Cold War Conversations

Cold War Conversations

Award-winning real stories of the Cold War told by those that were there. Every week we interview an eyewitness of the Cold War. Across soldiers, spies, civilians, and others, we aim to cover the whole gamut of the Cold War experience. Hosts Ian Sanders, James Chilcott and Peter Ryan bring your ears into the heart of the Cold War. Reading a history book is one thing, but hearing a human voice, with every breath, hesitation and intonation brings a whole new dimension to understanding what it was like to be there.

Episodes

September 30, 2022 58 min

The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is reckoned to be one of the most perilous events in history, when the World  faced a looming nuclear collision between the United States and Soviet Union. During those weeks, the world gazed into the abyss of potential annihilation.

I speak with Sir Max Hastings whose new history  Abyss: The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 tells the story from the viewpoints of national leaders, Russian officers, Cuban peasa...

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Fred Haise was one of the three astronauts on the ill-fated Moon mission when a design fault caused an oxygen tank to explode mid-mission putting the Apollo 13 crew in mortal danger on April 13th, 1970.  This was the seventh crewed mission in the Apollo space program and the third meant to land on the Moon.

Now as you can imagine I’m genuinely excited to be speaking with one of the Apollo astronauts. Fred and I talk about his life a...

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Richard Blevins enlisted aged 18 in the US Army in March of 1987.  He completed  Basic Training  & Military Police School training in July of 1987 and was posted to West Berlin as a United States Military Policeman. 

He describes his selection for Berlin duty while at Rhine-Main AFB in Frankfurt and his first journey across East Germany on the US Duty train to West Berlin.  

Richard’s first year consisted of patrol duties and com...

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MZ was an East German motorcycle manufacturer located in Zschopau, Saxony. The acronym MZ stands for Motorenwerke Zschopau GmbH (German for Zschopau engine factory). 

In the 1980s MZ was regarded by the British motorcycle press as producing ugly and old-fashioned (if worthy) motorcycles however, there was a hard-core set of UK fans who loved this relatively, cheap and easy-to-repair bike.

Julian Howe was a big fan of the MZ bike. He ...

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This is the 2nd part of my interview with Lt Col. Stephen Harrison, MBE who served for two years as a full-time Touring Officer with BRIXMIS. The tours were hazardous three-man, vehicle-borne patrols collecting intelligence on the Warsaw Pact forces in East Germany for up to five days and nights over a series of four-month patrolling periods. 

In this episode, we hear of Stephen’s imprisonment in a Soviet Army gaol, following detent...

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Lt Col. Stephen Harrison, MBE served for two years as a full-time Touring Officer with BRIXMIS. These Tours were hazardous three man, vehicle-borne patrols collecting intelligence on the Warsaw Pact forces in East Germany for up to five days and nights over a series of four-month patrolling periods. 

They lived in the field and did not carry weapons while Soviet and East German troops were nearly always armed, and their ever-present...

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A young Claudia Bierschenk lived at the edge of a world called the GDR, in a village surrounded by hills, valleys and thick forests. 

Her great uncle lives in the Forbidden Zone, the area where the East German border is a few metres away from West Germany. This is where the villages are like ghosts towns and inhabitants need special permits to enter.

Claudia provides a vivid and unique description of entering the Forbidden Zone for t...

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 A young Claudia Bierschenk lived in a village surrounded by hills, valleys and thick forests at the edge of a world called the GDR. It could be beautiful, but the Iron Curtain runs through it, like a tectonic plate separating East and West and Claudia from her West German relatives. 

She tells of her life in this isolated area, of village life, far away from the socialist showpiece of East Berlin, where there are only two types of ...

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In 1961, members of the Alabama Air National Guard secretly took part in the failed invasion of Cuba by U.S.-backed Cuban exiles known as the Bay of Pigs. This was a covert attempt by the United States to overthrow the Soviet-allied Cuban government of Fidel Castro. 

Pete Ray was one of eight Alabama guardsmen who flew combat missions on April 19th 1961,  which resulted in the deaths of Pete and three members of the Alabama unit.  U...
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Paul continues his story with his recruitment into the Army Air Corps. It’s initially delayed with a tour providing airfield repair in West Germany and then the Falklands, but finally, he’s at training at Middle Wallop, the home of the Army Air Corps.  

