Monday, May 28, 2007

The Newark NJ Star Ledger electronic version came out this am with a great article for our cause. Tom Hester is the Author and he did a heck of a job.

I am copying and pasting the article below.

Sean P. Eagan
Northeast Zone Director
Cold War Veterans Association
CWVA NY 716-708-6416

Warriors of a forgotten conflict

Cold War veterans may soon receive a medal for their part in U.S. victory

Monday, May 28, 2007

BY TOM HESTER Star-Ledger Staff

William Boyle was studying modern history at St. Patrick's College outside Dublin in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down.

"I looked at my professor and said, 'You know something, we just won the Cold War,'" he recalled.

Boyle, 48, of Plainsboro, did his part to help win the Cold War, a time when Americans and their NATO allies protected the world from the threat of nuclear war and which lasted from 1945 to 1991. He was an infantry squad leader in West Germany for five years, then re-enlisted and served another three years there as a munitions specialist handling nuclear warheads.

Bill Steimel of Belleville also had some harrowing times during the Cold War.

Steimel, 53, earned the rank of sergeant, serving four years as a generator mechanic with an Army air defense missile unit in bunkers hidden among West German farm fields and facing the East German frontier. Some 20 soldiers would be locked in a bunker for 24-hour stretches.

"Whenever the Soviets would move troops, we would go on alert," he said. "We had a hot battery once a month."

Boyle and Steimel would like some recognition for themselves and the 24 million who served as they did: a Cold War Victory medal.

After years of trying, a bill authorizing the medal, sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D-1st Dist.), won approval in the House on May 17. The proposal has moved to the Senate, where Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y .) is the prime sponsor.

"Service to the country during those years was very critical in defending the freedom we have today," Andrews said. "Victory in the Cold War was pivotal in making the country more secure and less likely to face nuclear attack. I thought that commitment needed special recognition."

Supporters point out thousands in the armed services were involved in all-but-forgotten violent or white-knuckle incidents that left many dead or wounded. Others played roles in places ranging from Korea's DMZ and Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie to Greenland and South Pole outposts.

Some incidents were well known: In 1949, during the Berlin Airlift, when 31 servicemen died flying food and supplies over a Soviet blockade to aid the West Germans; in 1955, when Air Force fighters were attacked and shot down two Chinese MiGs over the Yellow Sea; in 1975, when Marines recaptured the SS Mayaguez from the Khmer Rouge and saved the crew but suffered 16 dead and 44 wounded. There were also showdowns in the 1960s when poorly-armed Coast Guardsmen in small patrol boats confronted Soviet spy ships off East Coast beaches.

"I think a lot of guys look at their service and they feel a little bit forgotten," said Army veteran Sean Eagan of Jamestown, N.Y., the Cold War Veterans Association's Northeast coordinator. "They look back on it fondly, they were young and serving overseas. But there is a large number of them who think they could have been recognized. They served in some hairy places."

The medal campaign, supported by every veterans organization, has not been an easy one. The idea has been opposed for the last six years by President Bush and the Department of Defense. The potential cost of $250 million, for hardware and administration, has been questioned at a time when the military is pleading it needs billions to cover war needs.

The Defense Department also argues Cold War service recognition already is provided in a certificate available to all veterans and federal employees of the period. Representatives from the department did not return requests for comment last week.

"I think there is a better outlook this time," Andrews said. "It is not a partisan issue, but there was tough sledding in the Republican Congress. I am much more hopeful this time around with the change in (congressional) leadership."

Under the bill, anybody who served on active duty for more than six months at home or abroad and received an honorable discharge -- including Korean and Vietnam veterans -- would be eligible. The bill's fate is expected to be decided by Oct. 1, the deadline for the military appropriations bill. Cold War veterans now range in age from about 37 to 82.

In New Jersey, legislation that would create a state-issued Cold War Victory ribbon for New Jersey veterans of the era is pending in both the Senate and Assembly.

The Cold War Veterans Association also has convinced the governors of 19 states, including Gov. Jon Corzine, to recognize May 1, the former Soviet "May Day," as "Cold War Victory Day."

Boyle, who is the New Jersey coordinator for the Cold War Veterans Association, also served in the New Jersey National Guard from 1991 to this year and took part in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort in New Orleans. He retired as a sergeant.

"It didn't have a bang or anything, but we have to officially memorialize the event," he said. "I think (the Cold War) was one of our best victories."

Steimel, who retired in 1993 with the rank of warrant officer, said recognition is overdue for Cold War veterans.

"It was hard duty serving over there," he said. "Dangerous duty. People don't realize that."

Tom Hester may be reached at or (609) 292-0557.