Into the Cold

Most who attended James Hockenberry’s presentation on The Great War and the Origins of the Cold War, on Nov. 14 at the State Library were very familiar with his topic having lived through those tense Cold War years, but few probably ever considered how a Cold War came to be.

Hockenberry delved into the changing strategies of the major players in World War I and the key events that fostered distrust, antagonism and growing tension between Russia and the democratic allies, culminating in the Cold War. “The world was never the same after World War I,” he said. “Many countries, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which were part of the British Empire going in, became independent after the war.”

Tensions before the war in 1914 had alliances thinking that the side that mobilized first would win a war, so Russia mobilized first, making it necessary for Germany to mobilize. Of all the combatants in World War I, Russia suffered the highest number of casualties (9150). By 1917, the Russian people were desperate to end the war, leading to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas, the rise of Lenin and his proclaimed worldwide communist movement. The Western Allies considered Bolshevist Russia an international pariah and took actions to thwart the growing communist menace by supporting the White Russians during the Russian Revolution with money and troops, and excluding Russia from the Paris Peace conference. Because of that attempt to overthrow their government with troops in their country, Russians did not trust the allies, thus poisoning East/West relations forever after and contributing significantly to World War II and the Cold War.

A career financial executive with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lafayette College and a master’s degree from Columbia University, James Hockenberry has redirected his life to thriller writing with his “World War I Intrigue” trilogy. The change has allowed him to interweave three of his long-time passions: history, literature and his German-American roots. His trilogy brings alive the tensions and controversies of the times and dramatizes key events in America’s involvement in The Great War.

He frequently says that someone cannot understand today’s world without knowing what happened at the end of World War I. In the 1919 Paris Peace Accords, the victorious allies carved up the empires of the losing Central Powers in a manner that haunts us still. His award-winning second novel, So Beware, is set during these talks as the world faced the new threat of international Communism.