Understanding the Cold War
The Cold War from September 1945 - December 26, 1991, was
global in nature, and many facets and changing strategic
considerations. During some parts of the period, actual shooting
wars were involved, but always it was a political and military
confrontation. Many of the losses in the Cold War were on missions
that were under the veil of secrecy. A total of 123 of those lost
(in addition to those of the Korean and Vietnam wars) are still
classified as Missing in Action (MIA).
"We slept safe in our beds at night because our vigilant and alert
forces stood ready in the night to visit violence on those who
would do us harm."
American Cold War Veterans, Inc., modeled after a quote from
"America's line of defense is the Elbe River "
General D.D. Eisenhower, 1951
"There is only one sure way to avoid global war, and that is to
win the Cold War. "
President D.D. Eisenhower, 1953
"By the grace of God, we won the Cold War. "
George H.W. Bush, 1992
"And so the greatest of American triumphs.became a peculiarly
joyless victory. We had won the Cold War, but there would be no
- Robert M. Gates, 1996
"The Cold War was a war, and we won it. "
Donald Rumsfeld, 2005
"To the Cold War veterans here, know that your steadfast efforts
preserved a delicate balance, and, because of you, the global
war that many feared never came to pass. We are thankful for
you, as we are for all the veterans here with us."
Admiral Mike Mullen 2005
After the end of the Second World War, A Communist insurgency
began in 1946 In Greece. Operating out of the mountains, a large
guerrilla force attempted to Overthrow the Greek government and
Replace it with a Communist regime. In 1948, the United States -
under the Truman Doctrine, sent equipment and Advisors to
Greece, and a defeated Guerilla Army was driven into Albania,
Conceding defeat in 1949. General James A. Van Fleet was honored
for his Role in helping Greece remain a free nation. Greece
joined NATO in 1952.
Navy Squadron VP-2 was stationed at Whitby Island and moved to Iwakuni, Japan in 1953. Operational Reports define their missions from Iwakuni as ECM (Electronic Countermeasures) Photoreconnaissance, and Tsushima Straits patrol. ECM missions were often conducted over hostile waters and over enemy territory.
US Navy Squadron VP-2 was one of many that did patrol duty along coasts of China, North Korea, and USSR, LT Jesse Beasley, USN, was lost with his crew of 11 On patrol over Yellow Sea, off coast of China and Korea, January 4, 1954 (photo and letter courtesy of his son, Mr. Satch Beasley)
Looking south from Korean DMZ, view of Counter-Infiltration
barrier fence and guardpost, 1969. Wire in foreground marks edge
Helping Mr. Gorbachev tear down the wall!
Located in the Memorial Gardens of the U.S. Air Force
Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, 55 names of
the 55th Strategic Recon Wing members killed during the Cold
War are prominently displayed. The memorial was dedicated in
Cold War Casualties
Cry Out For Commemoration
Memorials and museums haphazardly spot the landscape. Only
a comprehensive museum-memorial combination can convey the
magnitude of the nation's longest war, say veterans.
Aerial Reconnaissance Recalled
Because of the secretive nature of their duties, no campaign
medal (outside Korea and Vietnam) recognizes many vets in the
fraternity of aerial recon warriors. This glaring official
void is unlikely ever to be remedied.
The Aerial Reconnaissance Memorial in National Vigilance Park
at Fort Meade, Md., pays homage to cryptologists of all
services lost in the line of duty. The aircraft and plaques
that make up the park were dedicated Sept. 2, 1997. Its
centerpiece preserves the memory of the 17-man crew shot down
over Armenia in 1958. The nearby National Security Agency
Cryptologic Memorial lists names dating back to 1952.
The National Cryptologic Museum contains three displays
focusing on aerial recon. The primary one--the "Cold Warrior"
exhibit--is devoted to all aircrew members KIA or MIA on
missions over and around Communist borders.
A private company, Raytheon (the grounds are now owned by L-3
Communications Integrated Systems), created one of the most
impressive tributes yet to Cold War veterans.
Its Reconnaissance Memorial in Greenville, Texas, memorializes
crewmembers from 10 missions for which the plant played a part
in manufacturing the aircraft's systems. The circular wall
supporting individual plaques was dedicated Oct. 9, 1998. It
includes three of the Cold War's deadliest shoot-downs in 1956
(Sea of Japan), 1958 (Armenia) and 1969 (off North Korea).
The Air Force Museum boasts a new Cold War annex opened in the
spring of 2003. At the museum's Memorial Gardens, a Cold War
memorial listing 55 members killed represents the 55th
Strategic Recon Wing (SRW). Four benches represent each of its
squadrons. It was dedicated in September 2003. A granite
monument honors the 91st SRW.
Close by are two more memorials--one to the 1958 shoot-down in
Armenia and the other to all fliers who lost their lives
during the "Silent War."
The Strategic Air Command (SAC) Memorial at Offutt AFB in
Nebraska proclaims: "Sept. 6, 1996. Dedicated to those valiant
strategic airborne reconnaissance crew members who gave their
lives during the Cold War." Also there is the Cobra Ball II
Monument to six crewmen killed in a crash on Shemya, Aleutian
Islands, on March 15, 1981. The Strategic Air and Space Museum
near Omaha has an exhibit on unresolved Cold War shoot-downs
and some era weaponry.
The U.S. Air Force Security Service Memorial at Lackland AFB
in San Antonio is symbolized by an EC-47 aircraft dedicated in
1994. The memorial plaque listing names of those killed is
located in the headquarters building.
Countries over which crews were shot down also have helped
remember the lost lives. An Armenian memorial stone, or
khachkar, was dedicated by the villagers of Sasnashen at the
site of the 1958 shoot-down in August 1993. It had no names
because the U.S. government did not provide them then.
Once the Iron Curtain was lifted, residents of the former East
Germany were anxious to remember, too. The people of
Vogelsberg erected a memorial complete with a plaque on stone
and photos on a cross to the three American airmen killed by a
Soviet pilot on Jan. 28, 1964.
Latvia has a prominent obelisk overlooking the Baltic Sea
coast with a memorial plaque. Dedicated in April 2000, the
monument remembers the 10 Navy aviators shot down and killed
by the Soviets on April 8, 1950.
