The Best Books On America’s Path Through The Cold War

Neal Thompson Author Of Reckoning: Vietnam and America's Cold War Experience, 1945-1991
By Neal Thompson

The Books I Picked & Why

Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America

By John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr

Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America

Why this book?

Starting in World War II, American cryptanalysts broke Soviet codes and determined that hundreds of Americans working for the Soviet Union were active within the federal government during the New Deal and throughout the Second World War. Code named Venona, this operation was a closely guarded secret until declassification in 1996. When these intercepts were combined with information acquired from Soviet archives after the collapse of the USSR, they revealed not only a massive penetration of American government, science, and industry by Soviet spies but an American Communist Party that had assisted in these efforts, serving as an arm of Soviet intelligence. In other words (quoting American Communist Party member Alfred Bernstein), “[Joseph] McCarthy was right.” “The system was loaded with Communists.”


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator

By Arthur Herman

Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator

Why this book?

This is a balanced view of Senator McCarthy that, read in conjunction with Venona, Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, replaces the mendacity of historical orthodoxy with the truth, as columnist Nicholas Von Hoffman acknowledged in 1996: “Point by point Joe McCarthy got it all wrong, and yet he was still closer to the truth than those who ridiculed him.” The collapse of the Soviet Union opened both Soviet and American intelligence archives to Western scholars, if only briefly, and we now know that McCarthy’s charges were not, as we have been told for more than half a century, baseless, groundless, and irrational. Herman also reveals the dishonesty of Harry Truman and his enablers, who worked strenuously to obstruct investigations into Soviet espionage and poisoned political relations in this country.  


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Origins of the Korean War, Volume I: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945-1947

By Bruce Cumings

The Origins of the Korean War, Volume I: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945-1947

Why this book?

Professor Cumings provides the most detailed, honest analysis of this country’s involvement in Korea from the end of World War II through the catastrophic war that virtually destroyed the entire Korean peninsula, left several million dead, and led this country directly into Vietnam. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965

By Mark Moyar

Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965

Why this book?

Moyar does an excellent job of debunking the myths surrounding this country’s failure to secure an independent, non-communist South Vietnam. From the “Bright and Shining Lie” of the vaunted Saigon press corps to the supposed incompetence of Ngo Dinh Diem, Moyar demonstrates that the orthodox narrative is false and that the loss of Vietnam was the result of decisions made in Washington rather than dysfunction in Saigon.  


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism

By Paul Kengor

The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism

Why this book?

Paul Kengor provides a steady, detailed analysis of Reagan’s successful attempt to end the Cold War by driving the USSR to economic collapse. From technological embargoes, economic warfare and disinformation that the Soviets believed were intelligence successes to driving the price of oil down to $10 per barrel, Reagan’s policies were disastrous for Soviet interests. In just one year, the USSR moved from a $700 million trade surplus with the West to a $1.4 billion deficit, which tripled during the following year. “In my view,” wrote Gorbachev in the end, “the 40th President of the United States will go down in history for his rare perception.”


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists