The Foreign Policy and FUBAR Correlation

News Year’s Eve has found its way to Arizona’s outback and, although I haven’t checked,FE_121025_globe425x283 probably to the rest of the world this side of the International Dateline.  While the celebrations wind-up, my thoughts turn to the legacy of the Cold War and what we may have learned.  A likely candidate for consideration is the U.S.’s foreign policy and the accompanying foreign relations.  I love the rich, stand-up comedy fodder the subject offers until thoughts of the millions of affected people sober the tone.  The Cold War became the test bed for ‘new’ foreign policy trials. As newly deployed policies failed and yielded to military adventures, the federal government ‘doubled-down’ rather than admit an error.  As bad foreign policy and relations are implemented they come back to haunt ordinary U.S. citizens and the citizenry is being engulfed by its own government’s fear and paranoia; FUBAR.

FUBAR

This post will discuss wars and some of the dumb decisions (in my opinion) that were made by policy makers who did not have the moral backbones to stand up and take the heat.  It is not about the honor and integrity of American soldiers, who fought; many of whom died or were wounded physically or emotionally.  I am grateful to you for your service. It is also not about the millions of civilians who were carried by the tide of policy into harm’s way.  And it is not about the policy decisions currently in the public debating forums.  The post is about the past that brought us to where we are today.

The Greek army opening fire on guerrilla troops during the Greek Civil War.

The Greek army opening fire on guerrilla troops during the Greek Civil War.

In Greece, the U.S. threw its policy weight and money at the Greek Civil War with the passage of The Truman Doctrine in 1946 by the Republican Congress.  Oops, the Soviet Union had already refused to assist the Greek Communists in the struggle so the Civil War was just that.  The Truman Doctrine set the tone of American interference in other countries’ business going forward, though.

The Marshall Plan in 1947 seems to have worked out well for everyone concerned, although Asia, without a ‘Marshall Plan’, did even better and faster.

The battle over Berlin took a hard turn straight into crisis on June 23, 1948 when the U.S. and

Berlin Partition

Berlin Partition

its allies, England and France, talked about forming a federation with their three slices of the Berlin pie.  The allied discussions spooked the Soviet Union so they closed the Berlin border to allied vehicle and rail traffic.  The confrontation over the closures was passive/aggressive; the Berlin airlift response kept Berlin provisioned-just barely.  The airlift was sufficient, however, for the Soviets to assess the will and capacity of the allies and they came to the table after seven months. The result was years and years of tension over the East-West German borders. Millions of American soldiers’ rite of passage to man and womanhood occurred under the constant, unrelenting threat of World War III at the German border as they stared into the eyes of their counterparts under the same pressure.

Mutually Assured Destruction

Mutually Assured Destruction

The sustained tension at the German border coupled with the assumed military strength of the Soviet Union was the genesis of the nuclear arms race and the Mutually Assured Destruction Doctrine (MADD).  It was the second plank in Eisenhower’s New Look National Security Policy in 1953: “relying on nuclear weapons to deter Communist aggression or, if necessary, to fight a war”.[1]  Both sides geared up and built tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that could be fatefully delivered on any platform.  It also spurred the unanticipated consequence of everybody wanting a nuke.  Now, twenty six nations are capable of exercising the incredible destructive force of the nucleus of an atom.

Let us not forget NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S. sponsored joint military that has grown in both size and strength.  NATO clung to its initial policy of not attacking

NATO

NATO Aircraft

unless attacked as long as the Soviet Union was a force to be reckoned with.  On the sidelines, those of us old enough to remember, watched helplessly and in horror as our Western governments let calls for help from East Europeans challenging the Soviet iron fist go unanswered; Czechoslovakia in 1948, Hungary in 1956, the Czechs again in the Prague spring of 1968 and the Poles in the 70’s.  After the Soviet Union fractured and retreated, NATO changed its tune and went aggressive.  NATO beat up feckless Yugoslavia in Kosovo and sent troops into Bosnia and Afghanistan.  The neighborly NATO took U.S. taxpayer money by the wheelbarrow but decided not to replace or augment U.S. troops in Iraq. NATO has also stimulated a new arms race:

