in their defense.

In China, the civil war that had been raging before the Japanese invaded reignited. Communists and nationalists fought in the late 1940s, and communists under Mao Zedong won, driving the nationalists to the island of Taiwan. The United States did not want to fight another war so soon after World War II and did not directly join the fighting. This was a failure to contain the spread of communism.

At the end of World War II, Korea had been divided between communists in the North and non-communists in the South. In 1950, the communists invaded the South and the United States led a fight to defend them. Korea was another important test of containment. The war was long and ended in a stalemate. Today Korea is still divided between a communist North and non-communist South. During the Korean War, General MacArthur wanted to expand the war into China and defeat communism once and for all, but President Truman fired him. The Cold War would be a long conflict, but always limited.

In the end, American leaders came to believe in a domino theory. They thought that if one nation became communist, its neighbors would also soon become communists. In order to prevent the spread of communism, every country, no matter how small, would need to be defended. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson all decided to support the anti-communists in Vietnam for this reason.



George Kennan: The State Department official who developed the policy of containment.

George Marshall: American Secretary of State who proposed using American money to rebuild Europe. He believed that if countries had a strong economy they would be less likely to fall to communism.

William Turner: American air force general who organized the Berlin Airlift.

NATO: Alliance that includes the United States, Canada, and most of the nations of Western Europe as well Greece and Turkey. It was created to counter the threat of the Soviet Union.

Warsaw Pact: The collective security agreement that was the answer to NATO. It included the Soviet Union and most of Eastern Europe.

Sun Yat-sen: Leader of the movement to overthrow the last of the Chinese emperors. He is often considered the “Father of China.”

Chiang Kai-shek: Sun Yat-sen’s successor and leader of the nationalist, non-communist Chinese forces. He lost to Mao and fled to Taiwan.

Mao Zedong: Leader of the Chinese communists. He became the first leader of mainland China after the communist takeover.

Syngman Rhee: First leader of South Korea. He ruled as a dictator but was not communist.

Kim Il-Sung: First leader of communist North Korea.

Douglas MacArthur: American hero of WWII in the Pacific. He had led the occupation of Japan and was commander in the Korean War until he was relieved by President Truman for insubordination.

Kim Jong-il: Second leader of North Korea from 1994-2011

Kim Jong-un: Third leader of North Korea from 2011 to the present.

Ho Chi Minh: Communist leader of North Vietnam. His primary goal was Vietnamese independence.

Viet Minh: The guerrilla fighters loyal to Ho Chi Minh.

Vo Nguyen Giap: General in charge of the North Vietnamese Army. He defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu.

Ngo Dinh Diem: Leader of South Vietnam. He was widely disliked by his own people.

Viet Cong: Guerrilla fighters loyal to Ho Chi Minh based in South Vietnam.


Collective Security: An agreement between nations in which they agree to treat an attack on any member of the agreement as an attack on all members.

Stalemate: A situation in war in which neither side is able to win.

Armistice: An agreement to stop fighting. Rather than creating peace, is serves as a permanent suspension of war.


Baltic States: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. They were independent nations along the Baltic Sea before WWII. After the war they were absorbed into the Soviet Union. They were the first three republics to declare independence in 1991.

Berlin: Capital city of Germany. After WWII it was divided. West Berlin was a small enclave of freedom surrounded by Soviet-dominated East Germany. The city was the site of many standoffs and physical manifestations of the Cold War.

People’s Republic of China (PRC): The official name of communist mainland China.

Republic of China (ROC): The official name of non-communist Taiwan.

Taiwan: The small island nation off the southern coast of China founded by Chiang Kai-shek and his followers.

38th Parallel: The line of latitude that divided North and South Korea before the Korean War. The current boundary still roughly follows the 38th Parallel.

Demilitarized Zone (DMZ): The three-mile wide strip of land that marks the boundary between North and South Korea.

Indochina: The French colony in Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

Hanoi: Capital of North Vietnam.

Saigon: Capital of South Vietnam. Today it is known as Ho Chi Minh City.


Berlin Airlift: Operation mounted by the United States and Great Britain to supply West Berlin by air when Stalin cut off the city’s land access in 1948-1949. The Airlift was a success despite tremendous obstacles and the city was saved from communist takeover.

Long March: Heroic march of the Chinese communists to escape destruction.

Dien Bien Phu: Final battle in 1954 between the Vietnamese forces under Ho Chi Min and the French. The French lost and they abandoned Indochina as a colony.


Containment: The policy of preventing the spread of communist but not trying to eliminate it where it already existed.

Truman Doctrine: President Truman’s plan to implement containment and use American money to support countries that were in danger of falling under communist domination.

Marshall Plan: The plan to use American money to rebuild Europe. It was intended to prevent the spread of communism by demonstrating that a free market system would be the path to prosperity.

Domino Theory: American belief that if one nation fell to communism its neighbors would soon follow.

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