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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2006

T C 325 • American Technology and the Cold War

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
44485 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
WRW 401E

Course Description

A good case can be made that one of the vital factors in bringing about the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the communist ideology on which it was based, was the consistent superiority of American technology for the forty-six year duration of the "Cold War." It is the purpose of this course to examine this proposition. Many of these technologies had their origins during World War II when they were developed on a "crash" basis because of the exigencies of war. The institutions that developed these technologies were then converted to new work of a military nature that turned out to be important during the Cold War. Thus, the course will start with a discussion of the situation as World War II ended in the summer of 1945. A number of examples of American technological developments will be presented, and the effect that they had on Soviet-American relations will be evaluated. One of the first was the Berlin Airlift, which broke the Soviet blockade of the city in 1949. We astonished the Soviets with our technological capability to supply a city of three million people with aircraft alone. It was the first "peaceful victory" in the Cold War. Next was the use of U-2 aircraft to gather credible information about the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba. The high-resolution U-2 pictures permitted President Kennedy to persuade a skeptical public that the Soviets were indeed doing just that. The development of the technology for defense against ballistic missiles was another important element. President Reagan's refusal to trade away the work on missile defense at the Reikjavik summit meeting with President Gorbachev in 1986 was one of the critical turning points in U.S.-Soviet relations during the Cold War. The meeting persuaded Gorbachev that we were serious, and some believe he lost his nerve at that point. Gorbachev himself has actually said so. The continuing work on cryptology and other information systems were also a decisive element in winning the Cold War. This work was an extension of what was started in World War II and profoundly influenced computer development. Perhaps even more important, the unclassified work on information technology, transistor radios, Xerox machines, FAX machines and VCR technology made it impossible for the Soviets to operate the closed society that the communist philosophy demanded. The lectures will be presented roughly in chronological order of events during the Cold War. There will also be some discussions of how the legacy of the Cold War affects current events. I participated personally in many of the events that are described in these lecture notes. Therefore I cannot really pretend to take a "balanced" view of what happened during the past fifty years. We will have to leave that to historians fifty years from now. My hope is that I will be able to communicate some of the excitement of this period in our history, some of the risks we had to take, and ultimately the satisfaction of living long enough to see us prevail over our adversaries. In the dozen plus years since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, weapons developed during the Cold War have been used in a decisive way in various conflicts around the world. This important legacy from the Cold War will also be discussed.

About the Professor Hans Mark is a Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at UT-Austin. He has been associated with The University's Institute for Advanced Technology as a Senior Research Engineer since 1990. In that capacity he works on advanced weapons systems for the U.S. Army. Dr. Mark was Chancellor of the UT System from 1984 to 1992. He was Deputy Administrator of NASA until 1984, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. In 1977 he was appointed Undersecretary of the Air Force and Director of the National Reconnaissance Office by President Jimmy Carter. He is author or co-author of more than 180 scholarly articles and numerous books.

Grading Policy

The course consists of twenty-four lecture sessions supported by video presentations. There will be a mid-term and a required term paper. The students' grades will be determined by their performance on these assignments.


Course packet of articles about the Cold War Supplemental readings for term paper (guided by the professor)


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