Skip to comments.Latvian city commemorates US airmen downed by Soviets in 1950
Posted on 04/19/2007 4:49:54 PM PDT by Leisler
The Latvian port town of Liepaja commemorated Monday the crew of a US aircraft shot down by Soviet forces in 1950 in an incident which sparked a bloody new phase in the Cold War.The deputy mayor of Liepaja, Gunars Ansins, and representatives of the US embassy in Latvia laid wreaths in memory of the ten-man crew of the US Navy Privateer reconnaissance plane, which was shot down by Soviet fighters on April 8, 1950.
The Baltic states, which were created in 1918 during the collapse of the Russian Empire, were occupied by Soviet forces in 1940. They were incorporated into the Soviet Union after World War II in an act which Western governments have always maintained was illegal.
Under Stalin's orders, they were rapidly transformed into one of the most heavily-fortified areas on the globe. Land, air and naval bases and ballistic-missile silos studded their territory, waiting for an expected Western invasion.
As a result, the Soviet Baltic coast was regularly observed by Western reconnaissance aircraft in a cat-and-mouse game with Soviet air defences. In 1950, the game turned violent.
"The bloodiest period started in 1950, when Soviet fighters shot down a US Navy patrol craft over the Baltic sea off what is now Latvia," US military historian Christopher Eger wrote.
"In a twelve-year period 19 more US planes, mainly reconnaissance aircraft, were destroyed in . fights with Russian MiGs," he added.
The Privateer, a converted Liberator bomber with a crew of ten, crashed into the Baltic some 14 nautical miles off Liepaja. The town was home to a substantial naval force throughout Soviet times.
The remains of the crew were never recovered. However, according to Eger, a retired Soviet general said in 1993 that he believed that the aircraft had been salvaged and taken to Moscow.
Within months of the incident, US forces struck back. In September 1950 a US fighter aircraft shot down a Soviet bomber which had flown too close to US Navy forces.
Twenty US aircraft were shot down by the Soviets from 1950 to 1962. Soviet forces recorded 28 incidents of missing planes, submarines or men, Eger wrote. dpa bn pmc
April 8th, 1950 A US Navy PB4Y-2 Privateer was shot down by 23mm cannon fire from a pair of Soviet Lavochkin La-11 fighters over the Baltic Sea near what is now Latvia. The ten man crew was presumed dead and has not been found. In 1993 retired Soviet General Fyodor Shinkarenko stated that he believed the wreckage was secretly salvaged and sent to Moscow.
December 4th 1950 A USAF RB-45C Tornado was shot down by 23mm cannon fire cannon fire from Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) 15s over China near the North Korean border. Two of the four crewmen died in the attack. The remaining two bailed out across the North Korean border and were captured. One was killed during interrogation and the second was hung.
December 26th, 1950 A USAF RB-29 Superfortress (converted from atom bomb dropper to photographic reconnaissance aircraft) was shot down by cannon fire from two MiG-15s over the Sea of Japan.
November 6th, 1951 A US Navy P2V-3 Neptune was shot down near Vladivostok by two Soviet La-11 fighters. The ten men crew was presumed dead.
June 13, 1952 A USAF RB-29 Superfortress was shot down by cannon fire from two MiG-15 fighters over the Sea of Japan. The American recon aircraft was intercepted nine miles off the coast and quickly destroyed. The 12-man crew was presumed dead however unconfirmed reports surfaced that one had survived long enough to be picked up by a Soviet ship in the area. Who this crewman was and his ultimate fate is unknown.
October 7, 1952 A USAF RB-29 Superfortress was shot down by machine gun fire from Soviet La-11 fighters over the Kurile Islands. The eight man crew was all presumed dead. In 1994 the remains of one of the crewmen, Captain John R Dunham was located and returned to the US after former Soviet documents related that a crewman had been found and was buried on nearby Yuri Island. Former Soviet KGB Maritime Border Guards sailor Vasili Saiko came forward in 1993 and gave the US Naval Academy a ring that he took from Captain Dunham's body in 1952. The ring was eventually given to Captain Dunhams widow.
July 29th, 1953 A USAF RB-50G Superfortress was shot down near Vladivostok by cannon fire from two MiG-17s. A single survivor of the 18-man crew was pulled from the sea by a destroyer. A week later the remains of two more of the crew washed up in the coast of Japan. Conflicting reports after the Cold War by former Soviet military personnel who were present at the event seem to indicate that others may have survived in Soviet custody but are unaccounted for.
