Cold War Timeline: When Did the Cold War Start and End?

Cold War Timeline

Cold War Timeline

In a concise manner, has put together the Cold War timeline. It includes all the major events that nearly tipped the world over into a nuclear apocalypse.

1945 –World War II draws to an end

February, 1945: Allied Powers – Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States – meet at the Yalta Conference in Crimea, Russia, to discuss the measures put in place for post-WWII. It was at the Yalta Conference that the four Allied nations agreed to divide Germany into sections. They also agreed to have a free and fair election in Poland.

April 12: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies. His vice president, Harry S. Truman, is sworn into office.

May 8, 1945: Nazi Germany lays down its weapons and surrenders to the Allied Forces.

July, 1945: The curtain is about to close in on World War II. The Allied countries meet up in Potsdam to discuss the partitioning of war-ravaged Germany into four zones, as well as many other post-WWII issues. During the conference, U.S. President Harry Truman informs his Soviet counterpart Joseph Stalin that the U.S. is in possession of nuclear weapons – the first of any nation in the world.

August 6-8, 1945: After years of nuclear testing, the U.S. Manhattan Project finally cracked the code to a fully function uranium-powered nuclear bomb. “Little Man” and “Fat Man” – names of the two nuclear bombs – were dropped on Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. Death counts from those two nuclear bombings almost reached 150,000.

Read More: Manhattan Project: Definition, Significance & Key Facts

August 14, 1945: Japan’s surrender brings WWII to an end.

August 16, 1945: Stalin and Poland enter into a treaty to define the Soviet-Polish Frontier

August 19, 1945: Japan’s territory in French Indochina gets taken by Vietminh

September 2, 1945: The Independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam is born. Proclamation was done by Ho Chi Minh.


February 2, 1946: The United States lends support to Syngman Rhee to establish a government in South Korea.

March 5, 1946: Britain’s Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in his “Iron Curtain” speech warns of the threat posed to world if Stalin and the USSR goes unchecked.

May 5, 1946: The Greek Civil War begins. Greek monarchists, backed by Great Britain, are engaged in a bloody battle with Greek communists.

May 26, 1946: Stalin is pleased by the Czechoslovakian Communist Party coming into power. A few days later, Klement Gottwald is sworn in as the Czechoslovakia prime minister.


March 12, 1947: The Truman Doctrine is born. Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States, informs Congress about how America would shore up support for countries battling communist elements. Truman tasks Congress to make available monetary support and aid to Greece, who was then neck deep in a civil war.

June 5,1947: The European Recovery Program(ERP) is rolled out by U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall. The program, also known as the Marshall Plan, was designed to grant economic and technical support to European countries that were still recovering from WWII. Many Western European countries welcomed the plan, including Great Britain. However, Joseph Stalin of the USSR instantly rejected the Marshall Plan. From 1947 to 1951, the Marshall Plan would go on to help struggling European nations, particularly West Germany.

November 14, 1947: The newly formed United Nations call on key stakeholders in the Korean Peninsula to conduct a free and fair election in Korea.


April 1, 1948: Stalin gives orders for the blockade of Berlin. Sour from East Berlin’s apparent lack of progress, Stalin perceives American and British presence in the city as a threat to the stability of East Germany. The Soviet leader therefore decides to cut off Berlin from the rest of the world.

June 1948: The West controlled partitions of Germany comes together to form West Germany.

June 24, 1948: The blockade of Berlin begins. About 2.5 million people living in West Germany are cut off from the world. They are without basic provisions and supplies. The West decides to airlift those provisions to West Germans.

September 9, 1948: The Democratic People’s Republic (North Korea) is born. Kim Il-sung,  a guerrilla leader and later turned chairman of the Provisional People’s Committee for North Korea,  becomes premier of North Korea.

October 24, 1948: Bernard Baruch coins the term “Cold War” to describe the hostilities that exist between the West, led by the United States, and the East, led by the Soviet Union.

November 11, 1948: Manchuria gets overrun and captured by the Chinese communist forces.


April 4, 1949: The West forms the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO). Originally began with 11 countries (Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States), the military alliance’s goal was to provide support whenever a member country gets attacked. In 1952, Mediterranean countries Greece and Turkey joined the alliance. In May 1955, West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany) was admitted as the 14th member.

May 12, 1949: Stalin ends the Berlin Blockade. For 10 months (from April 1948 to May 1949), the West bypassed the blockade by airlifting over 2 million tons of provisions to Berlin. The inhabitants of West Berlin at the time numbered about 2.5 million.

May 23, 1949: The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) is born. The country encompasses areas controlled by the West in Germany.

July 13, 1949: Pope Pius XIII makes a speech admonishing the ills perpetrated by communism around the world.

