September 2012

I found a new open source program I’m enjoying — FreeMind.  It makes thinking fun, and you don’t hit the edge of the paper.

The image is a 25% screenshot of an unfinished bubble map (this one’s of a bad guy).  For me, the various events that drive him on his way are easier to keep track of on this map than with an outline, a notebook, or index cards on a corkboard.  It goes so quickly that I almost feel lazy using it until I remember that I’ve put more up here than I’ve managed in other brainstorming styles.

The program is easy enough to learn so that you don’t feel as if you’re undertaking a steep learning curve in addition to thinking up whatever it is you want to map.  Thank you to the developers, debuggers and distributors.

So, the USAREUR G2 reunion is over, the organizer’s wife has loaded the banner into their car, and many of us had a relatively communal breakfast before we all scatter again to the corners of the country. My husband and I said our goodbyes to the organizer’s wife (“behind every great man, there’s a woman …”), the organizer (who kindly autographed his Secrets of the Cold War book for me), and friends of friends (who’ve become people with whom we want to stay in touch).

We traded email addresses with a married couple, the husband having had overlapping co-workers with my husband, and our new friend hinted at a book he, too, was writing.  I gave him an arch look, as you do when something wonderful this way comes, and said, “Mine takes place in Fulda.  Where is yours set?”  My question was prompted in part from an overheard comment from another of our breakfast companions about his proposed novel, as well as hearing a talk at last night’s banquet from the author of the Yankee Doodle Spies series.  People close to “spy stuff” during the Cold War are feeling the need to write.

My friend’s story is set in Wiesbaden, Germany, during the Berlin crisis in the early ’60s, an event whose seriousness was compounded by the Cuban missile crisis.  My own experience of that time was that my mom and my siblings and I were in the U.S., still at the Air Force base my dad just left, while my dad was at another base in Bermuda trying to find us a house. I remember feeling as if the Russians had physically erected an oceanic wall between me and my dad, just as they were really done to the  people of Berlin. To a child, this was overwhelmingly scary — “scary” being the best I could do to express my feelings as I had yet to learn just how horrific adult threats can be.

My stories, also in Germany, begin about a decade after my friend’s story. The American military forces were dealing not only with the Soviet Union across the inner border between the two Germanies, but also with Soviet-supported terrorism within West Germany, a terrorism that was spreading across Europe and the Middle East like a plague. Everyday people knew that the terrorists had elements of the American military in the crosshairs of its sights. Clearly, those of us who were there have stories to tell.

Our new friend and I talked about a longing to preserve a period about which little is written (neither one of us have had much luck with library research), but yet which is a time that consumed the better part of our adult lives:  the “spy vs. spy” era in Europe. The difference being the actual “spy vs. spy” and the fictional depiction of it comes mostly from the gap between the workaday perspective of filling in the puzzle pieces of actual espionage, and James Bond style glitz. The trick will be infusing the memories with enough necessary fictional drama to keep readers turning the pages.

In any case, I was tickled enough by finding yet another writer in our group that I’ve put off packing my suitcase to write this blog post (checkout is when?  thirty minutes?!?). For me, enthusiasm shared is enthusiasm doubled — and if I want to live long enough to enthusiastically write anything else, I’d best get a move on as my husband is already taking suitcases out to the car.

My husband and I met when we were both stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.  I did not make the military a career, but he did.  This evening, we met with old friends, my husband’s former co-workers, and friends-of-friends at the USAREUR G-2 reunion banquet.

The talk ranged from kids to grandkids, to who we knew in common, to where we’ve traveled and where we ought to travel, to our European adventures, and inevitably to terrorists.

The terrorist angle was underlined by a twenty-minute talk given by Major General (retired) James Dozier who was kidnapped in 1981 by the Italian terrorist group, the Red Brigades, and was held captive for six weeks in a tent erected inside an apartment in Padua, Italy.

The majority of American personnel apparently weren’t terrorist targets as it was high-profile people whom the terrorists seemed to prefer.  Still, while living in Munich, it was unsettling to know that just across the Alps, terrorists had kidnapped an American soldier.  At the time we couldn’t know that General Dozier would be rescued as both the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy had murdered kidnapped victims (Google Jurgen Ponto and Aldo Moro).  That General Dozier is able to give talks such as this was not inevitable — the guard on duty at the time had been given a gun with which to shoot the general in the event of a rescue attempt, but did not use it because he said he couldn’t shoot a sleeping man.  Stockholm Syndrome on the part of kidnappers isn’t always a bad thing.

Finally, thanks go to the author of Secrets of the Cold War, for organizing the reunion.

For Cold War veterans who were assigned to Germany, take a trip down memory lane with Mr. McCaslin’s book.  Thanks for the autograph, Lee.