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Cold "Peace" by Matt Davison

I'm always amazed at how many think of the Cold War as peacetime. If this were truly the case, why not refer to it as the Cold "Peace." People, especially veterans, cannot understand that Cold Warriors faced the same hazards, daily, year-in-year- out. It's easy to dismiss this kind of service as "peacetime," but that misses the point. This was a different kind of service, a different kind of war, and it deserves recognition.

I was involved in what was referred to as the "shooting gallery off Japan," serving with Air Force electronic "Floor stations" operated by the U.S. Air Force Security Service, where we monitored Communist radar emissions and missile tests from many locations along the Pacific rim. The largest, with over 1,000 airmen, and the controlling center for the Pacific, was the 6920th Electronic Security Group at Misawa AFB, Japan. Russian MIGs from their airfield on the Kurile Islands would regularly buzz our station, but no encounters ever occurred because U.S. fighters would scramble quickly. I also remember when the Communists slapped a blockade on Quemoy and began an artillery bombardment. This was a flash point that put us on full alert.

The thing "hot war" veterans need to remember, is that we all answered the call, drafted or volunteered. America needed its guardians of freedom and we were there. We served around the globe for 46 years, ensuring that freedom would not disappear at the hands of totalitarian Communist regimes. We did this in places most of the world never heard of, in the air, on land and at sea.

Cold War is a term that invites many stereotypes, and yet involves many shades of warfare – conventional and unconventional, open and in the shadows. We served in the bunkers of NORAD and over Soviet airspace, tracking Soviet submarines and detecting enemy radar signals along the coast of North Korea and the USSR, deployed to Nike Hercules nuclear missile units that defended places ranging from New Jersey to forward locations along the Iron Curtain and Korean DMZ, and in places most have never heard of. Sometimes the Cold War turned hot, and we accepted that risk.

The number of killed and wounded in Cold War operations has been unresolved over time. These deaths were often shrouded in secrecy and classified as "accidents" due to political or security reasons. The VFW has recognized the number as being at least 382 hostile fire deaths at the hands of Communist forces, but many believe that number should be much higher. Robert Gates is quoted as saying "...and so the greatest American triumphs became a particularly joyless victory. We had won the Cold War, but there would be no parades."

From the first fatal shootdown in 1946 over Yugoslavia, to the 17-man crew shot down over Armenia in 1958, and other fatal shootdowns over the Sea of Japan and North Korea, this was never a Cold "Peace." Another oddity in all of this are the deaths of Army Major Dale Buis and Master Sgt. Chester Ovnand, at the hand of the Viet Cong in Bien Hoa. These deaths occurred in 1959, prior to the IRS designated Vietnam Era. They are listed as "Cold War" KIA, and yet they are the first two names on the Vietnam Veterans Wall.

There are those who say that a day should be set aside to nationally honor those who served to contain Communism. And there are those who believe a Cold War medal should be given to those who had served during this time. The medal was proposed, only to be vetoed by then President George W. Bush, even though it had the backing of Senator’s Clinton, Collins, Schumer, and Lincoln. Maybe, under the leadership of President Obama, these Cold Warriors will finally be recognized for their vigilance and sacrifice in what was arguably the most dangerous era the world has ever known.


-Matt Davison, Proud Cold Warrior and CWVA Member