This Cold War timeline contains important dates and events from 1945 to 1949. This period covers the aftermath of World War II and the formative years of the Cold War. It has been written and compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest an entry for inclusion in this timeline, please contact Alpha History.
February 11th: The Yalta Conference, a week-long meeting between Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, concludes in the Crimea. Among the questions discussed are the future of post-war Germany and European nations previously occupied by the Nazis.
March 6th: A pro-Soviet government is installed in Romania.
April 12th: Franklin Roosevelt dies at his presidential retreat in Georgia. His vice president, Harry Truman, assumes the presidency.
May 8th: Nazi leaders surrender to the Allies, bringing World War II to an end in Europe.
June 26th: A multilateral conference ends in San Francisco, having drafted a charter for the United Nations.
July 17th: Stalin, Churchill and Truman attend another wartime conference in Potsdam, Germany.
July 24th: Truman informs Soviet leader Joseph Stalin that the US has a devastating new weapon. Stalin, however, is already aware of the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb.
July 26th: Churchill loses a general election and Clement Atlee becomes prime minister of Britain. Atlee replaces Churchill in Potsdam for the remainder of the conference.
August 2nd: The Potsdam conference concludes. Among its resolutions are the occupation, demilitarisation and ‘de-Nazification’ of Germany. The Potsdam agreement also guaranteed independence and self-government for Poland.
August 6th: The Americans detonate an atomic weapon over the Japanese industrial city of Hiroshima. Between 90,000 and 166,000 people are killed, the majority of them civilians.
August 8th: The Soviet Union declares war on Japan.
August 9th: The US detonates another atomic weapon, this time over the city of Nagasaki. A further 40,000-80,000 Japanese are killed.
August 14th: Japan surrenders unconditionally to the Allies.
August 17th: Soviet and American officials agree to occupy northern and southern Korea respectively, with the 38th parallel forming the central border.
September 2nd: Japanese officials sign the instrument of surrender onboard the American battleship USS Missouri. This brings World War II to an end.
September 5th: Igor Gouzenko, a member of the Soviet diplomat corps in Ottawa, defects to Canada. He produces documentary evidence of Soviet espionage, both in Canada and other Western countries. Some historian consider Gouzenko’s defection and revelations the starting point for the Cold War.
December 27th: A trilateral conference between the foreign ministers of Britain, the US and the Soviet Union concludes in Moscow. Their meetings finalise post-World War II peace treaties and discuss the developing situation in both China and Korea.
January 7th: Austria is separated from Germany and divided into American, British, French and Soviet occupation zones.
January 10th: The United Nations General Assembly holds its first meeting in London.
January 11th: The People’s Socialist Republic of Albania is formed, with Enver Hoxha as its first prime minister.
January 19th: Iran lodges a complaint with the United Nations of Soviet interference in the Iranian government.
January 30th: The United Nations Security Council urges the Soviet Union to withdraw its troops from Iran.
January 31st: The Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia passes its first constitution, modelled on the Soviet constitution.
February 9th: Joseph Stalin delivers a speech to voters in Moscow in which he blames World War II – and indeed most wars – on capitalist economic systems.
February 22nd: US diplomatic George Kennan sends his ‘Long Telegram’, evaluating the political aims of the Soviet Union and making recommendations for American foreign policy.
March 2nd: British soldiers withdraw from southern Iran, however Soviet forces remain in the north of the country. This marks the culmination of the Iran Crisis.
March 5th: Former British prime minister Winston Churchill, speaking at a college in Fulton, Missouri, warns of the “Iron Curtain” descending on Europe.
March 24th: After weeks of diplomatic pressure Moscow agrees with withdraw Soviet troops from Iran. This occurs over the next fortnight.
March 30th: A civil war erupts in Greece between Greek government forces and communist revolutionaries. Greece will remain in a state of civil war until late 1949.
April 22nd: Socialist and left-wing political parties in Germany merge to form the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, or SED).
July 12th: The US Congress approves a $US3.7 billion loan to Britain for post-war reconstruction.
September 6th: US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes delivers his “Speech of Hope” in Stuttgart, Germany. Byrnes tells German listeners that America is working for a self-governing and economically viable Germany.
September 8th: More than 95 percent of Bulgarians vote to abolish the monarchy and form a “people’s republic”. The following month they elect the communist Georgi Dimitrov as prime minister. Soviet interference and vote rigging is suspected in both elections.
September 17th: Speaking in Zurich, Switzerland, Winston Churchill calls for a “United States of Europe”.
September 24th: President Truman is handed the Clifford-Elsey Report, which details breaches and violations of post-war agreements by the Soviet Union.
September 27th: The Soviet ambassador to the US, Nikolai Novikov, writes his own version of Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram’, describing the American quest for “world domination”.
November 25th: US president Harry Truman signs Executive Order 9806, forming a temporary commission to investigate the loyalty of government employees.
November 27th: Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru asks the US and Soviet Union to abandon nuclear testing and commit to a program of nuclear disarmament.
December 3rd: Greek delegates protest to the United Nations about foreign nations providing support to communist insurgents in Greece.
December 19th: French troops land in Vietnam to reassert colonial rule there. The French are engaged by the Viet Minh, a nationalist-communist group led by Ho Chi Minh.
January 1st: The American and British sectors of western Germany are combined to form one zone called Bizonia.
January 19th: A communist government led by Boleslaw Bierut is elected in Poland. Bierut’s Polish Workers Party wins 394 out of 444, however, the elections are tainted by allegations of persecution and vote rigging.
