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.

January - This Month in the Cold War

January 1, 1959 - Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba and established a Communist dictatorship.

January 23, 1968 - The American ship USS Pueblo was seized by North Koreans in the Sea of Japan.

28 January 1964 - An unarmed United States Air Force T-39 Sabreliner on a training mission was shot down over Erfurt, East Germany by a Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19.

January 30, 1968 – The Tet Offensive in Vietnam began when North Vietnamese troops attacked provincial capitals and major cities in South Vietnam.  Attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and the presidential palace were repelled.

Flying in Nepal

January 1974: All flights from Lukla had been canceled because of the oil crisis. That meant we had no way to get back to Kathmandu, except to walk out. We couldn’t go back the way we came in because the passes might be snowed in by the time we get there. The only other way to walk out is to go south down the Dudh Kosi river valley, a very long trip. Our only other option is to try to fly out of Sangpoche airport at the Everest View Hotel.

We headed down the valley and went straight to the Hotel to book a flight out. We were put on the waiting list and had hot chocolate at the hotel. Then we trekked back down the hill to the International Footrest Hotel in to wait.

We expected to wait several days for a flight out. The hotel had a daily flight to bring in supplies and to fly out laundry. The situation was also complicated because three of the four pilots that are qualified to land at Sangpoche had quit.  It snowed the day of our flight and we were delayed for two days until they cleared off the runway.

The legendary Swiss pilot Captain Emil Wick piloted the single-engine Pilatus Porter. He was probably the greatest living mountain pilot. He was known for his outrageous sense of humor and had flown climbers into remote mountain airstrips in Nepal. He had the distinction of being one of only two people to descend an 8000-meter peak without climbing it. This was after he crashed a Porter while delivering supplies to a Dhaulagiri expedition in 1960.

The Pilatus Porter is Swiss made and powered by a single turboprop engine. It was built for landing on glaciers in the Alps. It is much praised for its excellent handling and short take-off and landing capabilities that made it ideal for mountain flying.

At Sangpoche airport, about 11,400 feet in altitude, one must make a landing and take-off in less than 1,000 feet. At the uphill end of the runway is a cliff and at the downhill end of the runway is a 1,500-foot drop down into the valley.

As we are loading up Captain Emil told us about some of his strangest flights. One time he had to fly a Yak out. It took up all of the spare room. Another time he flew out a leopard that was headed to a zoo in Japan. He said the leopard started growling so he gained altitude till it went to sleep in the thin air. Our gear was weighed and carefully loaded the plane because weight is critical at this altitude. We took off down the runway, going airborne about halfway. At the end of the runway he banked right and we were on our way for a spectacular trip back to Kathmandu.

An excerpt from the Iranian Intercept

Tuesday, 19 December: Dudh Kosi Valley, Nepal

Flying in the Himalayas is a fusion of wonder and fear. The awe-inspiring panorama of the high mountains acts as a powerful drug subduing the senses, blocking out the inescapable reality that death awaits those who linger in its spell. The hypnotic trance may lure the unsuspecting to the side of a cliff. Engine failure results in a harrowing decent to the rocks below. Wind shear, an invisible, unexpected, and deadly force, might at any moment, plunge the frail craft into the void.

Following the valley of the Dudh Kosi River, as it closed in narrower and narrower, was akin to flying into the jaws of a mythical monster, the jagged mountains forming its teeth. The small aircraft continued on its way skirting rough walls, pummeled by bursts of turbulence, straining to maintain its course. I searched the valley walls for our destination.

No one spoke. The furious roar of the propeller and the low rumble of the slipstream rushed past the cockpit.

The pilot broke an awkward silence, "Can you see it?"

I pressed forward in the harness, straining to find it. "No, just the mountains."

He pointed. "There at one o'clock, past the village, up the side valley. Namche Bazaar."

"All I see is a small brown spot."

"That's it."

Ahead, a gash on the side of the ridge appeared about three kilometers away. A twinge of anxiety welled up as I awaited the approach and landing on such a tiny speck. Further up the valley, low cloud cover was beginning to form, merging the valley with the white slopes of the mountains.

I was about to seek reassurance from the pilot when the brawny man behind me leaned forward and spoke to the pilot.

