Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

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Cold War Gallery Overview

The Cold War dominated the second half of the 20th century. This confrontation grew out of the clash between the ideologies of the Western democracies led by the United States -- and the communist nations led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The ever-present threat of nuclear weapons made this period the most dangerous one in world history, but the diligent efforts of the men and women of the U.S. Air Force helped bring this conflict to a peaceful end.

The U.S. Armed Forces measure their level of readiness during military situations by Defense Readiness Condition (DEFCON). Based upon the severity of a crisis, this readiness ranges from DEFCON 5, the normal peacetime level, to DEFCON 1, when an imminent enemy attack is expected. The seriousness of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 was demonstrated when the U.S. Armed Forces went to DEFCON 2 -- the second highest level. Throughout the Cold War, people and governments feared going to DEFCON 1 because it meant nuclear war, but that level was never reached -- in large part because of the deterrence to aggression provided by the U.S. Air Force.

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