(Red Hen Press published September 1, 2013)  

Golden Ghetto” is a Cold War tale from France of

birth, growth and death of a huge U.S. Air Force base

as relived through the heretofore dormant memories

and voices of both the occupier and the occupied.  

Tens  of thousands of American GIs passed through Dèols-Châteauroux Air  Station during the sixteen years that it was the largest U.S. Air Force  supply base in Europe.  Hundreds of hours of interviews and long  forgotten photos provide for the first time a unique blend of voices  seldom if ever heard.  

French citizens describe what it was like to have  foreign troops roaming the streets of their city.  The Americans  recount what it was like to be viewed with initial distrust and  suspicion, if not outright hatred, fueled by a local communist  anti-American propaganda machine under the direct control of the  Kremlin.  

When the end came and the base was padlocked, it was our  reluctant friend and ally Charles de Gaulle who administered the coup de  grâce and NATO vanished from France.  Although “Golden Ghetto” is  uniquely a French and American story, this saga is also a microcosm of  what was experienced by the 120 million American men and women who  served in the military during the Cold War, 27 million of them  overseas.  Considering the suspicions, jealousies, bigotry, and crass  opportunism inherent whenever one foreign power occupies another,  “Golden Ghetto” pieces together an improbable love story.


      “I  belonged to a communist family and I remember walking in the streets  with petitions against the U.S. intrusion in France.  People later  realized that the Americans were manna from heaven who improved their  lives.  They were happy because of them.  But I must say, I am surprised  that it is an American not a Frenchman that is giving an in depth  account of this period.”

Leandre Boizeau, Communist publisher of “La Bouinotte,” a leading regional magazine in Central France.

       "As the only American who has tackled the task, Steve Bassett, in his  book "Golden Ghetto" has provided a one-of-a-kind insight into the  sixteen year life of an extraordinary air station closed by Charles de  Gaulle's imperial edict. I found it fascinating reading and an accurate  portrayal of military life that will probably never be seen again."

Air Force Major General John Riddle (Ret.)

    “Steve  Bassett's book demonstrates to his readers that across the Atlantic, in  a provincial town of France, the memory of this American period is very  long-lived.”

Jean-François Mayet, a member of the French Assembly, Senator l'Indre County, Mayor of Châteauroux

     “Your  book is one of a kind.  There have been many books written by French  authors about the Americans in France during the Cold War, but never one  by an American writer.  I know the books that have been written and  have read many of them myself.  There has been nothing to match what you  offer.”

Mme. Lydie Gerbaud, press secretary for Jacques Chirac during his tenures as French President and Prime Minister.

   "Steve  Bassett sadly notes in his book,“Thousands of jobs for the French  supported the local economy which grew by more than 33% in a few years  with Uncle Sam…There was a time where one in six Berrichon received a  cheque from the Golden Ghetto." And all that remains today is  nostalgia."

 Jean-François Donny, French journalist and author whose books include “U.S. Go Home.”

 You can also pre-order through Amazon, click on red cover below.



     "The Battered Rich" presents an intimate

and incisive look of the buried phenomenon,

the rich battered woman in today's society. 

The battered woman is never talked about

when  it involves the rich.  The rich are beaten behind closed doors.  It is  easier to find relief when one has the economic means. Poor women go to  social agencies, but rich women go to Palm Beach, Bergdorfs, Cartier's,  La Costa, and other expensive playgrounds.  Through frank revealing  interviews, we learn the pathetic plight of the affluent battered wife,  the one with the credit cards and the socially prominent friends.  

    Through  these shocking interviews of several battered wives we learn what led  to the battering, what reception they found from the police, and other  agencies, and why, when they were getting soundly beaten, often  savagely, by their husbands, they chose to hide the cruelty.  One Los  Angeles plastic surgeon has rebuilt the faces of no less than ten rich  women beating by their husbands.  One is a wealthy former New York  debutante, another a Newport Beach wife married to a rich dentist.  

    As  Los Angeles Daily News reviewer Karen Kenny observed, "They live in  places like Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, La Jolla and Del Mar, and belong to a  secret sisterhood whose members prize alabaster reputations and  24-karat status above personal safety."

Available through Amazon. 


Review by Jane Rappoport, FAHS 1948

        "A fascinating account of a huge U.S. air base developed in  Chateauroux, Indre Departemente of France, 1951-1967.  The author has  spent years interviewing so many of the persons involved, French and  American, and demonstrates how a poor section of France found hundreds  of jobs at this base and brought prosperity to all.  Social lives on  both sides were enlivened.  In 1966, De Gaulle gave the boot to NATO  forces in France, resulting in the air base closure in 1967.  After a  great deal of discomfort for all parties, the area has begun to  recover.  There remain abandoned facilities that could be put to use by a  major business or manufacturing concern.  But will the Chinese take a  chance here?  Also, I especially enjoyed the 'Cold War Potpourri' and  the pictures!  Thank you for providing this insight into a fascinating  and interesting part of our history."