He describes the training including underwater escapes, flying and navigation. As a Gazelle crewman, his role was navigator, observer and co-pilot.  We hear of exercises including th...

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Paul joined the Royal Engineers in 1977, aged 16 as an apprentice. We hear of his experience of joining the army at such a young age and being away from home for the first time.

 After initial training his  first posting was to Osnabruck in 1979. Shortly after his arrival Paul is appointed to the challenging role of driver to the Squadron Sergeant Major

With participation in exercises such as Crusader 80 and Active Edge Paul  describ...

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In the early 1980s East Germany had just 5000 members of the Church of Latter-day Saints, many of which had been members since before World War 2. 

In 1982 East German leader Erich Honecker historically allowed the church to build a temple in Freiberg and in 1988 Mormon missionaries were allowed into East Germany. Ken Brady describes his experiences as a Mormon missionary in East Germany as the country gradually disappeared and was ...

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KC flew the US Navy’s airborne Electronic Reconnaissance during the 1980s in the Lockheed EP-3 which is an electronic signals reconnaissance version of the P-3 Orion.

He flew as a Navigator, Senior Electronic Warfare Evaluator and Mission Commander.

We hear about several missions he was involved in including his first detachment to Athens the then main USN operating base for missions in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic.

We also hear...

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What is it like to be under secret police surveillance? On 10 March 1983, 12-year-old Carmen Bugan returned from school to find Romanian secret police in her living room. Her father’s protest against the regime had changed her life forever. 

In recent years Carmen gained access to the files of the Romanian secret police. She herself is surprised by the intimacy of the surveillance. Forgotten conversations, love letters, and argument...

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Keith Bailey Joined British Army at 16 in 1973. He was recruited into the Blues and Royals, (Household Cavalry) and served in West Germany as a gunner in Chieftain tanks. 

However, he was keen to serve in the Royal Military Police and particularly 19 (Support) Platoon known as "The White Mice". Their role was to track the SOXMIS (Soviet Military Mission) in West  Germany. 

SOXMIS operated under a 1946 agreement where the Sovi...

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Graham Bate was 30-year-old Civil Servant when he built his own nuclear bunker in the garden of his rural home 20 miles outside Hull in the UK.

It was here that the Bate family expected to survive for at least 3 weeks after a nuclear attack.

We speak with Graham Bate and his son Conrad who was 5 years old when the bunker was built and has vivid memories of the period.

Cold War history is disappearing; however, a simple monthly donatio...

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June 10, 2022 75 min

You might remember listening to short wave radio during the Cold War and coming across weird transmissions of metallic voices reciting random groups of numbers through the ether.  These are number stations, shortwave radio stations characterised by broadcasts of formatted numbers, which were being sent to spies operating in foreign countries.

Number stations were used widely during the Cold War and we speak with Jo Reggelt of Shortw...

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June 3, 2022 50 min

The Cold War years were a period of unprecedented peace in Europe, yet they also saw a number of localised but nonetheless very intense wars throughout the wider world in which air power played a vital role. 

I speak with former Cold War Tornado pilot and acclaimed aviation historian Michael Napier who has written Flashpoints: Air Warfare in the Cold War published by Osprey which describes eight of these Cold War conflicts. 

We discu...

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Marti Peterson was the first female CIA operative to be assigned to Moscow, probably the most challenging posting during the Cold War.

Don't miss the previous episode here https://coldwarconversations.com/episode236/

This second episode turns to TRIGON, the code name for Alexandr Ogorodnik. He was an official in the Soviet Embassy in Bogota, Columbia recruited by the CIA in 1973. Marti and TRIGON never met in person, but they sh...

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Marti Peterson was the first female CIA operative to be assigned to Moscow, probably the most challenging posting during the Cold War. Her story begins in Laos during the Vietnam War where she accompanied her husband John, a CIA officer. She describes their life in a small city in Laos, and the devastating news she received on October 19, 1972.

Marti returned to the United States and one night at dinner a good friend suggested she l...

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