Life in the Cold

By Piper Bayard

Independence Day was not the end of our fight for freedom, but only the beginning. Most of the men who signed our Declaration of Independence lost their fortunes and their lives in the battle. It is a battle that has been fought by each generation since 1776, as freedom is a great responsibility that we must continually earn, and not something bought and paid for once in the past that we can now take for granted.

My generation is the Cold War generation. This Independence Day, I would honor those of the intelligence community who served quietly, often giving everything to protect us from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The following is an excerpt from “From Inside the Cold War,” written by my writing partner, “Jay Holmes,” who is a veteran of that conflict. A conflict which, in spite of the wishful thinking and historical ignorance of younger politicians, continues in a very real way to this day. In it, he gives us a window into his world and what it is like for him and his compatriots to walk through ours.

Anonymous Man Canstock

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From the end of World War II in 1945 until the fall of the Soviet government in Russia in 1991, Western nations faced off with the Soviet Union and its allies and captive satellite states in what became known as the “Cold War.” Basically, the Soviet Union, led by the ruthless Joseph Stalin, felt that it was its duty to spread communism throughout the world, while Western nations governed by democracies felt it was their responsibility to keep the entire world from falling under Soviet domination. . . .

Most Western citizens think of the Cold War as being without casualties, except during the proxy wars in Korea and Viet Nam. Few Westerners will even remember that the allied nations fought a war against Soviet-backed communists in Greece from 1946 -1949, or that the United Kingdom struggled with a communist guerrilla war in Malaysia until 1960. Beyond the publicly acknowledged battle fields in Korea, South East Asia, Lebanon, Grenada, and Panama, the United States thus far acknowledges 382 American servicemen killed in combat against communist forces between 1945 and 1991. This figure does not include the officially acknowledged civilian losses of the CIA and other civilian personnel, nor does it include the deaths of “denied” personnel working under “deep cover.”

I believe the figure of 382 to be wildly low and a long, smoldering debate is currently underway in DOD and CIA circles concerning casualty figures during the Cold War. It is unclear how they should be counted and how much information should be released. After a lifetime of living in a necessary state of denial, “old hands” have well-founded fears about releasing too much information. For one thing, releasing dates and locations of deaths will assist belligerent parties in identifying and killing those who assisted US efforts. Our word was given that our friends would never be exposed, and they never should be.

For nearly four decades, the deaths of American Cold War combatants were explained away as accidents and sudden acute illnesses. Wives and mothers buried their husbands and sons without ever knowing what happened. The battlefield deaths of most of America’s Cold War combatants will likely remain unrecognized for years to come in order to protect the living. Some day, if a future generation gets around to dealing with the information, it will likely seem too distant for anyone to pay much attention to it. This is a natural consequence of the type of battles fought.

If it seems sad, we should remember that it is far less sad than the alternatives would have been. Armageddon was avoided. Freedom was not lost. That matters, at least to me and to those who have gone before me. My brothers paid a price. I knew none who were unwilling to pay that price quietly. None can now regain their lives by being identified.

When we review espionage activities from the Cold War, it is easy to take an academic view. If the seriousness of some of the participants seems almost comical from our current perspective, they seemed far less humorous at the time that they occurred. The events seem distant now, and the causes may have been forgotten by many, and never understood by some. I point out the issue of casualties in an attempt to describe an important aspect of clandestine activities during the Cold War. The contestants on all sides played for keeps.

Between the bright lights of international diplomacy and the dark cloud of the threat of nuclear war, life in the shadows in between was a bit different. Some of us feel as though we have lived in a parallel world far away from this one. We walked through this world every day, careful not to leave too many footprints here on our way to somewhere else. That other world became our home. This world where we trust our neighbors and love our children, is the world that we desperately wanted to see remain intact. But in a sense, we will always be visitors here in this world that we hold so dear. For some of us, our home remains somewhere else, far away.

~ Jay Holmes

Two Worlds Canstock

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From our world to your world, Holmes, thank you.

18 comments on “Life in the Cold

  1. Patricia Sands says:

    It is our thanks that is owed to you, Jay, and all who quietly served in the manner you describe. Most of us in the ‘Western’ world take our freedom for granted and seldom stop to think about how it truly has been preserved. Voices such as yours are important to hear.

  2. K.B. Owen says:

    It’s hard enough for one to sacrifice oneself in the eye of public acknowledgment; it takes a special kind of person to make the quiet, anonymous sacrifice, to be in this world but not of it. I am grateful that we have such people. Thank you.

  3. I remember those times and yes, heartfelt thank you to all the Cold Warriors!

  4. Thank you for saying this, thank you for expressing a needed truth, and most of all thanks to you and all those who sacrificed their way of life and sometimes their actual lives, for all of us, our children, and children yet to come. And to those who think peace comes easily, or without men like these…wake up. Thank you. Mr. Holmes.

    • Jay Holmes says:

      Hi Justindaredavis. I’m embarrassed by all the “thanks”. I am not sure that I am owed any. Like many other people I have done what I have felt was right. Most people do the same when given the opportunity. Lots of people in this world have given a lot more than I have.

  5. tomwisk says:

    Thanks Holmes for a lesson a lot of cyberkids would not have known about. History as it is taught in schools is often a victim of political correctness or expediency.

    • Jay Holmes says:

      Hi Tomwisk. I’m sure that it varies in every school district but history is barely taught at all in most of the public schools that I have seen. Some private schools don’t teach much history either. History is seen as “too controversial” for children and adolescents (and their parents). Sadly, many modern university history departments present a very politicized view of many history topics.

      Young professors that wish to be professional and present objective views are often unwelcome in university history departments.

      • tomwisk says:

        It doesn’t change that facts are facts and we bend them to fit our needs. I was taught history. First in Catholic school and then retaught in public schools. As for college, it was a discussion group.

  6. Thank you for the heartfelt reminder that our freedom comes with a price.

    • Jay Holmes says:

      Hi Suzanne. I wake up every morning with the knowledge that I owe my freedom and my life to some very good people that paid the ultimate price for freedom.

  7. Wow! Fascinating and eye opening. Thanks for sharing and thanks to Holmes for all of his sacrifice!

    • Jay Holmes says:

      Hi Brickhousechick. I’m still here so clearly my “sacrifice” was minimal compared to what many others gave. but thank you.

  8. Great post – and a timely reminder that the Cold War was a real war, even if the theatre wasn’t the one Clausewitz envisaged. And it was a long war; I recall doing university courses on international diplomacy that pre-supposed a world of ‘two tribes’ was the normal shape of things. I was a child of that war myself – born as the Cuba Crisis reached its most crucial intensity, when even New Zealand seemed unlikely to escape armageddon. To this day I remain mildly surprised – but very relieved – that the whole Cold War was brought to a negotiated end without such calamity, somewhere along the way.

    • Jay Holmes says:

      Hi Matthew. I remember that crisis well. I am happy to say that I have not woken from an “Armageddon” nightmare in many years.

      How living under that threat effected generations of NATO and Warsaw Pact citizens would be a topic for a very interesting study. I am convinced that having generations grow up under that threat did much to shape our society but as one of the rats in the “Skinner Box” I am unable to completely understand what those effects were.

  9. jkmhoffman says:

    Reblogged this on kjmhoffman.

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