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End of Cold War marks 25th anniversary

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Cold War

Beverly Wysocki, top, and Marie Graskamp, at side, emerge from a new family-type bomb shelter on display Sept. 12, 1958 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The shelter could hold eight to 12 people and was purportedly safe to within three quarters of a mile of ground zero if a 20-megaton nuclear bomb were to be dropped.

* Some would say the years following World War II were the best of times in the United States.

GIs came home, got jobs, raised families. The Greatest Generation was settling down into a calm, peaceful life.

But it also was a time filled with fear, dread and hate.

The years were mixed with threats of the atomic bomb, of children learning to hide under their desks, of missile bases being constructed in farm fields and the scare of the "Red Menace."

The Cold War

Even before the end of WWII, the U.S. and its allies grew concerned about the growing power of communist Russia. While fighting together to defeat the Axis powers, Western allies feared Russia would spread its communist philosophy across Eastern Europe and the rest of the world.

The concerns were confirmed early in 1945 when, at the Yalta Conference, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin met to divide Europe when the war ended. The Soviet Union would be given control of Eastern Europe.

As the end of the war neared and soon after, other events confirmed the division of the former allies. Churchill coined the phrase "iron curtain" in March 1946. Truman issued what is known as the Truman Doctrine in early 1947, confirming the U.S. would back any anti-communist regime or movement and work to prevent the spread of communism.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties agreed on the dictate, said Greg Johnson, associate professor of political science and international relations at Valparaiso University. Both parties believed in the domino theory and the need for containment, he said. There was a strong anti-communist bent in both parties, and both parties backed a strong military.

While the U.S. and Soviet Union didn't confront each other militarily, they fought over the spread of communism across the world. The Korean and Vietnam wars were basically fought to prevent the spread of communism as well as confrontations in the Middle East and Latin America, Johnson said.

"We had seen what happened during WWII. Enough Americans saw the destruction of the war, of the dropping of the nuclear bombs. People were terrified, particularly in the run-up to the Cuban missile crisis," Johnson said.

It was after the Cuban missile crisis and the ramp up to the Vietnam War that fears at home subsided, Johnson said.

"Over time, the longer the two sides don't fight, the probability of conflict goes down. They knew to attack would be suicide," Johnson said.

Still, the Cold War left its mark on the Region.

Nike bases

Herb Craig said being stationed at a Nike base in the early 1960s was a mix of numbing boredom and hyper-intense situations.

Craig, of Ogden Dunes, was stationed at the Nike base in Munster from 1962 to 1965.

The bases, Craig said, were the last line of defense in case of a nuclear strike.

The Munster base was one of five in Northwest Indiana and one of 23 that encircled the Chicago region built in the 1950s and deactivated in 1972. Two were in Gary, one at about 36th and Grant Street and the other at the Gary airport. One was in Portage Township (now privately owned and operated as Blast Camp), and the fifth was in Porter, with half of the site now serving as headquarters for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

The park headquarters offices were the barracks, said Cliff Goins, a National Park Service ranger who has presented programs on the Nike bases. The ranger's station on Mineral Springs Road housed the command center.

The launch site, which was about a mile away, is on Waverly Road and recently was purchased by a private party, Goins said.

Goins calls the 23 bases the "Chicago Ring of Fire," set to protect not only the city, but also highly industrialized Northwest Indiana during the Cold War.

Craig said the Munster base contained one 30-kiloton bomb, five 20-kiloton bombs and six 3-kiloton bombs. His job was acquisition radar operator — watching blips on a screen and deciphering who was friend and who was foe.

Craig said while on duty, those stationed at the bases trained, prepared and drilled for the "just in case" scenario of Russia launching a nuclear weapon.

"People stationed there wanted to go to Vietnam so they could shoot back," Craig said of the sometimes tedious tasks they performed.

However, without a second's notice, sometime in the night, a drill would be called, and it would be all hands on station.

The defense-readiness condition, or DEFCON, was usually at a 5, the lowest level, he said. It was only during the Cuban missile crisis that it was bumped up to DEFCON 3 (with 1 being the highest level).

Local un-American activities

While the committee was formed in 1938 and dates back to legislation as early as 1919, the House Committee on Un-American Activities was at its height during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Most people are familiar with the committee under the rule of Joseph McCarthy and investigations into Hollywood celebrities and the famed "Hollywood Blacklist," but the committee also operated locally, and one woman was jailed for her radical involvement.

"House on Un-American Activities hearings took place in Gary, targeting labor leaders," said local historian and author James Lane.

The local hearings were held in classrooms in Gary, carried on the radio and highly publicized, he said.

One woman was caught in the middle and landed in jail for nearly a year because of her alleged membership in the Communist Party.

Katherine Hyndman migrated from Yugoslavia with her family at age 5. Growing up in Chicago, she became involved in protests and was arrested during a demonstration against the Korean War, Lane said. Because of that arrest record, she could not become an American citizen.

