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Monthly Archives: May 2007

A Must Read for NY Veterans

Thinning of Veterans’ Ranks Leaves Breach in Collective Memory

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By CLYDE HABERMAN

Published: May 29, 2007

New York State’s veteran population is at its lowest point since before World War II, and the shrinking numbers have human consequences. NY Times Article

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Lt. Jesse Beasley

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USS Pueblo

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P2V Type Lost over Yellow Sea on Jan. 4th, 1954

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
Published May 28, 2007


Frank M. Tims, 70, of St. Petersburg, is an officer of the Cold War Veterans Association. The organization lobbies on behalf of servicemen who died in the Cold War, but never received recognition for their service.
photo

[Scott Keeler Times]

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[Handout photo]
These are the medals that honor the Cold War Veterans, many who fought in secret conflicts and were never recognized for their service and for the ultimate sacrifice. There are more than 300 veterans who died in conflict during the Cold War.

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 I’m doin’.”

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 American wars.”

– – –

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 in 2000.

– – –

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 mailto:jbarry@sptimes.com

The Newark NJ Star Ledger electronic version came out this am with a great article for our cause. Tom Hester is the Author and he did a heck of a job.

I am copying and pasting the article below.

Sean P. Eagan
Northeast Zone Director
Cold War Veterans Association
CWVA NY 716-708-6416

Warriors of a forgotten conflict

Cold War veterans may soon receive a medal for their part in U.S. victory

Monday, May 28, 2007

BY TOM HESTER Star-Ledger Staff

William Boyle was studying modern history at St. Patrick’s College outside Dublin in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down.

“I looked at my professor and said, ‘You know something, we just won the Cold War,'” he recalled.

Boyle, 48, of Plainsboro, did his part to help win the Cold War, a time when Americans and their NATO allies protected the world from the threat of nuclear war and which lasted from 1945 to 1991. He was an infantry squad leader in West Germany for five years, then re-enlisted and served another three years there as a munitions specialist handling nuclear warheads.

Bill Steimel of Belleville also had some harrowing times during the Cold War.

Steimel, 53, earned the rank of sergeant, serving four years as a generator mechanic with an Army air defense missile unit in bunkers hidden among West German farm fields and facing the East German frontier. Some 20 soldiers would be locked in a bunker for 24-hour stretches.

“Whenever the Soviets would move troops, we would go on alert,” he said. “We had a hot battery once a month.”

Boyle and Steimel would like some recognition for themselves and the 24 million who served as they did: a Cold War Victory medal.

After years of trying, a bill authorizing the medal, sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D-1st Dist.), won approval in the House on May 17. The proposal has moved to the Senate, where Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y .) is the prime sponsor.

“Service to the country during those years was very critical in defending the freedom we have today,” Andrews said. “Victory in the Cold War was pivotal in making the country more secure and less likely to face nuclear attack. I thought that commitment needed special recognition.”

Supporters point out thousands in the armed services were involved in all-but-forgotten violent or white-knuckle incidents that left many dead or wounded. Others played roles in places ranging from Korea’s DMZ and Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie to Greenland and South Pole outposts.

Some incidents were well known: In 1949, during the Berlin Airlift, when 31 servicemen died flying food and supplies over a Soviet blockade to aid the West Germans; in 1955, when Air Force fighters were attacked and shot down two Chinese MiGs over the Yellow Sea; in 1975, when Marines recaptured the SS Mayaguez from the Khmer Rouge and saved the crew but suffered 16 dead and 44 wounded. There were also showdowns in the 1960s when poorly-armed Coast Guardsmen in small patrol boats confronted Soviet spy ships off East Coast beaches.

“I think a lot of guys look at their service and they feel a little bit forgotten,” said Army veteran Sean Eagan of Jamestown, N.Y., the Cold War Veterans Association’s Northeast coordinator. “They look back on it fondly, they were young and serving overseas. But there is a large number of them who think they could have been recognized. They served in some hairy places.”

The medal campaign, supported by every veterans organization, has not been an easy one. The idea has been opposed for the last six years by President Bush and the Department of Defense. The potential cost of $250 million, for hardware and administration, has been questioned at a time when the military is pleading it needs billions to cover war needs.

The Defense Department also argues Cold War service recognition already is provided in a certificate available to all veterans and federal employees of the period. Representatives from the department did not return requests for comment last week.

“I think there is a better outlook this time,” Andrews said. “It is not a partisan issue, but there was tough sledding in the Republican Congress. I am much more hopeful this time around with the change in (congressional) leadership.”

Under the bill, anybody who served on active duty for more than six months at home or abroad and received an honorable discharge — including Korean and Vietnam veterans — would be eligible. The bill’s fate is expected to be decided by Oct. 1, the deadline for the military appropriations bill. Cold War veterans now range in age from about 37 to 82.

In New Jersey, legislation that would create a state-issued Cold War Victory ribbon for New Jersey veterans of the era is pending in both the Senate and Assembly.

The Cold War Veterans Association also has convinced the governors of 19 states, including Gov. Jon Corzine, to recognize May 1, the former Soviet “May Day,” as “Cold War Victory Day.”

