Sunday, November 11, 2012

Some Thoughts on a Forgotten War & Its Veterans

                                                                American Legion Post 75 Middletown CT

Missing in Action: 22 Years of the Cold War

The American Legion is a federally chartered organization and that charter allows veteran membership in the organization only if service occurred during the specified periods: An individual is eligible for membership in the corporation only if the individual... has served in the Armed Forces of  The United States at any time during any period specified below:

An individual is eligible for membership in the corporation only
if the individual - has served in the Armed Forces of -
 the United States at any time during any period from -
(i) April 6, 1917, through November 11, 1918;
(ii) December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946;
(iii) June 25, 1950, through January 31, 1955;
(iv) February 28, 1961, through May 7, 1975;
(v) August 24, 1982, through July 31, 1984;
(vi) December 20, 1989, through January 31, 1990; or
(vii) August 2, 1990, through the date of cessation of
hostilities, as decided by the United States Government

The Cold War:

From 1945 to the Soviet Union's breakup in 1991, was all about avoiding total nuclear war. It turned hot in Korea and Vietnam and sparked conflicts from Lebanon to Grenada. But soldiers on duty between flare-ups didn't do battle. When the war that wasn't came to an end, they got no monuments, no victory medals. Nor can they join the American Legion. There is a 22 year combined Cold War gap and there are  anywhere from 3.5 to 5 million vets who served during those years who remain ineligible for various honors and, of course, membership in the American Legion.

What did our veterans do while on active duty during The Cold War? As explained in an article in The Wall Street Journal (Nov 9):

There is no National Defense Service Medal for veterans of the Cold War. What were America's GIs up to? They went on alert when Egypt claimed the Suez Canal in 1956. They manned missile silos in North Dakota and piloted B-52s aimed at Soviet targets. They crewed nuclear-armed submarines and drove tanks in the Fulda Gap between West and East Germany. Some of what they did is still secret.

What was the Cold War

The Cold War is the name given to the relationship that developed primarily between the USA and the USSR after World War Two. The Cold War was to dominate international affairs for decades and many major crises occurred - the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam,Hungary and the Berlin Wall being just some. For many the growth in weapons of mass destruction was the most worrying issue.
Do note that USSR in 1945 was Russia post-1917 and included all the various countries that now exist individually (Ukraine, Georgia etc) but after the war they were part of this huge country up until the collapse of the Soviet Union (the other name for the USSR).
Logic would dictate that as the USA and the USSR fought as allies during World War Two, their relationship after the war would be firm and friendly. This never happened and any appearance that these two powers were friendly during the war is illusory.

Note: The author served with the U.S. Army Security Agency in Germany during the Cold War and was temporarily stationed in divided Berlin.

                                                      U.S. Soldiers at the Berlin Wall c1981 (Getty Images)

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