“…The treaty between west European nations, inaugurated as a barrier to Soviet aggression, graduated to new prominence in 2011 with establishment of a “free fly” zone for Libyan insurgents, and aerial attacks on Libya. The spread of NATO actions to several continents redefines NATO as an arm of western political and military policies, and replaces the policy of deterrence against a defunct Soviet Union. Coupling that with the anti-missile system the U.S. and NATO allies propose to deploy in Eastern Europe, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeared on Russian First Channel program Cold Politics (Kholodnaya Politika) and exclaimed that this anti-missile system “is undoubtedly aimed at neutralizing the nuclear rocket capability of Russia.”[2]

Russia has fought back with its recently announced initiative to place nukes along its border to defend itself from NATO.[3]  Game On. Continue reading

Cold War Intrigue: Dateline Germany, 1984

Cold War stories are wonderful. Across the digital expanse the tales are spun from Facebook pages, Web Logs (Blogs), digitally archived libraries and newspapers, Freedom of Information Requests, to electronic books. The story is there in the brick and mortar archives and libraries housing row after row of microfilm, too, but it takes longer to discover the trail. Like a hound on a ham bone, I listen, laugh, and cry with this huge multi-generational congregation of veterans; military and civilian. Be it a military veteran chatting about the triumphs and fears along the East German border or a nuclear cowboy spinning yarns about overcoming all odds in the 1970s to drill a fifty four inch diameter hole 5,875 feet deep to detonate a megaton range nuke in a cavity on Amchitka Island, Alaska, I am riveted. The tales of wonder, fear, triumph, lessons, and reflection are told by the winners; the men and women who made it through some very scary times more or less intact. There are those who did not.

Today, somewhere in Ohio, Jeffrey Carney, struggles to make ends meet by working three menial jobs. Released from prison in 2003 after serving the better part of twelve years of a twenty year

Jeffrey Carney After his release in 2004 (Courtesy of DOE Hanford)

Jeffrey Carney After his release in 2004 (Courtesy of DOE Hanford)

prison gig for espionage, he still doesn’t much like America.[1] Unfortunately, his country of choice, Germany, does not want him so he is stuck in the U.S. with only a cat for company. Growing up, Carney was a bright kid. He loved Germany and German military history and avidly consumed everything he could about the country including the language, which he spoke fluently.

Born in the mid-1960s, Carney grew up during the huge cultural shifts that were unceremoniously and brutally pushing and pulling U.S. society and culture. In 1980, at age 17, Carney enlisted in the Air Force. His flawless German landed him a dream assignment in Berlin at Marienfelde, a listening post cleverly disguised as Tempelhof Central Airport. According to Bill Price, Ex-Airman who also worked there, “…our work site, which was situated on top of a hill on the southern outskirts of the city, in a sub-district of

Marienfelde (Courtesy of Berlin 6912 Org)

Marienfelde (Courtesy of Berlin 6912 Org)

Tempelhof called Marienfelde. Just a short distance from the hill, perhaps a half-mile, was the Berlin Wall. Most of the area was empty fields. A city dump was located nearby, to the east. To the north was a field occupied by a few modern apartment buildings and a flower nursery. All of the surrounding area was flat, and so the site stood out rather prominently in the landscape, and even more so because of the odd-looking towers, domes, and antennae that sprouted from its top.”[2] Carney was assigned to the 6912th Electronic Security Group, which was part of the Electronic Security Command, an organization that belonged directly to Air Force Intelligence. According to a Hanford report, Carney’s ability to ‘hear’ the language and identify individual East German Fighter pilots increased his value to the unit.

