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Cold War Conversations

History Podcasts

Award winning real stories of the Cold War told by those that were there. We're capturing the unknown stories of the Cold War before they are lost...

Award winning real stories of the Cold War told by those that were there. We're capturing the unknown stories of the Cold War before they are lost...


Manchester, United Kingdom


Award winning real stories of the Cold War told by those that were there. We're capturing the unknown stories of the Cold War before they are lost...








Serving on the West German destroyer "Hamburg" (218)

Karl-Heinz served in the Bundesmarine as a Signalman on the West German destroyer "Hamburg" in the late 70s. He talks of his training, his role and shares details of manoeuvres in the North Sea and Baltics involving East German and Soviet ships. He also speaks about a cruise to West Africa where the sailors were briefed to stay away from any East German merchant marine sailors and not to engage with them in any form – he and his mates didn’t keep to the rules… If you have listened this...


The CIA director responsible for creating spy devices (217)

After service in the US Army during the Vietnam War Bob Wallace was recruited into the CIA. In the CIA his initial assignments were as a field case officer. He rose through the ranks at the agency and was Chief of Station in three locations where he directed the full range of CIA activities. In 1995 Bob became deputy director of the Office of Technical Service and in 1998 was appointed its director responsible for creating spy devices and capabilities necessary to conduct clandestine...


Vietnam War draftee to US Army Rangers (216)

Bob Wallace joined the US Army in 1968 as a reluctant conscript. He describes the draft process, and his attempts to avoid conscription. After basic training, Bob is assigned to a long range reconnaissance unit and ambush unit in five or six man teams in the Mekong delta. We hear of the reconnaissance and ambush tactics as well as some poignant memories of those that didn’t make it back. This podcast relies on listener support to enable me to continue to capture these incredible stories...


Helping the Refuseniks (215)

Refusenik was an unofficial term for individuals—typically, but not exclusively, Soviet Jews—who were denied permission to emigrate, primarily to Israel, by the authorities of the Soviet Union and other countries of the Eastern bloc. The term refusenik is derived from the "refusal" handed down to a prospective emigrant from the Soviet authorities. Eric Hochstein was a staff member for Senator Carl Levin of Michigan working on human rights. Human rights were a big issue for Senator...


Eyewitness to the 1991 Soviet Coup with Brett Elliott (214)

Today’s episode is different. Brett Elliott died earlier this year and I was contacted by his ex-wife Polly who offered me a cassette tape. Polly and Brett had met in college and got to know each other in Russian Club at Oklahoma State. In the summer of 1991, they went to Moscow to pursue Polly’s goal of being a reporter in Russia and Brett’s goal of further studying Russia. They both worked together covering the Bush Gorbachev summit, with Polly as a reporter and Brett as an interpreter....


Working in the nuclear missile compartment of a Royal Navy Polaris submarine (213)

John Andrews joined the Royal Navy in 1981 and went on to serve aboard the HMS Repulse, one of the UK’s Polaris nuclear missile submarines from 1982. His role was Missile Compartment Control Patrol which included security of the nuclear missile compartment as well as assisting in the maintenance of the missile tubes and the nuclear missiles themselves. John shares details of life aboard the ship including missile launch tests, alcohol, practical jokes, escape procedures from a submerged...


British Army "stay behinds" the Special OP Troop (212)

I speak with Colin Ferguson a veteran from the British Army‘s covert Special Observation Post Troop which was founded in 1982. The "stay behind" Special OP Troop consisted of selected soldiers in 6 man patrols whose task was to dig in large underground hides known as "mexe" shelters along the inner German border. They would then allow the main Soviet forces to pass over them before deploying to two smaller observation posts (Ops) where they would engage the enemy with the long-range guns...


A Cold War childhood in Albania (211)

Lea Ypi grew up in one of the most isolated countries on earth, a place where communist ideals had officially replaced religion. Albania, the last Stalinist outpost in Europe, was almost impossible to visit, almost impossible to leave. It was a place of queuing and scarcity, of political executions and secret police. To Lea, it was home. People were equal, neighbours helped each other, and children were expected to build a better world. There was community and hope. Then, in December 1990,...


The Cold War handshake in the heavens - the Apollo-Soyuz mission (210)

On 17 July 1975 the first manned international space mission, carried out jointly by the United States and the Soviet Union. Millions of people around the world watched on television as a United States Apollo module docked with a Soviet Union Soyuz capsule. The project, and its memorable handshake in the heavens, was a symbol of détente between the two superpowers during the Cold War, and it is generally considered to mark the end of the Space Race. Unthinkable only years earlier the...


Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev - aspiring actor and poetry fan (209)

Now, what do you think of when you hear the name Leonid Brezhnev who ruled the Soviet Union for 18 years from the 1960s to the 1980s? An old guy waving weakly from the Lenin mausoleum? Well, think again! We speak with Susanne Schattenberg, the author of a new biography that systematically dismantles the stereotypical and one-dimensional view of Brezhnev as the stagnating Stalinist by drawing on a wealth of archival research and documents not previously studied in English. The Brezhnev...


