A Cold War Odyssey


The Cold War -- that long ideological conflict between the world's two superpowers -- had a profound effect not only on nations but on individuals, especially all those involved in setting and implementing the policies that shaped the struggle. Donald Nuechterlein was one such individual and this is his story.

Although based in fact, the narrative reads like fiction, and it takes the reader behind the scenes as no purely factual telling of that complex story can. Presented as ...

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The Cold War -- that long ideological conflict between the world's two superpowers -- had a profound effect not only on nations but on individuals, especially all those involved in setting and implementing the policies that shaped the struggle. Donald Nuechterlein was one such individual and this is his story.

Although based in fact, the narrative reads like fiction, and it takes the reader behind the scenes as no purely factual telling of that complex story can. Presented as the story of David and Helen Bruening and their family, A Cold War Odyssey carries us across three continents. Against a backdrop of national and international events, we follow the Bruenings through five decades as David's governmental and academic assignments take them to all corners of the world.

In the tradition of Herman Wouk's Winds of War, the Bruenings' personal and professional odyssey offers us a microcosm of world history in the second half of the twentieth century. Through the acute eyes of these participant observers, we see the partitioning of Europe after World War II, Korea and Vietnam, Watergate and Iran, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union and, with it, the end of the Cold War. With each succeeding episode, our understanding of the causes and consequences of international struggle is deepened through the Bruenings' experience.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Solidly grounded in the author's understanding of Cold War history as he lived it and knew it." -- Vincent Davis, Patterson School of Diplomacy, University of Kentucky

"A fascinating ride through a period of history in which United States foreign policies and relationships matured greatly." -- Ralph C. Bledsoe, Special Assistant to the President, 1982-88

Heinrich Maetzke
Anyone who wants to make a film about the Cold War should turn to Donald E. Nuechterlein. The political scientist in the American diplomatic service either experienced the Cold War at its focal points or watched it from privileged observation points in Washington. Her did not want to write his memoirs, but, rather, a personal travel report. What has resulted is one of the most lively scripts that one could think of. This is due to the clever narrative approach he takes. Nuechterlein writes in the third person singular and provides his protgonists-including himself-fictitious names. Thus, he can reconstruct dialogue, which he could, of course, not write down at the time and yet repeat it in direct speech. His book lives on his freely rendered dialogues. He captures all of the turning points, the mistakes, the painful learning processes of the Cold War in these dialogues..."

"Last but not least, in the light of this background, Nuechterlein in the last pages of his excellent book raises the consideration that the United States will have to rethink anew its national interests and probably more narrowly define them..He sees the trend going toward reduced American involvement in conflicts outside of North America, Europe, and Northeast Asia.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Author takes novel approach to Cold War, by Carlos Santos. Donald E. Nuechterlein, a prolific author and foreign policy expert, is a long-time, serious student of the Cold War. From various government posts around the world, Nuechterlein watched the Cold War's birth from the ruins of World War II, its dizzying rise to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and its collapse in 1990 with the summit between the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev and the United States' George Bush..Nuechterlein just published a book titled A Cold War Odyssey that takes a personal, fiction-based-on-fact look at the life-and-death struggle of the two world powers.
Kirkus Reviews
A stunningly shallow and vapid memoir from a man whose lengthy stint as a midlevel official with various federal agencies coincided with the Cold War's beginning and end.

For briefly stated reasons that don't ring true, Nuechterlein presents his own story as that of David Bruening and tells it in the third person, using fictitious names for most of the people he dealt with in the course of what appears to have been an uncommonly interesting professional life. Unfortunately, it's difficult to gauge the extent of the author's engagement or excitement because he writes with all the panache of a metronome. By way of example, accounts of his father's birthday observances are accorded the same matter-of-fact detail as momentous global events with which Nuechterlein is personally familiar. In once-over-lightly fashion, he recalls a career that began in 1946 with an editorial post at the official organ of the US Military Government in occupied Germany. He subsequently worked for the USIA in Iceland and Thailand and for the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Burned out from 12-hour days by 1968, he accepted a professorship in international relations at the University of Virginia's Federal Executive Institute (which provides advanced training for senior civil servants). Retiring at 63 in 1988, he continues to work as a visiting professor and foreign-policy expert. But no particular insight that he might have gained is evident here. His deadly earnest statements range from the pronouncement (on William Casey) that "it's dangerous to have a CIA director who's so powerful he can cut out the State and Defense departments from operations" through the empty assurance that a tour of Mauthausen (a Nazi concentration camp) "was an emotional experience as well as an educational one."

Dispensable reminiscences from a low-level cold warrior unable to convey any real sense of what it meant or felt like to live in challenging times.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813120270
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 7/28/1997
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.33 (w) x 9.31 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald E. Nuechterlein, a former professor at the Federal Executive Institute, is the author of America Recommitted: U.S. National Interests in a Restructured World.

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Table of Contents

1 Postwar Germany 1
2 Postwar America 25
3 The Korean War and the Cold War 46
4 Iceland and NATO 66
5 Thailand and SEATO 87
6 War in Vietnam 111
7 Withdrawal from Vietnam 134
8 Watergate Scandal 154
9 Iran Hostage Crisis 167
10 Cracks in the Kremlin Wall 195
11 Fall of the Berlin Wall 215
12 Two Political Earthquakes 232
Epilogue, 1995 251
Index 266
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