Carney’s life began to fall apart on two levels between 1982 and 1983. First he discovered he was gay and second was the scary Able Archer 83 exercise. An August 29, 2003 article in Spiegel Online vividly describes Carney’s conversion:[3]

One night, at the age of 19, after drinking too many pints of beer at an Irish pub, filled with the confused emotions of delayed puberty, he stumbles into a GDR guard post at the Friedrichstraße/Zimmerstraße border crossing. He is prepared to take revenge on America, to do something that will “make so much noise that everyone will finally listen.” He waits for an hour and a half until the Stasi’s professionals arrive. They make a copy of his military ID card; they sense that fate has delivered a golden source into their hands, and their grip begins to tighten. They frighten him. They threaten to kill him if he tries to become a double agent, but they also encourage him. Stasi Major Ralph Dieter Lehmann flatters him by telling him that if there is anyone who can do something important, something for freedom, justice, a better world, then he is the right man in the right place. He tells Carney that he too can become a “soldier at the invisible front,” one of the few who can truly make a difference. And Carney, a boy with ambitions, is more than willing. From then on, the “Source Kid” furnishes a flood of information to the Stasi’s “Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung” (Principal Intelligence Division, or HVA). He is as unsuspicious and uninhibited as a child. Instead of photocopies, he provides the Stasi’s Department XI, which is responsible for espionage activities against the United States, with numbered originals, including documents “of maximum value,” according to a top-level Stasi report written in March 1987. And he is acknowledged for his efforts: “The appropriate recognition has been issued by Army General Chebrikov of the Committee for State Security of the U.S..” …

Understanding Able Archer 83’s contribution to Carney’s destabilization requires a step back in time. In 1981 the KGB, the Soviet security agency, pretty well convinced the leadership that the U.S. was planning a secret first strike nuclear attack and, simultaneously, President Ronald Reagan was applying all manner of pressure on the former Soviet Union to bring them to their knees. And then…and then, NATO decided to conduct the ten day Able Archer exercise in 1983. Able Archer simulated a DEFCON 1 scenario in which tensions escalated to a nuclear attack. Just for fun, the exercise incorporated new elements; a unique format of coded communication, radio silences, and participation by heads of government. The resulting unintended consequences from Able Archer[4] caused a colossal uptick in tension that frightened many, including Carney.

Carney did not just make copies of the documents he secreted to the East German authorities, he provided numbered originals; hundreds of them. While Carney was paid under $200 for each document, the U.S. estimates the damage costs in the tens of billions of dollars. Carney described the fear and exhilaration of being a spy: “I took a huge document and another huge document with me, went across the hall into an unsecured room, laid the documents out on the table, secured everything, and had my camera ready, and started photographing. . . . I was walked in on two times while I was photographing. . . . My face went red as a beet because my blood pressure was unbelievable, and the people went, ‘Oh, excuse me, I didn’t know you were busy.’ And they turned around and walked out.”[5]

1984 found Jeffrey Carney continuing his espionage work at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. He got ‘spooked’ after he was scheduled for a psych evaluation and took off for

Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth

Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth

Mexico where he reported to the East German Embassy and requested a rescue. Carney was repatriated to East Germany through Cuba where he apparently lived happily until 1991. The Air Force unit OSI, however, had not forgotten about Carney who now carried a West German ID card. According to Spiegel Online International (See Footnote 3), he was kidnapped in front of his Berlin apartment, returned to the U.S., tried, convicted and sent to Ft. Leavenworth to serve his sentence.

Jeffrey Carney considers himself a victim of the Cold War. In his advice for stopping future ‘Jeffreys’, can be found his list of grievances “If you want to do these people a favor who have problems — and I’m talking from experience — say something. If somebody had said something to me and put a block in front of me and said, ‘I think Jeff’s got a problem and I don’t think that he’s handling it very well,’ that would have been enough to stop the process….I lost everything — my dignity, my freedom, my self-respect.”

Perhaps he is right, but as I re-run the stories of the veterans in my head I do not think so. I think Carney bought into the ‘victim’ trap laid by the Stasi. His justification for selling-out his brothers-in-arms was the lie that he was saving the world. He blames others for not reaching out to him but there is no tale of his effort to reach out to others for help, except that he did try to quit military service. In Carney, the Stasi recognized an individual who needed constant reinforcement and stroked his ego.

