Military Book Reviews

Tales from the Cold War

As a Cold Warrior and on the Board of Directors for the Cold War Museum (coldwar.org), I am always interested in reading more of the history and personal stories of those who were witnesses to the events that took place over these tense decades. COL Michael Mahler, US Army Retired, was one of those Cold Warriors. Mahler served specifically in West Germany and his career spanned the years of 1960-1975. He wrote his memoir with descriptive details of his experiences, including the people he encountered up and down his chain of command. Mahler was first a cadet at The Citadel, Military College in South Carolina in the early 1950s before applying to West Point and graduating with the Class of 1959.

His adventures were much like you would expect for someone serving at this point in history. Upon entering active duty, most of his superior officers and enlisted subordinates had both the Korean War experience and the WWII experience. For Mahler, there could be no better teacher. His career would culminate a decade-plus of service in Germany, where he would raise his family and command the 3rd Armored Division’s cavalry squadron at Büdingen.

His memoir speaks of sage leadership advice from mentors and commanders, the tough and spartan living conditions he and his family often had to occupy, and the unique challenges that came with command in an overseas billet during the Cold War. Another interesting aspect of this book are the abundant stories about training while in Europe and the challenges faced by his fellow soldiers. Some of these challenges involved training areas littered with hidden remnants from past wars, making for dangerous conditions that compounded the nature of the threat they were training against. And, as with many major post-war challenges, soldiers during this time period had to deal with budget cuts to everything. These cuts created the conditions that a toughened army had to improvise or atrophy.

It will be clear to readers that Mahler treasured the experiences and his time in the Army. One cannot help thinking that if volunteers like him (and his family) had not given their prime years of their lives in service to our country, then the outcome of the US victory at the end of the Cold War could not have been assured. Those who will most enjoy reading this book are Cold War fans, as they can compare their experiences with those of the author. Also, the role of spouses as teammates to their service member will also enjoy this volume.

Mahler and his wife were married at the West Point Chapel after graduation and she clearly adored him. She also made the most of the conditions they encountered when he joined the Army. And she carved her own niche, volunteering at the installation’s thrift shop and lending closet, working with the Red Cross, and hosting endless social events. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this slice of life during a very formative time in our history and think you might too! 

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