Q109: During the Cold War, what were the main concerns of the United States?

A. Communism and nuclear war
B. Nuclear war and a weak stock market
C. Ensuring Canada did not militarily invade from the north
All of the above

Q110: Why did the United States enter the Korean War?

A. To annex Korea as a possible territory of the United States
B. To stop the spread of communism
C. To protect the Chinese from Japanese invasion
D. To protest Korean sinking of American ships

Q111: Why did the United States enter the Vietnam War?

A. To annex Vietnam as a possible territory of the United States
B. To stop the spread of communism
C. To protect the Chinese from Japanese invasion
D. All of the above

Question Background Information


Although the United States of America and the Soviet Union did not directly war with one another, the second half of the twentieth century was marked by a Cold War between the two powers and their allies, which often played out as actual proxy wars, such as in Korea and Vietnam. 

The Soviet Union, formally the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, sought to expand its collectivist and totalitarian vision across the world, most prominently in assisting the conversion of China into a communist nation, which it achieved in 1949. It also retained the part of Germany it captured during World War II, converting it into the puppet state of East Germany, along with other countries that realized their liberation from Nazi Germany would soon turn into membership in the totalitarian Warsaw Pact.

In order to prevent a similar fate from befalling the rest of the world and to defend values such as political freedom, constitutionalism, civil liberties, and representative government under free and fair elections, the United States of America led a coalition of other free countries, such as Great Britain, in fighting communism. Many of these countries joined a defense pact called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, more commonly known as NATO. 

The Cold War was marked by fears about nuclear war and espionage. Blending both, Soviet infiltration of the American nuclear program enabled the USSR to develop atomic weapons of its own. Concerns about such infiltration led to aggressive and occasionally overreaching domestic efforts to suppress communism, such as the demonstrably false allegations raised by the demagogic Senator Joe McCarthy. Some of these efforts arguably violated the First Amendment, as the Supreme Court soon concluded in setting aside prosecutions under the anti-fascist and anti-communist Smith Act.

President Harry Truman led America’s efforts against communism in the beginning of the Cold War, while Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush helped defeat communism near the end of the Cold War. Not all of the war was cold: America and its allies fought wars in Korea and Vietnam to stop communism’s spread.

The fall of the Berlin Wall, which symbolized communist control, was a key moment of the Cold War, but the Cold War finally ended when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Additional Content

Offline Activity


Though the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, its legacy remains.  In this activity, the students will have the opportunity to compare and contrast the two ideologies that formed the basis for the conflict of the Cold War.  


  • Provide each student with Communism in the 19th and 20th Centuries: A History
  • Provide each student with the Communist Manifesto (1848) (abridged chapters 1-2)
  • Optional: Provide each student with Revelations from the Soviet Archives: Internal Workings of the Soviet Union (Library of Congress) (If you want to use this but have not already done the previous exercise, you will almost certainly want to have some or all of these readings be done the night before you do this one. This exercise works best if the students fill out the 3-2-1 worksheet on the first two documents but can incorporate these materials from before into the discussion.) 
  • Provide each student with the 3-2-1 worksheet.
  • A rubric is available if this is a graded activity.  

Required Files

The Teaching Materials for this exercise includes a rubric.

Teaching Materials.


  • This activity works well as an individual assignment. However, depending on the age and/or skills level of the students, you may want to have them work in pairs. 
    • If that is the case, divide the class into pairs based on the students’ individual levels. Group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group who have mastered the material and are prepared to extend their knowledge. Pair those who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C). 
  • Explain to the students that today they are going to read about communism. 
  • After they complete the reading, they will fill out a 3-2-1 Worksheet where they write down three facts that they learned, two questions that they have, and one opinion on the Communist Manifesto and Communism: History in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Circulate throughout the room to help students as needed. 
  • If you wish, once the students complete the worksheet, use it as a springboard into a class discussion.  If conversation lags, you can use these prompts: 
    • What do you think about Marx and Engels’s argument that history is little more than a series of adversarial class struggles and exploitation? Does that describe how the market economy works in America? In other words, is “private property …. already done away with for nine-tenths of the population?”
    • Are there aspects of communism that you think are disturbing or concerning? 
      • If so, why? 
    • Are there aspects of communism that you think are appealing, or communist critiques of society you find persuasive?  If so, why? 
    • What do you think a communist might think if he or she read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, or the Bill of Rights? Why do you believe this?  
    • How are the decentralization and distribution of political power built into the American system different from the distribution of political power under communism?
    • Do you agree with Marx’s and Engel’s assessments of the problems in the world? Do you think their solutions can solve them and are worth the costs, or no? Why or why not?
    • It is often said that communism works well in theory but not in practice. What does you think that statement means? Do you agree with it?  Why or why not?  
    • Marx and Engels claim the freedom under communism would be superior to the toil and chains of working as a laborer. Do you agree?
    • Are there any holes in the arguments that Marx and Engels make? Why?  
    • Marx and Engels detail their reasoning for the abolition of private property, but this is not a new idea. What do you think about community ownership rather than private? Would it work?

Discussion Prompts


When World War II ended, the world was a very different place. One of the changes was the United States’ relationship with Soviet Russia, which reverted to its pre-war antagonism. The result was the Cold War, a conflict that lasted 45 years. 

Prompt 1 

Just because a war ends does not mean that everything returns to exactly the way it was prior to the war.  This was the case with relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, who became locked in a Cold War after World War II ended.  During the Cold War, what were the two main concerns of the United States? Why were these concerns and what contributed to them? What wars did these concerns lead to? 

Prompt 2

During the Cold War, the American government prosecuted communists as enemies of the state; some of these more zealous efforts came to be mocked as the “red scare.” The Supreme Court eventually held that while participating in violent actions or espionage was punishable, merely advocating or defending communism was protected under the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. Do you agree? In defending itself from threats such as communism, what limits should a society honor? Use current and past events to support your answer.