Overseas Brats Year End Bulletin 2013 Review 

Podcast with Circe Olson Woessner, Executive Director of the
Museum of the American Military Family, Albuquerque, NM
November 16, 2013

Click on link below to listen to podcast:


The American Legion Magazine 
In Your Own Words - Books

Veterans  can learn how one USAF Base in France was, in fact, a microcosm of what  occurred around the world during a Cold War in which 120 million men  and women served in the U.S. Military, 27 million of them overseas.

Arts/Lit  v.22, no. 42  Oct. 17-23-2013

Golden Ghetto: How the Americans and French Fell In & Out of Love During the Cold War
by:  Steve Bassett 
(Xeno Books · hardcover/paperback · $26.95/$19.95)

A  vast American Air Force base, constructed in a substantially Communist  region of Cold War-era France, became a significant social, political  and economic force remembered long after it ceased operations in 1966.  After purchasing a home in central France, Placitas-based author Steve  Bassett came across the story, virtually unknown in the US, and began  the hundreds of hours of interviews with both American and French  sources that ultimately became Golden Ghetto. Bassett’s old-school  journalistic approach and fondness for polysyllabics is fused with an  enthusiastic storytelling style. His chapter titles and subtitles—like  “Escaping, Eggs, and Betrayal, ” “Communists Eating Popcorn” and  “Séances and Pink Ladies”—especially capture the vivacity of his voice.  In Bassett’s hand, even the account of an interview the journalist  failed to obtain advances our understanding of the historical climate.  Bassett helms the New Mexico launch of his book at Bookworks (4022 Rio  Grande NW) on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 7pm.


Albuquerque The Magazine
September 2013

ShelfLife Section  --  Local Author
(click on icon below)

2.1 MB

English translation of “La Nouvelle Republique” article
July 28, 2013, L'Indre France

click here for French article:

“Golden Ghetto”: Berry at the time of the Cold War

Steve  Bassett is a former U.S. journalist who has just completed a book about  the history of the American presence in Châteauroux from 1951 to 1967.

While  the former military base called La Martinerie is today fully converted  to a civilian airport, the former American journalist Steve Bassett will  release a book, September 1st, through Red Hen Press (USA).  This book  deals with the history of the presence of North American soldiers in  Châteauroux, between 1951 and 1967.  “Golden Ghetto” evokes the special  atmosphere in Berry, at the time it was occupied by the GIs, during the  era of the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine.  "Before the arrival  of the Americans in the military base,” the author explains, “the Berry  region was more agricultural and not industrialized very much.  The  presence of these foreign troops led to the creation, not only of shops  and jobs, but also revitalized life in the area."

Selected testimonies:

Over  the pages, English-speaking readers can discover through different  viewpoints, the effect of Franco-American cohabitation on the  “Berrichon” local life.  Numerous anecdotes show these sixteen years as a  kind of golden age, from success stories experienced by some  entrepreneurs, to love stories that united some French women to GIs who  were sometimes black, during a time racism was plaguing the United  States.  Nevertheless, the counterpoint represented by communism also  appears.  This electorate represented 28% of voters who had managed to  unite an important anti-American core in the region.

Six years  were required to write the book.  The author, who owns property in  Bouges-le-Château, had long been unaware of the existence of the  Châteauroux military base.  A selection had to be made from among the  hundreds of collected testimonies, in order to achieve the final text  which is composed of 15 chapters corresponding to different themes, as  well as 36 original photographs, complementing the stories recounted by  witnesses.

by:  Lea Bouquerot

Blinded Veterans Association

Link to published article (with photo) in Summer 2013 BVA Bulletin:

    Tucson  International Airport is a user friendly place, spacious but not too  big and relatively easy for a legally blind veteran to get around.  This  would be my second trip to the city courtesy of the VA’s Southwest  Blind Rehabilitation Center.  I had gone through the Center’s basic  program a few months earlier, departing after five weeks infused with a  massive dose of confidence instilled by instructors and staff who  understood what macular degeneration was all about and how to cope with  it.  My AMD had been misdiagnosed more than fifteen years earlier  because a guy in his 50s was just too young to be stricken.  The  ophthalmologist, retinal specialist, was wrong.

    Waiting for me  at the airport this trip was René Valencia, the computer instructor who  for almost five weeks would be guiding a stubborn, sometimes  contentious professional writer through the complexities of ZoomText.   Talk about patience, René personified it.  I was never more than a  simplistic hands-on computer guy, so the screen magnification and  reading program didn’t come easy, but there was no way I would admit  it.  René saw through my ruse from the get-go.  There was a month during  which progress advanced from mutual exasperation to that eureka moment  when it finally all sank in, well most of it.  Other instructors helped  out along the way and they were all there when I was handed my  certificate of completion during a ceremony in which I detected a  collective sigh of relief. 

