I was a cold warrior

The Cold War was the period of tension between the Western powers and the Soviet Union which threatened the world with nuclear annihilation. It lasted from the end of World War II to the early 1990’s. People who were born in the last thirty years have no meaningful memory of the Cold War, but it consumed much of my life.

My first job in the Air Force was to be a crewmember on B-52 bombers armed with nuclear weapons. We were on alert, ready to strike the Soviet Union on orders from the President. It was boring duty punctuated by moments of terror. When the alert horn sounded we would dash to our aircraft and decode the message. Thank God the alerts always turned out to be practice. I never had to break into the “go-codes” that would send us to war.

The movie Bridge of Spies is set early in the Cold War. The CIA captured a Soviet spy and asked lawyer James Donovan, played by Tom Hanks, to defend him. Donovan reluctantly agreed, knowing that defending a spy would be unpopular. When the spy was convicted, Donovan convinced the judge to spare him the death penalty. It was likely that the Soviets would one day capture one of our spies, and when that happened, it would be good to have someone to trade. That’s just what happened. When the Soviets shot down one of our planes and captured pilot Francis Gary Powers, the CIA asked Donovan to negotiate the release.

Bridge of Spies asks, “What would you do to bring someone home?” James Donovan risked his livelihood, his reputation, and the safety of his family to bring his captured countryman home.

I enjoyed the movie partly because it depicted a time in our history and a part of my life I was so familiar with. As I watched, I found myself wondering, “What did it cost Jesus to bring us all home?”

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