Cold War, we miss you

CONELRAD is an interesting site with lots of curiousities from the Cold War era. I was tipped off to this site by my parents, who experienced more of the Cold War than I did. Alas, the cruel whims of history dictated that I would grow up in the least interesting part of the Cold War–the final stretch right before it ended. (And by “least interesting part” I guess I mean “the part of the Cold War during which nuclear armageddon, while a definite possibility, did not seem like an absolute certainty.”) Explaining the site’s unusual name, dad also related the following tidbit, which I’m sure he won’t mind me quoting here:

The name Conelrad comes from the name of the emergency alert system for atomic attacks that was set up on all broadcast radio stations back during the peak of the cold war (50’s). Even ham radio operators were required to continuously monitor a broadcast station while transmitting so that if a Conelrad alert was broadcast they could stop their ham transmissions immediately so that the enemy bombers could not use their signals to home in their positions. (Yes, I used to have to do that when I was a kid.)

And sure enough, you can read all about CONELRAD on Wikipedia. As for myself, I was too busy playing with my G.I. Joe toys during the early 80s to be much aware of the subtle and terrifying developments of the Cold War. The entirety of my understanding of the conflict at the time came from Viktor Suvorov’s Inside the Soviet Army,* which inexplicably found its way onto my childhood bookshelf alongside the Chronicles of Narnia and the Empire Strikes Back Picture Book.

* strangely listed on Amazon as a “board book.” Is it just me, or are board books usually those thick-cardboard storybooks for babies? That’s not the Inside the Soviet Army that I remember, but then it has been a few decades.

The way the world ends

The Second World War has always been a topic of interest to me, but it’s been especially on my mind as the 60th anniversary of the war’s end approaches. Today I started reading Max Hasting’s Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, which sets out to tell the tale of the bloody, drawn-out, and surprisingly difficult defeat of Germany after D-Day.

Armageddon asks a simple question: why did it take the Allies so long to defeat Germany after D-Day?

I first took note of Hasting’s book when Christianity Today flagged it as one of 2004’s top 10 books. This interview with the author several months ago cemented my interest. Hastings, from the interview:

I have always had a nagging fascination with what happened [after D-Day], in particular with why the Allies didn’t win in 1944. At the beginning of September 1944, most of the Allied leadership, with the notable exception of Winston Churchill, was completely convinced that the war was going to be over by the end of the year. In the West, the Germans seemed completely beaten. The Western Allies had overwhelming superiority in tanks, aircraft, everything—you name it. So I wanted to look at this question of why we didn’t end the war in 1944. Secondly, and almost as important, virtually all the books that have been written about this period look at either the Eastern or the Western front—not both. And I wanted to set the two in context: to see what happened to the Western Allies in the context of what happened with the Soviets.

I’ll report back again when I’ve finished the book.