Episodes
I talk with the writers and editors of Terrorism in the Cold War a new two volume book that uses a wide range of case studies including Polish Military Intelligence and Its Secret Relationship with the Abu Nidal Organization and Gladio – Myth and Reality: The Origins and Function of Stay Behind in the Case of Post-war Austria.  The book sheds new light on the relations between state and terrorist actors, allowing for a fresh and much more insightful assessment of the contacts, dealings,...
Published 10/22/21
Emanuela Grama was born in the mid-1970s’ in a small provincial town in Eastern Romania. She provides us with a great insight into life in the Romanian provinces during the 1980s.  Emanuela lived in a small two-bedroom flat and tells of her parents working in a factory while her grandparents looked after her. Her father listened secretly to Radio Free Europe and collected stamps so he could legitimately write to people in the West. Her parents told her not to talk at school about what was...
Published 10/15/21
Pete Curran served with BRIXMIS, the British Military Liaison Mission in East Germany. Their operation was established by a post-WWII Allied occupation forces' agreement, where British, US and French missions had relative freedom to travel and collect intelligence throughout East Germany from 1947 until 1990.   Pete’s story starts with details of his vetting interview, driver training, and his first tour in East Germany. We also hear of the intelligence scoops he was involved in and some of...
Published 10/08/21
Frank Olson was an American bacteriologist, biological warfare scientist, and employee of the United States Army Biological Warfare Laboratories. In 1953 at a meeting in rural Maryland, he was covertly dosed with LSD by his boss Sidney Gottlieb, who was the head of the CIA's MKUltra mind control program. Nine days later, Olson plunged to his death from the window of the Hotel Statler. The U.S. government first described his death as a suicide, and then as misadventure, while others allege...
Published 10/01/21
Squadron Leader John Robinson AFC (ret’d) was an RAF pilot who was tasked to fly into the mushroom clouds of nuclear bomb tests to capture samples at Operation Buffalo at Maralinga in 1956, and Operation Grapple, at Christmas Island in 1957.  He tells of his recruitment into RAF, initial training and his cloud sampling missions as well his experiences of watching the tests from as little as five miles way.  It is reckoned that over 22,000 British servicemen participated in the British and...
Published 09/24/21
We hear of Joanna's heartbreak when her visa is refused, preventing her from marrying Yuri.  However, using an ingenious method she manages an emotional reunion and eventual marriage as the Soviet Union begins to dissolve. Details of the book giveaway are here  https://coldwarconversations.com/episode200/ Part one is here and part 2 here  Joanna’s book, Red Wave written with her singer/songwriter daughter, Madison, includes Stingray’s extensive collection of photographs, artworks, and...
Published 09/17/21
Joanna Stingray was only 23 years old when she first set foot in the USSR and started meeting now-legendary musicians and artists of the Soviet underground. By 1985, she was writing and recording with them, and smuggling their music to the West in order to produce the groundbreaking album Red Wave: 4 Underground Bands from the USSR.  In part 2 we hear of her questioning by the KGB and the FBI, falling in love with Yuri and how she smuggled the bands' music out of the Soviet Union to produce...
Published 09/14/21
Joanna Stingray was only 23 years old when she first set foot in the USSR and started meeting now-legendary musicians and artists of the Soviet underground. By 1985, she was writing and recording with them, and smuggling their music to the West in order to produce the groundbreaking album Red Wave: 4 Underground Bands from the USSR.  This is her testimony of youthful fortitude and rebellion, her love story, and proof of the power of music and youth culture over stagnancy and...
Published 09/10/21
Over the past, nearly two decades, the Stuck in the 80s podcast has emerged as the go-to for all aspects of 1980s nostalgia from a North American point of view. And, much like Cold War Conversations, Stuck in the 80s is an award-winning podcast. Recognizing that decade’s popular culture was heavily influenced by the Cold War, co-host Peter Ryan organized a discussion with its curators, Steve Spears and Brad Williams. Key topics that are covered include some of the most important songs, films,...
Published 09/07/21
I speak with Aden Magee who operated as the commander of a highly specialized Counterintelligence (CI) unit in West Germany during the last decade of the Cold War. We talk about his book The Cold War Wilderness of Mirrors - Counterintelligence and the U.S. and Soviet Military Liaison Missions 1947–1990. This is a rare book that details some never-before documented accounts of the Soviet Military Liaison Mission (SMLM) in West Germany and the U.S. Military Liaison Mission (USMLM) in East...
Published 09/03/21
Ron Knight served in the Royal Marines on HMS Belfast during the Korean War of 1950-53. He was a gunner and describes the shore bombardments and how his gun was used in anti-aircraft defence. We also hear Ron describe life aboard the Belfast during this period Ron also served with the Royal Marine Commando during the Malayan Emergency which was a guerrilla war fought in the Federation of Malaya between Communist pro-independence fighters against the armed forces of the British Empire and...
Published 08/27/21
Igor Gouzenko exposed Soviet intelligence's efforts to steal nuclear secrets as well as the technique of planting sleeper agents. The "Gouzenko Affair" is often credited as a triggering event of the Cold War,  with historian Jack Granatstein stating it was "the beginning of the Cold War for public opinion" and journalist Robert Fulford writing he was "absolutely certain the Cold War began in Ottawa". I talk with Andrew Kavchak the author of Remembering Gouzenko: The Struggle to Honour a Cold...