"Es ist so klein." I could smell his fear. He asked if it was safe. "Ist es sicher?"

The pilot answered, "Ja Ja, kein Problem." He asked the man if he was okay. "Ist alles in Ordnung?"

"Ni —Nien."

"Machen Sie sich keine Sorgen." He told him not to worry.

"Mir ist schlecht."

He brusquely told him, "Bitte nicht erbrechen," not to throw-up.

"Ich bin krank."

"Hörst du mich — nicht erbrechen."

The pilot leaned towards me. "These guys from the east are not so tough. He says he is sick."

"The east, what do you mean?"

"One of the eastern lands. Can tell from his accent." That simple comment should have set off alarm bells, but the enormity of the spectacle before me short-circuited my internal warning system.

He banked right and changed course up the new valley. Ahead, at 12,500 feet, lay the world's highest airport. Syangboche airstrip, less than 400 yards in length perched on a ledge 1,500 feet above the river below. It would be like landing on an aircraft carrier.

The pilot, a confident and cheerful Swiss, a legendary mountain flyer, tracked the edge of the cliff to our right as he fought the turbulence.

"The clouds are closing in. I must take off again as soon as we load up. Hope the bastards are ready for me. I do not stay for long."

The small plane trembled as turbulent air threatened to drive it into the rugged cliff looming above. The single engine Pilatus Porter banked to the left to begin the final approach. A fierce gust shook the small craft causing it to slide away from the postage stamp sized landing strip. We drifted straight towards a rocky ridge. He dipped the nose, eased the throttle forward, gained speed, tracked right, and then left again. The aircraft was back on course. We would land on an up-hill grade that ended at a jumble of rocks below a small cliff.

Another wind shear shook the craft as he eased the throttle back to idle, deployed the large flaps, and brought the nose up for landing. The aircraft shuddered as it decelerated below forty-five knots and gently touched down with a slight thud. With full brakes and reverse thrust, the Porter achieved a remarkably short rollout after landing, with plenty room to spare. The brawny man let out an audible sigh of relief.

December - This Month in the Cold War

8 December 1987 - President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Russia's General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty eliminating all intermediate-range and shorter-range nuclear missiles.

8 December 1991 - The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ceased to exist. The leaders of Russia, Byelorussia and the Ukraine signed an agreement creating the Commonwealth of Independent States.

21 December 1972 - East and West Germany established diplomatic ties, paving the way for international recognition of East Germany

21 December 1993 - The KGB (Soviet Secret Police) organization was abolished by Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

24 December 1979 - Soviet troops invade Afghanistan.

25 December 1989 – Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife were executed following a popular uprising. A pro-democracy coalition took control of the country.

November - This Month in the Cold War

2 November 1962 - President John F. Kennedy announced, "the Soviet bases in Cuba are being dismantled, their missiles and related equipment being crated, and the fixed installations at these sites are being destroyed."

3 November 1957 – The Soviet Union launched the world's first space capsule, Sputnik II, containing a dog named Laika.

4 November 1956 - Soviet troops moved in to crush an uprising in Hungary.

4 November 1979 - Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, Iran, and took 90 hostages, including 52 Americans. The hostage crisis lasted 444 days.

6 November 1951 - A US Navy P2V Neptune was shot down by Soviet fighters over international waters about 20 miles from Vladivostok.

11 November 1954 – A US Air Force B-29 was shot down by Soviet fighters about 10 miles from the Soviet-controlled Kurile Islands.

9 November 1989 - The Berlin Wall was opened after 28 years.

19 November 1951 - A US Air Force C-47 was shot down by either Hungarian or Romanian antiaircraft fire near the Yugoslav frontier. The aircraft was en route from Munich to Belgrade. The crew survived and were released.

20 November 1990 - The Cold War came to an end during a summit in Paris as leaders of NATO and the Warsaw Pact signed a Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe.

20 November 1962 - The Cuban Missile Crisis concluded. President John F. Kennedy lifted the U.S. Naval blockade of Cuba stating, "the evidence to date indicates that all known offensive missile sites in Cuba have been dismantled."

22 November 1963 - President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas.