Letter to the Editor – Cold War

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Dear Editor,

Watching and reading the news about the evacuation of Yellowknife brings back memories of the Cold War when some Canadian cities came very close to being forced to evacuate, not because of wildfire but because of the threat of nuclear bombs.

In 1962, the United States and Russia were in a race to see which could build the largest number of nuclear weapons. In the fall, the Soviet Union began to secretly deploy a nuclear strike force in Cuba, just 90 miles from the United States.

It looked as if we were on the brink of nuclear war. Here in Canada, a number of cities were seen as “target cities”, including Halifax/Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, our major port on the east coast. We residents were given cards to place in our windshields with instructions on which route to take in the event of evacuation.

There were sirens located through the two cities which were tested every Wednesday at noon. If the sirens sounded at any other time, we were to turn on our radios for instructions and be prepared to leave. My husband was in the Royal Canadian Navy serving on HMCS St. Croix.

One morning in October, he left for duty on his ship as usual, then, an hour or so later, he called to tell me only that he would not be home that night and did not know when they would be back. He could say no more than that, of course, but I heard on the news that morning that President Kennedy had ordered a blockade of the Soviet ships on their way to Cuba. Every RCN ship left port that day and did not return for several weeks.

No one knew what would happen. We had been warned to be ready in the event that we had to evacuate. The trunk of my car was packed with our tent and camping gear, food and clothing for myself and my three children. It was a scary time and I have great sympathy for the residents of Yellowknife.

Fortunately, reason prevailed and Kennedy and Krushchev are now praised for finding a way to negotiate the end of that crisis. Sadly, we seem to again be engaged in a new kind of cold war with Putin threatening to use nuclear weapons.

Shirley Price

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