This lecture draws upon research in recently-declassified Truman and Eisenhower-era national security documents to discuss the early Cold War concerns held by the U.S. military and intelligence communities about the possibility of a Soviet attack in the ether. Historians have not previously known much at all about this topic. The fear that the Soviet Union might make a strategic, rather than operational or tactical, electronic warfare strike on the U.S. provided the impetus for significant developments in radio technology and the evolution of the global communications grid in ways that have not previously been clear to historians. A study in apparent if hidden success, it elucidates the deeper origins of present day concerns for U.S. officials.
Jonathan Reed Winkler is associate professor of history at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He is a historian of U.S. diplomatic, military and naval history, and international affairs in the modern era. Winkler is presently the President of the Ohio Academy of History. He is the author of Nexus: Strategic Communications and American Security in World War I (Harvard, 2008), winner of several prizes including the Birdsall Prize of the American Historical Association. His articles, commentaries and reviews have appeared in Diplomatic History, The Journal of Military History, the Naval War College Review, and other venues. His current book project is an analysis of how the United States government coordinated commercial and military communications networks to meet transforming strategic interests across the entire 20th century.