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Cold War Captives

Cold War Captives: Imprisonment, Escape, and Brainwashing

Susan L. Carruthers
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnsk7
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  • Book Info
    Cold War Captives
    Book Description:

    This provocative history of early cold war America recreates a time when World War III seemed imminent. Headlines were dominated by stories of Soviet slave laborers, brainwashed prisoners in Korea, and courageous escapees like Oksana Kasenkina who made a "leap for freedom" from the Soviet Consulate in New York. Full of fascinating and forgotten stories,Cold War Captivesexplores a central dimension of American culture and politics-the postwar preoccupation with captivity. "Menticide," the calculated destruction of individual autonomy, struck many Americans as a more immediate danger than nuclear annihilation. Drawing upon a rich array of declassified documents, movies, and reportage-from national security directives to films likeThe Manchurian Candidate-his book explores the ways in which east-west disputes over prisoners, repatriation, and defection shaped popular culture. Captivity became a way to understand everything from the anomie of suburban housewives to the "slave world" of drug addiction. Sixty years later, this era may seem distant. Yet, with interrogation techniques derived from America's communist enemies now being used in the "war on terror," the past remains powerfully present.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94479-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-ix)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. x-xi)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xii-xv)
  5. Introduction: Between Camps
    (pp. 1-22)

    When did the cold war begin? Was it in March 1946, when Winston Churchill asserted that an iron curtain had descended across Europe “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic”? Or twelve months later, when President Truman committed the United States to the defense of “free peoples” wherever they were menaced by “armed minorities or outside pressures”? Alternatively, if the first volley was fired from the Soviet side, the triggerman may have been Andrei Zhdanov, the Politburo member who proclaimed in September 1947 that the world was divided between “democratic” and “imperialist” camps—the latter, led by...

  6. 1 Upper East Side Story: Repatriation, Romance, and Cold War Mobilization
    (pp. 23-58)

    In August 1948 a ferocious heat wave claimed scores of lives and provoked a rash of unusual behavior across the United States. As a mass of tropical air drifted up the Mississippi Valley—“like a soldering iron being run slowly up a dowager’s spine”—chickens dropped dead and asphalt sidewalks turned to molten taffy. Indianapolis experienced a “plague of Peeping Toms,” while in Washington, D.C., Tom Collinses were the order of the day. Desperate to escape the heat, twenty thousand autoworkers in Detroit boycotted the assembly line, just as baseball fans nationwide stayed away from big league games. Louder, hotter,...

  7. 2 Bloc-Busters: The Politics and Pageantry of Escape from the East
    (pp. 59-97)

    “I is Russian pilot!” With this idiosyncratic salutation, Piotr Pirogov greeted U.S. authorities at Camp McCauley airstrip in October 1948, initiating an East-West encounter that captivated U.S. reporters. According toNewsweek,the disaffected twenty-eight-year-old lieutenant had “taken French leave of the Soviet air force.” With Captain Anatoly Barsov, he had borrowed a bomber and flown from Lwow to the most westerly point marked on their truncated map of Europe. Their objective? To reach Linz, in the U.S. zone of occupied Austria. Crash-landing somewhat short of the runway, the unannounced duo nevertheless met a genial reception, reporters claimed—even if the...

  8. 3 Stalin’s Slaves: The Rise of Gulag Consciousness
    (pp. 98-135)

    Six years after V-J Day, Dean Acheson and John Foster Dulles brokered a belated peace treaty with Japan in September 1951. When the signatories—watched by some forty million American television viewers—met in San Francisco’s Opera House to inscribe a “bulky parchment,” the event was hailed as a triumph of U.S. statesmanship. “Like no other diplomatic event since World War II, the signing exhibited the impressive unity of the anti-Communist world,” trumpetedLifemagazine.¹ That the Soviets had agreed to attend caused some surprise.² At the UN, walkouts, vetoes, intemperate invective, and fist pounding had become staples of international...

  9. 4 First Captive in a Hot War: The Case of Robert Vogeler
    (pp. 136-173)

    When the U.S. businessman Robert Vogeler delivered a fulsome confession of guilt to a Budapest court in February 1950, the scene struck many Americans as both wholly alien and eerily familiar. Exactly a year earlier József Cardinal Mindszenty had stood trial in the same grubby courtroom on similar charges of espionage and sabotage, with the same judge presiding.¹ According to the Hungarian regime, both Vogeler and Mindszenty had confessed in custody before voicing their contrition in public. The guilty verdicts they received surprised no one: life imprisonment for the “traitor” Mindszenty; fifteen years for the “spy” Vogeler. In the Kafkaesque...

  10. 5 Prisoners of Pavlov: Korean War Captivity and the Brainwashing Scare
    (pp. 174-216)

    For soldiers, war is all about getting home—or so civilians often say. It is an article of faith that men in uniform want nothing more than to return with all possible speed when hostilities end. This notion received a powerful boost when GIs stationed in occupied Europe and Japan staged massive demonstrations to demand immediate demobilization in early 1946. When the Korean War ended in July 1953, after months of fitful armistice talks, contemporary commentators imagined that soldiers would be similarly eager for home—none more so than the 4,400 men who had spent almost three years in communist-run...

  11. Epilogue: Returns and Repercussions
    (pp. 217-238)

    In August 1955, theWashington Postpublished a lengthy illustrated article, “A Turncoat Glories in the Trade He Made,” documenting the life of Lowell D. Skinner, one of twenty-one American prisoners who chose not to accept repatriation after the Korean War. Nearly two years later, Skinner was working in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, as an apprentice mechanic at a factory producing ultralight paper for cigarettes and typewriters. The twenty-four-year-old from Akron, Ohio, expressed “absolutely no regrets” about a choice that had mystified and enraged many Americans in 1953.¹

    The moral of this story was clear: that there was...

  12. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 239-240)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 241-306)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 307-322)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 323-335)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 336-336)