Skip to comments.Now is the Time For a Cold War Victory Medal!
Posted on 06/17/2004 12:44:56 PM PDT by Right-Headed
The Cold War Service Medal By Dr. Frank Tims
With the Defense Authorization Act of 2002, Congress formally recommended for the first time that the Secretary of Defense consider authorizing the design and award of the Cold War Service Medal. This recognition is deserved and long overdue. The "Cold War" was not just an ideological struggle, it was a large-scale military campaign to prevent a third world war through deterrence and military deployments. While many characterize the period 1945-1991 as "peacetime," except for limited wars and expeditions, this misses the point of the large, ongoing military operation that was in fact global.
Continuing Military Operations 1945-91.
The Korean war, Vietnam, and Grenada were limited wars within the Cold War period. Expeditions also took place in the cold war context (Quemoy-Matsu, Korea 1966-74, Berlin 1961-62) and also in humanitarian rescue missions (Congo 1964). In the larger context, our defense effort included troop deployments to check Soviet military threats, continuous nuclear-armed SAC B-52 missions to provide retaliatory capability in event of a Soviet attack, and reconnaissance of hostile territory and waters by air and sea. ICBM and Air Defense sites provided a deterrent against Soviet attack of the United States, and were kept on a high state of alert. Research and Development to keep our defenses and offensive capability able to cope with increasing threats supported the continuing global US/allied military operation.
Q: What was the nature of this global military operation? .
A: It was to counter overt, covert, and continuing moves by communist powers to achieve military and political objectives, and to prevent or counter military operations against the west. It included defense against Soviet bloc attack of the US and its allies, counter-insurgency operations in Europe (e.g., Greece), threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity of our allies (e.g., Norway, Turkey, Taiwan), enforcing the armistice in Korea, defense of western Europe under NATO, forced removal of soviet missiles from Cuba, defense against communist insurgencies in central America, and continuing reconnaissance by air, sea, and land which involved hazard and vigilance. It underwent changes over time, and lasted for over 45 years.
In 1949, General of the Army Eisenhower recommended to President Truman that the US forces in Germany and Austria be reinforced by sending 4 additional divisions to Europe, to bring them to the strength of 6 full divisions, to meet the Soviet threat and make our commitment to NATO credible. Two regular Army divisions plus two National Guard divisions (the 28th and 43rd) called up in 1950 were sent to Germany. The US NATO forces protected western Europe for over 40 years, and kept the peace until the Berlin wall came down in 1990. When West Germany joined NATO in 1955, it had no army. The US, British, and French forces provided the shield while the F.R.G. rearmed and trained its new forces.
No headlines, but just honest and faithful service peacekeepers who stayed combat ready and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. NATO had 21 divisions facing 175 soviet and Warsaw Pact divisions in 1955. Our troops stayed on alert, with their basic load of ammunition ready for war. Those troops in the Fulda gap had no illusions about their role they would buy time for a counterstrike if and when war began.
Korea was a hot war, which was stopped by a truce in 1953. Since then, fully armed patrols, reconnaissance flights, and ships have carried out missions along the coast. The threat from North Korea has continued. ASA troops have constantly listened to enemy command nets and intercepted messages. Air and missile units in South Korea have been armed with nuclear weapons, and stood ready to use them if so ordered. US patrols have been ambushed, and North Koreans infiltrated south for sabotage and subversion. US military personnel have been constantly engaged in the collection and analysis of intelligence from hostile regimes in Asia, and provided the essential support that has prevented full-scale resumption of hostilities in Korea.
Quemoy and Matsu in the Taiwan strait were flash points, and US personnel were essential to containing communist China there. Before escalation of the war in Vietnam, US forces provided training and logistics to countries such as Thailand and Laos, and advisory and humanitarian missions in South Vietnam. These missions were not always recognized, but they were essential to our policy in the region.
In the United States and Canada, our strategic defense called for vigilance and devotion to duty. There were no medals of recognition for the NORAD troops who not only had to be on guard against surprise attack, but also against mistakenly triggering a launch based on erroneous signals. Troops in the USA maintained security at such locations as Ft. Meade, Ft. Detrick, White Sands Proving Grounds, SAC bases, Rocky Flats, and at Area 51 in Nevada. Research and Development improved our ability to respond to attack by Soviet or other forces. Our atomic veterans participated in essential testing of nuclear battlefield weapons, which our national leaders defined as part of our overall arsenal of "conventional weapons" in the 1950s. In fact, early war plans for Vietnam by the JCS included nuclear weapons, and such weapons were deployed in Europe and Korea, as well as at sea.
Q: Why does it merit recognition with a medal?
