Bills Before Congress
In the 2002 legislative session both Senate bill S.1257 and House bill H.R. 107 were not passed. Both of these bills were reintroduced in the 2003 legislative session and are expected to pass in 2003.
H.R. 107 was reintroduced by Rep. Joel Helfey of Colorado as H.R. 114. Senate bill S.1257 was reintroduced to the U.S. Senate by Senators Harry Reid and John Ensign as S.452.
TESTIMONY OF U S SENATOR HARRY REID
June 12, 2002
Subcommittee on National Parks, Historic Preservation, and Recreation
Bill S. 1257
To require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a theme study to identify sites and resources to commemorate and interpret the Cold War.
* The Cold War, which lasted 50 years, was the longest war in United States history, and the most expensive, costing trillions of dollars.
* At its conclusion, America emerged as the only remaining superpower in the world.
* Because we faced an enemy with tremendous nuclear capabilities, it was the most dangerous conflict our country ever faced.
* The threat of mass destruction left a permanent mark on American life and politics.
* Those that won this war did so in obscurity.
* What is often overlooked is that hundreds if not thousands of Americans died during the Cold War as America built its strategic nuclear arsenal and flew thousands of reconnaissance missions over enemy territory.
* Those who gave their lives in the Cold War have never been properly honored.
* Last July, I introduced a bill that requires the Department of the Interior to conduct a study to identify sites and resources to commemorate heroes of the Cold War and to interpret the Cold War for future generations.
* My legislation directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish a “Cold War Advisory Committee” to oversee the inventory of Cold War sites and resources:
- for potential inclusion in the National Park System
- as national historic landmarks
- or other appropriate designations.
* The Advisory Committee will work closely with State and local governments and local historical organizations. The committee ‘s starting point will be a Cold War study completed by the Secretary of Defense under the 1991 Defense Appropriations Act.
* Obvious Cold War sites of significance include:
- Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles
- flight training centers
- communications and command centers (such as Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado)
- nuclear weapons test sites (such as the Nevada test site)
- strategic and tactical resources.
* Perhaps no other state in the Union has played a more significant role than Nevada in winning the Cold War.
* The Nevada Test Site is a high-technology engineering marvel where the United States developed, tested, and perfected a nuclear deterrent which is the cornerstone of America’s security and leadership among nations.
* The Naval Air Station at Fallon is the Navy’s premiere tactical air warfare training facility.
* The Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base has the largest training range in the United States to ensure that America’s pilots will prevail in any armed conflict.
* In testimony before this committee, Steve Ririe will recount the story of 14 men who perished in a plane crash on Mount Charleston in Nevada nearly half a century ago.
* These men were involved in a top-secret project, developing the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, the most advanced spy plane the world had ever seen.
* Their success was critical to ensuring the United States would be ready to face the challenges of a destabilized world. Experts have credited the U-2 with avoiding World War III.
* The U-2 is still vital to the American military today, and is being used to protect our interests around the globe.
* This story is just one of thousands of stories of men and women who worked in secret to bring us safely through the Cold War conflict.
* Our nation needs to recognize the veterans of the longest war in United States history — a battle which also had the highest stakes.
I urge my colleagues to support this long overdue tribute to the contribution and sacrifice of those Cold War heroes for the cause of freedom.
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
June 12, 2002
Mr. Chairman, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to speak today in support of a bill that requires the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a theme study to identify sites and resources to commemorate and interpret the Cold War.
James Billington called the Cold War, “…the central conflict of the second half of the 20th Century, the longest and most unconventional war of the entire modern era – an altogether unprecedented experience for Americans.”
The Cold War was a turning point for America, as well as the world. The development and proliferation of thermonuclear technology has forever changed our society, our politics, our attitudes and most certainly, our challenges.
Although the Cold War was the longest American war, it remains the least memorialized. This is largely due to the very nature of the conflict itself. The Cold War was fought primarily in secret. Those who won the Cold War often worked in obscurity, unable to discuss their involvement with their families. Many believe the Cold War was little more than a series of heated verbal exchanges between two super powers; however, this is a gross oversimplification and absolutely not true. Consider the reconnaissance element alone, which harbored very real dangers for the personnel involved. During the years of 1945 – 1977, a total of 40 reconnaissance aircraft were shot down. The secrecy of the reconnaissance programs prevented recognition of the slain military personnel. Thousands of other unknown heroes were secretly lost during the Cold War and remain unacknowledged.