     For me, what the Southwest Blind  Rehabilitation Center offered was nothing short of rebirth.  My AMD,  although dry, had been gradually worsening .  I was three years into a  book project and writing was becoming increasingly difficult.  Armed  with this new resource from the VA and the help of an assistant working  with me at home, I was able to complete the manuscript, a six year  project that required revisions and seemingly endless edits and  re-edits.   It all paid off.  In late 2012, my manuscript was accepted  by a prestigious California publisher, Red Hen Press, and is scheduled  for release in September 2013.  This was something new for Red Hen  Press, a boutique publisher noted for its literary and poetry titles.   My book, “Golden Ghetto: How the Americans and French Fell In and Out of  Love During the Cold War,” would be a completely different genre. 

    I  stumbled onto this story shortly after my wife and I purchased a home  in Sainte Colombe in Central France. We heard countless, somewhat  mystical tales about how a huge U.S. Air Force base transformed the  political, economic and social lives of two French and American  generations lucky enough to grab on to the base’s brass ring.  If ever a  U.S. military base deserved the sobriquet “Golden Ghetto” it was the  Déols-Châteauroux Air Station (CHAS), which for sixteen years during the  height of the Cold War was considered one of the most desirable  postings in the world, until Charles de Gaulle booted the Americans and  other NATO military out of France and the Golden Ghetto was padlocked.   Based on hundreds of hours of research and interviews, “Golden Ghetto”  is a first-ever collective memoir look at life on an overseas base from  the perspectives of both the occupied and occupier.  As an Army vet and a  draftee, I have to admit that I hardly gave more than a passing thought  to the citizens living in and around 7th Infantry Division headquarters  in peacetime Korea.  The Korean War had been long over, time was  passing smoothly and I couldn’t wait to get home.  Almost 400 hours of  interviews collected for “Golden Ghetto,” half of them with French men  and women, opened my eyes to what I had missed, that all around there  was friendship for the taking if I had only reached for it. 

     And  talk about a small world.  On March 19, I addressed a meeting of the  local chapter of the BVA in Albuquerque.  I talked about the VA blind  center in Tucson and how its staff engendered self-confidence that for  me had been steadily waning as my eyesight worsened.  With me were two  couples whose stories personified what “Golden Ghetto” was all about,  friendship leading to hope and finally to love.  Sam Herrera had crawled  from a family run four-foot wide coal mine shaft in southwestern  Colorado to join the Air Force at the age of 18.  Anna Reh was 2 1/2  years old when she escaped with her family from one of Tito’s communist  work camps in Yugoslavia.  She had been carried on the back of her  oldest sister through Yugoslavia, Hungary and Austria.  Anna and her  mother and two sisters finally made their way to Châteauroux, France  where she worked as a teenage nanny for Sam’s Air Force boss.  They fell  in love, married, had a son and daughter, a marriage that has lasted 53  years. 

    Jerry Lowery had always been crazy about aviation  and it was no surprise when he left his blue collar family in Baltimore  to join the Air Force as a teenager.  Like Sam, he was posted to CHAS in  the mid-1950s.  He met Nicole Guilmin, who was also working as a  teenage nanny at the base.  She was from the nearby provincial town of  Dèols.  Like Anna, she carried with her horrible childhood memories.   Nicole was little more than a toddler when a beloved uncle was murdered  by the Nazis while attempting to escape from a train destined for a  forced labor camp in Germany.  He was shot 17 times, his body dumped in  an old French air hangar.  Perhaps it was fate when the two couples, who  were total strangers, found each other and a lifelong friendship  began.  Each couple served as best man and maid of honor for the other  and they eventually shared the only home they could afford off base, a  few rooms over a horse stable in Châteauroux. 

    If a reader  was to dismiss the story of these two couples as mundane, what a mistake  it would be.  The Herreras and the Lowerys personify the enduring  legacy of an air base that transformed an impoverished region of central  France.  Americans and French put aside initial fears and distrust and  created a Golden Ghetto that embodied trust, friendship and, as was the  case with the Herreras and the Lowerys, an enduring love.  I never put  much stock in fate, but I do believe there is a universal synergy that  weaves along uncharted pathways to reach a common goal.  Consider the  journey of discovery described above. 

