Memoirs of a Cold War Son

Gaines Post, Author, Albert E. Stone, Foreword by University of Iowa Press $29 (246p) ISBN 978-0-87745-701-5
Post, a Rhodes scholar and a historian specializing in post-WWI European history, chronicles here his two years (1960-1961) as a U.S. Army lieutenant in Germany. As he tells his story, he also reflects on the experiences of his forgotten generation of young American men--men born in the late 1930s who, guided by values formed in the Manichean universe of a world at war, grew into maturity grappling with the ambiguities of the Cold War. Recounting his memories of daily life as a soldier at ground zero of the Cold War (where he oversaw tactical nuclear weapons as the Berlin Wall was going up) alongside recollections of his relationship with his family, Post deftly weaves together analysis of the legacy of WWII and the intellectual currents of the '50s and early '60s (Camus, Sartre, McCarthy, Kennedy) with his own deeply personal remembrances. He uses his mother's breakdown--a serious episode of depression during WWII--and her subsequent precarious return to their Madison, Wis., home after 1951 as an effective metaphor for the era. Although his prose can come off as self-absorbed, Post has written an unflinchingly honest and moving description of his moral and intellectual development at an important time in history. This is a valuable book about a generation who never really got their due since, as someone once put it to Post, ""there are no real `Cold War' medals."" Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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