Tim served in the USAF and the NSA from 1975 to 1988 during some of the most tense periods of the Cold War.
This included stints at the US Air Force Electronic Warfare Center at Kelly AFB, Texas, and RAF Chicksands, in the UK working on SIGINT collection of USSR/Warsaw Pact/Other targets.
He also served as part of the Cryptologic Support Group, Strategic Air Command HQ, Offutt AFB, Nebraska providing SIGINT briefings to SAC leadership on worldwide events
In 1983 he transferred to the NSA and...
Aged 16 Chris joined the British Army apprentice school in Arborfield, at Princess Marina College. He was trained as a vehicle mechanic in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers otherwise known as REME.
We talk about life expectancy in war scenarios, experiences with crash-out exercises, and life as a British soldier in West Germany
Chris also served Post-Wall Berlin with the Military Police and describes an interesting “secret” job he was involved in.
The episode was recorded at one of...
This is part two of Henrik’s story. You can hear the first part in episode 307. https://coldwarconversations.com/episode307
It’s the late 1980s and Henrik and his friends plan to escape from East Germany via Czechoslovakia.
Henrik provides a very vivid account of their discovery by Czechoslovak border guards in a forest near the Austrian border. He describes the moment the guards open fire to get them to stop.
Henrik is separated from his friends and held in various Czechoslovak prisons,...
Henrik was born in the late 1960s near Dresden in East Germany. The area was sarcastically known as the Tal der Ahnungslosen or Valley of the Clueless, as the area generally was not able to receive TV from West Germany from the mid-to-late 1950s.
He describes his childhood growing up in a Uranium mining area. His mother was a teacher and his father was required to be a member of the Communist Party as his role at the university involved in map making which was classified as secret work.
You are listening to part 2 of my chat with Joe who joined the USAF in 1981 and was trained to fly the A10 Warthog a single-seat, twin-engine jet aircraft designed to provide close air support to ground forces by attacking tanks, armoured vehicles, and other ground targets. Part 1 is here https://coldwarconversations.com/episode305/
In 1985 Joe is sent to 92nd Tactical Fighter Squadron at RAF Bentwaters in the UK, just over 50 miles from where his father served in World War 2.
His role was to...
Joe’s father served in World War 2 in the USAF. His service inspired Joe to try and join the USAF or the Naval Air Force despite having no flying experience.
It’s the aftermath of the Vietnam War so forces are being reduced, however with the arrival of a new President, Ronald Reagan, defence spending grows and provides Joe with an opportunity to start pilot training with the USAF.
He eventually ends up flying the A10. The A-10 was first in service in 1976 and was designed to provide close air...
Tom lived in western Poland in an area that had been part of Germany until the end of World War 2. He describes how his grandmother settled in this area and the strangeness of taking over formerly German houses and apartments.
Tom’s grandfather on his mother’s side was a Communist activist who worked for the Polish security services which created some tension as Tom’s father dodged the draft into the Polish Army.
Tom describes his childhood in some detail, highlighting the contrasts of life...
On 1 July 1960, a United States RB-47H reconnaissance plane was shot down by the Soviet Air Defence Forces while performing signals intelligence in the Barents Sea, near the Kola Peninsula, off the Arctic coast of the Soviet Union. Four of the six crew members died. The shootdown occurred exactly two months after the far better-known U-2 shootdown involving Francis Gary Powers and added to the tensions created by that incident. Gary Power and the U2 incident...
Honecker emerged as an ambitious political player and became the shadowy mastermind behind the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, a crucial moment in twentieth-century history.
Author Nathan Morley brings to life the story of the longtime leader of the German Democratic Republic. Drawing from a wealth of untapped archival sources – and firsthand interviews with Honecker’s lawyers, journalists, and contemporary witnesses – Morley paints a vivid portrait of how an uneducated miner’s son...
Tom Sullivan was a tank platoon commander in Korea in the early 1980s responsible for six tanks and their crew
We hear why he joined the US Army, his training, and his first impressions of Korea in the Winter of 1982.
He is assigned to Second Platoon, C Company, 1-72 Armor under the toughest Company Commander in the Brigade who had very high standards, no humour, and was a rigid disciplinarian with an uncompromising approach.
Tom shares details of his fellow soldiers, including Vietnam...
In February 1983 US soldier Manuel Alzager was sent to a mysterious posting to the British Zone in the north of West Germany a long way from the main US forces in southern Germany.
After a lengthy journey, he is picked up by a West German private and eventually arrives at the 81st USAFAD (US Army Field Artillery Detachment), where his mission is to guard, assemble, and deliver low-yield nuclear artillery rounds to the 7th West German Army Artillery Regiment.
He describes how the rounds were...
Now have you ever heard of Dickey Chapelle? No, I hadn’t either, but I’m delighted to bring you the unknown story of this trailblazing female war correspondent.
Dickey’s career started in World War 2 where she reported from some of the Pacific wars’ toughest battlefields of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
During the Cold War, she reported from Hungary during the 1956 Uprising and was held in the infamous Fő Prison and interrogated by the Hungarian security forces.
