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A New Mission for the Cold War

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The space race. The Russians Are Coming.

It seems like yesterday the Berlin Wall came crashing down, a rapid 20 years of time carrying us into our current complex world. Thinking about those fearful times is literally a blast from the past. Teaching, preserving, and documenting an era of fear is the central mission of the Cold War Museum. The context of America’s longest and costliest conflict is itself a challenge to overcome.

For those of us too young or not alive at the time it is difficult to imagine witnessing one world war only to see the dawn of another. The tragedy of the Cold War began under the premise of war whose vast scope and brutality was unprecedented, ravaging the European continent for what seemed an eternity. Even as Allied victors determined post war boundaries it was a dire time for millions. Europe was ripe for revolution and the communist snake was ready to strike.

Hence the story of the Cold War unfolds. Winston Churchill decried godless communism while an Iron Curtain descended on Europe. A Red Scare developed in the United States while J. Edgar Hoover identified suspected communists in America. War veterans of the American Legion swore an oath to “foster and perpetuate a 100% Americanism”. In the final months a division of American troops mistakenly believed they were being sent to the front lines of Europe. Instead they found themselves in a desolate and frightening place never imagined: bitter cold North Russia.

The Great War was coming to a close. It was 1918.

The latest program of the Midwest Chapter of the Cold War Museum is but one educational tool developed to tell the full story of the Cold War. It frames the Cold War in the context of WWI, narrating the story of American soldiers sent to the Russian port cities of Archangel and Murmansk during the “War to end all wars”. These men were to re-establish the Eastern front our Russian allies had abandoned after the Bolshevik Revolution. Largely from Michigan and Wisconsin their mission became entangled fighting the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. They departed confused and unsuccessful in an effort to destroy Bolshevism in its infancy. A worldwide movement attacking liberty, property rights, and free markets endured for nearly 75 years.

Headquartered in Waukesha, WI the Midwest Chapter is the oldest chapter of the national Cold War Museum in Vint Hill, VA. Founded in 2003 our missions involve presenting the Cold War as a 20th century phenomenon and highlighting local Cold War significance. The chapter promotes historical preservation, honoring our many Cold War military veterans, and providing educational programming. The Cold War was a world war, casualties were suffered, and continues to be the costliest and longest conflict in American history. The story needs to be told.

A site has been identified as a permanent home for a local Cold War Museum. Preservation efforts are planned for location on a former nuclear equipped, Nike missile radar base in Waukesha. The site was part of the Chicago-Gary-Milwaukee ring of anti-aircraft missile bases used as a last line of defense against invading Soviet bombers. It is there the Cold War Museum can tell the story of the cold war in a physical sense. Too often the Cold War was thought of as ephemeral or occurring somewhere else: Cuba, North Korea, China, Berlin...the list goes on. But in addition to missile bases Wisconsin is where Joe McCarthy and Douglas MacArthur called home. Kewaunee shipyards produced the USS Liberty, the Badger Ordinance plant produced projectiles in Baraboo, shell casings and ejection seats were made in Waukesha. War is good for jobs and business, and the Cold War employed untold thousands of workers in the Badger state alone.

As momentum continues on our new home the Midwest Chapter provides educational experiences on the Cold War era through programming and exhibits. The aforementioned WWI program is available for booking for your group and we also speak on a variety of topics, including espionage. We offer tours of the former missile base in Waukesha upon request. Two traveling exhibits are currently on loan, one featuring “Civil Defense in America” and a prison cell door from the former Hohenschoenhausen Stasi prison of East Berlin. The national Cold War Museum provides a traveling exhibit on the U2 incident of 1960. 2010 commemorates the 50th anniversary of Francis Gary Powers being shot down on a mission over the Soviet Union.

Please consider joining our mission by becoming a member, hosting an exhibit or a presentation. We encourage artifact donations and would like to hear your story of the Cold War. You can find us on the web at www.coldwar.org/midwestchapter, contact via email at csturdev@hotmail.com, or call 262-389-1157.

Aviators Hot Line WARBIRDS November/December 2010

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