Great Britain offers the American Air Museum, opened in August
1997, at Duxford Field. Among its vast collection are Cold War
aircraft and artifacts. English Heritage, a preservationist
agency, hopes to make the former U.S. air base at Upper
Heyford the country's first Cold War monument. "It helps us
understand that the peace we have today is a result of the
Cold War," said Frank Dixon of the Oxford Trust for
At home in Arlington National Cemetery, a gravestone inscribed
with five names is located in Section 2. Unveiled Aug. 19,
1950, the monument honors the airmen killed in the first fatal
Cold War shoot-down, over Yugoslavia in August 1946.
A "Silent Heroes of the Cold War National Monument" has been
proposed for Mt. Charleston in Nevada. It marks the site of a
C-54 crash on Nov. 7, 1955, that killed 14 airmen and
civilians. Proponents say it would be all-inclusive, however.
Finally, the Air Force Memorial to be built in Virginia will
not list names, but will "reflect the campaigns in some
fashion," according to Pete Lindquist, vice president for
Naval Aviation Recon Neglected
While Air Force recon casualties and veterans are
substantially recognized, the same cannot be said of their
Navy counterparts. This is true in terms of both memorials and
The National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla., has
"no exhibits or memorials within the museum or on the museum
grounds relating to the Cold War," says museum historian Hill
Goodspeed. But at the nearby Center for Cryptology at Corry
Station, the Naval Security Group (NSG) Association has
maintained a display since 1998. It covers naval
reconnaissance, shoot-downs (1950-69) and the capture of the
USS Pueblo in 1968.
"Although we deal with the Navy," said NSGCC volunteer
coordinator William Lockert, "my intention is to have a
picture of every type of reconnaissance aircraft [all
services], list the type of aircraft, date and names of all
service members who lost their lives flying these 'training
National Vigilance Park in Maryland does not display an
aircraft representing the Navy. NSG vets would like an EC-121
to honor the 31 men killed off North Korea in 1969. (They are
listed in Greenville, Texas.) But rumors indicate a Skywarrior
A3D (EA-3B) may be under consideration for the park.
The "Silent Service" of undersea reconnaissance, on the other
hand, is widely recognized. During the Cold War, submariners
often rated the Naval Expeditionary Medal for operating "under
circumstances which after full consideration shall be deemed
to merit special recognition."
At Groton, Conn., the Submarine Force Museum includes displays
on Cold War-related events. The nuclear sub USS Nautilus forms
the museum's centerpiece.
Dedicated Dec. 6, 2002, the Cold War Submarine Memorial is
located on a 2.3-acre site at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime
Museum in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Seven educational stations tell
the submarine story along a winding path.
One station is devoted "to those who sacrificed their lives
while serving in and supporting our submarine forces during
the Cold War." The USS Thresher and Scorpion are listed, which
also are honored by bronze plaques at Portsmouth, N.H., and
Norfolk, Va., respectively, for their crew losses in the
U.S. Army Along the Iron Curtain
Three campaign medals cover service in Cold War Europe: the
Army of Occupation (Austria, Germany, Italy and Berlin), Navy
Occupation (the aforementioned plus Trieste) and the AFEM
(Berlin, 1961-63). Conspicuously excluded are all the
veterans--especially of armored cavalry units--who did duty on
the borders of East Germany and Czechoslovakia from 1955 (
U.S. occupation ended then) to 1989.
During the 1980s, the U.S. Army in Europe considered compiling
GI deaths from training and other accidents in order to erect
a memorial, but the project was never completed.
Some monuments, however, have taken root in German soil. The
14th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) has had one at the former
Downs Barracks in Fulda since 1998. Both the 14th and 11th ACR
dedicated markers at Observation Post Alpha on May 14, 2000.
OP Alpha, complete with a museum (including 14th memorabilia),
has been developed into the premier Cold War site in Germany,
thanks to the efforts of local Germans like Hans Schmidt, a
vet of the Federal Border Police.
The largest of the border museums is located at Marienborn.
The best known, of course, is Checkpoint Charlie Museum in
Berlin. The German Army Military History Museum in Dresden
naturally deals with the East-West struggle from the German
perspective. Its Cold War Room opened in May 1997 and contains
These examples apparently are exceptions, though. "In
Germany," said Florian Weiss, curator of the Allied Museum in
Berlin, "you will hardly find Cold War military themes
presented in museums." Political education is the goal, he
said. Some special exhibits appear occasionally, but nothing
in the Allied Museum tells the story of the famed Berlin
Two U.S. Army museums still exist in Germany. The 1st Armored
Division Museum in Baumholder has a complete room with Cold
War exhibits, photos, dioramas, artifacts and uniformed
mannequins, according to Director Dan Peterson. The 1st
Infantry Division Museum at Wurzberg includes displays on that
unit's long stay in Germany.
Back in the States, the Army boasts an extensive museum system
covering branches as well as units. But few exhibits deal
exclusively with the Cold War. At least one exception is the
Museum of the U.S. Constabulary housed with the Fort Riley
Regimental Museum (adjacent to the U.S. Cavalry Museum) in
Kansas. Its three galleries detail the history of the "First
Cold Warriors, 1946-1952."
Armor Unit Park at the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at
Fort Knox, Ky., covers all the armored divisions and armored
cavalry regiments. The 4th Infantry Division, 11th ACR and 3rd
Cavalry Regiment museums contain only small Cold War displays.
The 2nd ACR (Reed Museum) at Fort Polk, La., has two Cold War
sections along with significant outside displays.
The private 1st Division Museum at Cantigny, Ill., plans to
refurbish its Cold War section in 2005. The Field Artillery
Museum at Ft. Sill, Okla., displays the 280mm "atomic cannon"
of Cold War fame, as do five other museums and parks.
Considering the fact that the Army fielded 15 divisions (some
for more than three decades) and five armored cavalry
regiments in Germany during the Cold War, it is surprising
that more attention has not been focused on them.
