||Honors! Table of Contents||
and the 2 September 1958
shootdown of USAF Flight 60528
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Displayed as USAF Flight 60528
Fort Meade (MD)
On 2 September 1997 at 10:00, Director, NSA/Chief, CSS, Lt. Gen. Kenneth A. Minihan dedicated the "National Vigilance Park" and the "Aerial Reconnaissance Memorial" located adjacent to the National Cryptologic Museum. This memorial has been established to honor the many aerial reconnaissance crews who lost their lives in the performance of their duties.
The centerpiece of the memorial is a C-130 aircraft, refurbished to resemble the reconnaissance-configured C-130A which was downed by Soviet fighters over Soviet Armenia on 2 September 1958.
The backdrop for the aircraft is a semi-circle of 18 trees, each representing the various types of aircraft downed during U.S. aerial reconnaissance missions. On the day of the ceremony, the National Cryptologic Museum unveiled a companion exhibit examining Cold War Reconnaissance and remembering some of the lost aircrews.
Click image for full story
and the Shootdown of Flight 60528
Source: NSA ( National Security Agency )
So reads the monument in Armenia that is dedicated to my grandfather, James Ferguson, and the rest of his crew who perished in the Cold War.
I never met my grandfather, yet I consider him a hero.
I stare at him in a picture as his cool blue eyes smile back at me. The face in the picture seems that of a stranger, but only for an instant. Then I blur my eyes and focus on the nose, which appears as familiar to me as my mothers. This man, this hero, in his early twenties is my grandfather.
I put the picture down and pick up a thick stack of government documents. The horrible truth lies buried among the government propaganda in these pages. I look through the pages of these documents and read the stories of seventeen forgotten heroes, now remembered.
Thirty-nine years ago my grandfather became one of the one hundred and fifty-two casualties of the Cold War. He was only twenty years old. The National Security Agency has just recently informed my family about the particulars of his death. He is not only my hero, but a national hero as well.
My grandfather was a Russian language expert, as such he volunteered to fly extremely dangerous reconnaissance missions along the Soviet border. I have since had a chance to talk to some of the men who served with my grandfather. They tell stories of how Russian MiG-17 fighter pilots used to flank the large, slow, unarmed plane along the border, and wave at the men inside. Yet they, like my grandfather went up again and again, to collect data that the United States government has not released to this day.
The details surrounding my grandfathers accident are sketchy. The crew was using radio beacons for directions. Breaking international law the Soviet Union had placed beacons inside the Soviet border that were emitting the same frequency signal as the American radio beacons. Once the crew was lured off course, the lurking MiG-17s fired relentlessly.
The four planes executed six firing passes. The plane burst into a fiery holocaust and crashed shortly after; no one excaped. My grandfather being what the intelligence community calls a "back ender" (an intelligence officer who in the belly of the plane is not to communicate with the flight crew), probably did not know they were in such peril until it was too late.
Now the government has added another chapter to the story and, I have added another memory to the picture of my grandfather. A memorial service was held to honor the seventeen heroes who died in that crash. A sister plane to the one my grandfather died in has been refurbished and placed in National Vigilance Park.
The memorial is meant to honor those who paid the price for their generation so that subsequent generations could enjoy the freedom we cherish today. Additionally, my grandpa has been awarded, posthumously, a flight medal for gallantry while serving his country.
Everyone on that plane was a volunteer and each probably knew, if the MiG-17s chose to strike, they would not live. My grandfather's work, whatever it was, was important enough to him to risk his life. I'd like to think that he risked and lost his life not for the task he was doing alone, but for the larger picture.
They say freedom is not truly free, and it is not.
The death of my grandfather, like those of the one hundred and fifty-two others was not in vain. My grandfather may have lost his battle, but the war was won.
If you look in the history books today
you will not read of World War III, nor will you know of the plight of
those heroes who served in silence, paying the price.
Sept. 2000 - The casket containing the
remains of the crew of USAF Flight 60528
is escorted through Arlington National Cemetery by the Caisson Platoon,
Third United States Infantry ("The Old Guard") US Air Force photo
|Relevant External Links
of Vigilance: Attacks on American Surveillance Flights
Remains of 17 U.S. airmen shot down during Cold War interred Sept. 2
7406 Support Squadron
New park honors lost aerial reconnaissance servicemen
Government Executive Magazine - 8/1/00 National Security Agency
Intel squadron, grandson remember fallen heroes
Soundoff! Article: 70th IW honors Cold War heroes
Why single out just one lost plane and crew? Because one should suffice as a sampling among the many (one is too many) that were lost during World War Three - aka the COLD WAR.
If you take the time, to read through the material provided, it should be obvious to you there is much more to know about the sacrifices of young lives from all the military branches and the intelligence services during that forty-year standoff.
Now you have had the sampling --- the rest is up to you.
Exercise that clicking finger. There's a whole internet out there and it's chock full of information. Go for it.
A suggested starting point is HERE