The Cold War Quiz


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About This Quiz

For more than four decades, the world lived in a state of anxiety and tension as two great military powers, bristling with devastating nuclear weapons, stared each other down. Test your knowledge of the Cold War with this quiz.

The Cold War got its name because the U.S. and USSR never directly attacked each other. However, they did fund wars in other nations. What were these indirect wars called?

The Vietnam, Korean and Soviet-Afghan war are all examples of proxy wars.

In 1961 columns of U.S. and Soviet tanks stared each other down through a crossing point in the Berlin Wall known as …

A spy from the KGB, the Soviet security and intelligence agency, helped the two sides communicate, defusing the situation at Checkpoint Charlie when the tanks withdrew.

The U.S. military group responsible for firing nuclear weapons as well as detecting incoming weapons was called SAC. What does SAC stand for?

Strategic Air Command was disbanded and its assets and responsibilities were distributed to other military organizations in 1992.

The U.S. is a member of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), which was created during the Cold War. What group was the USSR part of?

Other members of the Warsaw Pact included Hungary, Bulgaria, East Germany and Poland.

The Polish labor union that advocated nonviolence and eventually brought down Poland's communist government was called what?

Solidarity's principles spread to other communist nations, and its success strengthened other anti-communist groups in those nations.

In 1960 U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers was captured after being shot down while flying over the USSR. What kind of plane was Powers flying?

The Soviets convicted Powers of espionage but eventually released him as part of a prisoner exchange.

U.S. intervention in Vietnam was spurred by a controversial incident that occurred in what body of water?

The Gulf of Tonkin incident, which may have been exaggerated by the U.S. Defense Department, led Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorizing intervention in Asian countries threatened by communism.

What Soviet jet fighter was the backbone of communist-backed air forces during the Cold War?

MiG-21s scored numerous victories in Vietnam, Syria, Angola and other proxy wars.

The destruction of what structure is considered an important symbolic event in ending the Cold War?

The checkpoints at the Berlin Wall were officially opened in 1989. It was demolished piece by piece throughout 1989 and 1990 by both Germans with chisels and hammers and official demolition crews.

What was the Revolutionary War-inspired name of the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles that threatened the USSR with nuclear attack or retaliation?

Large numbers of Minuteman missiles were built to deter Soviet nuclear attacks with the fear of a devastating retaliation.

In 1978 writer Georgi Markov, who had defected from Bulgaria, was assassinated in London. What was used to poison him while he stood on a bridge?

Markov was injected with ricin by a man holding an umbrella.

The period of improved relations between the U.S. and USSR that resulted in the signing of several important treaties was known as …

"Detente" is a French word that means "relaxation."

What was the name for the border between the Soviet-allied nations and the NATO nations in Europe?

The Iron Curtain was a symbolic division between Warsaw Pact and NATO states, but it was also a physical border marked by fences, walls and guard posts.

What was the name of the East German secret police, an intelligence organization that spied on its own citizens and encouraged them to inform on each other?

"Stasi" is an abbreviation for <i>Staatssicherheit</i>, which means "state security."

Which U.S. president created the policy of containing Soviet imperialism by supporting other nations that resisted communism?

Truman's speech to Congress declaring the Truman Doctrine on March 12, 1947, is often considered the historical starting point of the Cold War.

What was the name of the reform policy spearheaded by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s that pushed for greater transparency in the Soviet government?

Glasnost means "publicity" in the sense of making government decisions and operations public knowledge.

Who was the first western rock star to perform a concert tour in the USSR?

Elton John toured the Soviet Union in 1979.

During a 13-day crisis in 1962, the U.S. and Soviet Union came very close to a full nuclear war. What was this crisis called?

The Cuban missile crisis began when U.S. surveillance photos showed Soviet ships sending missiles to nearby Cuba.

The fear that the USSR had far more nuclear missiles available than the U.S. was known as the …

The missile gap was based on exaggerated numbers and used primarily for political purposes.

What was the name of the failed CIA-backed invasion of Cuba in 1961?

The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a massive blunder for the U.S.

Who was the former U.S. Marine who defected to the Soviet Union before returning and assassinating President John F. Kennedy?

Oswald was a communist sympathizer, but we'll probably never know if he truly acted alone in carrying out the assassination.

What was the name of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's theory that if one country was taken over by communists, more countries would also fall to communism?

Eisenhower's domino theory is what led him to send U.S. military advisors to Vietnam.

What did the CIA call the domestic surveillance operation that targeted U.S. student groups, anti-war groups and other "subversives"?

Operation CHAOS used undercover agents to infiltrate student groups.

The massive nuclear bunker/command center that houses North American Aerospace Defense Command is located where?

The Cheyenne Mountain Complex was built under 2,000 feet of solid granite.

In the 1970s Chinese-U.S. relations were opened up by an exchange of sports teams. What was the sport?

The exchange of table tennis teams was known as "ping pong diplomacy" and eventually led to President Richard Nixon's visit to China.

What film parodies the absurdities of the Cold War, including the classic line, "Gentleman! You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" was released in 1964 at the height of the Cold War.

When the Soviets closed off West Berlin in 1948, preventing all food and supplies from entering, an international effort to fly supplies into the city began. What was the effort called?

The Berlin Airlift rendered the Soviet blockade of West Berlin impotent, and Joseph Stalin called it off in 1949.

Operation Northwoods was a U.S. Defense Department plan to increase public support for war by committing terrorist attacks and making them look like they'd been done by what country?

Bombings, shootings and even a faked plane crash were to be blamed on Cuban nationals to drum up support for a U.S. war on Cuba.

After North Korean forces, backed by China and the Soviet Union, invaded South Korea, a United Nations force made up mostly of American troops made an amphibious assault at what city?

The Battle of Inchon was a major turning point in the Korean War.

A Soviet military invasion ended the 1968 reform movement in Czechoslovakia known as the …

During the Prague Spring, Czechoslovakian civilians resisted the Soviet occupation through mostly nonviolent methods.

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