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IPFS News Link • American History

Thirty Years on, I Miss the 'Evil Empire'

• By Scott Ritter

I was a child of the Cold War. The year that I was born, 1961, saw the Berlin Wall go up. When I was almost a year and a half old, the Cuban Missile Crisis had my parents wondering if there would be a tomorrow (we lived in central Florida at the time.) My father was an Air Force officer. In 1964, he was deployed to Turkey, where he maintained F-100 Suer Sabre fighter bombers standing strip alert outside Izmir, armed with nuclear weapons.

In 1965-66, he was sent to Vietnam to fight the communists. In 1969, he was sent to South Korea to be prepared to do the same. In 1975, he took our family to Turkey, where I was surrounded by the reality of the Cold War–secret US listening posts in Sinop that spied on Soviet communications, a secret seismic station that monitored Soviet nuclear tests, and secret bunkers armed with nuclear weapons that would be loaded onto Turkish fighters in case of a war with the Soviet Union.

In 1977, we moved to West Germany, where the Soviet threat was a daily reality. US tanks and armored vehicles crowded the German highways and carved tracks into German fields as they prepared to take on a Soviet Army that was massed, literally, right across the border. My home, nestled in a picturesque German village, was a stone's throw away from a US nuclear weapons storage facility, which meant that if the balloon did go up, we would most likely go up with it. I traveled to occupied Berlin three times, by road, rail, and plane. Each time put me, temporarily at least, at the mercy of the Soviet soldiers surrounding Berlin.

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