Passing S.1257 is a step in the right direction to acknowledge our nation’s unknown and silent heroes . This bill will allocate necessary funds for the identification and preservation of Cold War sites and resources. This bill will establish an Advisory Committee that will develop an interpretive handbook on the Cold War to tell the story of the Cold War and its heroes. Preserving these historic sites will aid many American families whose loved ones were so central to the secret efforts of the Cold War that the true cause of their deaths was, of necessity, classified information. These sites and the handbook will provide the much needed closure to these families, as they finally understand where, when, and why their loved ones died.
Mr. Chairman, I’d like to take a moment to relate a story of one group of cold war heroes.
The winter of 1955 was not unlike any other winter. Children learned civil defense skills at school as they were instructed to duck and cover. At home they watched the parade of ICBM’s towed by military trucks through Red Square on the evening news. Civil Defense was deadly serious as the prospect of a nuclear conflict loomed in the mind of the average American.
The morning of November 17, 1955 seemed like an ordinary Thursday morning. At 6:58 a.m. fourteen men boarded a C-54 Military Air Transport Shuttle in Burbank, CA at Lockheed’s air terminal. On board were Air Force personnel, engineers, scientists, and CIA officials. Their destination was a top-secret air base and testing ground then code named “Water Town.” Today we call this secret military facility “Area 51″. This remote Nevada desert installation housed one of the United States most secret cold war projects — the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.
Not long after takeoff, the C-54 encountered an early winter storm. Soon they found themselves battered by high winds and snow flurries. Due to restrictions flying in and out of Area 51, they were ordered to fly low elevation. Standard operating procedure barred them from using navigation instruments or the radio in order to maintain secrecy. The crew felt very alone and cut off. When the situation became even more desperate, they decided to break radio silence in an attempt to converse with Water Town’s airstrip tower. This breach in operation procedure would only have occurred if the pilot sensed they were in real trouble. Unfortunately, the storm was too fierce and radio transmission too poor. No return transmission was received.
At 8:19 a.m., the C-54 made an emergency maneuver to avoid high terrain and slammed into a nearly 12,000 foot mountain in Nevada, killing all 14 on board. Not only was the flight itself classified “Top-Secret” but the crash and subsequent body recovery were also kept secret. The families of those who perished would have to be kept in the dark. It has taken over four decades for the families to learn the truth about their loved one’s secret lives and untimely deaths.
In closing, I believe it is appropriate to enter the names of the men who perished on our behalf November 17, 1955 on Mt. Charleston, NV in the record. Let it be known that these individuals are Silent Heroes of the Cold War.
George Manual Pappas Jr., Paul Eugene Winham, Clayton D. Farris, Guy R. Fasolas, John H. Gaines, Edwin J. Urolatis, James W. Brown, William H. Marr, James F. Bray, Rodney H. Kreimendahl, Terence J. O’Donnell, Fred F. Hanks, Harold C. Silent and Richard J. Hruda.
It is my hope that in passing S.1257, a National Memorial to the Cold War will one day be a reality. It will be a Memorial honoring all those who lost their lives during the longest and most dangerous conflict our country ever faced.
Link to U.S. Senate Subcommittee Hearing.
Click on “Subcommittee Hearing” to link to U.S. Senate Subcommittee Hearing of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Video copies of the hearing can be purchased from the Energy and Natural Resource Committee.
Senate Joint Resolution Number 9
STATE OF NEVADA
Introduced by Senators Rawson, Amodei, Care, Carlton, Coffin, Jacobsen, James, Mathews, McGinness, Neal, O’Connell, O’Donnell, Porter, Raggio, Rhoads, Schneider, Shaffer, Titus, Townsend, Washington and Wiener
Assemblymen Brown, Anderson, Angle, Arberry, Bache, Beers, Berman, Brower, Buckley, Carpenter, Cegavske, Chowning, Clayborn, Collins, DeBraga, Dini, Freeman, Gibbons, Giunchigliani, Goldwater, Gustavson, Hettrick, Humke,Koivisto, Lee, Price, Smigh, Tiffany, Von Tobel and Williams
SUMMARY—Urges Congress to declare historic site on Mount Charleston. (BDR R-122)
FISCAL NOTE: Effect on Local Government: No.