Other service men and women found ways to ‘keep the faith’. These people lived in the long shadow of death that could strike instantaneously from the mountains, valleys or skies of East

Blackhorse Trooper Image depicts a soldier of the U.S. 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment on duty along the inter-zone German frontier during the Cold War.

Blackhorse Trooper Image depicts a soldier of the U.S. 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment on duty along the inter-zone German frontier during the Cold War.

Germany yet they made it through with help from each other. The service men manned their tanks, their aircraft, their listening posts, walked post, exercised their companies and knew on a moment-by-moment basis their world could erupt into pitched battle. Still the military kept its machine going; served three meals a day, maintained the equipment and trained. The serving military laughed, cried, thought, reflected, drank, partied, and stood their ground.

Recently I had the privilege of witnessing a conversation among a group of veterans focused whether or not each, as individuals, would have fought and died had the Russians come through the German line.  Veteran James Hanebury summed up all twenty or so comments eloquently when he said, “All enemies both Foreign and Domestic. At the point of the Fulda Gap in Bad Hersefeld we would not have much choice. But that choice was made when you raised your right hand and took that one pace forward. Always felt it was better there than on American soil…Up in Hersfeld we used to joke about learning Russian so we could say don’t shoot I know secrets or just wave them

through the TCP with a Das Verdanya Torvarich . My MP Platoon would have been chopped to the 3/11 ACR as scouts so we would have been in front of everybody. Same thing when I had the

Jay Cooley taking care of business in 1976 or 1977 around Wildflecken, Germany (Courtesy of James Hanebury)

Jay Cooley taking care of business in 1976 or 1977 around Wildflecken, Germany (Courtesy of James Hanebury)

Heavy Platoon 3rd MP Co 3rd INF Div. We would escort the Jump and Main TOC then be chopped to combat opns in the Div support area from the front back 20 klicks looking for Russian Descant Forces. Both units would have been some of the first to engage Soviet Forces. Damest thing is it never seemed to bother us. Boy, talk about young and dumb.”

And the gravel in the gut didn’t stop with the soldiers on the line, it ran right through the families who shared the dangers with their soldiers. Veteran Bill Sier was stationed in Germany with his family. He writes, “We were supposed to report Russian aircraft over the West. My wife told me once a chopper flew low over our quarters and my son, who would have been about 5, ran to her in the bedroom and said “Don’t worry, Mom, it’s one of ours.”

I pity Jeffrey Carney and the man he became. He never knew or grew to understand the value of sacrifice and service. Carney will never feel the gratitude of Americans thankful to the men and women of the Cold War who gave so that we might live free.



[1] The Washington Times; Monday, July 21, 2003; Germany denies passport to ex-spy; http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2003/jul/21/20030721-103624-3696r/?page=all

[2] Berlin / Tempelhof Central Airport , 1973 – 1976; 6912th Security Squadron, USAFSS; An Ex-Airman Remembers; http://billpriceweb.com/mari73.html

[3] Spiegel Online International; Ausgabe 29/2003; Agents: No country more beautiful; http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/agents-no-country-more-beautiful-a-257041.html

[4] Unredacted The National Security Archive Unedited and Uncensored; Nate Jones; President Reagan Meets Oleg Gordievsky, Soviet Double Agent Who Reported Danger of Able Archer 83; http://nsarchive.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/president-reagan-meets-oleg-gordievsky-soviet-double-agent-who-reported-danger-of-able-archer-83/#comment-7946

[5] Department of Energy Hanford; Jeffrey M. Carney; http://www.hanford.gov/c.cfm/oci/ci_spy.cfm?dossier=152

Twenty Thousand People

Author: Gus Meyers

What is it about Germany and the 9th of November? Many landmark events in recent German history have occurred during the month of November: the end of the first war and abdication of the monarch with a transition to democracy (9 Nov 1918), the failed Beer Hall Putsch (9 Nov 1923), Kristallnacht (9/10 Nov 1938) and fall of the Berlin Wall (9 Nov 1989).

