Thursday, May 31, 2012

Observations of a Lady Cold Warrior



We have a guest blog posting. I love these first hand stories of what really happened in the Cold War at a personal level. As I have stated before, the Cold War was fought by men and women on both sides. Here is one of those stories. Thank you Captain Trouble for agreeing to share your story.
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I was in the US Army Signal Corps from 1979 to 1988 starting with 5 years in Italy and Germany. Like most of the Cold Warriors, the things I did are still classified. The things I was involved in will go unsung and unrecognized, like so many other “Red October” actions. I can only speak in general terms about my work. The level of cooperation we fostered between the US and our NATO partners in the field of communications-electronics was an important element in “bringing the wall down.” My personal contribution to this cooperation was the combination of my specialty as a radio officer and my language ability in French, German, and Italian. When Tito died in Yugoslavia, and the Russian tanks started rolling toward Yugoslavia, my life was a constant round of sleepless nights of frequent alerts and mobilizations. When you got the phone call in the middle of the night, my whole being would tighten up, and I would say to myself, “This is it… the big one… go time!” We’d be in formation in the motor pool, and then we’d get the stand-down call. I’d go home, try to relax, and then I’d get the phone call, and we’d do it again… and again… and again… We knew we would be the first ones to go if it all broke out, and we knew after that it was about a 20-minute lifespan for us, but we still stood the line. We knew the real cost of freedom, because we could look across the border to Yugoslavia and see what happens when you lose it. We saw the children smuggled out of Yugoslavia and left at convents in Italy, because the parents knew their children would have a better life in the west. I transferred to Germany and then President Reagan was elected. Things started getting better. The military started getting the equipment it needed. We started seeing things done to really undermine the Soviet Union – all still classified. So many things that happened under President Reagan to “bring the wall down” are still probably classified. He never got the full credit he deserved for it, and neither will we cold warriors. The important thing is that the wall did come down. The important thing is that there is still freedom in our nation, and there is still hope for freedom for the whole world.

Captain Trouble

Monday, May 28, 2012

Last Memorial Day I gave myself a goal to learn more about the Cold War losses and post an update this year. I researched as time allowed and found that there is no central place where a firm number could be found. I did find one DOD webpage where the confirmed deceased and MIA are listed according to branch of service, rank, etc. with 126 names. This list does not include the USS Scorpion and USS Thresher losses or other so called accidents where loss of life occurred. The CIA has 103 stars on the wall but that is all I could really find. Part of the problem in quantifying such a goal is that the secrecy involved in the operations causes vagueness. I will continue this quest and someday compile a list for publication.


I'd also like to re-post this article from last year because it says it all about how the Cold War losses are viewed.


On Vets Day, thank a Cold Warrior

First Published: Monday, November 10, 2008 by the Annette Sisco blog, nola.com, The Times-Picayune newspaper’s online presence, New Orleans, LA. Provided here with permission from the author Earl Higgins.

On Veterans Day, wreaths honor the dead and speeches honor the living. Gravestones and memorials recall World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam. Members of veterans' groups proudly wear caps that display the names of the wars or battles they survived. Veterans of Desert Storm and the current fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are welcomed and cheered.

It is fitting that all these men and women be recognized for their contributions in defense of their country. They are not, however, the only ones who should be honored.

A curious aspect of the annual ritual of honoring war veterans is that seldom, if ever, do we remember the veterans of the longest war, one that ended in victory for the United States. From 1945 until 1991, the Cold War dominated American military and foreign policy. To oppose the expansionist policy of the Soviet Union and to counter its arsenal of nuclear weapons, the United States needed thousands of men and women in hundreds of places and ships around to world to act as firm obstacles to the spread of Soviet influence and control.

Millions of service members answered the call to duty during that period. They were draftees and volunteers, lifers and those who served one term and returned to civilian life. They were in every branch of the armed forces.

Theirs were not the intense heroics associated with the Battle of Midway, the Normandy landings, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe San or the invasions of Iraq. Rather, they were in places like the Distant Early Warning line in Canada, eyes fixed on radar screens, watching, waiting and hoping that the Soviet Union's bombers would not dare cross the North Pole and start World War III.

They were in tanks overlooking Germany's Fulda Gap, watching, waiting and hoping that the Warsaw Pact's heavy armor would not attempt to overwhelm them and pour into Western Europe.
They were in nuclear bomb-loaded aircraft, watching, waiting and hoping not to use the terrible weapons entrusted to them.

They were in ships, submarines, and aircraft, watching, waiting, and hoping that Admiral Gorshkov's navy would not challenge them into starting a war that could destroy the world.
They were the support forces providing food, laundry, fuel and all the other services necessary to keep the forces ready.

There was no glamour. There were no pictures on the cover of Life magazine.

There was numbing monotony, deep loneliness and homesickness. There were heat and cold, bland food, seasickness and fatigue. Training exercises were repeated until they thought fatigue would make them collapse, and then they did it again. And again.

But they were ready. They were confident. That was why they succeeded -- with victory, not the ambiguity, or worse, that ended other wars.

Because of these soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in the Cold War, the Soviet Union realized the futility of further military adventures. They knew that they could not succeed against people so trained and motivated.

Because of those veterans, the Soviets gave up. They just quit, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist, as poet T.S. Eliot wrote: "Not with a bang but a whimper".

Without these veterans' dedication, the "bang" might have been the end of the world. The veterans of the Cold War prevented that from happening. They did not liberate Paris or Baghdad; they liberated the world from fear of nuclear war.

The memorial to them is not on a gravestone or an obelisk in a public square. It is not a name on a veterans' cap.