Dickey went on to report from the...
I speak with author Ethan Scheiner whose book “Freedom to Win” describes the gripping story of a group of small-town young men who would lead their underdog hockey team from Czechoslovakia against the Soviet Union, the juggernaut in their sport.
In 1968 Czechoslovakia is experiencing the Prague Spring, an attempt to moderate and soften communism. However, a sudden invasion by 500,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers halts the reforms.
We hear the inspiring story of how the young players of the national...
The BBC Wartime Broadcasting Service (WTBS) is a little-known piece of Cold War history that would have been for many the last human voice they heard after a nuclear attack on the UK.
Iain started work for the BBC in 1988 and due to the pressure on training space, was trained in the nuclear bunker at BBC Wood Norton.
After training he went to Broadcasting House in London where he first encountered some of the technical infrastructure the WTBS would use. Iain did a spell in the main control...
Jonny Whitlam has been a Berlin tour guide since 2010, and since then he’s been showing travellers from across the world the fascinating history of Berlin.
We met via social media after I noticed his great videos describing well-known and lesser know 20th-century historical locations in Berlin.
We discussed doing an episode to help you see Cold War Berlin sites without needing a tour guide and this episode is the result. However, if you would like a personal tour check out Jonny’s tours on...
South Africa in the 1980s is a brutal, racist Apartheid regime. Those who oppose it risk their lives. Apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa from 1948 to the early 1990s
Sue Dobson is moving easily through the echelons of the racist government in her work as a journalist, whilst concealing her espionage and military training in the Soviet Union, and her intelligence work for the banned African National Congress. She interviewed Apartheid...
South Africa in the 1980s is a brutal, racist regime. Those who oppose it risk their lives.
Sue Dobson, was a young white South African woman who was also a spy for the banned African National Congress. The ANC was a liberation movement known for its opposition to apartheid
In the 1980s she built a legend, a fake persona where she pretends to conform, moving easily through the echelons of the racist government in her work as a journalist, whilst concealing her espionage and military training...
In November of 1982, at the height of the Cold War, Samantha Smith, a 10-year-old girl from Manchester, Maine, wrote to the Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and asked him if he was going to wage a nuclear war against the U.S.
When an unprecedented response from Andropov arrived, and Samantha received an invitation to visit the USSR, she and her family embarked on a journey that brought the two warring nations closer together.
We speak with author Lena Nelson who was born in the Soviet Union and...
Communist Poland had universal conscription and the armed forces were huge by contemporary standards. The Polish People’s Army, Navy, and Airforce had just over 400,000 troops for most of the 1980s in a country of 36 million.
Tom was a conscript in Polish People's Army from 1987-89. He served as a radio operator in Legnica for the rocket artillery.
His service was at an interesting time when the communist dominance ended as Poland began to embrace democracy in its first free elections before...
It’s 1966 in Berlin and the city has now been divided for 5 years by an almost impenetrable wall erected by the communist German Democratic Republic.
Together with his friends, West German student Volker Heinz joins a group looking for ways to help would-be fugitives escape from East to West.
Their search ends at Checkpoint Charlie, the most heavily secured border crossing of the Berlin Wall. By hiding the fugitives in the trunk of a diplomat's car, Volker Heinz helps East German citizens...
Colonel Terry Chester’s flying career spanned some 42 years, and 10,000 flying hours. He joined the RCAF in Sept 1964 and in 1968 was awarded Navigator Wings.
Terry flew for 3,000 hrs on the Argus Maritime patrol aircraft where he spent a good portion of his RCAF career hunting for Soviet Submarines in both the Pacific and Atlantic areas of operation.
He was instrumental in the design criteria for sub-hunting capability when Canada procured the new Aurora, for anti-submarine hunting in the...
The second part of Svetlana’s story starts shortly after her arrival in West Germany with her husband Oleg who is the Chief Editor of the Russian Service of Radio Liberty a CIA-financed station beaming Western propaganda into the Soviet Union. Listen to the previous episode here https://coldwarconversations.com/episode288/
To Svetlana’s horror, Oleg reveals that he has been working for the KGB for 14 years. Svetlana is now trapped. She is in a quandary. Should she betray the man she loves and...
Svetlana came from a dissident Jewish family opposed to Soviet rule in Latvia. Her parents survived World War 2, but during the Stalin era two members of her family were held in the Gulags. The family never resigned themselves to Latvia's occupation by the Soviet Union in 1940.
It was almost impossible to legally leave the Soviet Union, however, in 1971 the first opportunities for "Jewish" emigration appeared, and Svetlana, then aged 12 and her family left legally.
At the age of 16, she is...
We continue Steffen’s story where he tells of serving in three armies – firstly, the NVA, secondly the East German Army between the first free elections and unification, and finally the unified Bundeswehr.
We start the episode in the Autumn of 1989 where demonstrations are growing against the government in nearby Leipzig and Steffen’s unit is on high alert and confined to barracks. It is clear East Germany is on the cusp of change however, what will be the impact on Steffen and his...