September 12, 1949: Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) elects Konrad Adenauer as Chancellor.

October 1, 1949: The Communist Party in China under the leadership of Mao Zedong establishes the People’s Republic of China.

October 7, 1949: East Germany follows in the footsteps of West Germany and establishes the German Democratic Republic. Wilhelm Pieck becomes the president of East Germany.

October 16, 1949: Greek Monarchist, primarily supported by the West, defeat Greek communists during the Greek Civil War.

1950 – the Korean War breaks out

January, 31, 1950: U.S. President Harry Truman begins the development of hydrogen bomb. The bomb is tagged as a much powerful bomb than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

February 14, 1950: The Soviet Union and Communist China enter into a 30-year friendship treaty.

March 1, 1950: Under the Official Secrets Act, Physicist Klaus Fuchs was sentenced to 14 years in prison for spying for the Soviets.

June 25, 1950: Communist North Korea invades South Korea, marking the beginning of the Korean War.

June 28, 1950: U.S. President Harry Truman sends U.S. forces to support South Korean forces.

September 26, 1950: Seoul is recaptured by a U.S. led United Nations forces.

September 29, 1950: The U.S. led forces begin to make a push into North Korea.

October 20, 1950: Pyongyang falls into the hands of United Nations forces.

November 26, 1950: Communist China comes to the aid of the North Koreans. Pyongyang falls back into the hands of North Korea.

1951 – The Rise of Communist China

January 1, 1950: Communist China and North Korea bring Seoul under their control.

March 14, 1951: The UN troops take back Seoul.

March 20, 1951: The court finds Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg guilty of espionage.


February 26, 1852: Great Britain gets its first atomic bomb.

March 10, 1952: The Cuban government under the presidency of Prio Socarras gets overthrown by Fulgencio Batista.


January 14, 1953: Yugoslavia elects Josip Tito as president.

March 5, 1953: The world wakes up to the news of the death of Soviet autocratic leader Joseph Stalin. He died at the age of 74. His replacement would be Nikita Khrushev.

June 15, 1953: The revolt held by East Germany workers union gets put down.

June 19, 1953: Execution is carried out on Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg.

July 27, 1953: The Armistice of Panmunjom is signed by the United Nations, China and North Korea. This brought to an end the Korean War. The two Koreas – North and South Korea – are divided by a demilitarized line (DMZ). The North aligns itself to Russia while the South seeks support from the United States.

September 12, 1953: The Communist Party in the USSR appoints Nikita Khrushchev as first secretary.


March 1, 1954: The first hydrogen bomb is tested by the United States

May 7, 1954: French forces are defeated by Vietminh at Dien Bien Phu. France would later leave the country on July 20, 1954.

Following France’s departure, Vietnam is divided into North and South Vietnam. The South, led by Ngo Dinh Diem, aligns himself to the U.S. while the North, led by Ho Chi Minh, adopts communist ideologies of the Soviet Union.

October 3, 1954: West Germany becomes the 14th member of NATO.

October 19, 1954: Britain gets served with a warning for its troops to leave Egypt by December 6, 1953. The warning came from Gamal Abdel Nasser.


November 14, 1954: Gamel Abdel Nasser is installed as the head of state in Egypt. This came after Mohammed Neguib was ousted from power.

February 8, 1955: Nikolai Bulganin becomes the prime minister of the USSR.

April 28, 1955: The South Vietnam Civil War begins. Bo Dai and Ngo Dinh Diem clash with each other.

May 14, 1955: The Warsaw Pact comes into being. The pact is an agreement between communist countries primarily in the East of Europe. They include: East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and the Soviet Union.

September 13, 1955: Soviet Union and West Germany amend their broken diplomatic relations.

October 23, 1955: Ngo Dinh Diem becomes the new leader in South Vietnam.


February 25, 1956: Stalin’s atrocities and deeds are revealed during Nikita Khrushchev’s denunciation of the deceased Soviet leader.

July 26, 1956: Egypt nationalizes the Suez Canal.

October 23, 1956: Massive protests in Hungary call for the elimination of communism. Hungry renounce the Warsaw Treaty. Soviet troops are asked to leave Hungry immediately.

October 29, 1956: Israel invades the Sinai Peninsula.

October 31, 1956: Britain and France reign bombs on Egypt’s airfields in order to recapture the Suez Canal.

October 31, 1956: U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower halts aid to Israel over its invasion of Egypt. However, on April 20, 1957, the president resumes aids to Israel.

November 5, 1956: There is a ceasefire in Egypt. Britain and France halt their attacks.

November 10, 1956: Soviet troops enter Hungary and forces communism back on the people.

December 22, 1956: Britain and France remove their troops from Egypt. Two days later, Anthony Eden steps down as British prime minister.


May 15, 1957: Britain successfully conducts its first hydrogen bomb test.

November 1, 1957: The Soviet Union becomes the first country to send the first living mammal into space.


March 27, 1958: Nikita Khrushchev becomes Soviet Union’s prime minister.


January 9, 1959: Guerrilla fighter Fidel Castro matches into Havana and takes control of the country.


May 1, 1960: A U-2 spy plane belonging to the U.S. gets shot down over Soviet Union territory.

May 7, 1960: Leonid Brezhnev is sworn in as the president of the Soviet Union.

May 19, 1960: Owing to Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba, the U.S. halts aid to Cuba.

December 12, 1960: The National Liberation Army in Vietnam (Vietcong) gets formed.


January 17, 1960: Congo’s Patrice Lumumba is killed.

April 12, 1961: Yuri Alekseyvich Gagarin of the Soviet Union becomes the first human being to go into space.

April 17, 1961: The Bay of Pigs invasion by CIA-led forces is carried out in Cuba in a bid to remove Fidel Castro from office. The plan spectacularly fails.

June 4. 1961: Soviet’s Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. President John F. Kennedy meet in Vienna to hold talks.

August 13, 1961: The Berlin Wall is completed, dividing the eastern part of Berlin from the western part.

December 11, 1961: U.S. troops arrive in Vietnam to support the South Vietnamese.

December 15, 1961: China’s bid to be a member of the United Nations gets rejected.


February 7, 1962: Trade relations between the United States and Cuba are suspended.

September 2, 1962: The Soviet Union sends a bunch of ammunition and nuclear missiles to Cuba.
JFK responded by imposing a naval blockade on Cuba. The U.S. demanded the Soviets immediately removed their nuclear weapons from Cuba.

October 22, 1962: The beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The world was inched closer to a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States.

November 8, 1962: Peace prevails and the Cuban Missile Crisis is brought to an end.

Read More: Critical Facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis


June 20, 1963: A hot line between the United States and the Soviet Union is created in order to avoid any future catastrophic nuclear war.

June 26, 1963: JFK visits West Berlin and the Berlin Wall.

August 5, 1963: Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States agree to halt all nuclear tests.

November 1, 1963: South Vietnam leader Ngo Dinh Diem gets killed in an assassination attack.

November 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas Texas. The assassins name is Lee Harvey Oswald.


October 15, 1964: The Soviet Union appoints Alexsie Kosygin as the new prime minister.

October 16, 1964: China joins the few global nuclear armed countries by detonating its first atomic bomb.


July 1965: The U.S. sends about 150,000 soldiers to Vietnam.

December 29, 1965: Ho Chi Minh refuses to hold peace talks offered to him by President Lyndon B. Johnson.


September 23, 1966: U.S. finally admits to the use of chemical weapons in North Vietnam.


June 5 to June 10, 1967: A six-day war between Israel and Arab states erupts.

October 21, 1967: A series of worldwide demonstrations of the Vietnam War kicks off.


March 16, 1968: The United States brutally kills about 450 civilians at My Lai.

May 6, 1968: Robert Kennedy, younger brother of JFK, is assassinated in California.

August 20, 1968: Czechoslovakia is invaded by Warsaw Pact countries.

August 25, 1968: France successfully carries out a nuclear bomb test. It joins the club of countries in possession of nuclear weapons.

October 31, 1968: U.S. bombings of North Vietnam ceases.

Read More: Who are JFK Siblings?


January 10. 1969: Sweden recognizes North Vietnam.

June 8, 1969: President Richard Nixon makes plans to remove 25,000 U.S. troops from South Vietnam.

July 20, 1969: The U.S. Apollo Mission successfully puts a man – Neil Armstrong – on the moon, becoming the first nation to do so.

September 3, 1969: Vietnam’s President Ho Chi Minh dies.

November 14, 1969: 250,000 people converge in Washington to protest against the war in Vietnam.


April 20, 1970: 150,000 U.S. troops are withdrawn from South Vietnam.

September 28, 1970: Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser dies. His replacement is Anwar Sadat.


March 31, 1971: A life sentence is given to Lieutenant William Calley over his involvement in the My Lai Massacre.

April 7, 1970: Richard Nixon informs the country of the withdrawal of 100,000 U.S. troops from South Vietnam.

October 25, 1971: China is admitted into the United Nations.


February 21, 1972: Richard Nixon makes a trip to China.

May 8, 1972: Richard Nixon visits the Soviet Union.

October 3, 1972: The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks sees the U.S. and the Soviet Union sign a very important agreement on nuclear arms – the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT).


March 29, 1973: All U.S. troops exit Vietnam.

October 6-14, 1973: Israel invades both Syria and Egypt.

