The Cold War Years had a big impact on many of us Military Brats in the 1950s to late 1980s
I suppose the experience depended on where you lived. I lived during those years at Keesler Air Force Base four different times, India, England twice, and the Azores.
Now that it has
been de-classified, it is okay to say that what we were doing in India
was spying on the Chinese and Russians—that was in the early
fifties. Since I was a child, I had no idea at the time. My dad
never talked about his job at home.
The first time in England, as a child, the Cold War was well under way.
I knew we were there to protect Europe from a Russian invasian, but other than that there was no evidence of it. I have heard other people talk about when they were kids having drills to practice in case of nuclear war—getting under their school desks.
I always thought that was really silly—what protection would a desk be in the event of an atomic explosion? The answer is obvious.
Keesler Air Force Base
One of my most prominent memories of the cold war is from the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was going to Biloxi High School at the time, just outside Keesler Air Force Base. There was a rail road track near the school that we could see from our US History classroom on the 2nd floor during the Cuban Missile Crisis, train after train went by with military vehicles, tanks, etc, going to Florida in case we had to invade Cuba.
It was quite scary. I had no idea at the time how close we actually came to Armageddon over that. I didn’t find out until my son was working on his Ph.d in history, and he told me we came much closer that most people knew.
It was interesting living in the Azores during the Cold War. The Navy had P-3 Orions there that looked for Russian submarines. One time a Russian submarine surfaced right off the coast and we sent a helicopter out to pick up a Russian sailor who had acute Appendicitis.
We evacuated him to our hospital and did surgery on him. I got to see the sub through the telescope we kept by the window for watching whales. The Cold War was going strong at that time, so I found it interesting that they would contact us and we would oblige—but it happened.
We had a lot of interesting aircraft from NATO countries landing on our base. It was quite an exciting time.
Life in England
Living in England in the mid to late 1980s for four years was the most interesting of Cold War times for me. After a year, we moved on base.
Base quarters had intercom systems in them connected to base headquarters. When the men would go on alert, they would come over the intercom at all hours of the night or day and tell the men to put on their chemical gear and get to their duty stations.
This was at RAF Bentwaters, the largest fighter wing in the world at the time. A whole wing of A-10 warthog tank killers—a beautiful aircraft to be sure. Several times a year the entire wing would surge and fly to our four forward bases in Germany.
It was a magnificent sight to watch the whole wing take off, plane after plane—you had the feeling you were part of something grand, even though you were just watching,
Summer Jobs on Base
My two sons had summer jobs on the base. One of them painted the A-10s, and the other one worked with a detachment of good old boys from Kentucky whose sole job it was to create bunkers around the airfield in case of an attack by Russia.
One day, right in the middle of the alert, my Jack Russell Terrier became very ill. We were not allowed to leave the base during the alert, but authorized people could enter. I needed desperately to see my veterinarian.
He lived 18 miles away in Felixstowe. I called him and told him my dilemma. He said, “Will they let me on the base if I come?” I said, “Yes, I will see to it that you can get on base.” I called the gate guard and told him to please let my vet in—and he did.
While we were there, we bombed Libya, after they killed some of our troops in Germany with bombings. The aircraft used were based in England, and Libya said it would retaliate by attacking American bases in England.
We went on high alert. Any car entering the base was examined thoroughly with mirrors to check underneath, and a thorough search. It was a sad time for me, because the fighter that was shot down over Libya was piloted by a friend of mine, and he was, of course, killed.
I did not know it at the time, because my husband was not at liberty to talk about it, but we had nukes there.
I knew at the time we had them at Greenham Common, because they were always having exercises, but did not know they had them at our base. After my first husband died, I was going through his paper work and saw that not only did he have a top secret clearance, but also a Cosmic/Atomal clearance.
I asked a military friend about that, and he said there were nukes there. That information is no longer classified, because the base was closed down after the Berlin Wall came down, along with most of the bases in England.
I miss those days, but I am glad the Cold War is over. I preferred that to what we have now—the War on Terror.