January 21st: George Marshall replaces James F. Byrnes as the US Secretary of State.
January: Foreign Affairs publishes “The Sources of Soviet Conduct“, an article suggesting that US policy must aim to moderate and contain the Soviet Union. The essay is attributed to ‘X’ but was in fact penned by George Kennan.
March 12th: US president Harry Truman addresses Congress and requests a military aid package for Greece and Turkey so their governments can resist a communist takeover. This speech is the first expression of the Truman Doctrine.
March 21st: Truman signs Executive Order 9835, requiring an investigation into the loyalty of all government employees.
May 8th: Speaking in Mississippi, Dean Acheson tells of the dangerous situation in post-war Europe and hints at an American aid program.
May 22nd: In line with Truman’s earlier requests, the US issues $400 million of aid to Greece and Turkey.
June 5th: At a speech at Harvard, newly appointed US Secretary of State George C. Marshall floats the ‘European Recovery Program’, later more widely known as the Marshall Plan.
July 2nd: Moscow rejects the offer of US aid in the Marshall Plan. Soviet bloc nations later follow suit.
July 26th: The National Security Act is signed into law by Harry Truman. This legislation restructures the United States’ military and intelligence agencies, forming the Department of Defence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
October 5th: A meeting of communist delegates in Poland establishes the Communist Information Bureau, or Cominform, to inform and coordinate communist parties worldwide.
October 18th: The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) commences its investigation of communist influence and infiltration in Hollywood.
November 14th: A United Nations resolution calls for the withdrawal of all foreign soldiers from Korea, followed by free elections.
December 30th: King Michael of Romania is forced to abdicate by Communist Party chief Gheorghiu-Dej. The communists declare the birth of the Socialist Republic of Romania. Future dictator Nicolae Ceausescu is named agriculture minister in the new government.
January 30th: Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi is assassinated in New Delhi. The killer is a Hindu nationalist who opposed Gandhi’s moderation towards Muslims.
February 25th: The Communist Party assumes control of Czechoslovakia after Edvard Benes is forced to accept the resignation of non-communist politicians.
March 17th: Five nations including Britain and France sign the Treaty of Brussels. This alliance becomes a basis for NATO.
April 1st: Eleven days after the collapse of a four-nation summit on Germany, the Soviets place restrictions on movement between the Allied-occupied zones and Berlin. This is a forerunner to the Berlin Blockade in June.
April 3rd: Harry Truman signs the Economic Cooperation Act into law. This legislation, “an act to promote world peace”, forms the basis of the Marshall Plan.
April 13th: The communist regime in Romania adopts a new constitution, in large part identical to the 1936 Soviet Constitution.
May 9th: Czechoslovakia adopts a new constitution, replacing the 1920 constitution.
May 10th: Syngman Rhee is elected president of the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
June 11th: The communist regime in Romania nationalises all banks and large corporations.
June 18th: The beginning of the Malayan Emergency: communist guerrillas in Malaya, then a British colony, attempt to seize power. British, British-Malayan, Australian and New Zealand forces are deployed to protect the government and colonial assets.
June 24th: On the orders of Joseph Stalin, East German troops close land routes and access points to Berlin. Stalin’s aim is to blockade West Berlin and starve the Allies out of the city.
June 26th: The US and its allies begin the Berlin Airlift, flying food and other cargo into western sectors in Berlin. The airlift continues until July 1949.
August 3rd: HUAC is told that US State Department employee Alger Hiss was a communist in the 1930s.
November 2nd: Harry Truman earns a second term as US president, winning an election he was widely expected to lose.
January 22nd: Chinese communist forces seize control of Beijing. Two months later they declare Beijing to be their new capital city.
January 25th: Moscow forms the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance or COMECON. It becomes known in the West as the ‘Soviet Marshall Plan’.
March 25th: Moscow begins deporting almost 100,000 people from the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia).
April 4th: The North Atlantic Treaty (NATO) is signed in Washington DC. It is signed by 12 nations: the US, Britain, Canada, France, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy, Iceland, Norway and Portugal.
April: In Germany, the US-British occupied zones (Bizonia) merges with the French zone. Trizonia, as it is briefly known, will become the new sovereign nation of West Germany.
May 8th: The West German parliament passes a constitution.
May 12th: The Berlin Blockade is lifted by the Soviet Union.
May 23rd: The Federal Republic of Germany (FDR or West Germany) is formed and its new constitution promulgated.
August 14th: Elections are held in West Germany. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its coalition partners win a small majority of seats. The CDU’s Konrad Adenauer becomes the first chancellor of West Germany.
August 29th: The Soviet Union conducts its first successful atomic test, detonating a 22 kiloton bomb codenamed “Joe One”.
September 13th: The Soviet Union uses its veto to block United Nations memberships for several countries, including Italy, Jordan and Finland.
October 1st: Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong declares victory in the civil war and proclaims the People’s Republic of China. The communist state is immediately recognised by Moscow and other Soviet bloc governments.
October 6th: Harry Truman signs the Mutual Defence Assistance Act, providing military aid to foreign allies, chiefly in Europe.
October 7th: The German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany) is formed in the Soviet-occupied zone.
October 16th: Communist revolutionaries in Greece announce an indefinite ceasefire and retreat. This brings the Greek Civil War to an end.
December 10th: Robert Menzies, a conservative lawyer, is elected prime minister of Australia.
December 17th: Sukarno is elected as the first president of Indonesia. Ten days later Indonesia is granted full sovereignty by its former colonial power, the Netherlands.