    An American couple  buys a small French farm house in a region far off the beaten tourist  trap.  The journalist husband learns that a huge U.S. Air Force base  once existed a short distance away.  He begins his research and a book  starts to take shape.  Three years into the project AMD worsens and he  is declared legally blind.  The VA’s Visual Impairment Services Team  (VIST) in Albuquerque offers hope.  Visual aids, training, finally  ZoomText and in a little over two years “Golden Ghetto: How the  Americans and French Fell In and Out of Love During the Cold War” is  completed.  A prestigious publisher which had never handled a military  title before takes a chance on the book.  A contract is signed and a  September 2013 release date is set.  With this comes the awareness that  if even one seemingly disparate ingredient was missing this article  would not have been written. 

    submitted by: Steve Bassett


English translation of “L'Aurore Paysanne” article
November 9, 2012, L'Indre France

 Click here for full French article:
1.6 MB

American Base at Chateauroux ---  Nostalgia for a time

The  American Steve Bassett, who resides part of the year at  Bouges-le-Château, will publish across the Atlantic a book about the  United States’ sixteen years at Châteauroux. Its title: "Golden Ghetto."

Steve  Bassett has the quiet assurance of an American who gets around:  military service in Korea followed by a busy journalist career (print  media, wire service agencies and TV) in the United States.  He has just  ended a six-year work on the American base at Châteauroux-Déols, an  inexhaustible source of fantasies.

Everything starts in the mud  of the farmland of Déols, Diors, Montierchaume and Coings where  excavators and bulldozers built architecture of a 700-hectare military  camp. The winter of 1951-52 is not any more welcoming than the human  environment. It was the Cold War. The Soviet threat weighed on European  democracies and, locally, the arrival of US troops put the militant  communists on their guard. They denounce "The American imperialism" and  require the departure of the "invaders" with the help of "US Go Home"  whitewashed on walls during the night.

In 1951, in line with the  Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, America and its allies decided to  establish the Western European military bases that acted as strongholds  to counter the Soviet ogre. Châteauroux was a centerpiece of the plan.  "During this sixteen years of activity, from 1951 to 1967,” wrote Steve  Bassett, "Châteauroux air base was a great place, well entrenched in the  heart of this quiet part in the centre of France. From Scandinavia to  the Mediterranean from North Africa to Turkey, each U.S. base depended  on supplies sent from here. The base of Châteauroux elevated Berry from  poverty, to raise it to a standard where the possession of the legendary  small 2CV has replaced the bicycle as a sign of prestige."

Between Rejection, Reserve and Fascination

            Little  by little, Tent City succeeded Mud City, and soon the base was adorned  with buildings, roads and infrastructure that astonished the Berrichon  still living with the fruits of the garden. An American village of 350  one-story homes with the best comforts emerges from the earth in  Brassioux-Déols. The basic hiring and a certain opulence is spreading in  the city. Even a communist activist as Pierre Pirot observes this show  with wide eyes: "thousands of Americans arrived.1 They lived in  comfortable homes, the manors, chateaus...Their lives seemed easy, easy  money. It is open from nightclubs in the city in which operated  prostitutes. It created fights in the night. Of course, all Americans  were not like that. I've been in restaurants eating [with Americans]  which were very nice.  Generally, they behaved towards the French as in a  conquered land. Note that it is not peculiar to the Americans;  everywhere where there is large concentrations of soldiers, there are  excesses. This is what people did not appreciate."

The French do  not share the same critical eye, women in particular. "What we saw first  were boys a little larger than the average of French, clean and  attractive," says Lillianne Diez. Aged 15 at the time, Lillianne came  with her friends to get an eyeful of aviators at the laundromat near the  Town Hall of Châteauroux, all without the knowledge of her parents. She  ended up marrying one of these Apollos2 and it was in Texas that Steve  Bassett collected her confession in 2008.

The young especially  expressed their fascination for this local recreation of the USA that  throbbed and grew on the outskirts of Châteauroux with its big cars and a  more relaxed lifestyle. Jean-Claude Prot remembers: "all Americans  appeared to us very friendly. They attended a bar called the L’Imprevue  (the unexpected) with pinball machines. When they had played enough,  they often left us the last ball. It was generous. This is where I ate  my first chewing gum. I remember an American who was repairing an  electricity pylon. From his perch, he launched me a chewing gum, with a  big smile."

 After a few years of hesitation and timid approach,  French and American communities learned how to better know and  appreciate each other. But everything has an end. General de Gaulle  decided to withdraw France from NATO. The U.S. bases closed in 1967. We  folded the banners and flags ceremoniously. Berry wondered about the end  of the prosperity that had come from out of the blue.

 "Thousands  of jobs for the French3 supported the local economy which grew by more  than 33% in a few years with Uncle Sam,” says Steve Bassett rather  sadly.  “…There was a time where one in six Berrichon received a cheque  from the Golden Ghetto." Soon closed, the base left the field open to  all nostalgia.

1.  1953, there were 8,000 soldiers and families.

2.    549 French-US weddings were celebrated at the Town Hall in Châteauroux in sixteen years.

3.   The American base employed up to 4,000 French civilians.