When the Lone Star State Met the Iron Curtain: Recollections of Texas in the Cold War
Understanding the Cold War
When World War II ended in September 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union—former allies in the defeat of Nazi Germany—had already begun to see fractures in their mutual support. Competing views of post-war Europe and other regions around the world quickly set the former allies down a decades-long period of mutual distrust.
Between 1946 and 1991, the two emerging superpowers engaged in an intense and escalating political, military, and economic confrontation. It became an unofficial but all-too-real ‘state of war’ that would soon become known as the Cold War. Over nearly five decades, Texans responded to their nation’s call to duty and served admirably on the military and home front.
The Texan Perspective
The Cold War ended 30 years ago, and the real sense of fear and anxiety that Texans, their parents, and grandparents felt is hard to comprehend or relate to. Like the rest of the nation, Texans worried about family members serving overseas during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm. On the home front, in small and large towns alike, many feared nuclear annihilation and grappled with the need to build a bomb shelter in their backyard during the Arms Race. These same people participated in both anti-war protests and patriotic demonstrations of support in response to the Cold War’s impact on their lives.
Throughout the Cold War, Texas was host to dozens of active-duty Department of Defense sites, many of which originated in World War II. A few are still open today. These Cold War military sites included U.S. Air Force bases and stations at Lubbock, Pyote, San Angelo, El Dorado, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, Laredo, Harlingen, San Antonio, Victoria, Houston, Bryan, Waco, Fort Worth, Wichita Falls, and Sherman; U.S. Army posts at Fort Bliss, Fort Sam Houston, Fort Hood, Fort Wolters, and Texarkana; and U.S. Navy air and fleet stations at Kingsville, Corpus Christi, Beeville, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Ingleside. In addition, smaller facilities in Texas played major roles in the national defense: the U.S. Air Force handled Atlas Missile bases, the U.S. Army garrisoned Nike Missile batteries, and the U.S. Navy operated Space Surveillance Field Station.
These military sites trained young men and women in a post-World War II desegregated military for active duty in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard. The histories of these sites are documented at ‘on base’ museums through the efforts of local county historical museums and public libraries and at each respective branch’s national archive.
However, the personal stories of the men and women who served in the Cold War—when told in their own words—enrich our understanding of this vital period in our nation’s history.
Preserving Real Stories With the Oral History Project
The THC strives to preserve Texas history for the use, education, and economic benefit of current and future generations by emphasizing the value of preserving stories in the voices of those who lived them. This is best accomplished by conducting and archiving oral history interviews locally.
For the Texas In The Cold War Oral History Project, supported through the fundraising efforts of the FTHC, THC military sites program staff conducted ten free oral history training workshops, encouraging attendees to preserve and share locally the oral history interviews they record and preserve. To review the recordings and transcripts of these interviews, please contact the THC.
All Thanks to Our Donors
A special thanks to our project donors:
- Mary E. Kemp
- The Summerlee Foundation
- Leon Tanner