September 4th, 1954 A US Navy P2V-5 flying from Atsugi Japan was shot down over water by cannon fire from two MiG-15s off the coast of Siberia. The pilot ditched in international waters and was rescued with the loss of one crewman.
November 7th 1954 USAF RB-29 Superfortress was shot down by cannon fire from two MiG-15 fighters near northern Japan. Ten of the eleven-man crew was rescued while one unlucky crewman drowned.
April 17th 1955 USAF RB-47E was shot down by a cannon fire from a pair of MiG-15s near Kamchatka off the Siberian coast. The three-man crew was presumed killed.
June 22nd, 1955 US Navy P2V-5 Neptune flying over the Bearing Strait in international waters was jumped by two Soviet MiG-15s. The pilots managed to crash land the stricken plane on US territory and the crew survived although most were injured.
Christmas Eve 1957 A USAF RB-57 was shot down over the Black Sea by Soviet fighters and its crew all died.
June27 1958 USAF C-118 Liftmaster transport (military version of a Douglas DC-6) reportedly used by the CIA at one time was shot down by rocket and cannon fire from two MiG-17s over Soviet Armenia. The aircraft was destroyed but the crews parachuted to safety and were given back by the Soviets a week later.
September 2nd, 1958 USAF C-130A Hercules transport modified for signals intelligence was shot down by cannon and rocket fire from two MiG-17s over Soviet Armenia. The entire crew died. Six of the bodies were given back by the Soviets that year and the remaining 11 were recovered by the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POWs/ MIAs in 1998.
May 1st 1960 CIA owned U-2 spy plane flown by Gary Powers a "sheep-dipped" Air Force officer flying as a civilian from a base in Pakistan was shot down by a lucky hit from one of at least 14 SA-2 surface to air missiles ripple fired at it over Sverdlosk (formerly called Yekaterinburg back in 1918 when the Tsar was killed there) in about the most absolute center of the Soviet Union. Powers was captured and embarrassingly placed on public trail before going home in 1962
July 1st 1960, USAF RB-47H Stratojet flying over the Barents Sea was shot down by 30mm cannon fire from a Soviet MiG-19. Four crewmembers were killed and two were captured and held for six months by the KGB.
October 27 1962 USAF U-2 of the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing shot down by another magic BB SA-2 Guideline surface to air missile over Cuba from a Soviet manned battery. The pilot was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross.
January 24, 1964 USAF T-39 Sabreliner flying from West Germany on a training mission crossed over East German airspace and was downed by a Soviet MiG-21, killing all three aboard.
March 10, 1964 USAF RB-66 Destroyer was shot down over East Germany by a Soviet MiG-21 on a flight from West Berlin when it crossed out of authorized airspace over East German airspace. The crew was rescued and repatriated.
October 21, 1970 US Army RU-8 Seminole flying from Turkey (military variant of a Beech craft twin engine) lost over Soviet Armenia
Sources By Any Means Necessary: America's Secret Air War in the Cold War William E. Burrows
Our Eyes In The SkyOn a day long ago
In a far-away land,
You rose to the skies
To obey a command.
While we who were here
In our safe, secure place,
Never knew of the danger,
Never knew what you'd face.
We live in a land
That today is still free,
Who can measure the gift
To mankind and to me?
Our "Eyes in the Sky",
Looking down from above,
We hope you can see
What you gave us in love.
On a day long ago,
In a far-away land,
When you rose to the skies
To obey a command.
Chrystal Krueger Sinn, June, 1997
#1. Just to mess with Stalin’s mind, in aprox 1953, two USAF B-45s with phony RAF marking and crews flew from UK to Moscow, then Kiev, them back to UK. Russians hated it but there nothing they could do about it. They flew in RAF colors because Eisenhower didn’t have the stones to allow US to do.
#2. We sent manned A/C (U-2) and others directly over heart of USSR. Did they ever do the same to US?
I can’t recall the exact displacement, but it seems that it was on the order of 10 to 12 miles seaward.
Liepaja was a closed city for the duration of the Soviet occupation. No native Latvians were allowed to reside there unless they were loyal and tested party members. Western tourist were absolutely verboten.
Unbeknownst to the US liberals, the Cold War was a real war.
We should have shot down a lot more Soviet aircraft.
Thanks for the ping. I knew the crews to two of the RB-47’s and was on an EB-47 crew in 1957-58. Photo (RB) was more dangerous than electronic (EB), because you had to get a lot closer to the bad guys.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.