Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Photo credit: Freelance/Photo by Pablo Corradi | Colonel Vladimir Edelman lives in Brooklyn now, a Cold War era colonel in the Soviet military who once wondered whether he would play a role in a nuclear holocaust. He met at the American Airpower Museum with Cold War/Vietnam Veteran, Jack Hayne, during a Cold War veterans tribute event. (October 3, 2009)

October 3, 2009 by MARTIN C. EVANS /

His wife Pola said Jack Hayne, of Old Bethpage, was so tense during his Cold War service as a missile officer that he often went to bed without dinner, then grind his teeth through fitful nights.

It was his job to make sure that the shield protecting much of the East Coast from a Soviet nuclear attack - needle-shaped projectiles fueled by deadly liquids and tipped with powerful bombs - could do the job.

"It was stressful," said Hayne, 85, a former Army captain. "We had high explosives all around New York."

Saturday, Hayne was greeted by Vladimir Edelman, 87, who served as a Soviet army colonel during the 1950s, as part of an hourlong ceremony at Farmingdale's American Airpower Museum commemorating the end of the Cold War.

Organizers scheduled the commemoration to mark the October anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a two-week faceoff over the placement of Soviet weaponry there that brought the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of a nuclear holocaust in 1962.

"I remember those days and still thank God we avoided a nuclear strike on both these nations," said Edelman, a former communications officer from Kiev, Ukraine, who now lives in Brooklyn.

Long Island's growing population, which swelled during the 1950s suburban migration, was a potential target for military attack because of its concentration of defense-related facilities. They included a Nike missile battery in Lloyd Harbor, an anti-missile radar post at Montauk, military runways at Westhampton Beach and Mitchel Field and other installations. The museum itself sits on the site where thousands of Republic Aircraft assembly workers built warplanes.

Hayne, who was stationed at Fort Totten in Queens during the mid-1950s before retiring in 1964, recounted a 1950s incident in which a false radar reading led American military leaders to believe Soviet warplanes were streaking toward the United States over the North Pole.

"People don't realize how close we came," he said. "I knew it could become an active war."