Published 08/20/21
Rick Shreve was a USAF F111 pilot based at RAF Lakenheath in the UK. We hear about his early USAF career as a fighter pilot, then we move onto his transfer to the F111 and how he was trained to carry out nuclear as well as conventional missions against the Warsaw Pact forces in Europe. He describes his low-level training missions to attack targets in the Soviet Union and East Germany and recalls a near-fatal incident amongst the Scottish lochs. Rick was also part of one of the crews that flew...
Published 08/13/21
This week it's the 60th anniversary of the flight of Gherman Titov on Vostok 2. The forgotten 2nd cosmonaut overshadowed by the exploits of his friend Yuri Gagarin. Titov’s 25.3 hours and 17 orbits flight was much more ambitious than Gagarin’s and more dangerous. It was also a very political flight, intending to distract the world from the building of the Berlin Wall a number of days later.  However, there’s more to Titov than his flight, he was different character to most of the Soviet...
Published 08/10/21
Evan Gilvray has written a number of books on Poland as well as biographies. He is well versed in Poland and Polish society and away from the usual locations of Krakow and Warsaw. Evan first visited Poland in 1986, 5 years after the declaration of martial law which triggered the suppression of the free trade union Solidarity in December 1981. He visited some friends he had made via correspondence, who lived in the city of Łódź. He provides us with a great insight away from the intelligentsia...
Published 08/06/21
On November 18, 1965, U.S. Navy pilot Willie Sharp ejected from his F-8 fighter after being hit while positioned over a target in North Vietnam. With a cloud layer beneath him, he did not know if he was over land-where he would most certainly be captured or killed by the North Vietnamese or over the Gulf of Tonkin. As he ejected, both navy and air force aircraft were already heading toward him to help.  Thanks to Dennis DeFreitas and his Youtube video of Willie’s shootdown available here...
Published 07/30/21
The French Forces in Berlin were the units of the French Armed Forces stationed from 1945 until the end of the Cold War-era in West Berlin according to the agreements of the Yalta Conference and Potsdam Conference.  The troops were the French counterparts to the United States' Berlin Brigade and the United Kingdom's Berlin Infantry Brigade in the city.  Philippe was stationed in Berlin from 1972 to 1973 with the French army for his military service. He did not volunteer and was not too happy...
Published 07/23/21
We continue Drea Hahn’s story with her family’s escape to Austria and the realities of being a refugee.   In 1986, under the pretext of a “ski trip” to Yugoslavia Drea’s family escaped to Austria. We hear about the sadness of being unable to tell anyone they were leaving and how her relatives were summoned to the police station to be detained for questioning. They didn’t communicate with anyone at “home” until 1989 or 1990 because it was too dangerous. Once, in Austria, there was no certainty...
Published 07/16/21
Drea Hahn was born in Czechoslovakia in 1980 in Teplice. Her mother was a secretary and her father was an engineer but refused to join the communist party and this was a source of tension in Drea’s family.  She was partly raised by her grandparents and her grandmother shared stories about growing up in “the Protectorate”, the name given to the area of Czechoslovakia occupied by the Germans in World War 2.  Drea tells of a typical Czech childhood – her school friends,  fond memories of school...
Published 07/09/21
Ben Brown is the writer of A Splinter of Ice, a play that portrays the meeting in Moscow in 1987 of one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century, Graham Greene and his old MI6 boss, Kim Philby, one of Britain's most notorious spies... and a traitor.  Graham Greene never divulged any details of the meeting and Ben’s play imagines what might have been. We discuss the play, as well as how Philby and Greene’s lives intertwined.  It’s a story of two men catching up on old times, but with...
Published 07/06/21
We return to the 2nd part of Tom Favia’s story with the US Military Liaison Mission which the Soviet Union permitted to operate in East Germany, ostensibly for monitoring and furthering better relationships between the Soviet and Western occupation forces. The British & French also had missions as did the Soviets in West Germany.   As you would expect there are some incredible incidents that Tom shares with us including one with a drunk Soviet Major who tries to defect. Tom was with USMLM...
Published 07/02/21
Ethel Rosenberg is a controversial figure and generates polarising views varying from an innocent mother caught up in Cold War hysteria to a willing and ruthless accomplice to her husband’s Cold War espionage betraying secrets to the Soviets. Anne Sebba’s new book “Ethel Rosenberg – A Cold War tragedy” (“An American tragedy” in the US) provides a more nuanced view of Ethel that is not just about innocence and guilt but of a talented singer and mother of two children, betrayed by her family...
Published 06/25/21
Tom Favia served with the USMLM, The US Military Liaison Mission which the Soviet Union permitted to operate in East Germany at the end of World War 2 for the purposes of monitoring and furthering better relationships between the Soviet and Western occupation forces. The British & French also had missions in East Germany and the Soviets has theirs in West Germany.   Tom tells the amazing story of his recruitment from being an art student to being deployed “behind enemy lines” in East...
Published 06/18/21
This is the third and final part of Ralph Hänel’s story of his life in East Germany. In this episode, we hear his time in the Stasi prison in Cottbus which with its dark red brick façade was often referred to as the ‘Red Misery’. It’s a chilling insight into Stasi prison conditions and the brutality that the political prisoners endured from the other inmates and the guards. We also hear about Ralph’s eventual release and of some strange experiences he has in reunited Germany Again I am...
Published 06/11/21
In this second part of Ralph Hänel’s story of his life in East Germany. We hear of Ralph’s arrest by the Stasi and subsequent interrogation for 10 months.   Ralph describes in some detail the arrest and his early days of imprisonment. He also details the techniques used to try and make him break and the pressure the Stasi also put on his mother.   It’s an incredible insight into the workings of the Stasi from someone who was there and I am honoured that Ralph shared this story with us.  We...
Published 06/04/21