After World War Two, the fragile partnership between the United States and the Soviet Union fell apart. Distrustful of Soviet communism and the spread of its influence through Europe, America engaged in rapid nuclear rearmament and an aggressive, interventionist approach to foreign policy.
The race for nuclear supremacy between the two warring nations led to a number of crises during the Cold War. The Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example, saw military stand-offs over the presence of Soviet missiles in close proximity to the United States.
The dramatic events of the Cold War are commemorated at sites, monuments and museums across the US.
Here are 5 of the most significant Cold War sites to visit in America.
1. Bay of Pigs Museum
The Bay of Pigs Museum in Miami is dedicated to the 2506 Brigade, which undertook the failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro. The invasion was undertaken by Cuban exiles supported by the CIA and US government under President John F Kennedy. In April 1961, approximately 1,400 exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba with the aim of removing Castro. The vast majority of the 2506 Brigade were taken captive, many others having been killed in the attack.
The museum houses a small collection of items, photographs and documents relating to the Bay of Pigs and is one of many interesting Cold War sites in the US.
2. Titan Missile Museum
The Titan Missile Museum is a cold-war underground missile silo turned public museum which still contains an actual Titan II missile. Once a functioning Titan II base, the museum allows visitors to explore the realities of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launch site. The complex is made up of an eight-level missile silo and a three-level launch centre.
Today, visitors to the museum can choose from a number of tour options with activities including a visit to the control centre, taking part in a simulated launch and exploring the missile silo itself. The ‘Beyond the Blastdoor’ tour offers access to normally restricted areas while the ‘Moonlight Madness’ tour is a night time tour with special activities for children.
3. The National Atomic Testing Museum
The Atomic Testing Museum tells the story of the atomic age and of the more local National Testing Site. From 1951 to 1992, the NTS in downtown Las Vegas was the US’s main nuclear testing area.
The Atomic Testing Museum offers visitors an immersive insight into the history of the Cold War. Its displays showcase technical artefacts such as Geiger counters, atomic age paraphernalia and films. There’s also an interactive exhibit that lets visitors experience what it’s like to watch a nuclear test.
4. Minuteman Missile Silo
The Minuteman Missile Silo is a US National Historic Site which contains a Cold War missile launch site and control centre. The Minuteman Missile Silo site was one of many such sites which operated for over 30 years during the Cold War. Eventually, these sites were decommissioned after the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 1991.
Visitors can tour both the control centre and missile site, and can see the original living quarters and underground control facilities that would have been used by the original personnel. The tours then move on to the missile silo itself where visitors can view a Minuteman II missile through a glass roof.
5. Dealey Plaza
Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas was the site where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated at 12:30pm (CST) on 22 November 1963. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States of America and served during the Cold War, his premiership encompassing events such as the Invasion of the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the building of the Berlin Wall.
Dealey Plaza has changed little from the day of Kennedy’s assassination. There are several nearby monuments, such as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza. There is also a small museum, known as the Sixth Floor Museum, in the adjacent Texas School Book Depository. This chronicles the life of John F Kennedy. The museum also offers audio guides to Dealey Plaza and nearby sites, which is included in the entry fee.