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Welcome to the Okanagan Military Museum

Virtual Classroom


"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. "
Sir Winston Churchill,
"Iron Curtain" speech, Fulton, Missouri, 1946

The Cold War (1945-91) - The end of the Second World War saw the growth of tension and conflict between the western allies and the Soviet Union under Stalin. The alliance against the common Axis enemies had always been a strained one and Stalin's designs on post-war Europe became obvious with the defeat of Nazi Germany.

In 1946 Winston Churchill publicly acknowledged what he and senior government and military leaders had known since the end of the war when he made his famous "Iron Curtain" speech during a visit to Fulton, Missouri. From that time until the fall of the Soviet Union the relationship between west and east was fraught with the threat of another global conflict breaking out. With the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union this threat carried with it the horrendous possibility of a nuclear exchange.

Canadian Forces Sabres Fly past at an RCAF airbase in Europe

In a number of events beginning with the cutting off of supplies to west Berlin by the Soviets and ranging through the Korean war, Hungarian revolution, Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan and to the final dramatic events surrounding the fall of communism in Europe, both sides maintained a close watch on each other.

The western reaction to the Cold War was the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 as a collective security measure against the Soviet threat. For their part the Soviet Union and its eastern European satellite states formed the Warsaw Pact. Massive land, sea and air forces where built and maintained at a high state of readiness for what stretched into decades. A whole generation of Canadian Forces personnel served in Europe as part of NATO's standing defences there. The Canadian Army, Air Force and Navy all participated in ongoing training and operational readiness exercises in those decades where the possibility of war was never far from reality. Although it was a Cold War, there were casualties on both sides as a result of operational accidents.

Canadian Leopard tank

On the North American continent the Cold War brought about an even closer military relationship between Canada and the United States as both countries territories where now under serious threat from air attack. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and United States Air Force (USAF) established a sophisticated early-warning and command-and-control system within the context of the North American Aerospace Defence (NORAD) agreement. This arrangement has been in place since its inception in 1958 and is periodically reviewed for renewal.

CF 100 Voodoo fighters were a part of Canada's NORAD capability

The dangerous and tensions of the Cold War were successfully navigated by Canada and its allies with a mix of diplomacy and the military security afforded by NATO and NORAD. The Cold War is over now but NATO and NORAD remain with new roles in fulfilling Canada's security needs into the 21st century.

NATO Fleet Review


To find out more about the Cold War go to these excellent web pages on the Canadian War Museum, Cold War Museum,CBC and Dept. of Defence websites:



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