Born into a family of Canadian Communists (208)

Fred Weir was a third-generation red diaper baby from Toronto and a long-time member of the Communist Party. His uncle, trained at the Lenin School in Moscow in the 1920s as an agent of the Communist International, the Comintern and spent many years in the USSR. Fred had visited a few times, had studied Russian history up to the graduate level, but never wanted to live there until Gorbachev came to power in 1985. The new general secretary, the party’s first to be born after the revolution,...


Berlin: Capital of Spies (207)

For almost half a century, the hottest front in the Cold War was right across Berlin. From summer 1945 until 1990, spying was part of everyday life in both East and West Berlin. I speak with historian Bernd von Kostka of the Allied Museum in Berlin-Dahlem who has co-authored with Sven Felix Kellerhoff the book Capital of Spies: Intelligence agencies in Berlin during the Cold War recently published by Casemate. The book describes the spectacular successes and failures of the various secret...


How a Soviet conscript became a NATO General (206)

In 1985, an eighteen-year-old named Riho Terras arrived at the Soviet armed forces’ large conscript assessment facility in Tallinn obeying his conscription orders. Little did he know that 26 years later he would be a NATO General. Riho shares his experiences in the Soviet Navy with us in some detail. We hear about his service on the Soviet frigate Zadornyy including trips to the Mediterranean and Cuba as well as monitoring NATO warships. Riho also shares his experiences of Estonian...


Terrorism in the Cold War (205)

I talk with the writers and editors of Terrorism in the Cold War a new two volume book that uses a wide range of case studies including Polish Military Intelligence and Its Secret Relationship with the Abu Nidal Organization and Gladio – Myth and Reality: The Origins and Function of Stay Behind in the Case of Post-war Austria. The book sheds new light on the relations between state and terrorist actors, allowing for a fresh and much more insightful assessment of the contacts, dealings,...


Emanuela - a Cold War Romanian Childhood (204)

Emanuela Grama was born in the mid-1970s’ in a small provincial town in Eastern Romania. She provides us with a great insight into life in the Romanian provinces during the 1980s. Emanuela lived in a small two-bedroom flat and tells of her parents working in a factory while her grandparents looked after her. Her father listened secretly to Radio Free Europe and collected stamps so he could legitimately write to people in the West. Her parents told her not to talk at school about what was...


Pete - a BRIXMIS driver behind enemy lines in East Germany (203)

Pete Curran served with BRIXMIS, the British Military Liaison Mission in East Germany. Their operation was established by a post-WWII Allied occupation forces' agreement, where British, US and French missions had relative freedom to travel and collect intelligence throughout East Germany from 1947 until 1990. Pete’s story starts with details of his vetting interview, driver training, and his first tour in East Germany. We also hear of the intelligence scoops he was involved in and some of...


MKUltra - the CIA’s mind control project & the mysterious death of Frank Olson (202)

Frank Olson was an American bacteriologist, biological warfare scientist, and employee of the United States Army Biological Warfare Laboratories. In 1953 at a meeting in rural Maryland, he was covertly dosed with LSD by his boss Sidney Gottlieb, who was the head of the CIA's MKUltra mind control program. Nine days later, Olson plunged to his death from the window of the Hotel Statler. The U.S. government first described his death as a suicide, and then as misadventure, while others allege...


Flying into nuclear mushroom clouds (201)

Squadron Leader John Robinson AFC (ret’d) was an RAF pilot who was tasked to fly into the mushroom clouds of nuclear bomb tests to capture samples at Operation Buffalo at Maralinga in 1956, and Operation Grapple, at Christmas Island in 1957. He tells of his recruitment into RAF, initial training and his cloud sampling missions as well his experiences of watching the tests from as little as five miles away. It is reckoned that over 22,000 British servicemen participated in the British and...


Life in the underground Soviet music scene Part 3 (200)

We hear of Joanna's heartbreak when her visa is refused, preventing her from marrying Yuri. However, using an ingenious method she manages an emotional reunion and eventual marriage as the Soviet Union begins to dissolve. Details of the book giveaway are here Part one is here and part 2 here Joanna’s book, Red Wave written with her singer/songwriter daughter, Madison, includes Stingray’s extensive collection of photographs, artworks, and...


Life in the underground Soviet music scene Part 2 (199)

Joanna is questioned by the KGB and the FBI, falls in love with Yuri and starts to smuggle the bands' music out of the Soviet Union to produce the album. Details of the book giveaway are here Part one is here and part 3 here Joanna’s book, Red Wave written with her singer/songwriter daughter, Madison, includes Stingray’s extensive collection of photographs, artworks, and interviews with the musicians. Buy the book and support the podcast...