“Gunfire never destroyed an idea and by the same token, the searing heat of an atomic bomb will not obliterate the philosophy of communism. Only a better philosophy of life, that which comes from the minds and hearts of free men, can ever permanently defeat the false and brutal philosophy of communism.
But communism respects only force. Obviously, we cannot expect the forces of communism will remain dormant while we attempt to restore peace to the world. Only so long as we are ready, willing, and able to fight in defense of our ideals do we have any hope of surviving the present conflict between democracy and communism.”
Editor's Note: Following the end of World War II, tensions arose between the Soviet Union and the United States as each competed to become the world’s major superpower. For many, such as Vinson, this conflict was more than an arms race but instead the struggle to ensure the survival of democratic ideals and the American way of life. As Vinson had done during both World Wars, he became a vocal proponent of a strong military during the Cold War era. Vinson believed that in order to combat communism and protect American values, a strong defense was necessary.
In the excerpt above, taken from Vinson’s acceptance speech for the 1952 Democratic congressional nomination, he addressed the growing conflict with the Soviet Union. The principles and Cold War rhetoric laid out in this speech became defining aspects of the numerous defense policies Vinson proposed throughout the Cold War era.
Under the Truman administration, Vinson’s legislative agenda was integral in preparing the United States military and particularly, the U.S. Air Force for the Korean War and other Cold War conflicts. He consistently argued that securing air supremacy was vital in order to fully compete with the Soviet Union. As a result, he ushered in several legislative measures to expand the U.S. Air Force including the 1947 National Security Act which established an independent department for the U.S. Air Force.
During the Eisenhower administration, Vinson helped to create the Air Force Academy, the institution responsible for educating the next generation of Air Force officers. Throughout the two World Wars, Vinson had ensured the United States was prepared to defend itself in battle. As the Cold War intensified, Vinson made it his mission to ensure the military forces created to fight the world wars would now be prepared to compete with the Soviet Union.