After the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, the Potsdam Agreement stipulated that Berlin would be occupied by the four major allied powers of World War II: the Soviet Union, the United States, the UK, and France. But the war’s end seemed to herald an even graver danger: a world split into two hostile camps, both armed with nuclear missiles. The East, with the centrally planned economies of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, faced the West, with the democratic, market-driven economies of the United States and its NATO allies. Nowhere was this tense rivalry more starkly depicted than in the divided city of Berlin, deep inside Communist East Germany.
My lifelong passion for firearms started in Patton Park, behind my Detroit home. That’s where, at 12 years old, I traded a gas-powered wooden model airplane to an older kid for his Winchester Model 58 bolt-action, single-shot .22-caliber rifle. I already had BB guns, bayonets, and knives, but no way was my dad going to let me keep a real rifle. So I carried it home and hid it under our back porch. But it didn’t take more than two days for my dad to find it. To my great surprise, he just smiled and said, “Robert, you can keep it.”
It was last light, and my front scout, Gair Anderson, my assistant team leader, Bruce Cain, and I were each placing a claymore mine facing an enemy trail. It was a well-used trail, four miles west-southwest of Quang Tri City, and only the night before we had heard enemy troops casually talking as they walked along. We were confident that more enemy troops would return. Then, just as we slipped in the detonators, a dark figure suddenly appeared on another trail, a hundred feet away.
Maturity takes time:
Mine started twelve time zones away in the triple-canopied jungles of Vietnam. Southeast Asia is such a lovely, lush green wonderland, but it was 1968, the peak of the war. There were 540,000 Americans in South Vietnam and more than a million enemy soldiers, each young man determined to kill the other. As the 19th century Prussian General, Carl von Clausewitz said, "War is the continuation of politics by other means."