As I was preparing for our upcoming trip to Berlin and listening to David Bowie’s new song “Where are we now?”,  a reference was made to the 20,000 people wanting to cross the Bösebrücke.  My curiosity fired up; I began to research this event. (David Bowie had moved to West Berlin during the mid 70’s and joined other names in the music scene such as; Iggy Pop, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. Bowie produced three albums during that time: Bowie music is Berlin music)

Bösebrücke bridge, the northern most of seven east-west crossing points, lies along Bornholmer

Bösebrücke bridge (Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus' photography at the link at the bottom of the post.)

Bösebrücke bridge
(Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus’ photography at the link at the bottom of the post.)

Straße  straddling  train tracks at the border between the districts of  Wedding (west) and Pankow (east). The crossing of the Bösebrücke on 9 November 1989 was one of the first points along the Berlin Wall to fall.

By August 1989, Hungary no longer maintains the physical border barrier with Austria and Czechoslovakia. Both countries began to relax travel restrictions to the west. Many East German were fleeing there to escape to the west as Czechoslovakia and Hungary had no or little travel requirements on East German citizens. The German Embassy in Prague houses and assists 4000

Quo Vadis, a Tribant (Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus' photos at link at the end of the post)

Quo Vadis, a Tribant
(Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus’ photos at link at the end of the post)

refugees in obtaining political asylum. Czech sculptor David Černy created the sculpture Quo Vadis, a Tribant (cheap and deadly German Democratic Republic, GDR, car) on legs to honor the help of the West German government. The sculpture now sits in the garden of the embassy.  The flood of East German refugees begins to swell.

The writing was on the wall for the government of the GDR, who were trying to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the state. Protests had been on-going and more were breaking out across the GDR (generally referred to as East Germany). The people, in whose name the government actions were taken, had enough. The new chant across the GDR was “Wir sind das Volk! “,“We are the people!”. Erich Honecker, leader for life steps down in October, a less hardline party hack,  Egon Krenz takes the helm of the doomed ship. Alexander Platz sees one of the largest demonstrations in the 40 years of the GDR in early November. Now the chant is “we want out”.

So now, on 9 November the party bosses decide to allow refugees and private travel through the border crossings into West Berlin beginning on 10 Nov.  A press conference was called, and when asked when the new rules were to take effect, the spokesman, Günter Schabowski, head of the SED Politburo, looks at his notes and not finding anything to answer that question, erroneously replies “effective immediately”.  The news is broadcast on West German TV and radio and rockets into East Berlin and around the world. The borders are open!

Both Ossis (East Berliners) and Wessis (West Berliners) begin to assemble at the crossings shortly after 8pm. Ossis demanding to be allowed to pass with the Wessis cheering them on. Like all good government flunkies, the border guards, were making frantic phone calls to the higher ups asking “what in the hell do we do now?” Initial directions were to stamp the GDR passports with a special stamp that would not allow return to the GDR, effectively revoking the crosser’s citizenship.  Not to be daunted, those lucky enough to get across the line, assaulted the guards with cries of “we’ll be back”.

As the crowds grew, no one in the Border Guard (Stasi) chain-of command was willing to take responsibility for the issuance orders using lethal force on the ever swelling crowds. Finally, the guards, overwhelmed by the shear numbers of fellow citizens demanding passage, threw open the gates about 10:45 pm. 20,000 Ossis flowed over the Bösebrücke and into the cheering, welcoming crowds assembled in Wedding.

This scene was soon going on at all of the other crossings. The hated wall was breached and the party was on across Berlin. Berlin would no longer be divided, families separated and people dying to get across.

Wessis began climbing up on the wall and were soon joined by their Ossis counterparts. As all

The Trace of the old Berlin Wall (Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus' photography at the link at the bottom of the post.)

The Trace of the old Berlin Wall
(Photo Courtesy of Gus Myers. See more of Gus’ photography at the link at the bottom of the post.)

good parties go, dancing broke out to celebrate this historic occasion.  Within days the GDR had announced ten “new” crossings would be opened. In reality this was just the opening of existing roads that had been blocked by the wall. Still the euphoria continued as crowds on both sides cheered the bulldozers.

Author’s Note: The use of Ossis and Wessis are not used in the derogatory sense, just to identify the locations of the people.

[Editor’s Note: Gus Myers lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife of 27 years, Glenda who is from New Mexico.  An Army Brat, Gus was born in Naha Okinawa.  His father was a career officer who, according to Gus, participated in one War, one Police Action and whatever Viet Nam was, 7 campaigns  but had only one Purple Heart. Gus’ mother wore army boots as well and they moved a lot. He likes Hot Lips of M.A.S.H fame and thought civilians were just people with their uniforms at the cleaners until age 8. Gus likes Photography, Travel, Reading, Shooting sports – pistol, rifle and shotgun, Cycling, Construction]  Check out Gus’ photography on Zen Folio (http://gusm.zenfolio.com/ )

 

Freedom’s Soul: The Greatest Legacy

Cold War Warriors are the keepers of the flame of liberty. They picked up the smoldering lantern within which the flame is carried from their WWII brothers and sisters and, today, continue to spread its light. It is a bold statement to be sure but true none the less.

A warrior is, according to the dictionary, “one who is engaged in or experienced in battle.”[1] The

This house was right on the 38th parallel in Korea and was separated by a wall. Guess which side is in North Korea. (Courtesy of Steve Traywick)

This house was right on the 38th parallel in Korea and was separated by a wall. Guess which side is in North Korea. (Courtesy of Steve Traywick)

definition is woefully inadequate. In this instance the dictionary is blatantly misleading. Not every individual who fights or prepares to fight a war is a warrior. The Naval Academy’s Prof. Shannon E. French points out that laying a claim to the title ‘warrior’ is reserved to those who meet measures other than simply fighting. He says, “Before we call any collection of belligerents a culture of warriors, we should first ask why they fight, how they fight, what brings them honor, and what brings them shame. The answers to these questions will reveal whether or not they have a true warrior’s code.”[2]

A recent Mark Dice video[3] illustrates the point. Dice is asking people to sign a ‘petition’ to get rid of the Bill of Rights in The Constitution. Every person he approaches signs the ‘petition’, no questions asked. About three minutes into the video, Dice has filled a page with signatures and is waiting for one more. A man on a bicycle rides up and the approach is made. Dice makes his spiel. The guy on the bike looks flabbergasted and says, “No, you’re crazy, it’s part of The Constitution” and threatens to rip the ‘petition’ up. The man on the bike explains that he took an oath to defend and uphold The Constitution.  He was in the military and he is the warrior I am talking about.

Pursuing my interest in the lives and times of today’s Cold War (1947-1991) veterans, I petitioned and was accepted as a member of the American Cold War Veterans[4] ‘facebook’ page as well as

Berlin Airlift. C-46s on Ramp 1024

Berlin Airlift. C-46s on Ramp 1024

several other Cold War groups like Vet Connect[5]. What were others thinking and saying about the Cold War era, I wondered. It quickly became clear that I fell into a bunch of Americans that are exceptional. Norman Podhoretz, in the Imprimis article, Is America Exceptional?[6] defines the whats and whys of American exceptionalism.

“First of all, unlike all other nations past or present, this one accepted as a self-evident truth that all men are created equal. What this meant was that its Founders aimed to create a society in which, for the first time in the history of the world, the individual’s fate would be determined not by who his father was, but by his own freely chosen pursuit of his own ambitions. In other words, America was to be something new under the sun: a society in which hereditary status and class distinctions would be erased, leaving individuals free to act and to be judged on their merits alone. There remained, of course, the two atavistic contradictions of slavery and the position of women; but so intolerable did these contradictions ultimately prove that they had to be resolved—even if, as in the case of the former, it took the bloodiest war the nation has ever fought.”

