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1947

Bernard Baruch coins the term “Cold War”

Multimillionaire and financier Bernard Baruch, in a speech given during the unveiling of his portrait in the South Carolina House of Representatives, coins the term “Cold War” to describe relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. The phrase stuck, and for over 40 years it was a mainstay in the language of American diplomacy.

Baruch had served as an advisor to presidents on economic and foreign policy issues since the days of Woodrow Wilson. In 1919, he was one of the U.S. advisers at the Paris Peace Conference that ended World War I. During the 1930s, he frequently advised Franklin D. Roosevelt and members of Congress on international finance and issues of neutrality. After World War II, he remained a trusted adviser to the new administration of Harry S. Truman. His speech in April 1947, however, was given in a completely different context. A portrait of the native South Carolinian was to be hung in the state’s House of Representatives, and Baruch was invited for its unveiling. Most guests expected that he would give a brief talk, but Baruch instead launched into a scorching attack on the industrial labor problems in the country. It was only through “unity” between labor and management, he declared, that the United States could hope to play its role as the major force by which “the world can renew itself physically or spiritually.” He called for longer workweeks, no-strike pledges from unions, and no-layoff pledges from management. It was imperative that American business and industry pull itself together, Baruch warned. “Let us not be deceived—we are today in the midst of a cold war. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at home. Let us never forget this: Our unrest is the heart of their success. The peace of the world is the hope and the goal of our political system; it is the despair and defeat of those who stand against us. We can depend only on ourselves.”

The term “Cold War” was instantly embraced by American newspapers and magazines as an apt description of the situation between the United States and the Soviet Union: a war without fighting or bloodshed, but a battle nonetheless.

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