"I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall..."
As time goes on, I realize one thing about our nation's recent history. Not enough has been written nor taught about the Cold War. "The Cold War?", some might ask. "That was a big nothing burger!" True - if you compare it with the dangers and tactical strategies used in a hot war. But the our Cold War was long, hard, and expensive.
How long? Some say it started the day World War II ended. Some say it started before then, as Stalin and Truman were growing apart as allies. As we all know, the Cold War ended when the Berlin Wall came down in November of 1989. Thus, we can safely say the Cold War lasted over 40 years.
How serious did the Soviets take the Cold War? When it started, some in the Kremlin referred to this newly started Cold War as World War III. And it could have turned into World War III in a New York Minute. Not too many years ago, I was asked what it was like to serve during the Cold War. My response was simple - it was a non-stop game of cat and mouse. Sometimes boring, other times anything but.
The Cold War was also complex. The main foe of NATO was the Soviet Union. Big, tough and formidable. However, there were also the ChiComs and the Cubans to deal with. Speaking of the Cubans, as we all know from our history, that was probably the closest the world came to seeing the Cold War turn hot, and hot in a hurry. Was that the only time? Heavens, no. Often, we never about the "other times". That is, unless you had a high level security clearance.
I was a crypto guy during the Cold War. Many people might think that was a pretty cushy assignment. It could be, or it could be very dangerous. For example, in January of 1968, one year before I entered the Navy, the USS Pueblo (AGER-2) was illegally taken by the North Koreans. Most of the crew on the Pueblo did a job similar to what I did when I first entered the Navy. The crew was held as prisoners of war until the end of December of that same year. During that time, members of the crew were abused and tortured. The USS Pueblo remains a commissioned ship in the United States Navy, and is being held (illegally) by the North Koreans to this date.
The following year in April of 1969, just days before I reported to boot camp in San Diego, a plane full of Navy crypto specialists was shot down by a North Korean MIG not that far off the coast of Korea (in international waters). Thirty sailors and one Marine on board that plane were killed. It was the largest loss of life during the Cold War. Why we did not go to war with North Korea over that incident, just a year after the Pueblo incident, still baffles me.
One more thing I should mention. The high death toll in the North Korean shoot down was eclipsed by the USS Liberty incident during the Six Day War in June of 1967. Again, this ship was full of crypto specialists. For some reason yet unknown, the ship was torpedoed by the Israelis. To this date, either nobody knows or nobody is telling. The Israelis said it was accidental. Others say not. At the end of the day however, 34 sailors lay dead and over 170 wounded. Because this happened with an ally, it was not considered a Cold War incident.
Some think we might be entering another Cold War. I sure hope not. Cold wars may be better than hot wars, but they are expensive and put the world on the edge of nuclear holocaust. In other words, "been there, done that", and sure don't need to do it again. But to those who "stood in the gap" during that 40 +year Cold War, thank you. Thank you for what you did to keep this Cold War, cold.