The Cold War engaged citizens by the tens of millions. Scientists, engineers, technicians, administrators, constructors and paint scrapers, military and civilian were used in every nook and cranny of the twisted landscape in that war. The military personnel sacrificed with little notice unless the ‘Cold War train jumped the track’. The military’s men and women manned icebreakers, drove

Bosnia

Bosnia

tanks, stood post in Berlin, walked the line in Korea, serviced and flew helicopters in Vietnam, handled medical emergencies in hostile situations where they could have been killed by friendly fire, served on aircraft carriers and submarines, and, generally ‘took care of business’. The human beings, our fellow citizens, who served in the military were, most generally, young men and women who had just graduated from high school. Some landed fun, cushy jobs. Most did not.

The youngsters frequently lived in tough situations. Their mommies were not there to help them through but the Master Sergeant, or equivalent, and their buddies were. Some times were hard like

Cold War Berlin Wall. East Germany Peter Fleicher shot while trying to defect. He was left lying there as a lesson. (1962)

Cold War Berlin Wall. East Germany Peter Fleicher shot while trying to defect. He was left lying there as a lesson. (1962)

watching the Soviets kill people trying to defect or seeing a buddy die. Many times were stressful whether they were coping with boredom, challenge or horror. Many of the Cold War veterans didn’t make the cut or learn the lessons the Cold War offered. They were not meant to be warriors and fell by the wayside.

Many more veterans, however, did make it through the Cold War’s trial by fire. These are the warriors that keep the flame of freedom alive and well. It is possible to read the lessons they learned in their stories, in the poking they do at each other’s units, in their humor, in their gentle reminders to each other about not revealing classified information, and in some instances in the astounding pictures they took. For most, it seems the realization of the value of their time served dawned with the advent of the wisdom born of years of living. They live their various post-Cold War lives’ ups and downs asking for nothing while supporting their fellow servicemen, whether they made the warrior cut or not. The humor I read in their stories is so very American. Whether they mooned a Soviet ship, were pitched overboard to tend an injured sailor, or traded for East German helmets they were and are exceptional and, to a person, deny or decry any accolade.

It is not good or healthy to idealize an organization, even the military. While we should always be respectful and grateful for each soldiers’ sacrifice and service, soldiers are people; old/young,

Cuban Missile Crisis. Running giant extension cordsto power up the Minuteman Missiles in Montana(Photographer Unknown)

Cuban Missile Crisis. Running giant extension cordsto power up the Minuteman Missiles in Montana(Photographer Unknown)

good/bad, well/sick, wealthy/poor. The Cold War soldiers who evolved into warriors would, however, make the fifty six signers of the Declaration of Independence proud. Like the fifty six who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Cold War Warriors had everything to lose and little to gain from their time in military service and yet they went. Like the fifty six signers, many Cold War Warriors lost their lives, their health, their fortunes and their families to the Cold War. The fifty six who signed the Declaration of Independence in which they “…mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”[7] The signers kept their pledge. Cold War Warriors took an oath to uphold all that the fifty six signers fought, died and sacrificed for to bequeath to our nation and they honor that oath today, irrespective of their walks in life.

Today, as I write this post, the flame in the Lantern of Freedom is being passed to those who served, fought and still serve and fight in the Mid-East and around the globe so that we may continue OUR way of life. Freedom is the greatest legacy.

Author’s Note: The Cold War took a toll on all Americans. Civilians carried water alongside their military counterparts for even less recognition. It was a ‘secret’ war and many died, just simply disappeared or had ‘training accidents’. Many more were left behind, labeled as deserters or Missing In Action. POWs were abandoned to the Gulag or Soviet ‘hospitals’. There are legacies of valor and of governments behaving badly. These are the subjects of other posts.

Recently, however, a Globemaster emerged from the ice of an Alaskan glacier and fifty two more soldiers and their families can rest once more. “Relics from an Air Force cargo plane that slammed into a mountain in November 1952, killing all 52 servicemen on board, first emerged last summer on Colony Glacier, about 50 miles east of Anchorage.”[8]

 


[2] The Warrior’s Code; Prof. Shannon E. French, Ph.D.; http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/jscope/french.htm

[3] Mark Dice; Obama Supporters Sign Petition to Repeal the BILL OF RIGHTS; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0he0cqHH20

[6] Imprimis; Norman Podhoretz; October 2012; Is America Exceptional? http://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis/archive/issue.asp?year=2012&month=10

