25 Facts About The Cold War You Probably Didn’t Know

Posted by , Updated on March 23, 2024

What triggered the Cold War? What were the reasons for the Cold War? Who were the key players in the Cold War? It’s a complex narrative rooted in a rivalry between the East and the West; between the opposing ideologies of Communism and Capitalism. If you’re eager to dig deeper into history, here are 25 Unconventional Facts About The Cold War that you likely aren’t aware of!


The USSR could identify fake Soviet passports because the metal staples wouldn't rust. (Their real passports used very low quality metal that corroded very quickly.)

staplesSource: chicagotribune.com

The 12-foot Chrysler Air Raid Sirens placed around the US during this time were so powerful that they could turn fog into rain!

12-foot Chrysler Air Raid SirenSource: victorysiren.com

At one point, the US considered dropping over-sized condoms on the USSR that were labeled "medium." The apparent intention was to demoralize the enemy.

red-condomSource: mentalfloss.com

The CIA once planned to secretly cut Fidel Castro's beard in order to discredit his public image.

Fidel CastroSource: bbc.com

Russian officials thought the building in the center of the Pentagon was a secret meeting room. In reality, it was a hot dog stand!

PentagonSource: gizmodo.com

Canada relocated Inuit in the Arctic in order to assert control of the region. (The USSR was very interested in the Northwest Passage.)

mountainsSource: thestar.com

The USSR and the US almost had a joint space program, but after Kennedy was assassinated, the plan fell through. Why? The Soviets didn't trust President Johnson.

sunriseSource: washingtonpost.com

The term "Cold War" was coined by George Orwell in his book "Animal Farm." For those of you who don't know, "Animal Farm" is a book that pokes fun at Stalinism.

Animal FarmSource: bbc.com

In an attempt to ease tensions between the USSR and the West, 18-year-old German pilot Mathias Rust flew through Soviet defenses and landed in the Red Square.

Mathias RustSource: bbc.com

Deer near the border of the Czech Republic and Germany still refuse to cross from one side to the other. Apparently, they had come to expect an electric shock from one of the border fences.

deerSource: spiegel.de

The Tsar Bomba is the largest nuclear weapon to ever be detonated. The Soviets performed the detonation in the arctic and the cloud rose to 7 times the height of Mount Everest!

bombSource: gizmodo.com

During the Cold War the CIA undertook something called Operation Kitty. If you assumed it had to do with spy cats, then you were right. They spent $15 million on equipping cats with spy equipment.

catSource: theatlantic.com

9 presidents were in office during the Cold War. They were Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.

Kennedy Truman EisenhowerSource: buzzle.com

The first world originally referred to the West (US, Europe, and its allies). The second world referred to the USSR and its allies. The third world referred to neutral countries. That's right, Switzerland is third world!

1st 2nd 3rd worldSource: theguardian.com

In 1945, a group of Soviet children gave the US ambassador a seal for his office. Seven years later, it was found to contain a listening device. Since then the device has come to be called The Thing.

the thingSource: nytimes.com

A Korean Boeing 747 (flight 007) was shot down in 1983 for accidentally crossing into Soviet airspace. This prompted the US to make GPS technology publicly available.

airplaneSource: cnn.com

In an attempt to demonstrate superiority, the US considered detonating a nuclear bomb on the moon.

moonSource: huffingtonpost.com

Drugged bears were used by the Air Force to test ejector seats.

bearSource: military.com

When the CIA noticed soccer fields in Cuba, it became suspicious because "Russians play soccer, Cubans play baseball."

soccerSource: cnn.com

Both sides used propaganda quite heavily. Maps were even made with the specific intent of portraying the enemy as bigger and closer than it actually is.

mapSource: time.com

The Soviet Union was (and Russia still is) known for operating "closed cities." Basically, these were entire cities where civilians were restricted from leaving.

closed citySource: telegraph.co.uk

The USSR is one of the few countries in history to have internal passports. Basically, you couldn't just go travel wherever you wanted. Today, Russians still use their internal passports as ID cards. (These are separate from their international passports.)

internal passportSource: nytimes.com

Soviet Colonel Stanislav Petrov was monitoring Soviet radar when it showed an all out nuclear attack by the US. He had a split second to respond and decided against firing back. Why? He suspected that it was a glitch. Fortunately, for the rest of us, he was right.

radarSource: theguardian.com

Railway advertisements during the Cold War boasted that the railroads were so important, the Soviets would bomb them first.

railroadSource: huffingtonpost.com

Between 1960 and 1968 the US Air Force always kept at least one nuclear armed bomber in constant flight (Operation Chrome Dome).

refuelingSource: nytimes.com

Photo: Featured Image: Anynobody, Coldwar, CC BY-SA 4.0, 25. wikimedia commons (public domain), 24. User PBMI, ChryslerAirRaidSiren-WPCMuseum-03-20-2011, CC BY 3.0, 23. pixabay (public domain), 22. Marcelo Montecino via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 21. David B. Gleason via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 20. max pixel (public domain), 19. pixabay (public domain), 18. Joanbanjo, Mural Canvi, Animal Farm, CC BY-SA 4.0, 17. Europe_laea_location_map.svg: Alexrk2 derivative work: NNW (talk), Flugroute von Mathias Rust, CC BY-SA 3.0, 16. pixabay (public domain), 15. User:Croquant with modifications by User:Hex, Tsar Bomba Revised, CC BY-SA 3.0, 14. pixabay (public domain), 13-12. wikimedia commons (public domain), 11. Austin Mills, Bugged-great-seal-open, CC BY-SA 2.0, 10. BriYYZ, Korean Air Boeing 747-400 HL7491, CC BY-SA 2.0, 9-8. pixabay (public domain), 7. pexels (public domain), 6. wikimedia commons (public domain), 5. MaxBioHazard, Checkpoint in closed city Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, CC BY-SA 3.0, 4-3. wikimedia commons (public domain), 2. pixabay (public domain), 1. www.af.mil