We all know when the Cold War ended: with the fall of the Berlin wall in November 1989. When it began is much more controversial. In my new book, Six Months in 1945, I say that it began in the six month period between the Yalta conference in February 1945 and the bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945. I also argue that it was the inevitable outgrowth of World War II. When Americans and Russians met in the heart of Europe in April 1945, they turned, almost overnight, from World War II allies into Cold War rivals.
For more on my reasoning, and why I differ with other historians, see an article that I just wrote for the History News Network. And, of course, read my book!
I have been invited to numerous events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, the subject of my book, One Minute to Midnight. The invitation that gave me most pleasure, however, was to be asked to address 500 photo intelligence analysts from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.
I was joined on stage by two of the analysts who discovered the Soviet missiles back in October 1962, Dino Brugioni and Vincent DiRenzo. I was tell them what they missed back in 1962. The president kept on asking them "Where are the nuclear warheads?" but they were never able to answer that question conclusively.
In One Minute to Midnight, I solve this mystery, identifying the nuclear warhead bunker near Bejucal where the warheads were stored.
Of course I had one big advantage that the intelligence analysts did not enjoy at the time. Writing about the missile crisis nearly half a century later, I was able to talk to Soviet veterans who had responsibility for looking after the nuclear warheads. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
My latest book, Six Months in 1945, is out today! It tells the story of the beginning of early days of the Cold War, how Americans and Russians met each other in the heart of Europe and decided that they didn't like each other after all. In the space of just six months, the U.S. and the Soviet Union went from being WWII allies to Cold War rivals.
By coincidence, this is the day the "Thirteen Days" began ticking in the Cuban missile crisis, when JFK was told about the presence of Soviet missiles on Cuba ln October 16,1962. I punctuate some of the mythology surrounding the crisis in a piece for the New York Times here. I make the point that our political leaders learned the wrong lessons from the crisis, and got into unnecessary wars in Vietnam and Iraq.
Michael Dobbs is the author of seven books, including the best-selling One Minute to Midnight. His latest book, King Richard, is about Nixon and Watergate.