April - This Month in the Cold War

3 April 1948 — President Harry S. Truman signed the European Recovery Program proposed by Secretary of State George C. Marshall. The Marshall Plan was intended to stop the spread of Communism and restore the economies of European countries devastated by World War II. Over four years, the program distributed $12 billion to the nations of Western Europe.

4 April 1949 — Twelve nations signed the treaty creating NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a common military alliance against the threat of expansion by the Soviet Union into Western Europe.

5 April 1986 — A bomb exploded at a popular discotheque frequented by American military personnel in West Berlin, killing two U.S. soldiers and a Turkish woman. American intelligence analysts attributed the attack to Muammar Qaddafi of Libya. Nine days later, President Ronald Reagan ordered a retaliatory air strike against Libya.

12 April 1961 — Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space.

14 April 1986 – U.S. warplanes, on orders from President Ronald Reagan, bombed the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi in retaliation for the April 5th terrorist bombing of a discotheque in West Berlin.

17 April 1961 — The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba undertaken by a Central Intelligence Agency sponsored paramilitary brigade. The attempt to overthrow Premier Fidel Castro of Cuba failed.

20 April 1978 —A Korean Airlines commercial airliner traveling to Seoul was shot down over Soviet airspace and forced to make an emergency landing on a frozen lake near the Finnish border. The incident killed two of the 109 passengers and crew members aboard.

26 April 1986 — An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine, caused a meltdown of the nuclear fuel and spread a radioactive cloud into the atmosphere. The Chernobyl accident is considered the most disastrous nuclear power plant accident in history, both in terms of cost and casualties.

March - This Month in the Cold War

4 March 1950 — US Navy PB4Y2 was shot down over the Baltic Sea by Soviet aircraft. The Soviets claimed that the plane had violated Soviet airspace. Later that year. the US claimed at least one member of this aircraft's crew had been sighted in a Soviet prison camp. The Soviets denied the claim.

26 March 1979 — Thirty years of warfare between Israel and Egypt ended with the Camp David Accord signed by Prime Minister Begin of Israel and Egyptian President Sadat.

31 March 1991 — The birthplace of Josef Stalin, the Soviet Republic of Georgia, voted to declare independence from the Soviet Union. Following the vote, Soviet troops were deployed under a state of emergency.

August - This Month in the Cold War

August 7, 1964 - Following an attack on two U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam, the U.S. Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, granting President Lyndon B. Johnson authority "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression."

August 13, 1961 - The Berlin Wall came into existence after the East German government closed the border between east and west sectors of Berlin with barbed wire to discourage emigration to the West. The barbed wire was replaced by a 12-foot-high concrete wall eventually extending 103 miles (166 km) around the perimeter of West Berlin. 

August 19, 1991 - Soviet hard-line Communists staged a coup, temporarily removing Mikhail Gorbachev from power. The coup failed within 72 hours when Boris Yeltsin rallied the Russian people and became the leading power in the country. The Communist Party was banned and by December the Soviet Union disintegrated.

08/23/56 US Navy P4M Martin Mercator was shot down by Chinese fighters, 160 miles north of Taiwan and 32 miles from the Chinese coast. The crew radioed that they were under attack by an aircraft. The Chinese claimed they fired on it believing it to be a Chinese Nationalist aircraft.

August 29, 1991 - Following the unsuccessful coup of August 19-21, the Soviet Communist Party was suspended, thus ending the institution that ruled Soviet Russia for nearly 75 years.

August 31, 1980 - Solidarity, the Polish trade union, was formed at Gdansk, Poland. Led by Lech Walesa, Solidarity opposed Communist rule and was outlawed in 1981. Seven years later, following partially free parliamentary elections. Solidarity candidates scored victories in the elections and gained power, paving the way for the downfall of Communism in Poland.

June - This Month in the Cold War

June 5: 1967 - Israel invades the Sinai Peninsula, beginning the Six-Day War.

On June 8, 1967 - The USS Liberty, a United States Navy signals intelligence ship, was attacked by Israeli jets and torpedo boats off the Egyptian coast.  34 sailors were killed and 171 wounded.

June 11, 1994 - The Soviet military occupation of East Germany ended after 49 years.

June 15, 1954 - A US Air Force RB-29 was shot down either over the Sea of Japan near the Kamchatka Peninsula. No remains or survivors were recovered.

June 19, 1953 - Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed. They had been found guilty of providing vital information on the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union during 1944-45.

June 24, 1948 – The Soviet Union began the blockade of Berlin.

June 25, 1950 - North Korean troops, led by Russian-built tanks, crossed the 38th parallel and launched a full-scale invasion of South Korea.

June 16, 1959 - A US Navy P2V was attacked by a MIG fighter over the Sea of Japan, east of Wonsan, North Korea.

June 22, 1955 - A US Navy P2V Neptune was attacked by two Soviet fighters in international waters over the Bering Straits between Siberia and Alaska. It crashed on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, where the crew was rescued.

June 27, 1958 -  US Air Force C-118, on a regular cargo mission from Cyprus to Tehran, Iran, strayed into Soviet Armenian airspace and was shot down by Soviet fighters 30 miles inside Soviet airspace near Yerevan, capital of Soviet Armenia. The US admitted intrusion, said it was due to navigational error. Five of the crewmembers parachuted from the plane and 4 rode it down until it crashed. All 9 were released by the Soviets on July 7, 1958.

They Served in Silence

Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the armed services. Among them were Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the security services who manned the front line of the Cold War. Assigned to isolated foreign outposts, naval vessels, or flying along the Iron Curtain, they collected signals intelligence and gave an extra layer of early warning. All too many died by accident or enemy action. The first American combat death in Vietnam was a soldier of the Army Security Agency.

The National Cryptologic Memorial at Ft. Meade, Maryland, stands to honor those "silent warriors" who risked, and often lost, their lives performing airborne signals intelligence missions during the Cold War. The memorial lists the names of 176 Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and civilian cryptologists who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

On this day we should take a moment to remember those who died keeping the United States secure and honor their courage to carry out their mission at such a dear price.