“The Cold War did not have the dramatic intensity of World War II. But it was just as real and just as dangerous. Though often clandestine and subtle, it ranged worldwide, cost many lives, evoked much heroism and lasted what seemed like forever . Considering the stakes, the scope and the suffering, this was a struggle that surely deserves commemoration. Let us build a monument to it. let the President call for the building of a Cold War memorial. If he won’t, Congress should.” Charles Krauthammer
“During the Cold War period of 1945-1977, a total of more than 40 reconnaissance aircraft were shot down. The secrecy of the reconnaissance programs prevented recognition of the slain military personnel at the time of the incidents. Their loss was mourned by their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in similar programs, but the fallen could not be accorded public honors.” Gary Powers Jr.
In 1998, my idea was simply to preserve an intriguing site with a plaque to remember the human life lost there. I thought it most important to find the names of the people who were on the plane, little suspecting that the victims were men who played a significant part in America’s cold war history. They worked in secret, developing the U-2, a spy plane which some believed prevented World War III. They contributed to our national security with their very lives. The plane they helped build, which critics of the time said could never be built, remains a marvel. Forty-five years later, the U-2 is still a functional and vital part of our nation’s reconnaissance efforts.
A reporter from The Boston Enterprise called to talk about the crash and asked me why I felt a memorial for the 14 who died on the mountain should be built. My answer was simple. I asked her if she could remember one time in the history of the world when we came closer to completely and totally ending civilization than during the Cold War.
Whenever we have gone to war, we have learned something as a country. For example, in WWI and WWII, we learned that our oceans are not big enough to ignore conflicts that occur in other parts of the world. Perhaps in Vietnam we learned we must pick the right fight and then do what must be done as quickly as possible, with the least amount of human loss. In the Cold War, I believe we should have learned that war on a nuclear scale is absolutely crazy. When there is a possibility of a nuclear exchange, there will be no winners, no second chances. War on these terms is simply not an option.
I believe the memorial will remind us, and those who follow us, of the lessons learned during the Cold War. Since the technology and possibility of nuclear war are permanently with us, the day we forget these lessons will be the day we may no longer exist. It is time to recognize the hundreds of men and women who worked in secret to bring us safely through the Cold War conflict. To them, and to memorialize the fourteen men who lost their lives in this effort, we will dedicate a memorial at the foot of Mt. Charleston.
The result of our efforts to memorialize these cold war heroes will not only express the tremendous debt felt by a grateful nation but also provide the families of these individuals the closure they so honorably deserve.
Steve Ririe, Chairman, Silent Heroes of the Cold War
Have you ever stood alone on a hilltop, or in a field, watching snow falling all around? Did you notice the quiet urgency that each snowflake seems to have about it? It is said that no two snowflakes are alike, but each one in its silent journey to the earth seems to have it’s own purpose as if it must hurry to reach its destination.
It could be said that the men and women who lost their lives while fighting in the Cold War, and those who are still fighting to keep America safe, resemble those quiet, purposeful snowflakes. Each one an individual. Each one traveling in silence on an urgent journey towards…what?
Doesn’t the snow, falling on a mountain, assure that in the spring life will continue for future generations to come? Did not these brave men who fell in silence, and anonymity, on Mount Charleston resemble the softly falling snow; each with his own individuality, and beauty; each with his own purpose; but each with the common goal of joining the others to help assure life, in the springtime of peace, will continue here in America, as well as on all of the earth around them?
Written by Buzz Floyd
Member of the Silent Heroes of the Cold War National Memorial Committee