The newly opened National Guard Museum in Washington, D.C.,
has a separate section called The Cold War Era (Area 4),
mentioning the 1961 Berlin mobilization, 1961 Bay of Pigs
operation and 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
The National Museum of the U.S. Army, to be built at Fort
Belvoir, Va., and opened in June 2009, will incorporate the
Cold War in its timeline. "This chronological zone is titled
'Containing Communism' and begins with Greece in 1947,"
according to Army Historical Foundation Marketing Director
Intelligence Operatives Remembered
Civilian intelligence personnel who worked through the CIA and
the State Department played a vital role in winning the Cold
War in Europe. And some died right along with their military
CIA's predecessor, OSS, dedicated its memorial book at CIA HQ
in 1992. It lists 116 names, including one who was killed by
Vietnamese Communists after WWII --Capt. A. Peter Dewey. CIA's
Memorial Wall of stars and glass-encased Book of Honor were
unveiled at Langley, Va., in the fall of 1974.
To qualify for inclusion, deaths must be "of an inspirational
or heroic character." Yet this excludes contract employees,
such as those who flew for Air America, no matter how heroic
their feats, and thus denies recognition to many.
Names on the wall date back to 1950. Of 80 stars, 34 names
still remain secret. Likewise, CIA's museum is closed to the
public, leaving its achievements hidden.
The State Department's memorial listing is located in the
lobby of the diplomatic entrance, and is maintained by the
American Foreign Service Association. It includes the names of
some defense attaches and Marine embassy security guards who
were killed under "heroic or inspirational circumstances." At
least 14 of the honorees died during the Cold War between
1950-1992, and not in Vietnam.
Unlike the first American casualty of the Cold War, the final
U.S. hostile death in Europe attracted wide-spread publicity
in the news media. Killed by a Soviet sentry in East Germany
on March 24, 1985, Maj. Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr., received a
hero's return home.
He is buried in Section 7-A of Arlington National Cemetery.
Inscribed on his gravestone are these words: "Killed in East
Germany, U.S. Military Liaison Mission." No mention is made of
who killed him or why he was shot. This is reflective of how
many Americans who preceded Nicholson in death during the Cold
War are remembered.
Arlington contains the graves of at least 16 others killed in
hostile Cold War incidents. A group called No Greater Love (NGL),
the brainchild of Carmella LaSpada, sees to it that those who
die in uniform are remembered. For instance, NGL had the El
Salvador marble marker dedicated in Arlington on May 5, 1996.
It also sponsors annual remembrance tributes for El Salvador
and Grenada, among others.
Perhaps its most unique tribute, however, is for the Cold War
on Nov. 9. "No one seems to recall the importance of the day
the Berlin Wall came down in 1989," LaSpada said. "It is a day
that should be set aside nationally to honor all the Americans
who served to contain communism."
With 5 million visitors a year, Arlington National Cemetery is
certainly an ideal location to permanently remember the 384
Americans killed by hostile Communist action across the globe.
(All their names will be printed in VFW's forthcoming book
Cold War Clashes, a comprehensive one-of-a-kind history of
these virtually unknown campaigns.)
Names are central to memorials with drawing power. It is the
only way to guarantee the nobility of personal sacrifice and
convey the scale of those sacrifices. Listing names by
campaign and date complete with units also is the best means
of retaining martial identity.
The essence of names was captured in a New York Times article
entitled "Finding Comfort in the Safety of Names" by Michael
Kimmelman. The listing of names, he wrote, is the "visual
equivalent to the monotone roll-call of the dead." Kimmelman
concluded: "Memorials are above all for the families and for a
community, common ground to grieve ... Only the families and
friends of the dead can really know what the names mean."
Memorials play a historical role in culture. "What society
values and what it wants to remember about war is reflected in
the variety of social and physical settings for sacred and
non-sacred memorials that exist," James M. Mayo wrote in War
Memorials as Political Landscape. "War memorials not only
evoke war history, but more importantly, they evoke the
history that people want to remember."
A move is afoot to finally recognize those who waged the Cold
War. A potential location for a proposed memorial and museum
has been selected at the former Nike missile base in Lorton,
Va. It's a spot only 20 minutes from Washington, D.C.
Beginning with a traveling display in 1996, Francis Gary
Powers, Jr., has pursued a $10 million dream ever since. "I am
working for this museum and memorial not just for my dad [held
by Moscow in 1960]," Powers said, "but to honor all Cold War
veterans, to make sure all Cold War history is preserved."
But how this history is preserved is the key. "The past is
also what is commemorated by monuments and markers, plaques
and parades, historic sites and museums," according to Yale
historian Robin Winks. "Almost always a monument is an attempt
to interpret an event in which those who have erected it take
Indeed, it is. And that's precisely what any national Cold War
museum and memorial must do--evoke pride among those who
served and sacrificed.
To that end, VFW Post 7327 in Springfield, Va., made a $20,000
donation in August 2002 to Powers' project. "Those who served
deserve more than a Cold War Recognition Certificate," feels
J.B. Young, senior vice commander. "It is high time that a
fitting, permanent tribute be erected in a highly visible
place where the public can visit it and come to appreciate the
sacrifices made on their behalf in the twilight struggle
Post 7327 made this donation independently: VFW has not
officially endorsed Powers' project or any other such effort.
That requires a national convention resolution, which the Post
is reportedly planning to introduce in 2004.)
Editor's Note: Please let us know if we
missed any memorials or museums to Cold War vets. Also, we
look forward to your input on any issues raised in this
article and what should be included in a Cold War museum.
Ten Galleries in a Hypothetical Cold War Museum
Listed here are campaigns that should be covered in any such
museum. Far too often the focus is on armaments, politics and
cultural icons instead of the people in uniform who waged the
Memorial historian James M. Mayo has categorized three types
of military history museums: weapon, hero and warrior. "Public
war museums must honor those who fought," he wrote in War
Memorials as Public Landscapes. "Honor is for people, not
weapons ... Warrior museums enable the public to come closer
to people who had a role in history."
Galleries with a permanent place in a "warrior" Cold War
museum should include:
Morgan Line & Trieste, 1945-54
Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, Greece, Albania
Marines in North China, 1945-1949
Border Operations along the Iron Curtain, 1945-89
Armored Cavalry, Intelligence, Signals in Germany
Rhine River Patrol, 1950s
Berlin Crisis, 1961
Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, 1948-91
Arctic Rim Duty
Alaska, Iceland, Greenland, 1946-91
Caribbean Cockpit, 1961-1991
Marines at Guantanamo Bay, 1961-63
Alabama N.G. at Bay of Pigs, 1961
Overflights of Cuba & Sea Duty, 1962
Dominican Republic, 1965-66
Advisers in El Salvador, 1981-91
Firefights on Korea's DMZ, 1966-69
USS Pueblo, 1968
In Hostile Skies: Aerial Reconnaissance
Air Force, Navy, Shoot-Downs (1946-70)
Service Beneath the Sea: Submarines, 1946-1991
Guerrillas & Terrorism, 1946-1991}
Taiwan, 1954, 1958-63
Panama Canal Zone, 1964
Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, Greece
SOURCE: VFW Magazine
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES
May 28, 2007
The unspoken war
The Cold War's battlefields may have been out of sight, but
they're not out of mind to that era's veterans, who now want
to honor these forgotten soldiers.
By John Barry
The most famous Cold War veteran was:
Maybe Francis Gary Powers. He died in an accidental crash of a
weather research plane after running out of oxygen. Or so his
family was told. Then the Soviets produced a live Francis Gary
Powers and put him on public trial. He had parachuted into
their hands after they blew up his U-2 spy plane. The Francis
Gary Powers affair was one big Cold War stink.
Or could be Elvis. He was drafted in 1957. He declined
assignment as an Army entertainer, instead served in Germany
in the 3rd Armor Division, tanks facing
gun-barrel-to-gun-barrel with the Soviets. "I don't think
Americans even want to know about this stuff, " Elvis said. "A
lot of people back home think I'm out of my mind doin' what
Either guy may have been most famous. But someone lesser known
may have been more truly representative of a struggle that
lasted 46 years, consumed almost 400 American lives in some of
the most obscure places on Earth, then was celebrated as "the
war America won without firing a shot."
"Only a handful of Americans have ever heard of Lt. Col.
Seldon R. Edner, or attached much significance to his death, "
Richard K. Kolb writes in his book, Cold War Clashes:
Confronting Communism, 1945-1991.
Edner's Air Force AT-6 plane was shot down by guerrillas
during the Greek Civil War in 1949. His misfortune was
surviving the crash. Kolb writes: "He was lynched, stripped,
garroted, scalped, his head crushed and body mangled."
If anybody ever earned a Cold War medal, it would be Seldon
Edner. He never got one. No one ever got one.
Says Kolb, "The Cold War was the great unknown of modern
The recognition Cold War vets have sought may soon come about.
A National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House
of Representatives this month, calls for a military Cold War
Victory Medal. A similar bill, sponsored by Hillary Clinton,
is pending in the Senate.
Until now most of the disparate efforts to honor Cold War
veterans haven't involved the government. This was a mostly
secret war, and most of the deaths were lonely ones in places
Americans weren't supposed to be. Some families waited decades
before even knowing that their son or father had died not
accidentally, but fighting for his country in a place like
Albania, or north China, or the Bering Strait.
Carrying flowers and a medal, Frank Tims led a delegation of
Cold War aficionados to Arlington National Cemetery May 1. In
the '50s, Tims had served in West Germany in "special
operations research" for the Army. He's now writing a book
about the Cold War at home in St. Petersburg. He helps run the
Cold War Veterans Association.
The medal he and the others carried was not an official one.
His was privately struck and can be had on the Internet for
$24.95. Tims hopes the United States will one day issue an
official "Cold War Victory Medal" and create a memorial in
Washington. But he and the others wanted to start somewhere.
They designated May 1 as their own remembrance day - the May
Day once known for the annual display of Soviet nuclear
missiles and tanks in Red Square.
As their first medal honoree, they chose a general named James
A. Van Fleet, best known for leading the 8th Army in the
Korean War. Except in Gator Nation, where he is best known for
having coached the University of Florida football team in
1923-24. But Tims' delegation meant to honor him for a mission
less remembered. In 1948, Van Fleet led 453 noncombatant
military advisers into the Greek Civil War. They helped turn
the tide against Communist guerrilla forces.
The ceremony was brief and modest. The group surrounded Van
Fleet's grave in civilian suit and tie. As the others saluted,
Tims laid upon Van Fleet's stone the $24.95 medal.
That was for saving Western Europe from Communism.
The Powers family might have never known what really happened
to their father if the Soviets hadn't exposed him, says the
son of the U-2 pilot.
Francis Gary Powers Jr. was born after his father's 21-month
Soviet imprisonment and heard all the stories growing up,
including the government cover story about an accidental crash
of a weather plane.
The son has worked more than a decade toward the opening of a
Cold War Museum on the site of a former Nike missile base in
Lorton, Va. He has 120, 000 square feet of missile storage
space to work with. Among his artifacts are shreds of dad's
plane wreckage, presented to him by the Russians during a
Moscow "spy tour" he took in 1997.
After repatriation, dad was criticized for failing to stick
himself with a poison pin that U-2 pilots carried on their
flights. The pilot took most of it in stride. He had a stock
response when asked how high he flew his U-2:
"Not high enough."
Powers had survived his shoot-down by a Soviet missile and
years testing experimental aircraft only to die in 1977 in the
crash of a TV traffic helicopter in Los Angeles.
Powers was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross
The stories of Cold War sacrifice and the names that go with
them have come finally from veterans and their families.
"They weren't in textbooks, " says Kolb, the author of Cold
War Clashes, who is also executive editor of publications for
the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Mo. "Families
sent us the stories."
One included the last words of the first American soldier to
die in Vietnam. He died of a machine gun bullet to the neck on
Sept. 26, 1945, 14 years before Americans were supposed to
have been there. Just before his death, Army Capt. Albert
Peter Dewey sent a letter home.
"Now wouldn't it be stupid, " he wrote, "if I got myself
knocked off in this two-bit civil war?"
John Barry can be reached at (727) 892-2258 or
Son of Cold War legend
speaks at March museum
11:24 AM PDT on Monday, September 17, 2007
By JOE VARGO
It's been five decades since his spy plane was shot down over
the Soviet Union but numerous theories continue swirling
around the final covert flight of Francis Gary Powers.
Powers' son, Gary Powers, spoke at the March Field Air Museum
Sunday to put that speculation to rest and champion his
efforts to establish a national Cold War museum.
"The Cold War was a world war," Gary Powers, 42, told about
200 guests during a lecture. "It involved efforts on every
continent. The Cold War was a hot war. People died in this
Steven Lewis special to The Press-Enterprise
A timeline of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers' life is on
display Sunday at the March Field Air Museum in Moreno Valley.
Francis Gary Powers became the focal point of the Cold War on
May 1, 1960, when his U-2 plane fell to a surface-to-air
missile while over the Soviet Union on a nine-hour mission to
photograph Russian missile bases.
The younger Powers called the missile that downed the
super-secret spy plane a "lucky shot," one of 14 fired that
May Day. The missile exploded near the plane, creating a shock
wave that blew off the tail and sent his dad plummeting to the
ground from an altitude of 70,500 feet. He landed in a wheat
Almost immediately the speculation began about what downed the
plane, which was thought to fly so high it was invulnerable to
That speculation included such theories as:
A spy planted a bomb in the plane that caused the crash.
Bad piloting sent the U-2 into a death spiral.
The CIA sabotaged the mission to keep Cold War tensions high.
Powers defected to the Soviets.
A space alien got him.
The younger Powers said the American government might have
contributed to keeping the various theories alive to divert
attention from efforts to spy on the Soviets, Communist China
and the Eastern bloc.
Francis Gary Powers was convicted of espionage and sentenced
to 12 years in prison. Held in an 8-by-12-foot cell with
another prisoner, he could read only communist publications.
In letters home, he complained about the bitter Russian winter
and despaired that he never again would see his native
"My dad never considered himself a hero," Gary Powers said.
"He was a very low-key guy who didn't like talking about
himself. He did what he felt he was obligated to do."
Francis Gary Powers endured months of interrogation, often
being questioned 16 hours a day. He was threatened with death.
He trusted no one, not even the man who shared his cell, for
fear he was a Soviet plant. He returned to the United States
in 1962 when he was exchanged for a Soviet spy. Although
cleared of wrongdoing by a Senate committee, Powers said the
CIA should have been more vocal in his defense, his son said.
"He felt there was black cloud hanging over his head," Gary
The elder Powers became a test pilot for Lockheed and
eventually flew airplanes and helicopters for Los Angeles
radio and television stations. He was killed in 1977 when his
helicopter crashed while on assignment for KNBC in Los
Angeles. He was 47. An investigation concluded the crash was
the result of pilot error.
An exhibit of Francis Gary Powers' mementos will be on display
at the March museum until Nov. 4. The collection includes
photographs of him on trial in the Soviet Union and in prison,
excerpts from letters home, a flight suit and a piece of the
wing of his U-2. His son spent years studying the Cold War and
his father's role in it.
He lobbied the Pentagon to grant his father status as a
prisoner of war. In 2000, on the 40th anniversary of the
shoot-down, the government presented Powers' relatives with a
Distinguished Flying Cross, the Prisoner of War Medal and the
National Defense Service Medal. He was also granted the CIA
Director's Medal for "extraordinary fidelity and essential
service." Eventually, the mementos will be displayed at a Cold
War museum near Fairfax. Va., Gary Powers said.
Vietnam veteran Dave Pirnie, of Hemet, one of Sunday's event
organizers, said spy planes and pilots played a significant
role during the Cold War.
"It's important that people understand the sacrifices that
were made by people whose work could not be acknowledged at
the time," he said.
Memorandum from S. P. Ivanov and R. Malinovsky to N. S.
Malinovsky and S.P. Ivanov report the shooting down of an
American aircraft, which had taken surveillance pictures of
the disposition of troops on Cuba.
To Comrade N.S. Khrushchev
I am reporting:
27 October 1962 a U-2 aircraft entered the territory of Cuba
at an altitude of 16,000 meters at 1700 hours Moscow time with
the objective of photographing the combat disposition of
troops, and in the course of 1 hour 21 minutes proceeded along
a flight route over Yaguajay--Ciego de Avila--Camagney--Manzanillo--San
With the aim of not permitting the photographs to fall into
U.S. hands, at 1820 Moscow time this aircraft was shot down by
two antiaircraft missiles of the 507th Antiaircraft Missile
Regiment at an altitude of 21,000 meters. The aircraft fell in
the vicinity of Antilla; a search has been organized.
On the same day there were 8 violations of Cuban airspace by
28 October 1962
Attested: Colonel General
The Cold War in Asia
By Michael Haycock
(from VFW Magazine)
The Cold War in Asia took place in a vast theater. It
stretched from the icy waters north of Japan-where a downed
flier could freeze in six minutes to the muggy jungles of
the Philippines and beyond to the desert wastes of the
Australian outback. In many instances the duty, necessary
and often dangerous, was little-known or even secret from
civilians at home.
While the conflict between the West and the Communist
Soviets, North Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese and their allies
flared into full-fledged wars in Korea (1950-53) and Vietnam
(1961-75), the much longer twilight struggle consumed Its
first casualty, Army Air Force Capt. John Birch, an OSS
operative, was killed by the Communist Chinese on Aug. 25,
1945 even before WWII ended. The civil war that raged in
China would claim other American casualties, almost
unnoticed at home except to the grieving loved ones they
left behind. The Marines lost 12 killed in action (KIA) and
42 wounded in 26 separate engagements in North China by
1948. (See 'Walking a Tightrope in China' VFW magazine,
October 1991 and 'Singed by the Red Dragon', VFW magazine,
When the mainland fell to the Communists, Nationalist forces
withdrew to Formosa (Taiwan). They also occupied smaller
islands offshore-the Tachins, Pescadores and Quemoy and
Matsu, both of which were within range of Red artillery. A
Red invasion of these outposts on Oct. 1, 1949, was beaten
back, but trouble over them would flare again and again.
PHILIPPINES: DEFEATING THE HUKS
Throughout Asia, Communist-inspired and led insurgents took
advantage of nationalistic movements to cause conflict and
One such country was the Philippines, a fertile ground for
the rebels of the Hukbalahap (Huks), the military arm of the
Communist Party of the Philippines. For the most part, Huks
avoided U.S. troops such as those of the 86th Infantry
Division. But on one occasion, in December 1945, a group of
MPs was hit in Manila one American was killed.
"During the time I served aboard a patrol craft escort
around Subic Bay in early 1946, my crew was put on alert for
a Huk attack...' said Robert H. Hull. "We were issued
sidearms and rifles, and the watch was doubled. But the
assault never came."
According to Norman W. Schefstad, an MP with C Company,
738th MP Battalion in Manila, 1948-49, "A sentry on our main
gate was shot at by Huks. Patrol jeeps also were often fired
on. But worst were the accidental deaths due to terrible
By 1949, the Huks were waging an all-out guerrilla war and
government forces were losing ground. The assignment of Air
Force Maj. Edward Lansdale, renowned counter-insurgency
expert, to the 58-man Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG),
marked the beginning of the reversal of the government's
Helping establish battalion-sized combat teams and an
effective intelligence organization, JUSMAG was essential to
the rejuvenation of the Philippine army. In 1951, the Air
Resupply and Communications Service (ARCS) stationed the
581st ARCW at Clark Air Base. It was equipped with four H-19
helicopters for inserting and extracting operatives behind
After the 581st left the Philippines, tragedy struck. In
September 1955, a B-29 was lost over water off Okinawa. All
13 crew members aboard perished in the crash. The cause is
"I served in the Air Force at Clark Field during 1951-52 at
the height of the Huk rebellion'" recalled Bob G. Thrash.
"Our checkpoint was once demolished by Huk small arms fire.
Our waterworks was overrun and captured, too, but it was
quickly relieved by the Philippine army."
With the outbreak of war in Korea in 1950, U.S. aid to
Manila increased. JUSMAG advisors began to train and equip
Philippine airborne infantry troops. In 1953, U.S. advisors
were allowed by the Pentagon to take the field with
Philippine forces. Within two years, less than 1,000
Communist insurgents remained at-large.
Red Chinese pressure on the Nationalist forces on the
offshore islands intensified in 1950. The carrier USS Valley
Forge took up station in the 130-mile-wide Formosa Strait to
deter a Communist invasion. As the Taiwan Patrol Force
(TF-72), elements of the Seventh Fleet would serve there for
more than a decade.(Also, a U.S. Military Assistance
Advisory Group set up on Formosa in 1951, training
Flying patrols over the Formosa Strait was a risky business.
Former Master Sergeant Phillip H. Warren was with the U.S.
Air Force Security Service. He recalls some close calls: "We
were chased at least once by MiG- 15s off Shanghai, but
after they could not get position they broke off and then
returned to base."
As a radioman with VP-28 in 1952 things got closer to home.
"During this deployment, one crew was fired upon by MiG-15s
during the early patrol. They succeeded in at least damaging
one of the MiGs when the upper forward turret gunner got a
few hits. The MiG reportedly staggered off the intercept
curve and turned toward Shanghai trailing smoke."
"Later on this tour' said Warren, "our No. 8 aircraft was
shot up by a disguised junk which opened fire with a 40mm
gun. It put several holes in the plane, including the No. 3
engine and through the wheel well, but somehow missed the
engine. Also, a large hole was found just over the radio
As Korea wound down, Red pressure in the Strait escalated.
An attack on two American aircraft in mid-1954 left the
navigator of one plane dead.
Then on Sept. 3, 1954, 5,000 shells descended on Quemoy.
MAAG Lt. Cols. Frank Lynn and Alfred Medendorp were among
the dead. The shelling grew heavier; during the campaign, an
average of 10,000 Red rounds were fired daily
In January 1955, heavy air and amphibious raids were
launched by the Reds against the Tachin Islands. Ships of
the 7th Fleet evacuated 42,000 Nationalist soldiers and
civilians from the islands.
Lester D. Ross was an aircrew member of VC- 11, which was
aboard the USS Yorktown in February 1955. Task Force 702
operated around Taiwan during the evacuation of the Tachens.
"Chinese aircraft would fly in large circles and every once
in awhile they would come toward us' he said. "We flew air
cover for supplies being moved to the Nationalists.
"From Feb. 8-12, the crew was on alert. All flights in the
area were logged as combat missions. We saw shelling. The
Chinese Communists even fired their artillery at U.S.
planes, using proximity fuses, but failed to do any damage."
As a sailor aboard the USS Kidd, LeRoy Graves also was a
part of the action off the Tachens. "Unidentified planes
were picked up on radar during the evacuation, but would
back off before getting real close to the ships" he said. In
all, 50 ships were involved, along with a battalion from the
3rd Lt. Col. Alfred Medendorps Marine Division. The Air
Force's 18th Fighter Bomber Wing was hastily deployed to
Taiwan to provide additional air cover for the operation.
Marine Air Group 11 also joined the Formosa Defense Command,
with its Sidewinder-missile-armed F4Ds. Congress responded
to this latest crisis by passing the Formosa Resolution. It
authorized the President to employ U.S. forces in any way he
saw fit to ensure the safety of Formosa and the Pescadores.
GI's stationed on Okinawa were caught up in the 1954-55
fracas, too. That included the Army's 29th Regimental Combat
Team. Jack J. Woods was with its Heavy Mortar Company. He
vividly remembers "unrolling the new maps they were not for
Okinawa, but instead for Quemoy and Matsu. At this point, I
was in a state of mild shock."
U.S. troops, of course, never invaded the islands. And, in
early 1955, the colors of the 29th were sent home to be
replaced by those of the 75th RCT of Ranger fame.
The Communists ratcheted up the pressure on Aug. 23, 1958,
by slapping a blockade on Quemoy and beginning an artillery
bombardment. The most vivid memory of Edward Fahey, a
radioman on the USS Twining in the Strait at that time, is
"steaming with a lot of 'heavy metal' flying overhead."
Nationalist convoys, escorted by ships of the Seventh Fleet,
which were reinforced by a carrier and four destroyers from
the Sixth, resupplied the islands
William J. Bennett recalls that any fire that came in the
direction of his ship was "pre-judged to be accidental
"Accidental, my ass;' he goes on. "For two days, we found
ourselves within 25 yards of some hundreds of rounds of
'accidentals.' "Several hundred machine-gun holes dotted the
superstructure of his ship, the USS McGinty.
The carriers patrolling the strait included the Ticonderoga,
Midway, Hancock, Essex, Bon Homme Richard, Shangri -La,
Princeton and Lexington.
Ron Johnson served aboard the USS Owen in 1958. Near the end
of a 30-day patrol, he remembers: "Suddenly, a Russian MiG
came toward us real low in the water. He sneaked in under
our radar. All guns were loaded we were manned and ready.
Our orders: Fire if fired upon! But he never fired at us.
For 92 days on patrol, we rated the China Service Medal."
The Air Force deployed the 511th Tactical Fighter and 63rd
Fighter Interceptor squadrons to Ching Tuan on Formosa.
Meanwhile, the 354th Tactical Fighter, 27th Tactical
Fighter, 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance wings and 354th Bomb
Group went to Okinawa.
The Army, besides members of MAAG, contributed 703 men of
the 2nd Missile Battalion, 71st Artillery, with its
Nike-Hercules missiles on Formosa. It remained there until
"During Red Alert, half the crew manned the Herc Air Defense
System and the other half manned ground defense positions,"
recalls Dave O'Connell, a 71st veteran. "There was a
constant grinding in the stomach from the daily anticipation
of eminent attack from a million massed Red Chinese troops.
"Added to the stress of constant heightened alert was mud,
rain, vermin, mildew, extremes of heat and raw,
bone-chilling cold and the constant battle to keep light
"Air defense was strictly a U.S. role during the critical
period of the crisis. Eventually, though, the 2nd just
melted away; dissolved like a snowball in hell; lost in the
silence of Cold War security."
Marines from Okinawa also made it to Taiwan. Some 500
Leathernecks protected the perimeter around the airfield at
Ping Tung. Richard I. Feeney was a corporal with the 3rd
Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, at the time. According
to Feeney, some Marine jets were damaged by Red infiltrators
who used blowguns to blow metal objects into the
afterburners of the aircraft.
Faced with the resolve of the Nationalist Chinese and the
massive show of U.S. strength in the Strait, the Communists
ceased shelling Quemoy, 44 days after they began. The
American presence in the area lasted on high status until
Intermittent shelling by the Reds continued as well. Richard
Walsh spent his 19th birthday on patrol around Quemoy in
waters so shallow that soundings were taken by lead-line.
"The 'accidental' ordinance was always a threat," he
recalls. "Chinese junks and sampans, hugging the coastline,
would send out sprays of machine-gun fire. When you're close
enough to hear the enemy breathe, you know you're close."
William Brunskill had a unique and sobering experience
during the Taiwan scare. As a Chinese interpreter with the
Army Security Agency (ASA) on Taiwan in 1959-60, he
witnessed a Nationalist ambush set for raiding Reds. "A
flare went off;' he recorded, "then several more. All the
machine guns opened up, pouring a very heavy volume of fire
into two large boats full of people. It seemed like the
continuous fire lasted a long time. When it went silent,
there was nothing left human or boat that was more than an
When the crisis was over, head Red Mao Zedong remarked: "Who
would have thought that by firing a few shots at Quemoy and
Matsu we would have created such an earth-shattering storm."
TIBET: 'ROOF OF THE WORLD'
After Mao's People's Liberation Army (PLA) pushed the
Nationalists off the mainland of Asia, it consolidated its
gains and assaulted peaceful neighbors.
A former Army Air Forces officer, CIA agent Douglas
MacKiernan, led a 1,000-mile trek from the closed U.S.
consulate in Tinwa, China, to the Tibet border, arriving on
April 29,1949. There, in spite of a safe conduct from the
Dhali Lama, nervous border guards fired on the party.
MacKiernan was killed. The exact nature of his mission
remains a secret. But his death represents the first star on
the CIA Memorial in Langley, Va.
Using minor border skimishes as a pretext, 80,000 PLA troops
invaded Tibet in the summer of 1950, while the world's
attention was focused on Korea.
By 1956, large-scale drops of arms and ammo Operation
Stbarnum were being carried out by Det. 2, 1045th
Operational, Evaluation & Training Group under Maj. Harry C.
Flying out of Okinawa, the C-130s staged to an emergency SAC
recovery field at Kermitola near Dacca, East Pakistan (now
Bangladesh). They flew 40 materiel drops to freedom fighters
on "the roof of the world." Flights took place over terrain
13,000 feet above sea level. In addition, selected Tibetans
were flown out of the country to train in guerrilla
operations at bases on Saipan and at Camp Hale in Colorado.
Like many actions of the Cold War in Asia, the one in Tibet
remains shrouded in mystery. The CIA case officer who met
clandestinely with the Dhali Lama's brother, to arrange the
escape of the religious leader to India, was frank about
that. "I'm sort of trained to forget about the operational
detail," he said.
Operation Stbarnum ended, suddenly, in 1960. The Eisenhower
Administration canceled all clandestine overflights of
foreign territory in the wake of Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane
being shot down over the Soviet Union.
The U-2 incident spotlighted a heretofore secretive aspect
of the Cold War-aerial reconnaissance and other forms of
intelligence-gathering.Morse code intercept operators,
cryptologists, traffic analysts and linguists plucked
Communist communications from the air waves. The Army
Security Agency (ASA) operated field stations in Japan
(10th, 12th and 14th), Okinawa (3rd), the Philippines (9th)
and on Taiwan (Shu Lin Kou).
"By 1949, we had broken the operational codes of the two
principal Soviet Air Force units 9th and 10th Russian Air
Armies in the Far East," recalled John Milmore who was
assigned to Army Security Agency Pacific headquarters at
Oji, Japan, in 1949-51 as a cryptanalyst.
"After meticulous analysis, I demonstrated that traffic
emanating from Siberia was dummy traffic" he said. "This was
the first instance of Soviet fabrication or bluffing during
the Cold War."
Operators of the Naval Security Group (NSG) waged electronic
warfare at far-flung bases from Japan (Yokosuka) to
Australia's North West Cape and the broiling hot outback
post at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs. Just being overseas
could prove fatal. On Sept. 24, 1965, 12 men of the NSG
stationed at Kami Seya, Japan, perished in a tragic fire.
The Navy also operated intelligence ships close to hostile
shores. The tiny USS Banner (AKL-44, later AGER-1), 176 feet
long, arrived at Yokosuka in October 1965 with orders to
"conduct tactical surveillance and intelligence collection
against Soviet naval units and other targets of
In days, she was on her first patrol a mission within four
miles of Siberia's Cape Povorotny Bay, where the Soviets
insisted their territorial waters extended out 12 miles.