The memorial is a world in which the threat of nuclear annihilation has been eliminated.
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Earl Higgins is a retired commander in the U.S. Navy with 26 combined years of active and reserve service from 1963-89.

Six Seconds to Live - Memorial Day 2012


I felt that I would honor our fallen military members through this story from a previous post that I am compelled to share once again. Below is an excerpt from an American Legion eNewsletter article. 

Thank you to the American Legion eNewsletter and Lt. Gen. John Kelly for allowing me to borrow the article for this post. To read the entire article follow this link -


Illustration by Matt Hall

"A few minutes later, a large blue truck turned down the alleyway – perhaps 60 to 70 yards in length – and sped its way through the serpentine concrete Jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest 200 yards away, knocking down most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was caused by 2,000 pounds of explosive. Because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers in arms.
When I read the situation report a few hours after it happened, I called the regimental commander for details. Something about this struck me as different. We expect Marines, regardless of rank or MOS, to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different. The regimental commander had just returned from the site, and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event – just Iraqi police. If there was any chance of finding out what actually happened, and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it, because a combat award requires two eyewitnesses, and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.
I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police, all of whom told the same story. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.”
The Iraqi police related that some of them also fired, and then, to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived. Many were injured, some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated, and with tears welling up, said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”
What he didn’t know until then, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion, he said, “Sir, in the name of God, no sane man would have stood there and done what they did. They saved us all.”
What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned after I submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras recorded some of the attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated. You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives.
I suppose it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. No time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “Let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”
It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time, the truck was halfway through the barriers and gaining speed. Here the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were, some running right past the Marines, who had three seconds left to live.
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines firing their weapons nonstop.  The truck’s windshield explodes into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tear into the body of the son of a ***** trying to get past them to kill their brothers – American and Iraqi – bedded down in the barracks, totally unaware that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground.
Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder-width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could. They had only one second left to live, and I think they knew.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty. Those are the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight for you, and as amazing as this selfless act of sacrifice may seem, it is the norm. "


Thursday, May 3, 2012

May Day 2012 - Celebrate Labor or Anarchist?

Turns out that May Day 2012 did a little of both around the world.

Russia held a traditional labor march through Moscow with Putin leading the parade. The photos I saw were all about peaceful celebration of labor. Yes, there were a few signs that called for more benefits or pay but overall the signs were usually competitive in nature between one labor union and another.

In the USA the Occupy Movement fizzled. yes, there were protest and some violence in certain cities, even a bomb threat sting in Cleveland, but overall it fizzled. Seattle, the center for Anarchist now, had the most violent of street bashing, with Oakland, CA second. New York was tame in comparizon. So much for bringing American businesses to their knees.

Worldwide there were mixed events as well. All labor protest oriented and just slightly violent in nature. No mass shut downs of economies, no major looting or destruction. Just check any of the major news outlets websites and you will see photos from around the world.

The only military oriented event I found was a YouTube video of the Russian Army practicing for their May 9th Victory parade - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ym2FFPMNutA

Check back and I'll have some more footage of the May 9th Moscow military parade.

One other thing to note is that May 1 is also the anniversary of the U2 incident with Francis Gary Powers' shootdown. I mentioned it at work and an approximately 30-year old co-worker did not have a clue as to what I was speaking of. I pulled it up on my phone for him to see. He stated that he could not even remember if his history class ever mentioned the Cold War, let alone Francis Gary Powers!

This is motivation for me to step up my research and blog even more!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cold War May Day Celebrations

What makes today's May Day celebrations so different than those of the past?

May Day is celebrated in so many ways around the world and a Google search will provide references to as many different types of celebrations as there are countries that celebrate today.

Here in the United States the Occupy Movement plans to shut down major cities and are asking for workers to unite and strike. Shades of Russia at the turn of the 20th Century!

How will Russia (former U.S.S.R.) celebrate this year? Will it be a national holiday of Spring, will there be worker's rallies, or will we see inklings of the old Soviet style military parade with Putin's like for the old ways? We will see as the news trickles across the internet.

In preparation for this post I viewed old newsreels and read post from around the world. I'll base my comments on the USSR because of the nature of this blog. One item of note is that the view of the Moscow celebration definitely changed as the years progressed. In the beginning the May Day celebration was one of the workers, especially during the Lenin years. I found an old news article from 1918 that described a normal parade with the people celebrating. I saw film from the early 1930s that supports the celebration of the workers theme. As World War Two progressed the parade review became more militaristic with Stalin showing the military might of his country. This theme took over and stayed that way until just before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This Cold Warrior remembers the film footage of the USSR leadership up on the high stage. USA anlayst always looked to see who stood where and mused about who is in line to take over based on where they stood in relation to the Premier.

YouTube has quite a collection including footage from the 1991 celebration - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wcx844feFs Part 1 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=2i3gN6q4Fes Part 2. There was not a tank or missile in sight in 1991!

I am curious as to how Russia will celebrate and to how troublesome the Occupy Movement will be. Will the two celebrations be similar with peaceful marches of workers celebrating or will there be trouble here in America today like Russia in 1917? Will Putin take a page from previous leaders and show military might? Will our authorities crack down as the Csar did back then? We shall see.

Check back tomorrow for an update.

SHARE YOUR COLD WAR STORY !

Where did you serve? Military or Civilian? Stateside or Overseas. Fulda Gap? Berlin? NATO? CIA? State Department? The Dew Line? On a Missile Battery? Down in a Silo? At Sea? Under the Sea? In the Air? According to the VA over 26 million Vets are still alive. I'd bet that most served in the 1945-1991 time frame and I'd like to share your story on this blog. As long as it isn't still classified, email me with your story and I will post it here. proudcoldwarrior@gmail.com