When the Lone Star State met the Iron Curtain: Recollections of Texas in 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 once-mutual support of one another. 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. As a result, an unofficial but nonetheless all-too-real ‘state of war’ developed between the two emerging superpowers. This would become known as the Cold War.
The United States and the Soviet Union were actively engaged in an escalating and intense political, military, and economic confrontation between 1946 and 1991. Over the course of nearly five decades, Texas and Texans responded to their nation’s call to duty on both the military and home front, and served admirably.
Although the Cold War officially ended almost 25 years ago, to many, 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 Texas towns alike, many feared nuclear annihilation and grappled with the need to build a bomb shelter in the back yard 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 whose origins began 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-manned Atlas Missile bases, the U.S. Army-garrisoned Nike Missile batteries, and a 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, 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—told in their own words—when recorded and preserved will enrich our understanding of this important period in our nation's history.
Oral History Interviews
THC historians have conducted nine oral history interviews to date associated with this project. Please contact the THC to schedule an appointment to review these interviews' recordings and transcripts.
The FTHC wishes to thank The Summerlee Foundation for its generous funding that helped make this exciting initiative possible. With this project, THC Military Sites Program staff conducted 10 free oral history training workshops, encouraging attendees to preserve and share locally the oral history interviews they record and preserve. In emphasizing the importance of conducting and archiving interviews locally, the THC strives to meet its own mission of preserving Texas history for the use, education, and economic benefit of current and future generations of Texas.