Sun, Jul

The Cold War and the Twentieth Century: Yes, That Happened


ALPERN AT LARGE--Much to the anguish of those who remember the 20th Century, and the horrific lessons learned during that era's worldwide conflicts, too much of our youth will never know of it. As with Civics, Financial Literacy, Home Economics, Shop Class, Cursive, and Typing/Keyboarding, there are many things that high school (and even college!) graduates just aren't being taught. 

So with the understanding that Millennials, much to the horror of their parents, often graduate high school (and college) with an understanding of U.S. History that stops at the American Civil War, I will continue to throw out occasional quizzes of the 20th Century and of history/civics-related issues.  

And one gigantic conflict that dominated the latter half of the 20th Century was the Cold War.

Because the 20th Century ... and all of its painful lessons ... DID happen.  


(Correct answers at bottom of this column)  

1) "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe." This comment, part of a speech which many believe formally began the Cold War, was said by which World War Two leader? 

  1. a) Harry Truman of the United States 
  2. b) Winston Churchill of Great Britain
  3. c) Josef Stalin of The Soviet Union
  4. d) Charles DeGaulle of France

2) The Cold War was fought between which two entities?

  1. a) The Allied and Axis powers
  2. b) The Western (the Americas) and Eastern (Europe and Asia) Hemispheres
  3. c) The United States and its allies in Europe, and the Soviet Union and its satellite states
  4. d) The United States and China

3) Which organization was formed to halt the spread of Communism to western Europe, to forbid the recurrence of nationalist militarism, and to encourage political integration in Europe? 

  1. a) The North American Treaty Organization
  2. b) The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  3. c) The United Nations
  4. d) The Warsaw Pact

4) The following Central and Eastern European nations had unsuccessful revolts against the Soviet Union and their Soviet-placed leaders in the 1950's and 1960's except: 

  1. a) Yugoslavia
  2. b) Czechoslovakia
  3. c) East Germany
  4. d) Hungary

5) The barrier that kept East Germans from escaping to the West, and was emblematic of "The Iron Curtain", was known as: 

  1. a) The German Divide
  2. b) The Great Wall of Germany
  3. c) The German Partition
  4. d) The Berlin Wall

6) The U.S. President who declared, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!" was:

  1. a) John F. Kennedy 
  2. b) Ronald Reagan
  3. c) Jimmy Carter
  4. d) Richard Nixon

7) The U.S. President who declared, "Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!" in order to boost the morale of West Berliners, who lived in an enclave within East Germany, was:

  1. a) John F. Kennedy 
  2. b) Ronald Reagan
  3. c) Jimmy Carter
  4. d) Richard Nixon

8) Which President led a boycott of a Summer Olympics in Moscow, and in response to a Soviet invasion of which country? 

  1. a) John F. Kennedy/Cuba 
  2. b) Ronald Reagan/Granada
  3. c) Jimmy Carter/Afghanistan
  4. d) Richard Nixon/Vietnam

9) The United States and Soviet Union had major involvements in the following conflicts, and which were major sources of tension between the two superpowers, except for: 

  1. a) The Korean War
  2. b) The Vietnam War
  3. c) The Yom Kippur War 
  4. d) The Cyprus Civil War

10) Which of the following statements is true? 

  1. a) The United States was the first nation to send an unmanned satellite into space, and to land a man on the moon
  2. b) The Soviet Union was the first nation to send an unmanned satellite into space, and to land a man on the moon
  3. c) The Soviet Union was the first nation to send an unmanned satellite into space, but the United States was the first nation to land a man on the moon
  4. d) The United States was the first nation to send an unmanned satellite into space, but the Soviet Union was the first nation to land a man on the moon
  5. e) Both the United States and Soviet Union succeeded in landing a man on the moon 

It's nice to know that the International Space Station is a first-rate example of how the United States and Russia (the predominant entity of the Soviet Union) can work together and even be friends.

In the War on Terrorism, both the U.S. and Russia have been friends and enemies--"frenemies", if you will--because both nations have been and are threatened/victimized by terrorism.  But old rivalries die hard. 

And while President Obama ridiculed Republican contender Mitt Romney, during a 2012 election debate when Romney's declared that Russia was the foremost threat to the U.S., much of the outgoing President's foreign conundrums in office stemmed from the European, Asian, and Middle Eastern conflicts with Russia.  Again, old rivalries die hard. 

It's anyone's guess whether President-Elect Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be friends, enemies, or "frenemies".  A half-century of pent-up and open frustrations and nuclear threats (HOW MANY OF US REMEMBER HOW HORRIFYINGLY REAL THE MOVIE "THE DAY AFTER" WAS?), to say nothing of nuclear bomb drills and ingrained fears of the Soviets, doesn't go away overnight. 

Because the Twentieth Century, and all of its horrific disasters (including the Cold War that dominated the foreign policy of the latter half of that century) DID happen. 


1) b

2) c

3) b

4) a

5) d

6) b

7) a

8) c

9) d

10) c


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)


Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays