Aftermath of World War II

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Essential Question

How was the world changed during the post-World War II era?

Summary of Research

The aftermath of World War II was a tough time period around the world as nations began recovering from the trauma of the war. By the war's end, approximately 75 million people had died and millions more roamed the street homeless. After the war a very important organization arose that still plays a vital role in the world we live in today. The United Nations (UN) was an international organization created to make world decisions and help ensure peace. The UN was made up of delegates from 50 nations around the world that held meetings in San Francisco. Also, World War II eventually led to outbreak of the Cold War. The Cold War arose from tensions between former allies in WWII, the Soviet Union and western nations. Other smaller conflicts also broke out after war such as, the Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, Berlin Blockade, and the Propaganda War. The Marshall Plan sent 13 billion US dollars to Western Europe to help recovery. The Berlin Blockade was a conflict between the Soviets and the Western powers. The Soviets had blockaded all the railroads leading into Berlin in order to keep the U.S., Great Britain, and France out of the city. World War II's left behind many issues.


Disassembled Europe

Poland destroyed by German forces.

World War II brought devastation upon Europe and the rest of the world. Approximately 38 million Europeans died and a total of 75 million people throughout the world. By the end of World War II, millions of refugees roamed the street homeless, and work was nearly impossible to find. The streets of Warsaw, in particular, were completely demolished after almost constant bombing by the Nazi army. Also, the European economy took a major hit and plummeted, and much of the European industrial infrastructure was destroyed. The Soviet Union was one of the greatest sufferers, with 30% of its economy destroyed. The United Kingdom ended the war economically exhausted by the war effort. The government was completely dissolved; new elections were held, and Winston Churchill was defeated in a landslide by the Labour Party under Clement Attlee. In 1947, United States Secretary of State George Marshall devised the Marshall Plan, effective in the years 1948 - 1952. It sent 13 billion U.S. dollars overseas to aid the reconstruction of Western Europe.

The United Nations

UN General Assembly

In April 1945, the World War II Allies created an international organization to ensure peace. Delegates from 50 nations met in San Francisco to draft a charter for the United Nations. The UN would have a greater impact on world peace than the League of Nations, the international organization set up after World War I. The charter established that each nation had one vote in the General Assembly. The UN's work would surpass just peacekeeping. The organization would take on many world problems-from preventing disease outbreaks and improving world education to protecting refugees and aiding the economic development of weaker nations. UN agencies have provided help to millions around the world.

A much smaller body called the Security Council possessed even greater world power. The council consisted of five permanent members-the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France, and China. each country had the right to veto any decision made by the council. The goal was to give these five world powers the authority to ensure peace around the world. However, different views among these nations have often prevented the UN from taking any action.

The Development of the Cold War

U.S. President Ronald Reagan challenges the Russian ruler to tear down the Berlin Wall.

During World War II, the Soviet Union and western nations came together to take down Nazi Germany. However, after the war, these once allied nations began to break apart. Conflicting ideologies and distrust soon led to the breakout of the Cold War. The Cold War was a state of tension and hostility among nations, without armed conflict between the major rivals. The first focus of the Cold War was Eastern Europe, where Stalin and the western powers had very different goals. Stalin wanted to spread communism and develop friendly governments that would serve as a defense against Germany in Eastern Europe. Roosevelt and Churchill opposed Stalin's view, and made him promise to allow "free elections" in Eastern Europe. Stalin defiantly ignored the pledge and continued with the communist government. Stalin, the Red Army, and local communist groups destroyed rival political parties and assassinated some democratic leaders. By 1948, Stalin had installed pro-Soviet communist governments throughout Eastern Europe.

More Conflicts

The Truman Doctrine

President Harry S. Truman

The Truman Doctrine was a proclamation by U.S. President Harry S Truman on March 12, 1941. It stated that the U.S. would support Greece and Turkey economically and militarily to prevent their falling under Soviet control. Truman called upon the U.S. to "support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures," which summarized his hopes for Greece and Turkey into a doctrine applicable throughout the world. The Soviet Union was clearly at the heart of Truman's thoughts, but the nation was never directly mentioned in his speech. As Edler states, Truman was attempting to solve Eastern Europe's instability while making sure the spread of communism would not affect nations like Greece and Turkey.

The Marshall Plan

The Marshall Plan was the primary plan of the United States for rebuilding and creating a stronger foundation for the allied countries of Europe, and repelling communism after World War II. The initiative was named for Secretary of State George Marshall and was largely the creation of State Department officials, especially William L. Clayton and George F. Kennan. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in July 1947. During that period 13 billion US dollars in economic and technical assistance were given to help the recovery of the European countries that had joined in the Organization for European Economic Co-operation. By the time the plan had come to completion, the economy of every participant state, with the exception of Germany, had grown well past pre-war levels.

Berlin Blockade and Airlift

C-47s unloading at Tempelhof Airport during Berlin Airlift.

The Berlin Blockade, which took place between June 24, 1948 and May 11, 1949, was one of the first major crises of the new Cold War. It began when the Soviets blocked railroad and street access by the three Western powers (the Americans, British, and French) to the Western-occupied sectors of Berlin. The crisis abated after the Western powers bypassed the blockade by establishing the Berlin Airlift, demonstrating both their dedication to the cause of supplying their zones, as well as the industrial might of the West and its air force's capabilities.

The Propaganda War

Tensions continued to grow and in 1949, the United States, Canada, and nine Western European countries formed alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Members pledged to help one another if one was attacked. In response to the formation of NATO, the Soviet Union formed its own military alliance called the Warsaw Pact, which included Soviet Union and seven satellite nations dependent upon the Soviets. Both sides participated in a propaganda war. The U.S. spoke of defending capitalism and democracy against communism and totalitarianism. The Soviet Union claimed the moral high ground in the struggle against western imperialism. However, what the two nations really sought after was world power.


Although the war was a very rough time period in which many people suffered, not only bad came out of it. The war had both positive and negative effects on the post-war world. The war was harsh for several reasons such as many deaths, destruction, and links to many more conflicts. By the war's end a total of 75 million people died and 38 million were from Europe alone. Also, about 9 to 11 million of the casualties came from the extermination of Jews and other "inferiors" during the Holocaust. Not only that, but millions of people were left homeless, jobless, and struggling for food after all of the bombing and fighting that left many European cities in complete ruins. Additionally, the war led to even more conflicts, such as the Cold War. The Cold War was caused as tensions began to rise between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers (the United States, Great Britain, and France). The two sides started up a Propaganda War, convincing their home countries that they were fighting for a good cause, when they really just wanted world power.

Every cloud has a silver lining, and this is true for even the most devastating war in the history of the world. One of the most beneficial occurrences resulting in the war was the creation of the United Nations. The United Nations is an international organization that was set up to help ensure world peace. The United Nations was made up of delegates from 50 different nations that came together to make world decisions. Throughout its history, the United Nations has played a role in many conflicts around the world. It has helped keep peace throughout Africa and has settled many world debates. The organization has been very beneficial to humanity. Another benefit was knowing the devastation caused by the war. So far, and hopefully in the future as well, we have not had another war of that magnitude. It is important that we have been able to draw good from these rough times.


The massive World War II brought about many and great changes throughout the world. Many conflicts have aroused in direct link to the war. For example, after the war, Europe was in ruins, and in result, the U.S. devised the Marshall Plan which would aid Western Europe in their reconstruction. Also, the war led to even greater problems. The Cold War developed as tensions grew between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers, which were former allies. This led to further problems when the Soviets set up the Berlin Blockade, which blocked all railroads and streets leading into Berlin. This kept France, Great Britain, and the United States from supplying their zones in Berlin. Another great change was the creation and organization of the United Nations. This was an international peace organization that handled world problems. In conclusion, World War II was a great influence on the world even after it was over.


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