How We Forgot the Cold War:
A Historical Journey across America

How We Forgot the Cold War

“Jon Wiener, an astute observer of how history is perceived by the general public, shows us how official efforts to shape popular memory of the Cold War have failed. . . .  A fascinating and entertaining book.” —Eric Foner, author of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery

“Combines the author’s splendid skills as a reporter with the eye of a scholar.  Lively and fun, yes, but also analytically and scholarly grounded . . . a rare and remarkable achievement.”  — Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America.

“Wiener’s magical mystery tour of Cold War museums is simultaneously hilarious and the best thing ever written on public history and its contestation.“ Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz.

Hours after the USSR collapsed in 1991, Congress began making plans to establish the official memory of the Cold War. Conservatives dominated the proceedings, spending millions to portray the conflict as a triumph of good over evil and a defeat of totalitarianism equal in significance to World War II. In this provocative book, historian Jon Wiener visits Cold War monuments, museums, and memorials across the United States to find out how the era is being remembered. The author’s journey provides a history of the Cold War, one that turns many conventional notions on their heads.

In an engaging travelogue that takes readers to sites such as the life-size recreation of Berlin’s “Checkpoint Charlie” at the Reagan Library, the fallout shelter display at the Smithsonian, and exhibits about “Sgt. Elvis,” America’s most famous Cold War veteran, Wiener discovers that the Cold War isn’t being remembered. It’s being forgotten. Despite an immense effort, the conservatives’ monuments weren’t built, their historic sites have few visitors, and many of their museums have now shifted focus to other topics. Proponents of the notion of a heroic “Cold War victory” failed; the public didn’t buy the official story. Lively, readable, and well-informed, this book expands current discussions about memory and history, and raises intriguing questions about popular skepticism toward official ideology.

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“A political argument masquerading as a travel yarn. . . convincing.”
   Joshua Hammer,  New York Times Book Review, Dec. 2, 2012. (scroll down) or view the PDF

“trenchant . . . and uncommonly frisky.”  Tom Carson, The American Prospect, Nov. 30, 2012.

“provocative and fascinating.” 
Andrew Gumbel,, Nov. 23, 2012.
–reprinted from Los Angeles Review of Books, Nov. 17, 2012.

“Wiener’s wit and deft grasp of geopolitics make for one of the season’s most intriguing historical books.” Andrew Milner, Philadelphia City Paper, Oct. 11, 2012.

“His witty writing style, effortless erudition, and fair-minded skepticism rebuke the stereotypes of the humorless progressive and the hidebound academic alike.” — Arthur Goldwag, FiredogLake. com.

He makes his argument with as much clarity as any scholar I’ve read.  Even better, he does so concisely.”  Jim Cullen, History News Network, Nov. 21, 2012.

“As popular reading, it’s got the humor and wit of Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation and James Loewen’s Sundown Towns and DJ Waldie’s Holy Land. By which I mean it’s witty and kinda mean, and exhilarating bad fun.”—Andrew Tonkovich, OC Weekly, Oct. 14, 2012.

“Remembering the Berlin Wall.”  The Nation, Nov. 19, 2012.

“The ’13 Days in October,’ 50 Years Later.”  Los Angeles Times, Oct. 14, 2012.,0,74580.story or

“Elvis Presley: America’s Secret Cold War Weapon.”  The Daily Beast, Oct. 14, 2012.  or

“A Visit to the Right’s Least Popular Museum.”, Oct. 13, 2012. or
also, “Whittaker Chambers Relative: Farm Need Not be Open to Public.”  (exchange with David Chambers.), Oct. 18, 2012.

“Different Contexts for the Berlin Wall, or Where Is Ronald Reagan?”  Utne Reader, April 2013,

Princeton Alumni Weekly “Reading Room.”

“Writers Read: Jon Wiener.”

“‘How We Forgot the Cold War’: Q&A with Jon Wiener.”, Oct. 18, 2012.

“The Page 99 Test.”

Read Chapter One, “Hippie Day at the Reagan Library,” HERE