Boyle, who is the New Jersey coordinator for the Cold War Veterans Association, also served in the New Jersey National Guard from 1991 to this year and took part in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort in New Orleans. He retired as a sergeant.

“It didn’t have a bang or anything, but we have to officially memorialize the event,” he said. “I think (the Cold War) was one of our best victories.”

Steimel, who retired in 1993 with the rank of warrant officer, said recognition is overdue for Cold War veterans.

“It was hard duty serving over there,” he said. “Dangerous duty. People don’t realize that.”

Tom Hester may be reached at thester@starledger.com or (609) 292-0557.

American Legion Defends Religious Symbols on Veterans’ Memorials

WASHINGTON (AP) — This Memorial Day weekend, religious liberty groups are uniting with the American Legion to defend veterans memorials that include religious symbols.

The Alliance Defense Fund’s Joseph Infranco says memorials that feature a cross or star of David honor “the faith and courage of veterans who paid the ultimate price to protect our freedoms.”

The ADF and the Liberty Legal Institute are offering free legal help to government entities that are threatened with lawsuits over such memorials.

Former American Legion National Commander Thomas Bock says taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay legal fees to groups whose lawsuits strip religious symbols from veterans memorials.

Infranco says Congress should pass a bill that bars the awarding of attorneys fees when the plaintiffs’ only claim to harm is that they felt offended by viewing religious symbols.

Sacramento News 10 and AP

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind my fellow citizens that Memorial Day weekend means more than a family barbecue, a trip to the shore or taking advantage of the usual sales that will be offered.

Memorial Day is meant for us all to remember the sacrifice that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have made to preserve the freedom and democracy that we enjoy today.

Were it not for the men and women who willingly gave their very lives to secure the freedom that currently exists in America, we may very well not have the ability to engage in the activities that have come to be part of the Memorial Day weekend.

Many ceremonies will be conducted during this period to remember those who have paid the ultimate price for the greatest democracy yet devised, and I encourage all New Jerseyans to attend their local ceremonies as a visible way of remembering those who gave their all and to let those men and women presently engaged in combat know that America supports its troops and shall never forget its fallen heroes.

Charles “Chuck” Robbins

N.J. State Commander

The American Legion

Originally published May 23, 2007

Recent Letter to the Editor from a Fellow 528th USAAG Vet

Thank U.S. Rep. Tom Davis for his recent meeting
with Veterans For Peace and Virginians For Peace and
Accountability. I handed Mr. Davis a book containing
“Laws violated by President George W. Bush,
Vice-President Richard Cheney, public officials under
their authority, and members of the U.S. military
under their command, sufficient for impeachment.” If
he reads the evidence presented to him, he will be
left with only one conclusion: that this
administration’s war on Iraq is an unmistakable
violation of our Constitution and federal law which he
has sworn to uphold.
See
http://www.veteransforpeace.org/File/pdf/violations_documented.pdf

If tomorrow the government asked the American people
for $5,000 and a child to fight the Iraq war, the war
would be over the day after tomorrow. As a veteran
with an extensive knowledge of history I believe we
are unnecessarily locked in war for resources.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney chose not
emulate Nixon and his Open China Policy. Instead they
chose the path of war. We can lessen the consequences
if the following steps are taken now.
1) Impeach the President and Vice President
The best way for Congress to demonstrate its support
for the troops is to relieve the President and Vice
President.
2) Plan and execute an exit strategy from Iraq
A. Development of an appropriate international
peace-keeping force.
B. Support Iraqi self rule and free and fair
elections.
C. The U.S. should provide humanitarian aid to Iraq to
rebuild its infrastructure.

Anthony D. Teolis
Veterans For Peace Chapter 016
Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia
3249 Arrowhead Circle Apt. E
Fairfax, VA 22030
Tel : 703-352-1603
Website: http://www.vfpdc.org
E-mail: vfpdc@vfpdc.org

Here is a Freebie for Vets in Chicago Area

“A Million Thanks” Free White Sox Tickets For Active and Retired VETS

The Chicagoland Buick, Pontiac, GMC DealershipsMemorial Day Weekend Celebration with the White Sox at US Cellular Field on Saturday, May 26, 2007 (6:05 pm start)1250 FREE TICKETS to Active and Retired US MilitaryVeterans for a“Thank You”VIP Experience! http://www.bpgdrive.com

email: military@gillespiepontiac.com or call 800-906-8038 For Free Tickets!

Military Veterans and Supporters:

Join the Veterans Rally for Justice!

It’s Time for the City to

Stop Passing the Buck!

With over 300,000 veterans in New York City – and more returning from Iraq and Afghanistan everyday – the City DOES NOT provide

ANY Direct Services.

City veterans are going without needed health care, housing and

jobs because they don’t know where to go for help!

This Memorial Day, we will call on the city administration to fund

one-stop centers that will fight for veterans rights to get the information and services they need and deserve.

Join the Rally to Call for $5 million to Create Veterans Resource Centers

Who: Councilman Hiram Monserrate

Chair, City Council Veterans Committee

Coalition of Veterans Organizations (CoVO)

City Elected Officials

Where: City Hall Steps

When: 12:00 noon, May 23rd, 2007

For More Information, Please Call 718-205-3881,
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