November 11, 1973: A ceasefire is brokered by the U.S. to halt fighting between Israel and Egypt.

August 15, 1973: The U.S. signs the Paris Peace Accord to bring an end to its involvement in the Vietnam War.


May 18, 1974: India successfully acquires nuclear weapons.

August 9, 1974: Before he could be impeached, Richard Nixon resigns and leaves office. He is replaced by Gerald Ford.


March 30, 1975: North Vietnam takes hold of South Vietnam’s second largest city, Da Nang.

April 30, 1975: Saigon falls into the hands of North Vietnam. With Saigon gone, the entire Vietnam becomes a fully-fledged communist country.

September 23, 1975: Israel and Egypt reach an agreement for the former to pull out of the Sinai Peninsula.


November 2, 1976: Jimmy Carter wins the 1976 U.S. presidential election. Carter defeated incumbent Gerald Ford.


January 20, 1977: Jimmy Carter was sworn in as the 39th U.S. President.


November 4, 1979: The Iranian Hostage Crisis sees American embassy in Iran get overrun by a mob of Iranian students and militants. The hostage crisis lasted for about 444 days, ending on January 20, 1981.

December 25, 1979: The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.

Following Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan, some countries, including America, decided not to partake in the summer Olympics which was being held in Moscow.


November 4, 1980: Ronald Reagan wins the 1980 Presidential election. He defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter.


April 24, 1981: The grain embargo on the Soviet Union is removed by President Ronald Reagan.

October 8, 1981: Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat is assassinated.

November 18, 1981: Ronald Reagan commits $180 billion to development of arms over a 6-year period.


April 19, 1982: The U.S. bans all its citizens from travelling to Cuba.

June 1984: The Russians take revenge at the U.S. by boycotting the Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles, California. This was a classic tit-for-tat situation.


September 1, 1983: Soviet Union mistakes the commercial South Korean Boeing 747 airliner as spy plane, shooting it down in the process.


February 13, 1984: Yuri Andropov becomes the head of the Soviet Communist Party.

April 26, 1984: Ronald Reagan makes a visit to China.


February 4, 1985: Ronald Reagan triples the budget on the Star Wars arm program.

March 11, 1985: The Soviet Communist Party appoints Mikhail Gorbachev as first secretary.

July 2, 1985: Andrei Gromyko becomes the president of the Soviet Union.

November 19, 1985: Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev commit to reducing their nuclear stock pile.


April 26, 1986: The Chernobyl Nuclear disaster occurs in the Ukraine. It goes down in history as the worst nuclear disaster.

November 13, 1986: President Ronald Reagan admits to selling weapons to Iran. The monies obtained from the deal were then used to finance Contras in Nicaragua.


January 27, 1987: Mikhail Gorbachev embarks on implementing across the board electoral and economic reforms in the Soviet Union.

February 20, 1987: The U.S. Congress halts all aid to Contras in Nicaragua.

February 28, 1987: Mikhail Gorbachev calls on nuclear-armed countries in Europe to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear weapons.

November 2, 1988: Mikhail Gorbachev gives a speech that enumerates all the political missteps taken by former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

December 7, 1987: Leaders from the United States and the Soviet Union agree to destroy intermediate-range nuclear weapons.


February 8, 1988: Soviet Union announced the removal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.


February 15, 1989: All Soviet Union troops have pulled out of Afghanistan.

March 29, 1989: U.S. Congress votes to support Nicaragua’s Contra rebels with $41 million.

June 17, 1989: People’s Liberation Army in China is alleged to have gunned down about 2,000 protestors in Tiananmen Square.

September, 1989: Anti-communist group gains momentum in East Germany.

October 18, 1989: Erich Honecker, the head of the East Germany Communist Party, steps down.

October 23, 1989: Hungary allows for multiparty democracy. The country becomes a democratic republic.

November 9, 1989: The border separating East Germany from West Germany is opened for people to move freely.

November 10, 1989: East Germany officials agree to pull down the Berlin Wall.

November 28, 1989: Communism ends in Czechoslovakia as a result of the Velvet Revolution (i.e. the Gentle Revolution) that saw peaceful protests across the country.

December 2, 1989: The curtain is drawn on the Soviet Union. The U.S. and the Soviet Union issue out statement stating that the Cold War was over.

Read More: The Collapse of the Berlin Wall: When and Why Did it Fall?


October 3, 1990: The two Germanys – East and West – get reunited after close to five decades being apart.


July 1, 1991: Warsaw Pact gets torn into shreds with the fall of communism. Majority of the countries in the pact become democratic and hold elections.

December 25, 1991: Mikhail Gorbachev turns in his resignation, in so doing, the Soviet Union dies. Russia takes over and grants full autonomy to former Soviet Union satellite states.