Cold War in a Cold Land
Fighting Communism on the Northern Plains
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Marx himself had no hope that landholding farmers would rise up as communist revolutionaries. So it should come as no surprise that in places like South Dakota, where 70 percent of the population owned land and worked for themselves, people didn’t take the threat of internal subversion very seriously. Mills plumbs the historical record to show how residents of the plains states—while deeply patriotic and supportive of the nation’s foreign policy—responded less than enthusiastically to national anticommunist programs. Only South Dakota, for example, adopted a loyalty oath, and it was fervently opposed throughout the state. Only Montana, prodded by one state legislator, formed an investigation committee—one that never investigated anyone and was quickly disbanded. Plains state people were, however, “highly churched” and enthusiastically embraced federal attempts to use religion as a bulwark against atheistic communist ideology. Even more enthusiastic was the Great Plains response to the military buildup that accompanied Cold War politics, as the construction of airbases and missile fields brought untold economic benefits to the region.
A much-needed, nuanced account of how average citizens in middle America experienced Cold War politics and policies, Cold War in a Cold Land is a significant addition to the history of both the Cold War and the Great Plains.
“The conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union penetrated the deepest interior spaces of the American continent, as David Mills skillfully explains in this wonderfully rendered exploration of the Cold War on the Northern Plains. In Cold War in a Cold Land, Mills expertly broadens the dimensions of our knowledge of various fields, including military, diplomatic, political, cultural, and Great Plains history.”—Jon K. Lauck, author of Prairie Republic: The Political Culture of Dakota Territory, 1879–1889
“In Cold War in a Cold Land, David W. Mills explores a vastly underexamined region during a vastly underexamined era: the northern plains in the early Cold War. Mills replaces the familiar historical actors of this period—presidents, generals, and policy makers—with ordinary men and women—the people who attended church services, participated in the Civilian Observer Corps, and saw opportunities rather than threats when the federal government located military installations and weapons systems in their states. This book brings to life the ways in which Cold War–era federal plans and policies affected Americans on the ground and in their homes and communities.”—Catherine McNicol Stock author of Rural Radicals: Righteous Rage in the American Grain