[7] The Declaration of Independence; http://www.constitution.org/us_doi.pdf

[8] Reuters; Yereth Rosen; As glacier melts, secrets of lost military plane revealed; http://news.yahoo.com/glacier-melts-secrets-lost-military-plane-revealed-120221443.html

Memories of Berlin from 1952

Transit Pass through the Soviet SectorAuthor: Gus Myers

This was during, as he put it, “the bad old days”.  In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic had been created and with it the enclave of West Berlin, which still fell under the governance of the British, French, and the Americans. The Soviets were still in a bad mood due to the success of the Berlin Airlift, which signaled the west’s determination not to cede Berlin to the Soviets.

In May of 1952, my father, then a 1st Lieutenant of Infantry, received orders that transferred him from teaching machine gunnery at Ft. Benning Georgia to duty with the Berlin Military Post (yet to become the Berlin Brigade), Berlin Germany. Soon assigned to the Brigade S3 (S-3 was Staff Operations) staff of the 6th Regiment of Infantry, he assumed many of the duties assigned to 1st Lts.: Staff Duty Officer, Inventory Officer for the Recreation Fund, counsel in Court Martial in addition to his primary duties.

My mother, then a Captain in the Medical Corps and soon to be married to my father, was stationed in Bad Cannstatt, a district of Stuttgart, after having met my father during his convalescence due to an errant bullet in Korea. Travel in these days was long and arduous between the West and Berlin. My mother during her visits to Berlin, would organize “Care Packages” for my Dad and his housekeeper. The packages included food and other things in short supply and not available to the civilians in Berlin, including coffee cans of bacon fat. Which my mother later admitted to hiding in the car so it would not be found at the border.

The Soviets had closed the border between their zone of occupation and the West, leaving only three road corridors for traffic going to and coming from the Federal Republic. One of which was the crossing at Helmstedt/Marienborn Germany (Checkpoint Alpha) along what is now the A2 Autobahn. When heading east to Berlin via automobile, allied personnel were given a time stamped ticket, to be turned in upon arrival in the Allied Sector. Should your travel time be under fours hours a speeding ticket was automatically issued. After six hours, the military began to get worried. People were going missing from Berlin and the Soviet occupied sector in those days.

A newly graduated Army Nurse had just been posted to the 279th Station Hospital of the Berlin Military Post. She had been given a new convertible for graduation from college by her parents, and as an officer, had her car shipped to Germany. Having picked up her new Ford convertible at the port of Bremerhaven, she was driving back to Berlin.

She cleared Checkpoint Alpha but was way over the six hour mark and the military command was getting worried. Was there an accident? Had she been snatched up by the Soviets? Eventually the Soviet’s contacted the Allied Government to let them know that they had this young nurse in their custody. It seems that in those days, and in the Soviet mind, only two kinds of women drove shiny new convertibles and she really didn’t appear to be the first kind, so she must be the second – a spy.

The 6th Regiment of Infantry, who was tasked with the security and defense of Berlin, was placed on alert and given orders to mount up with full combat loads to retrieve her from Soviet custody, using force if needed. My father’s reaction as he grabbed his combat gear was: “ Shit, here we go again, this is it”.

As the armor column was ready to roll out of the Allied Sector, and rescue the nurse, the Soviets communicated that “it’s OK, an unfortunate mis-understanding and she has been released and will be permitted to be on her way to Berlin.”

Fortunately the 6th was able to stand down, WW 3 was not ignited, and Berlin life resumed to what passed for normal. My parents were able to continue the visits between Stuttgart and Berlin and eventually got married.

It was unfortunate, that in those times, my mother had to resign her commission to get married. Additionally, Berlin may have been a post that dependents were not permitted, so my Dad was then posted to the 4th Infantry Division in Frankfurt. Which ironically, was the same division that my wife’s father served in.

 

[Editor’s note: Gus Myers spends his days helping developers at the Town of Marana. His avocation is photography; a field for which he has a great deal of talent. Click on the related link and check it out for yourself.]