A: It was a unique period in our history, and deserves a unique medal. Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) called it the most significant victory since World War II. It did not often have the kinds of dramatic battles that make newspaper headlines. It was the day-in-day-out routine where a successful mission meant you returned safely to port after patrolling the coast of Communist China or North Korea, or landed safely after evading Soviet interceptors. President Kennedy termed it the "long twilight struggle, neither war nor peace." It called for dedication to duty, production of good intelligence, or manning a guard post along the border with East Germany through a harsh winter. Its casualties were less frequent, but real nonetheless.
But all Cold War soldiers, sailors, and airmen had very real missions. Some airmen lost their lives in shoot downs along the frontiers. The USS Thresher and USS Scorpion submarines went to dark and lonely graves in the sea, doing their duty. B-52s armed with nuclear weapons flew to their fail-safe points, ready to continue their missions and attack if not recalled. The USS Pueblo is an example of a mission gone wrong, when the North Koreans decided to strike. Many other such patrols went unacknowledged because they returned safely but they 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, not just a piece of paper but a tangible sign that can be worn and acknowledged. Our cold war veterans deserve nothing less.
Q: Hasn't it already been recognized with a certificate?
A: A certificate falls far short of the recognition such service merits. The certificate can be awarded to any government employee, whether they were flying a U-2 over Cuba or a civilian clerk in the GSA in Kansas City. A service medal, on the other hand, recognizes military service. Congress has recommended that a medal be authorized. The Department of Defense has never substituted a certificate for a service medal in the past our brave service men and women deserve a medal for Cold War service.
We honor and appreciate those who serve today, all we ask is that our government honor the living who served during the dark days of the Cold War. It will cost something, but our government should never be cheap where honor is concerned.
Q: Why did Congress leave it up to the Secretary of Defense to decide this?
A: The Chairperson of the Senate Armed Services Committee felt it was appropriate. A majority in the House, and the Senate are on record as favoring this medal. As a matter of protocol, they have passed the decision to Secretary Rumsfeld. He has a great deal on his mind these days, but we believe he will want to do the right thing by our veterans -- especially if you contact his office and let his staff know that you support such recognition. We also believe that Congress will provide funds for the medal in a supplemental appropriation if Secretary Rumsfeld authorizes this.
Q: Do other veterans organizations support this?
A: Yes. The three largest VSOs -- AMVETS, VFW, and the American Legion are now ALL on record with formal resolutions favoring a cold war medal. Various regimental and division societies, and other fraternal veterans organizations (particularly the Cold War Veterans Association) also favor the cold war service medal.
Q: Won't this cheapen the other service medals already awarded?
A: On the contrary, it will correct an injustice and an oversight in the DOD system of recognition. Today, military personnel receive ribbons for training and overseas service. Many Cold War veterans completed difficult tours overseas, and engaged in hazardous missions, but finished their tours without so much as a single ribbon, except perhaps a good conduct medal. To recognize the Cold War veterans with a service medal of their own will bring honor to the Department of Defense, and the armed forces. Just as we do not leave our wounded on the battlefield, we should not slight the brave men and women who preserved the free world through their devotion and sacrifice.
Q: How should we recommend that DOD provide this medal?
A: Realistically, it will take additional staff and resources. If Secretary Rumsfeld directs the Institute of Heraldry to design the medal, and authorizes its wear, individuals can procure it from private, commercial sources until such time as Congress makes funds available for its production and processing of awards. The funds can be requested in next year's appropriation if Secretary Rumsfeld will authorize award and wear of the medal now.
Call, write, or e-mail your Congressman and tell him/her that you support H. R. 3388, "The Cold War Victory Medal Act". Call, write, or e-mail Secretary Rumsfeld's office and tell him you support this recognition of our victorious Cold Warriors!
Consider it done. All I have right now is National Defense ribbon? Red with Yellow bars. USAF SAC May 72-May 76 and my Pocket Rocket.
I think it should be called the "Ronald Reagan Cold War Victory Medal." What soldier would want to wear a "Ronnie" on his chest?????
The National Defense Service Medal
I also wore the AOM for service in Berlin ('78-'81). Although that was very real Cold War service, it wasn't the reason for the award. We were an occupying army until the wall came down in '89.
I like your medal. Trade?
Can you visit the clothing sales store at Maxwell?
We both look 12. I believe they stopped in fall 1972 when they declared they were de escalating in Nam.
And another set of ears for you ;-)
You have tiny ears and a helmet to cover them.
I don't know. I really think being a 4 year lifer exempts me from anything other than being a visitor.
I've seen them for sale at the military clothing sales at F.E. Warren AFB, Cheyenne, WY. I will be happy to see it approved for wear on the uniform.
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