Life During The Cold War

Photo courtesy of Grolier Online

The person I interviewed for my Junior project was my Step-Father, Gary Dickson.  I interviewed him about his experience living through the Cold War between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.).  When I ask Gary if I could interview him, he was very excited to share his experiences and proud that I chose him.

The Cold War Era began September 2, 1945 at the end of World War II and lasted until December 26, 1991 when the Soviet Union broke into fifteen separate countries.   The Cold War was characterized by a fight between democracy and communism with a constant threat of nuclear war.  To find out more about the Cold War some web sites are:




(4)  (Do advanced search on Cold War to reach information)

After World War II a conference was held between Premier Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom.  This meeting was about setting up areas controlled by the allies and is known as the Yalta Conference.  At this conference Stalin promised to attack Japan three months after Germany surrendered.  Stalin betrayed the United States by not carrying out the promises he had made and the relations between the two countries went quickly downhill.


Photo courtesy of Grolier Online

Pretty soon after this the Soviet Union cut off communications with nearly all Western civilization and Eastern Europe.  In March 1946 Winston Churchill came up with the popular phrase AIron Curtain@ referring to the Soviet Unions barriers against the West.  During this time the Soviet Union was expanding its power.

As the Soviet Union was expanding its power, it was bringing terror to the United States.  People were preparing to be attacked at any moment going as far as building bomb shelters.  They supplied them with food and water, some even bought gas mask.

My Step-Father has a dog tag that he had to wear in second grade in the event of an attack.  It has his name, his Mother=s name, address, birthday and the letter AP@ which stands for Protestant engraved on it.  When I ask him how he felt about wearing his dog tag he said that he was afraid of what might happen.  Everyone throughout the United States, young and old alike, were changing their lifestyles because the fear of being attacked was sweeping the nation.

This is his story as he told me,  AI was a child of the fifties, a World War II veteran=s son.  We lived in a small town in northeast Tennessee usually known for mountains, clean air and a down to earth way of life.  Things changed dramatically when we all were watching television as Nikita Kruschev was shown at the United Nations pounding his shoe on a podium saying that he would bury us.  I asked my parents who this man was and what he was talking about.  Being a child of seven or eight, they tried to explain that there was another country that had a lifestyle totally opposite of ours.  The word communism was thrust into our vocabulary.  We learned that the correct way to pronounce the capital of Russia was Moscow (Mos-co) as opposed to Moscow because there were no cows in Moscow (Mos-co).@

He said, AThe town I lived in had a major chemical plant and large ammunition plant.  We were told by civil defense leaders that we would be a target in the event of a Russian nuclear attack.  Many of our weekends were spent looking at fall out shelters and the newest devices to help against radiation.  Part of the day at school was spent on civil defense drills, learning where to go in the event of a nuclear attack and what we could do to protect ourselves by covering our eyes, ears and assuming a crouched position next to a sturdy wall.  In the second grade I was issued an identification tag in the event I was separated from my parents during a time of emergency.@

He continued, AAs I think back on this I realize the dangers were real but as I have gotten older I also realize that my little world of one small town and the thoughts and fears I had as a child were being shared by millions across the country.  Even though I was young the teachers and our government leaders made me feel more secure and safe.@

My Step-Father was changed forever by this war.  He grew up watching the news and reading everything he could so that he would always be prepared in case something was to happen.  He feels that the best way to cope with the unknown is to find out everything that you can.  Education is the most important tool of survival.

This interview was easy because I have a good relationship with my Step-Father.  He was eager to tell me about everything that happened.  We talked for a long time afterwards about many things that happened over the long years of the Cold War.  I had no idea that the Cold War lasted as long as it did and especially that I was alive during part of it.  I was two years old when the Berlin Wall came down.  That made a big impression on me.  I learned that my Step-Father is very smart and was smart even at a young age.  He had to participate in activities that we usually only see on television or in the movies.

I definitely have to rate this interview as positive because I learned a lot from it.  It was interesting because I found out I lived through some of it.  I also found out things about my Step-Father that I never knew about him and learned to respect him even more.


Photo courtesy of Grolier Online

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