A judge was quoted in a Jan. 9, 1949, Times article saying Hyndman "holds a position of some importance in the Lake County unit of the Communist party."

Hyndman moved to Gary and was an organizer for the International Workers Order and active in Russian war relief. She also married a steelworker.

The law at the time allowed the deportation of alien radicals. The committee attempted to deport Hyndman back to Yugoslavia. She spent 10 months in jail in Crown Point until committee members gave up. It seemed Yugoslav Prime Minister Josip Tito didn't want radicals in his country either, Lane said.

Hyndman wasn't the only local resident charged with being a Communist.

The 1949 Times article also said a James MacKay, of Gary, was taken into custody 10 months earlier because of his Communist affiliation and had been released pending his deportation hearing. MacKay had migrated from Canada.

Tattooing blood types

Jeanne Kasarda, of Portage, only remembers standing in line with other classmates, and boys teasing the girls about how much it was going to hurt. She was likely a junior at Gary's Lew Wallace High School.

Chuck Koselko was an elementary student at St. James the Baptist School in Whiting. His recollections are about the same as Kasarda's.

Koselko and Kasarda, along with thousands of other schoolchildren and hundreds of adults, were part of a blood type-tattooing program during the Cold War.

"I went in the room; they pricked my finger and then tattooed my blood type on my left side," Koselko said.

"I remember it was a big ordeal, but they didn't tell us anything," Kasarda said.

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"Tat-Typed" or "Tat-Typing" was the process of getting a person’s blood type, then having it tattooed on their body. The project was undertaken in Lake County by the TB Association and Lake County Medical Association.

The children and adults were blood-typed and tattooed "just in case" the Russians dropped the atomic bomb in the highly industrialized Region or Chicago. Medical personnel wouldn't have to await getting a person's blood type if there were an emergency.

A news story in the Aug. 26, 1951, edition of The Times encouraged tat-typing:

"Every man, woman and child in this highly industrialized area should know their blood types," said Dr. F.A. Mussacchio, a city health commissioner, who pointed out every healthy adult is considered a potential donor following an atomic attack.

"There were 48,833 blood types taken during the May 7, 1951 to May 1, 1954, time frame," said Bill Machacek, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who has researched the blood typing and tattooing program for eight years.

"The American Maize-Products company of Hammond had the blood typing and X-ray units at their plant in July of 1951 and thus were the first to take advantage of the blood-typing program. No tattooing was done here (at the company), though. A number of civic organizations requested the blood typing/tattooing team to visit them at one of their meetings to have their members typed and tattooed," Machacek said. Inland Steel Co. was the first company to sign up for inclusion in the typing and tattooing program.  

Adults who participated were considered part of the "Walking Blood Bank." The tattoos themselves often were referred to as "atomic tattoos."

The program eventually died because of a lack of interest by the public after three years, he said, adding his research also indicated that medical personnel didn't readily accept the tattoos as being accurate and usually would run their own blood tests.

Cold War

A security guard checks in a worker at the Nike missile base in Munster in this April 11, 1965, file photo.

The end

While the 1950s and 1960s saw a strong growth in communist power — both on land by quelling rebellions and spreading the doctrine, and in outer space as the Soviet Union beat the U.S. in the race into space — by the 1980s it was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union.

"By the 1980s the Soviet system had basically bankrupted itself," Johnson said.

"The state-directed economy couldn't keep up with the technological advances by the U.S. and the West. The Afghanistan war essentially ended the Soviet Union."

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., remembers those times vividly. 

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan sent 15 U.S. senators to Geneva, Switzerland, to have arms talks with the Soviets, Lugar recently recalled. Another of the senators was Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat.

"Sam and I went over to the Russian consulate. We struck up some friendships. We gained a pretty good idea the collapse of the Soviet Union was imminent," Lugar said.

In fall 1991, Lugar and Nunn were in Lugar's office with some of those Russian friends.

"The Russian looked at us and said we were going to be in terrible trouble. He said the guards are deserting because they aren't getting paid and there could be accidents. We said, 'What do you want from us?' " Lugar said.

The conversation led to the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction legislation. The U.S. gave the Soviet Union $400 million and technical assistance to help disarm the country.

The Nunn-Lugar Act, which was drafted as an amendment to an appropriations bill, was signed by President George H.W. Bush on Dec. 12, 1991.

Thirteen days later, Mikhail Gorbachev signed the paperwork dissolving the Soviet Union.

"It took a great deal of time after the collapse for arms control. The Russians were bankrupt. That didn't change until the oil money built their treasury," Lugar said. The U.S. also struck a deal with Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan to reduce or eliminate nuclear weapons.

Lugar said the legislation was a "remarkable success."

"Some 7,800 nuclear warheads that were aimed at our military and cities were destroyed," he said. The Nunn-Lugar Act expired in 2012.

* This story has been changed.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.

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