During the next three years, Banner conducted eight patrols
off the Soviet naval base at Vladivostok and a further eight
in the East China Sea. She was harassed, with Soviet and
Chinese destroyers and patrol boats coming within 25 feet of
the tiny trawler, on nearly every mission.
Banner was joined by the larger USS Pueblo (AGER-2) in late
1967. On Jan.23, 1968, radio monitors in Japan read a
terrifying message from Pueblo, then on her first mission
off the coast of North Korea.
"Please send assistance, SOS, SOS, SOS, we are being
boarded." By nightfall, one American sailor was dead and the
remainder of the ship's crew had been captured. Pueblo was
being towed into the North Korean port of Wonsan, where it
remains today as a museum. The crew was held captive for
nearly a year. Classified as "detainees" rather than
prisoners, Pueblo crewmen were not awarded the POW Medal
SHOOTING GALLERY OFF JAPAN
The Air Force was perhaps most deeply involved in the
electronic war. "Floor stations," operated by the U.S. Air
Force Security Service, monitored Communist radio
communications, radar emissions and missile tests from many
locations along the Pacific rim.
The largest, with over 1,000 airmen, and controlling center
for the Pacific, was the 6920th Electronic Security Group at
Misawa AFB, Japan.
"Russian MiGs from the airfield on the Kurile Islands buzzed
our station often," remembered Harold H. Hutchinson, a vet
of the 6986th Radio Squadron Mobile, based at Misawa in
1958. "No actual encounters occurred, though, because U.S.
fighters scrambled quickly." It was operators at this
facility who recorded the Soviet air force shoot-down of
Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983.
Other security service units stationed in Japan included the
6926th and the 6922nd Radio Squadron Mobile (RSM). Gene
Milligan, who spent two years with the 6922nd in the early
'50s, proudly recalls its receipt of the Air Force
Outstanding Unit Award at that time.
As a Russian linguist with the 1st Radio Squadron Mobile at
Misawa in 1954-55, Nick Toyeas says his "task was to tape
Soviet air force voice traffic:" "The purpose of our regular
flights;" he said," was to provoke the Soviet air force into
activity to determine how well it might perform. Whenever
the B-45 flew near Vladivostok, it always brought out a
flight of MiGs. Our tail gunner always got a look at them.
With F-86 Sabre jet escorts, things could get exciting;
terrific aerobatics and interesting aerial creativity."
On Okinawa, the 6990th Electronic Security Group monitored
both Soviet and North Korean radio traffic and radars. The
6903rd and 6915th operated in Korea and the 6922nd occupied
a site at Clark Air Base in the Philippines.
In the air, Navy and Air Force aircraft continually probed
borders, even penetrating Communist countries to seek
electronic intelligence. Communists intercepted and fired on
many of the flights.
Air Force flights came under the 91st and 55th Strategic
Recon Wings. The latter's motto was "We See All." Navy
flights were conducted by squadrons of Fleet Air Recon "The
Navy Patrol Squadron (VP-22) lost a P2V in the Formosa
Strait on Jan. 18, 1953. The entire crew of six died.
VQ-1, operating out of Guam, lost a P4M to Red fighters off
the China coast on Aug. 22, 1956. Four of the crew of 16
were confirmed dead immediately, the remainder have been
officially classified as missing in action, but presumed
dead. The Sea of Japan was a virtual shooting gallery for
the Communists during the Cold War. The 91st Strategic
Reconnaissance Wing lost three planes there. VQ-1 lost two
and VP-19 and VP-6 each lost one. So did the Air Force's
The EC-121 of VQ-l flying over the Sea of Japan on April 15,
1969, carried a crew of 31. All died when it was shot down
by North Korean planes. In all, 80 American fliers were shot
down into those icy waters.
Moreover, men continued to die along the border separating
North and South Korea. Between 1966 and 1969, 44 Americans
were killed in action and 111 wounded in Korea's DMZ. (See
"Fighting Brush Fires on Korea's DMZ," VEW magazine, March
1992.) In the entire period since the cease-fire in Korea,
90 Americans have been killed on that Asian frontier of the
This includes the last American to die as a result of
hostile action in Asia, Army aviator CWO2 David Hilemon,
shot down over the DMZ on Dec. 17, 1994.
Despite all the sacrifices, service in Cold War Asia has
been quickly forgotten.
As William Bennett, under hostile fire on the USS McGinty,
noted, "By the time we got back to America, Quemoy and Matsu
were dim memories in the fickle American mind."
Taiwan remembers the hostilities all too well: It erected a
memorial on Quemoy to Lt. Col. Medendorp, who was killed
there in 1954 and was posthumously awarded the Order of the
Cloud and Banner.
Duty in North China and the Taiwan Strait was recognized by
the China Service Medal (Extended) for service there between
Sept. 2, 1945 and April 1, 1957. (See Membership page for
The Armed Forces Expeditionary medal is authorized for those
who served in the Taiwan Strait (Aug.23, 1958-Jan. 1, 1959),
Quemoy and Matsu (Aug 23, 1958-June 1, 1963) and Korea (Oct.
1, 1966-June 30, 1974.)
Recognition will finally come to some veterans of the Taiwan
Crisis this year. In Boston, the Taipei Economic and
Cultural Office will present 410 vets with a "badge of
honor" on Aug. 23. Those who served with the 71st Artillery
will receive the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal in a
ceremony at Fort Bliss, Texas.
"Revisionists may downplay the threat that China
represented, but it was very real;' wrote Blair Case in an
article on the deployment. "For a few months at the height
of the Cold War, American soldiers of the 2nd Missile
Battalion, 71st Artillery, stood on freedom's front line,
and won a small but important victory in the fight against
Eugene Kaiser, whose Matador-missile-equipped 17th Tactical
Missile Squadron was rushed from Florida to Taiwan in
November 1957, feels dismay at the lack of recognition the
U.S. government gives Cold War veterans. He adds, "At least
I know I was there and am proud to have been part of it."
What the Republic of China said of Lt. Col. Medendorp is
true of each of all 187 Americans KIA in Cold War Asia: "He
died at the edge of freedom's perimeter at a moment in
history when the forces of oppression were seeking to impose