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A Cold War Odyssey

A Cold War Odyssey

Donald E. Nuechterlein
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    A Cold War Odyssey
    Book Description:

    The Cold War -- that long ideological conflict between the world's two superpowers -- had a profound effect not only on nations but on individuals, especially all those involved in setting and implementing the policies that shaped the struggle. Donald Nuechterlein was one such individual and this is his story.

    Although based in fact, the narrative reads like fiction, and it takes the reader behind the scenes as no purely factual telling of that complex story can. Presented as the story of David and Helen Bruening and their family,A Cold War Odysseycarries us across three continents. Against a backdrop of national and international events, we follow the Bruenings through five decades as David's governmental and academic assignments take them to all corners of the world.

    In the tradition of Herman Wouk'sWinds of War, the Bruenings' personal and professional odyssey offers us a microcosm of world history in the second half of the twentieth century. Through the acute eyes of these participant observers, we see the partitioning of Europe after World War II, Korea and Vietnam, Watergate and Iran, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union and, with it, the end of the Cold War. With each succeeding episode, our understanding of the causes and consequences of international struggle is deepened through the Bruenings' experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5891-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Prologue
    (pp. ix-x)

    In the spring of 1940 Nazi Germany’s military machine was on the move in Europe. By early June, Hitler’s armies had overrun Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and France was on the verge of capitulation. An outflanked British force waited anxiously at the channel port of Dunkirk for evacuation to England. Germany’s conquest of Western Europe seemed imminent, and the world was stunned.

    On June 10, 1940, Franklin Roosevelt journeyed by train to Charlottesville, Virginia, and, in a graduation address at the University of Virginia, warned Americans that isolationism would be folly in the face of Nazi Germany’s...

  4. 1 Postwar Germany Berlin and Nurnberg
    (pp. 1-24)

    When he viewed Berlin for the first time in June 1946, Ensign David Bruening could not see a roof on any building for a mile around Tempelhof Airport. As the DC-3 descended for the landing, he realized that the destruction of Germany’s capital caused by Allied bombing and Russian artillery was truly awesome.

    Rubble stood so high in the streets around the airport that the young officer could barely see the pavement. In a strange way, the scene reminded him of a morning after a snowstorm in Michigan when the plows had piled snow on both sides of the roads....

  5. 2 Postwar America Saginaw and Ann Arbor
    (pp. 25-45)

    Saginaw, Michigan, lies ten miles inland from Lake Huron on the state’s eastern side and about ninety miles north of Detroit. In the early nineteenth century Saginaw Valley became one of Michigan’s most productive agricultural regions. The immigrants it attracted included four Bruening brothers, who left Bavaria in the late 1840s and moved to the village of Frankenmuth, where David’s father was born at the end of the century.

    From the 1880s until about 1900, Saginaw was at the center of Michigan’s booming lumber industry from which a few families made large fortunes. In the 1920s the city became known...

  6. 3 The Korean War and the Cold War A View from Washington
    (pp. 46-65)

    The mood on campus at the University of Michigan in early September 1950 was one of apprehension. The Korean War caused many males, especially World War II veterans who had joined the reserves, to worry about how the conflict would affect them. Some pilots, doctors, and other specialists had been called back to service. Draft calls increased. The war had caused inflation in many products, especially in building materials. By the time classes began at the end of the month, however, the news from Korea sounded more favorable than it had for three months.

    General Douglas MacArthur, the U.S. supreme...

  7. 4 Iceland and NATO A View from Reykjavik
    (pp. 66-86)

    American GIs who served in Iceland during World War II called Keflavik airport the coldest, windiest, and most desolate place on the face of the earth. So it seemed to the Bruening family when their plane landed at about 5:00 A.M. in late November 1954. As they descended the DC-7’ s long stairway at the parking ramp, rain and a howling wind nearly knocked Helen, who was carrying Jodie, to the ground. David put Jenny down, picked up Jodie, and let Helen and Carl Jensen, David’s new boss, hold Jenny’s arms as they walked slowly toward the terminal. Once inside,...

  8. 5 Thailand and SEATO A View from Bangkok
    (pp. 87-110)

    By the spring of 1960, the detente relationship that President Eisenhower and Soviet Chairman Khrushchev had inaugurated at their first summit meeting in Geneva in 1955 had lasted for five years in spite of the Soviet military intervention in Hungary in 1956. Eisenhower had invited the Soviet leader to tour the United States in 1959, and Vice President Nixon had visited the Moscow Trade Fair in an effort to improve the political atmosphere so that negotiations on arms control and the division of Germany might proceed.

    This period of hope for improving East-West relations came to a stunning halt at...

