1. October 1945:
The first Chinese Nationalist soldiers arrived in Keelung on the northern tip of Taiwan. The troops (from Mainland China) anticipated a short stay on Taiwan. At that time, the island was occupied by the Japanese, and the sole purpose of the Chinese Nationalist troops was to accept the Japanese surrender, disarm the Japanese occupation forces, and make sure that Japanese troops left the island. Afterwards, they expected to return to the front lines of the civil war which was still raging on the Mainland. You can read all about this event in this Cold War Studies Post: Early Cold War Years: Taiwan and the Mainlanders.
2. October 1, 1949:
Communist Mao Zedong takes control of Mainland China. He officially proclaims the founding of the People’s Republic of China at Tiananmen Square. Chiang Kai-shek, 600,000 Nationalist troops and about two million Nationalist-sympathizer refugees retreat to the island of Taiwan.
3. October – November, 1956:
An ongoing rebellion is squashed in Communist Hungary. As reported in The Guardian: “On October 23,1956, thousands of protestors gathered in Budapest to demand the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary, setting off a revolt across the country. You can read all about the uprising in The Guardian’s Archives. For a briefing paper and links to relevant documents see George Washington University’s National Security Archive.
4. October 29, 1956:
The Suez Crisis began on October 29, 1956, when Israeli armed forces pushed into Egypt toward the recently nationalized Suez Canal, a valuable waterway that controlled two-thirds of the oil used by Europe. The crisis brought the Soviets more directly into the Middle East as an arms supplier, and also provided a quick lesson in the rising power of Third World nations. Although Washington attempted to moderate the crisis by requiring major concessions from Great Britain, France and Israel, Nasser’s astute use of Soviet backing changed the dynamics of superpower interaction in the Middle East.
Nasser became the foremost proponent of Arab nationalism and a leader of the nonaligned world, while the Soviets became the arms supplier of choice to much of the Third World.
For a better understanding of the issues, take a look at Cold War Studies post titled Egypt, Suez, and the Dynamics of Superpower Intervention in the Middle East.
5. October 4, 1957:
On the morning of October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched the world’s first artificial satellite named Sputnik (Russian for “traveling companion”). Weighing 184 pounds, the satellite orbited the earth at 18,000 miles per hour. The booster launching demonstrated the skill of Soviet missile science. Read a short Cold War Studies post about Sputnik here.
For a fun article about how Sputnik and the space race affected American life read The American Way of Life: Splitnik vs Sputnik. https://coldwarstudies.com/2023/03/09/the-american-way-of-life-splitnik-vs-sputnik/
6. October, 1962:
The Cuban Missile Crisis, to some the most intense confrontation of the Cold War, developed shortly after the discovery that Soviet missiles were on the ground in Cuba. While Khruschev insisted that there were no offensive intentions against the United States, the Kennedy administration demanded that the missiles be dismantled and removed. See below for two Cold War Studies articles about the crisis.
7. October 1964:
China announced that they had developed the A-bomb. Their government made the following statement: “The People’s Republic of China exploded an atomic bomb at 15:00 hours on October 16, 1964, thereby successfully carrying out its first nuclear test. This is a major achievement of the Chinese people in their struggle to strengthen their national defence and oppose the U.S. imperialist policy of nuclear blackmail and nuclear threats.” You can read the entire statement here.
8. October, 1973:
Hoping to win back territory lost to Israel during the third Arab-Israeli war in 1967, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a coordinated surprise attack against Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Also known as the Ramadan War or the October War, the armed conflict was fought from October 6-25, 1973. Both the Arabs and Israelis declared victory in the war. For the State Department’s assessment of the impact of the war on American foreign policy click here.
9. October 25, 1983:
War in Granada. According to the US Army, US military forces, with several Caribbean allies, intervened on the island of Grenada. Operation Urgent Fury was said to have been initiated to protect the lives of US students, restore democratic government and eradicate Cuban influence on the island. You can read about the operation and its critics here. https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/Directors-Select-Articles/Operation-Urgent-Fury/
10. October 1986:
Reagan and Gorbachev meet at the Reykjavík Summit on October 11-12, 1986. Both agree in principle to remove all intermediate nuclear missiles from Europe. On December 8, 1987, after an impasse was resolved, the two leaders sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty, This landmark agreement proposed to eliminate all intermediate and short-range ground-based missiles and launchers from Europe.
11. October 3 1990:
On this date, East Germany officially joined the Federal Republic of Germany in the West, ending 45 years of division and dissolving the communist German Democratic Republic. The reunification of Germany marked one of the final events of the Cold War in Europe, bringing to an end the East-West division and inaugurating a new era of cooperation. Berlin is reinstated as the capital city of a united Germany and the Länder (federated states) of the former German Democratic Republic joins the Federal Republic of Germany in its membership of NATO. How has reunification worked out? Read a New York Times article published on the 30th anniversary of the event.
Photograph: Adrian Scottow on Flickr.