January 1, 1946 - The Iron Curtain

By Em Williams

Iron Curtain

Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945.  After his failure to be reelected, he delivered a speech on March 5, 1946.  This address is known as the “Iron Curtain” speech.  Previously, the Soviet Union had expanded their sphere of influence to several neighboring countries.  If this were to continue, the Soviet Union would quickly become an unstoppable force.  In the early 1940s, the Americans had a passive stance in regard to interference with the Soviet Union.  Winston Churchill delivered his speech to encourage the involvement of the Americans in alliance with the British against the Soviets.  As he described, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the continent”.  Churchill was explaining that the only way to stop the spread of communism is active defiance from the Americans, since the British were not strong enough to fight alone.  Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech is an address with great cultural significance and lasting effects.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivers a speech at Westminster College that addressed the Communist threat, and in which he uttered the now-famous phrase ‘Iron Curtain,’ Fulton, Missouri, March 5, 1946. (Photo by George Skadding/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Many people consider the Iron Curtain speech to be one of the pivotal events that made the Cold War inevitable.  It not only rallied the support and interference of the Americans, but it also highlighted key tensions in Europe.  Churchill used the metaphor of the “iron curtain” to make it seem like there is a mighty line dividing Europe down the center.  He continued to use this motif to solidify his stance beyond the Iron Curtain speech itself.  Churchill also used fear as a persuasion tactic by making a comparison to the Hitler before World War II.  However, one of the potential problems of conflict at this time was the fact that multiple nations had weapons of mass destruction.  If Churchill’s speech were to start a war with physical violence, nations could do about one thousand times more damage with a nuclear weapon than a traditional explosive.  In America, Churchill’s leadership was widely respected.  Churchill was ultimately one of the leading reasons the United States joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization against the members of the Warsaw Pact.

Ultimately, Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech had many significant effects throughout the United States along with the world.  The speech is one of the turning points, often attributed as one of the primary causes of the Cold War.  Naturally, many risks were possible due to the nature of the speech and the target of the potential alliance.  The one primary outcome of the speech was how the United States ultimately joined NATO, meaning Churchill’s speech was successful.

Iron Curtain speech

 

Bibliography

“Churchill, Winston.” In Cold War Reference Library, edited by Richard C. Hanes, Sharon M. Hanes, and Lawrence W. Baker, 100-08. Vol. 3. Detroit, MI: UXL,

2004.https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3410800060/UHIC?u=seve27129&sid=UHIC&xid=c96b9f14.

Gormly, James L. “Iron Curtain.” In America in the World, 1776 to the Present: A Supplement to the Dictionary of American History, edited by Edward J. Blum, 533-34. Vol. 1. Farmington Hills, MI: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2016. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3630800270/UHIC?u=seve27129&sid=UHIC&xid=3be4233e.

 

“Iron Curtain Speech.” In The Cold War–1945-1991: Leaders and Other Important Figures in the United States and Western Europe. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1992. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/BT1605203049/UHIC?u=seve27129&sid=UHIC&xid=1cdaad54.