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Churchill and his ‘Iron Curtain’ speech

In late 1945, he had been invited to speak in the unlikeliest of places, Westminster College in the small Midwestern town of Fulton, by College President Franc L. McCluer and President Truman, who accompanied him by train from Washington, D.C., to Fulton.

Winston Churchill gives his “Sinews of Peace”/”Iron curtain” speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946 (Source: National Churchill Museum)

Churchill’s hour-long speech before wide-eyed students, townspeople, and invited guests in the College’s gymnasium warned that Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin was expanding his Communist grip throughout Eastern and Central Europe. Churchill’s speech – just six months after WWII had ended – alarmed much of the war-weary Western world, which felt an underlying threat from the Soviet Union.

Churchill’s speech reverberated around the globe and ushered in the Cold War, a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States and the country’s respective allies (1947-1991).

The next 44 years would be characterized by political hostilities, threats, propaganda, and other measures short of open warfare between both sides.

The Cold War gave rise to trade embargoes, the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the “space race,” the nuclear arms race, veiled threats of a third world war, and other geo-political events. The Cold War lasted through nine U.S. Presidential administrations (Truman to G.W. Bush), 11 British Prime Ministers (Attlee to Major), and six Soviet Premiers (Stalin to Gorbachev). As a result, it played a major role in forming American and British foreign policy.

Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman arrive in Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946. (Source: National Churchill Museum)
Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman ride in a parade welcoming Churchill to Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946. (Source: National Churchill Museum)
Man sells pennants welcoming Winston Churchill to Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946 (Source: National Churchill Museum)

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