Are the rest of us.
Dirty "secrets." As an historical novel, Cold War Warrior has some:
chemical, biological, and radiological (CBR) warfare; animal and
human radiation experimentation; nuclear war planning. Of course,
since they are in this book, they are not really secret. And they
never were. But in part, that is why this book exists. To consider a
bit more about them and how one person might react to and deal
with them in the context of the cold war. This book doesn't draw
conclusions or make recommendations. I don’t know enough to
do so. Nor does it represent my views, which may vary with time
and circumstance. However, if it influences your views in some
way, or whets your curiosity, that’s terrific. If you feel like telling
me about it, that’s more terrific.
The decisions that the protagonist makes in Cold War Warrior are
not profound. Early decisions are guided primarily by fear of war
and death and are easy to make. Later decisions are guided by a
spiritual quest grounded in science and are similarly easy. Yet the
chain of decisions leads him through profound circumstances.
After being on the leading edge of the cold war, the war on cancer,
and the pursuit of knowledge of knowledge, our hero discovers the
wisdom and peace of acceptance.
From Pearl Harbor to the end of the Soviet Union, Paul learns
about, lives with, and believes he will be killed in war. With
patriotic opposition, with fear, planning, and luck, he escapes hot
wars. To do so, he enlists in America’s longest, most dangerous,
and most expensive war, the cold war. As a scientist and citizen
soldier, Dr. Paul Rossi, Captain, USAR, enters the chambers of
chemical, biological, and radiological warfare, the arenas of war-
games with mutual assured destruction and deterrence, the theaters
of strategic planning and pitiless projections, the logistics of
intelligent war machines, and finally the sanctuaries of social and
environmental restitution. He is proud of his safe and significant
role in keeping the cold war from becoming hot. Yet, when he
dares to face the memorials for those killed in hot wars, his pride
dissolves. He realizes that he and they had different assignments,
but that together, most fundamentally, they are and always will be
comrades in arms and in victory.
On the home front, as a boy, Paul learns about air-raid blackouts,
airplane crashes, Navy bases and hospitals, sacrificing for the war
effort, eating colored lard. He gets boxes of exotic shells his father
sends from the South Pacific. He studies maps that show the black,
front lines of death, learns of the unmerciful atomic bomb, sees
heaps and holes filled with skinny, murdered people, the glory and
grimness of war movies, and lives through the first hydrogen bomb
test that threatens to burn the sky.
Paul admires his father’s WWII patriotism, although his duty
overseas shatters their physical and emotional bonds. Paul shares
his country’s pride in victory over evil, pride in freeing victims of
greed and inhumanity, pride in America’s values. However,
regardless of his father’s example, Paul knows that above all, he
will avoid war.
On familiarization tours at home and abroad, Paul learns that both
individuals and countries constantly push, challenge, threaten, and
fight one another. School bullies, Soviet Communist bullies,
Chinese Communist bullies, the military draft, and ROTC required
in college; these define the rules of life for Paul as a young man.
When he takes a year out of college to travel, he learns first hand
about smashed and occupied Berlin, the embarrassing insults
endured by Turkish officers as their wives are hustled by US
military advisors, the turmoil in Iran about the US-supported Shah,
the anger of people in Pakistan when the U2 is shot down over
Russia, and the strong support for communism in India. He learns
that many, many people in the world know The Ugly American as
more than a book.
When he returns home, to avoid the draft, he reluctantly joins the
ROTC advanced course at UCLA, his father’s alma mater. He
plans not to be commissioned and marries. At summer camp he
learns about the Green Berets, Vietcong guerrillas, and pungi
sticks. Even a family and degree don’t exempt him from the draft
for this new war. To escape Vietnam, he takes a commission in the
Chemical Corps and goes to graduate school. He studies nuclear
and particle physics at the WWII cyclotron in Berkeley, joins
Vietnam peace marches, and is gassed by the National Guard.
Finally, the Army refuses to extend his delay. He passes his last
PhD oral exam three hours before his flight to active duty.
On active duty, Paul goes to the Chemical Officer Basic Course in
Anniston, Alabama. Berkeley was poor preparation for the real-
world. Lecture, demonstration, and field exercises to inflict the
niceties of conventional, chemical, biological, and radiological
To evade the Vietnam hot war and Army field assignments, Paul
extends his active duty in exchange for a states-side research
assignment. He is stationed at Bethesda Naval Hospital and
performs nuclear experiments on animals and people.
Finally out of school, with a reliable income, a wife and two sons,
military rank and medals, Paul and his father reconcile their
differences over Paul’s evasion of war.
When no civilian job is available, he takes a second assignment
with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at Strategic Air Command HQ.
There he helps plan nuclear-war deterrence through Mutual
Assured Destruction (MAD). With his physics degree and maturity,
Paul becomes friends with senior and flag officers. Although
officially an admiral’s aide, he joins as an equal in defining what it
means to win a nuclear war.
To avoid troop duty and a military career, Paul wants to leave the
Army, even with probable tenure at Westpoint. A friend from
Berkeley calls and says that Paul is the only person in the US with
the necessary combination of experience in computers, physics, and
radiobiology to work on a new cancer project for the National
Institutes of Health. He is discharged as a major.
In academia, he joins the University of California to work on
cancer radiation therapy and radiobiology in Los Alamos, the site
of the Manhattan Project. To Paul, the application of nuclear and
particle physics to medicine is rewarding and redeeming, especially
at this historical hot and cold war lab, sister to the radiation lab at
To elude Star Wars R&D and to explore machine intelligence, he
transfers to Lockheed and aerospace. He works in Austin on
intelligent computers, in San Fernando Valley on artificial
intelligence, and in Silicon Valley on autonomous robots. The cold
war ends and his work focuses on environmental cleanup of
radioactive waste and the destruction of chemical weapons, to
which he had directly and indirectly contributed.
The US withdraws from Vietnam, the Soviet Union disbands, and
the Berlin wall is destroyed. For Paul, hot and cold wars are over.
He has survived them both.
Basic physics, animal experiments, nuclear war plans, cancer
therapy, artificial intelligence, rockets, robots, military production,
automated maintenance, nuclear waste, and chemical weapons;
these are some of the fascinating and fearful things he explores.
Los Angeles, Berkeley, Bethesda, Washington, D.C, Omaha, Los
Alamos, Austin, and Silicon Valley; those are the exciting and
exotic places he lives.
Paul is satisfied that he helped win the cold war and began to
remedy its effects. He is satisfied that he found a safe, unique, and
useful path in life. Yet when he visits war memorials in
Washington, D.C. and Sacramento, he is surprised at his empty
sense of victory and weeps for his friends and classmates who died
in Vietnam. He realizes he is still a comrade-in-arms, hot war or
cold war. Just as the sacrifices of hot-war warriors are often
undervalued, he accepts that most people will never know the
battles of military, academic, and industrial cold-war warriors. Not
even his father.
Peter A Berardo, PhD