Iron Curtain Fact
Iron Curtain Fact

34 Interesting Cold War Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published March 11, 2018Updated August 12, 2019
  • The vast destruction of WWII left two superpowers standing: the United States and the Soviet Union, both with conflicting ideas of how to restore international order.[8]
  • During the Cold War, Russia made such incredibly detailed maps of the Canadian Arctic that other ships still use them today and even prefer them over current Canadian maps.[13]
  • Popular Cold War films include Red Dawn (1984), Firefox (1982), The Falcon and the Snowman  (1985), Spies Like Us (1985), and Rocky IV (1985).[9]
  • During the Cold War, the Soviet Union detonated the largest nuclear weapon the world had ever seen. Called the Tsar of Bomba (King of the Bombs), it released the equivalent of over 50 megatons of TNT, which was more than all the explosives used during WWII combined.[4]
  • The peak of the Cold War was the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world has ever come to self-destruction.[8]
  • C.I.A. Facts
    A rectal Houdini kit
  • The Cold War led to some ingenious spy gadgets, such as the "Rectal Escape Kit." A spy would hide the escape kit in his or her rectum, just in case they were captured and imprisoned.[11]
  • In 1987, a West German teenager flew a single engine Cessna solo through every advanced Soviet defensive shield and landed at the Kremlin gates. He wanted to build peace between the East and West by performing such a daring stunt. The Soviets promptly arrested him for "malicious hooliganism."[5]
  • The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb on August 29, 1949, at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan. The event ended America's monopoly on atomic weaponry and launched the Cold War.[4]
  • CIA agents during the Cold War used a method of communication based on how their shoelaces were tied. The shoelace patterns could convey messages such as "I have information," "Follow me," or "I have brought another person."[2]
  • In the foreword to his Cold War book titled, The Official C.I.A. Manual of Trickery and Deception, CIA Director John McLaughlin wrote "magic and espionage are kindred spirits."[2]
  • A now–declassified manual titled The Official C.I.A. Manual of Trickery and Deception includes tips on concealing a doping pill in a matchbook and then covertly dropping it into a person's drink while distracting them by lighting their cigarette.[2]
  • The Cold War lasted 40 years, during which time the United States and the Soviet Union tried to control as many countries as possible, even if those countries were not very valuable economically or strategically.[14]
  • Both President Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev agreed that they would pause the Cold War if there was ever an alien invasion.[10]
  • The Vietnam War (1959–75) was the deadliest proxy war of the Cold War era. Over 3.5 million people died. The second deadliest war during the Cold War was the Korean War (1950–53), with over 3 million people killed.[14]
  • U.S. President George H. W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev declared the official end of the Cold War at the Malta Summit in 1989.[8]
  • Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

    - President Ronald Reagon to Mikhail Gorbachev

  • During the Cold War, over 11 million people died in various conflicts where the Americans supplied one side and the Soviets supplied the other.[14]
  • The Iron Curtain refers to the border dividing Europe between noncommunist Western Europe and Communist Eastern Europe. Physically, the Iron Curtain stretched 4,225 miles (6,779 km).[3]
  • Winston Churchill was the first person to use the term "iron curtain" to refer to the Cold War boundaries. He said an "iron curtain" had fallen across Europe.[3]
  • Largely in response to the Cold War, twelve western nations created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). If the Soviet Union attacked one country, the others would defend them.[3]
  • During the Cold War, the United States was eager to overthrow Fidel Castro, the dictator of Cuba, who was allied with the Soviets. Among other ideas, the CIA considered planting explosive seashells in the area where he went swimming.[3]
  • The Berlin Wall was the quintessential symbol of the Cold War.[8]
  • During the Cold War, the Soviets covertly shipped thousands of Russian troops to Cuba. While the United States estimated that around 8,000 Russian troops were stationed in Cuba, the real number was over 40,000.[3]
  • Congress added the phrase "under God" to the Pledge of the Allegiance during the Cold War to symbolize resistance to atheistic communism.[12]
  • Iron Curtain
    The original version of the Pledge of Allegiance did not include the words “under God"

  • To keep news of the Cuban Missile Crisis from initially leaking, the White House told the public that President Kennedy was unable to appear at public events due to a cold. In reality, he was in intense meetings with advisors.[3]
  • The Bay of Pigs is the most famous Cold War conflict and is widely known as "a perfect failure" for the United States. Due to confusion over time zones, American bombers failed to support a group of Cuban exiles as they attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro.[3]
  • Soviet spy Colonel Oleg Penkovsky provided valuable information about the status of the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons to both the CIA and British intelligence. The KGB arrested him on October 22, 1962, in Moscow and most likely executed him shortly after.[3]
  • Eight months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the White House and the Kremlin agreed to establish a hotline connecting the two capitals to prevent the two nations from coming that close to nuclear war again.[3]
  • To defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States agreed to withdraw its nuclear weapons from Turkey, and the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its weapons from Cuba. Recently, the United States discovered that the Soviets actually left approximately 100 tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba for decades afterward.[6]
  • Though women worked outside the home during WWII, during the Cold War, working women were considered a threat to national security. They were encouraged to stay home and raise the next generation to defend the nation if the Soviet Union attacked.[7]
  • Sukarno Fact
    The CIA supposedly paid a porn-film actor to wear the mask during important scenes
  • During the Cold War, CIA agents attempted to discredit the Indonesian president by making a pornographic film starring a man wearing a mask that looked like him.[1]
  • The Cold War is called "cold" because there was no direct major conflict between the Soviets and the United States, although they supported major proxy wars around the globe.[4]
  • The Berlin Blockade was the first major crisis of the Cold War. The Soviet Union tried to limit the ability of France, Great Britain, and the United States to travel to their sectors of Berlin. The United States and Britain responded with history's largest air supply campaign.[8]
  • When a Soviet submarine captain commanded navy officer Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov to authorize the use of nuclear torpedos against the United States Navy, Arkhipov refused. He is widely credited with nothing less than saving the world.[8]
  • During the 1960s, the United States government funded a project by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to develop a way to share information between military computers very quickly, which ultimately led to the development of the Internet.[4]
  • Little-Known Cold War Facts INFOGRAPHIC
    Cold War Infographic

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