I’m not a Cold War baby. I wasn’t born in the 1950′s. I didn’t live through the Cuban Missile Crisis and I didn’t ever do duck and cover drills in school…
I came of age when Reagan was elected President and lived through the last decade of the Cold War.
I was 7 when Reagan was elected and living in Southern California. The election was memorable to me because of how excited my parents were that he won.
This was my first exposure to politics and I have been fascinated ever since.
From that day on, I began to follow politics and more importantly, world events. Granted, this was before we had cable or CNN or the internet, but I would watch the news and I had a friend who lived down the street that seemed to know more than a 8 year old kid should know.
He was a peculiar kid. But I guess that’s what happens when your mom is Dutch and your dad is Cuban. His dad was always mysterious and looking back, I’m not totally convinced he wasn’t a spy.
In his room was a giant map that took up one entire wall. This was back in the day when the Soviet Union was the giant red country on the right side of the map. One day we were playing and he mentioned that we were working on making peace with our enemy. I asked him who our enemy was and he pointed to the giant red country on the map. I was stunned, that country was HUGE! We were going to make peace with that country?
That was the 1st time I remember hearing the words the Soviet Union.
I grew up and would ask dad about politics and watch the news when I could, but things really clicked when I saw Top Gun.
Don’t laugh. That movie had a very profound affect on my life.
I was 13 and was totally impressed with the movie. It was after that movie when I began building airplane models and decorating the walls of my room with pictures of fighter planes. And, as everyone else who saw that movie, dreaming about being a fighter pilot…
I dove in head first and read all I could about our military, our weapons and our tactics. It helped that my buddies were also affected by Top Gun and they did the same thing. We would talk about various planes and their capabilities. How many ships the Navy had and most importantly, how many carriers did we have.
Since this was the Cold War, I also learned all about the Soviet planes and how they rated against our planes. I knew all the Mig numbers and the NATO call signs for ours and the Soviet planes. I was a real Cold War geek.
Around this same time, my dad gave me The Hunt for Red October to read and the hook was set even deeper. Now my knowledge base expanded to submarines and sonar technology. This was followed up with me reading Red Storm Rising.
Also around this same time, I stumbled on a book that really put it all together: How to Make War by Jim Dunnigan.
This is when I got into land warfare. I learned all about our M1 tank and its predecessors and how we would fight a war in Europe. This included the good old Fulda Gap and assorted plans. I learned about the Soviet equipment: BMP’s, T-64′s and T-72′s. The book also covered tactics and I learned about the Soviet B and C formations and how they would or would not be effective. It was a great book and I read it numerous times.
In the late 1980′s we got cable for the first time and I would watch CNN all the time. This deepened my understanding of the world. (Don’t laugh…it’s all we had back then and was better than what we had before)
By the time I was in high school, I was a walking encyclopedia of Cold War weapons and tactics.
Then the Soviet Union disintegrated.
I remember watching the Berlin Wall come down on CNN and then came Yeltsin standing on a tank and before I knew it, the Soviet Union was no more.
It was a bizarre turn of events. On one hand, I was watching history be made, but on the other, I watched as all my years of study went up in smoke.
The 1990′s were when I was in college and the US military struggled to find its way in a post Soviet world. This was a military that was designed to meet the Soviets on the battlefield and to prevail, but now there was no one set enemy.
Since that time, I have stopped learning about new military tactics and weapon systems. Partly because I grew up and got a job and family, but also because the thing I had studied for simply didn’t exist any more.
This was driven home the other day on Twitter. Someone posted a picture of a fighter plane flying over Venezuela and called out that it was a Mig29. I looked it up and realized it couldn’t be that, I guessed Su-33 or Su-27…both were wrong. It turned out to be an Su-30. Back in the day I would never have made that mistake. Now…well now I just don’t know my military hardware as well.
Back then it was good old Fishbeds, Floggers and Foxbats. Good old Migs. Not to mention Badgers and Bears and the threat of losing a flattop. Now we live in a world of drones and stealth planes.