Effect on the State: No.
FILE NUMBER 24
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION—Urging Congress to declare the 1955 crash site of a United States Air Force C-54 near the summit of Mount Charleston as Silent Heroes of the Cold War National Monument.
WHEREAS, While hiking to the summit of Mount Charleston in 1998, Steve Ririe stopped near the debris of a mysterious plane crash that had stirred his curiosity as a Boy Scout during hikes many years before and, this time, the deep reverence he felt started him on the journey that would uncover the names and the story of the people who died on this lonely mountain; and
WHEREAS, The DC-4 with the military designation of C-54 and known as USAF 9068 was routinely assigned to carry scientific and technical personnel to the secret Area 51, known at this time as “Watertown,” to develop the plane that was unknown to most citizens of the United States until one was shot down over Russian territory on May 1, 1960, resulting in the capture of it’s pilot, Francis Gary Powers; and
WHEREAS, On November 17,1955, the C-54 left the Lockheed “Skunk Works” in Burbank, California, for the Military Air Transport Service flight to “Watertown,” beginning the 18th round trip in the past 30 days for Pilot George Manual Pappas, Jr., Co-pilot Paul Eugene Winham, Flight Mechanic Technician Clayton D. Farris and Flight Attendant Guy R. Fasolas; and
WHEREAS, Flying by the pilot’s sight and instruments alone, to avoid any possible leak about their secret destination, on a new route that would cut 10 minutes off the total flight time, the C-54 was blown off course by a severe storm front; and
WHEREAS, While lost in the clouds, an error in the assumed position of the aircraft in relation to the Spring Mountain range resulted in the crash a mere 50 feet below the crest of an 11,300-foot ridge leading to the peak of Mount Charleston which instantly took the lives of the four crewmen and 10 civilians on board; and
WHEREAS, As news of the crash reached Las Vegas, the Air Force released the names of the victims, closed the road into Kyle Canyon, notified the families, who were told only that it had happened on a business trip, and told the media the plane was headed for Indian Springs; and
WHEREAS, Because of the classified nature of the project that would develop a plane essential to our national security, it would take over 40 years for the truth regarding the “Lost Bird” to be released and the curiosity and dedicated efforts of Steve Ririe to bring the details of the crash to light; and
WHEREAS, Those who worked so hard in secrecy for the good of our country, on an aircraft that some people believe prevented World War III, were finally given the honor due them in 1998 when the U-2 project received the Collier Trophy from the National Aeronautics Association for the advancement of aeronautic technology; and
WHEREAS, The men aboard the ill-fated C-54 helped build the plane which critics said could never be built and which is still a functional and vital part of our reconnaissance force today and paid for that contribution with their lives; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED BY THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, JOINTLY, That the men aboard the C-54 that crashed on Mount Charleston on November 17, 1955, George Manual Pappas Jr., Paul Eugene Winham, Clayton D. Farris, Guy R Fasolas, John H. Gaines, Edwin J. Urolatis, James W. Brown, William H. Marr, James F. Bray, Rodney H. Kreimendahl, Terrence J. O’Donnell, Fred F. Hanks, Harold C. Silent and Richard J. Hruda, will long be remembered for their contribution to our national security which cost them their lives; and be it further RESOLVED, That the Nevada Legislature hereby urges Congress to declare the crash site of United States Air Force 9068 near the summit of Mount Charleston as a national historic site; and be it further RESOLVED, That the Secretary of the Senate prepare and transmit a copy of this resolution to the Vice President of the United States as the presiding officer of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, each member of the Nevada Congressional Delegation and Steve Ririe; and be it further RESOLVED, That this resolution becomes effective upon passage.
Adopted by the Senate March 15, 2001
Adopted by the Assembly March 15, 2001