  9. 6 War in Vietnam A View from the Pentagon
    (pp. 111-133)

    The family left California in July 1964 and returned to Washington where, on one typically hot summer day, David had lunch with Bill Beatty, a USIA policy officer. They discussed David's next assignment and Beatty asked whether he might like to spend a year or two at the Pentagon.

    “Sounds interesting, what’s the assignment?” David responded.

    “The agency is sending three people in your grade to help the Military Services teach democracy to foreign officers who are being trained in the States. It’s Bobby Kennedy’s idea. He thinks they ought to get an appreciation of American democracy while they’re here.”...

  10. 7 Withdrawal from Vietnam The Political Fallout
    (pp. 134-153)

    Less than a week after David returned from Singapore, he felt as if the roof had caved in at the Pentagon. The Tet offensive, which North Vietnam and its Vietcong allies launched on the Chinese New Year, affected more than a hundred cities and towns in South Vietnam and shattered Washington’s complacency about the progress of the war. A car bombing of the fortresslike American embassy in downtown Saigon was particularly shocking to U.S. officials in Vietnam and in Washington.

    Fighting continued in Saigon for more than two weeks before the Communist forces were driven from the city. Desperate battles...

  11. 8 Watergate Scandal The Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy
    (pp. 154-166)

    In November 1973 David had a call from Stan Carver, a friend at the National Security Council, inviting him on a trip with Carver to Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia in December. The purpose, he said, was to “pass the word to local officials and media that the Nixon administration intends to honor its commitments in Southeast Asia.”

    “That’s a tall order, isn’t it?” David responded, thinking of the anti-Vietnam sentiment then prevalent in the United States. “What’s involved, and how long would we be away?”

    “Between two and three weeks,” Stan said. “But we’ll be home before Christmas.”


  12. 9 Iran Hostage Crisis The Changing Mood in America
    (pp. 167-194)

    President Gerald Ford set a fine example of steadiness during the bicentennial year of 1976 and won plaudits from the media for his leadership during the Independence Day celebrations. Yet the public did not choose him as president in the general elections held that November. Because of Vietnam and Watergate, the United States remained a deeply divided country.

    Jimmy Carter, a former governor of Georgia and the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, won a close election and took office in January 1977. He had campaigned as a Washington outsider and had pledged, if elected, to “clean up the mess in Washington.”...

  13. 10 Cracks in the Kremlin Wall A Leadership Transition
    (pp. 195-214)

    The year 1984 was a crucial one in United States-Soviet relations. It marked another transition period in the Kremlin’s top leadership, and it was the year in which Ronald Reagan campaigned for a second term in the White House. In Moscow, a second leadership transition in three years was occurring because Yuri Andropov, who had succeeded Leonid Brezhnev as president and leader of the Communist Party in 1981, had died and was replaced by Antonin Chernenko, another aging Politburo member. Most Russia watchers agreed that Chernenko’s appointment was a temporary one until the Soviet leadership could agree on a leader...

  14. 11 Fall of the Berlin Wall The Impact in Eastern Europe
    (pp. 215-231)

    A special opportunity presented itself in the spring of 1988 when David was invited to attend a Wilton-Park conference on East-West relations at a resort area in southern Finland, about an hour from Helsinki. He had attended several earlier week-long sessions at Wilton-Park headquarters in Great Britain, the first one in 1976 at the suggestion of his friend Alton Fraser, who taught at the University of Virginia. David came away from that experience impressed by the number and quality of European participants who had been brought together to discuss important international problems.

    The conference in Finland was the first one...

  15. 12 Two Political Earthquakes German Reunification and Soviet Dissolution
    (pp. 232-250)

    Events in Germany and in Europe had moved so fast after the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 that other European governments and the United States were forced to decide very quickly how they would manage the process of uniting the two parts of Germany. David had believed that reunification was just a matter of time after the Berlin Wall came down, but he never anticipated that it would happen so rapidly.

    In December 1989 Chancellor Kohl’s government in Bonn startled its British, French, and American allies, as well as the Soviet Union, by setting forth specific terms for reunification....

  16. Epilogue, 1995
    (pp. 251-265)

    The spring of 1995 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the collapse of Nazi Germany and its occupation by Soviet, American, British, and French troops. For David and Helen, it was an important time to return to Germany and assess half a century of American foreign policy. Fortunately, David had been invited back to the University of Kaiserslautern to teach that spring.

    Before leaving, however, he needed to spend a few days with his father in Michigan. Herbert had said after David and Helen returned from Europe in 1994 that he hoped they would not be gone so long again, that...

  17. Index
    (pp. 266-276)