Bubbleheads, SEALs and Wizards

Bubbleheads, SEALs and Wizards

America’s Scottish Bastion in the Cold War

David Mackay

  • Shines a bright light on the significant role the Scottish bases played in supporting the United States military for more than three decades
  • Provides a detailed examination of all the American bases in Scotland, covering their operations and personnel
  • Interviews with over 150 American and British Cold War military personnel



Print edition: £18.99
240 × 170mm
224 pages
liberally illustrated with 45 colour and 30 b/w illustrations

The American military presence in Scotland during the Cold War was greater than in either of the World Wars, bringing with it the largest peace-time number of foreign military personnel in Scotland’s history. This military power was delivered by individuals – the forgotten heroes. They worked to high standards of professionalism and most had no true concept of the danger they faced from the Soviet threat. This reality was only ever confronted during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

The author, a former Cold War special forces officer, brings his personal expertise into play, examining this intriguing story by reaching out to more than one hundred veterans and expert witnesses. Their contributions cover the nitty-gritty end of history, not high-end diplomacy. This fast-moving account of their endeavours, often in long working conditions, highlights the value of teamwork, training and determination.

It is clear that Scotland would have been a Soviet target of necessity once the American bases were established. Scotland was of great importance to the United States during the Cold War and this research shows that, for more than thirty years, Scotland was the capstone in Washington’s early Cold War strategy.

Scotland was an active centre of US strategic operations and the vital importance of its geographic position is clearly demonstrated as each location is examined, and its benefits listed. There were six significant bases, the most important being America’s only nuclear-armed submarine squadron in the Holy Loch. He details the operations which were carried out by the large radio spy stations (SIGINT) at Kirknewton, Thurso and Edzell. And he reveals for the first time America’s most bizarre intelligence gathering activity of the early Cold War, which also took place in Scotland.

Overall, this book provides an important addition to the conventional US/UK Cold War narrative. The United States desperately needed the assistance Scotland provided and the author presents a convincing narrative that Scotland was at the epicentre of the Cold War’s most terrifying episode – the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy’s success was greatly assisted by these Scottish bases which provided him with the firepower and intelligence to outwit Khrushchev. One section of the book deals with the visit of JFK’s top advisor to Holy Loch – a story that has never been revealed before. It emphasises the simple fact that Scotland’s role was a game changer.

An interesting theme throughout the book is the espionage effort mounted by the KGB against these bases. The author has interviewed senior intelligence officers and their input is revealing. These were exciting times for the young Americans who crossed the ocean to serve their country and this is their Cold War story.


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