Welcome to DECODED, a blog site for those interested in the period of history between the end of the Second World War and the final reunification of Berlin, Germany. This site is maintained by a Cold War history enthusiast, for other Cold War history enthusiasts and will be a source of information from both sides of the Cold War for history enthusiasts, political science fans, researchers, military history collectors and military veterans alike. Please visit the site regularly for updates. This site by no means is to represent or endorse any political agenda or ideology, information contained within is strictly used for the purpose of education and preservation of history for future generations. Thank you for visiting my blog, and welcome to the brink...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Commandant's Corner Update 6 July 2014

Greetings Cold War Enthusiasts,

It has been a while since I have been able to contribute articles to this site as I would like but I wanted to stop by and post a quick update to share with all the readers that I have so graciously had the pleasure of hearing from over the past several months. First and foremost I hope everyone had a joyous Fourth of July celebration. Secondly, I would like to thank everyone who has contributed comments, suggestions and corrections over the passed several months. When dealing with particular subjects and issues regarding varying nations, the information is not always regularly available in English so sometimes differing subjects fall victim to misinterpretation and or mistranslation so therefore it becomes imperative to have input from those who were there at the time or that speak the native language to which many of these reports and documents were originally written. So again I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to all who have supplied further information and suggestions to various articles I have posted over the duration of the year.

I am currently in the process of rebranding and relaunching this blog with a somewhat more expansive take on the Cold War. My collections have continued to grow in relation to the belligerents of the European Cold War to their fronts across the globe. I will expand to several fronts although not as in depth as the Cold War in Europe but there are several proxy conflicts that will be covered as well. The growth of my collections have seen the inclusion of the 1946-1954 French Indochina War in Southeast Asia which was the precursor to America's involvement in Vietnam in 1955 and ultimately the Vietnam War's escalation in 1965. I will not cover America's war in Vietnam post-1964 as I do feel that there are more than enough websites and blogs dedicated primarily to this conflict so there is no disrespect intended to the veterans of the Vietnam War I am just a firm believer that to understand America's war in Vietnam one must understand the French campaigns in southeast Asia. Also the post-1953 situation on the Korean peninsula and 38th parallel, Planet Earth's most heavily defended piece of real estate the DeMilitarized Zone. What the general public often fails to realize is just how many clashes have taken place along the Korean DMZ since the armistice was signed in 1953.

Other conflicts I have had the privilege of coming upon artifacts from include the French campaigns in Algeria, and the combined Franco-Belgian operation in 1978 to counter communist sponsored guerrillas in the African nation of Zaire. The British Operations Banner in Northern Ireland and Corporate in the Falkland Islands of 1982. The Soviet Union's lengthy and costly war in a Central Asian Republic known as Afghanistan has also seen additions to the growing interests. As NATO nations prepare to wind down their commitments to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, I believe again it is only appropriate in understanding the current situation in Afghanistan by understanding the Soviet Union's length war in Afghanistan years earlier. A war that not only left Afghanistan ripe for breeding internal instability but also lead to the destruction of a nation and the ruin of the USSR. The Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 and even the subsequent 1990 Persian Gulf War will see articles contributed as they march hand in hand but on a more sensitive note, I am debating whether or not to branch into the Arab-Israeli Wars which I have a great amount of material but I've seen a large number of disparaging and often inappropriate remarks and comments but the determination will be met as the subject comes to fold.

I look forward to continuing on with this blog and supplying a steady source of information for military history enthusiasts, veterans, researchers, airsofters, reenactors and general fans of world history and political science as well as other militaria collectors. As always,


Redd Catcher

Saturday, January 4, 2014

List of British V-Bomber Bases during the Cold War

The following is a list of stations across the United Kingdom where RAF Bomber Command dispersed its V-Bomber fleet of Vickers Valiants, Handley Page Victors and Avro Vulcans throughout the Cold War.

RAF Machrihanish
RAF Kinloss
RNAS Lossiemouth (later transferred to the Royal Air Force)
RAF Leuchars

RAF Ballykelly

RAE Bedford
A&AEE Boscombe Down
RAF Bruntingthorpe
RAF Burtonwood
RAF Cranwell
RAF Coltishall
RAF Elvington
RAF Filton
RAF Leconfield
RAF Leeming
RAF Lyneham
RAF Manston
RAF Middleton St. George
RRE Pershore (Royal Radar Establishment)
RAF St Mawgan
RAF Tarrant Rushton
RAF Wattisham
RAF Wyton
RNAS Yeovilton
RAF Shawbury
RNAS Brawdy (later transferred to the Royal Air Force)
RAF Llanbedr
RAF Valley

Britannia's Vanguard: Great Britain & The V-Bomber Force

Emerging victorious from the Second World War, the British Royal Air Force ended the war against Nazi Germany and her Axis allies in May of 1945, with a seasoned policy of using massive four engined heavy bombers to conduct raids in masse against hostile centers. This policy utilized by RAF Bomber Command, which had laid waste to the German cities of Duisburg and Brunswick during the war and severally crippled the German war industry was carried on into the postwar years. The piston four engined Avro Lancaster heavy bomber which was the pride of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command during the war was upgraded to become the Avro Lincoln and pressed into service in August 1945 to be the last piston engined bomber used by the RAF. Even as the Lincolns were used against the Mau Mau uprisings in Kenya and against the Communist insurgency in Malaya, elements in the RAF and the British government sought to capitalize on and adopt new nuclear weapons and advances in aviation technology to introduce more potent and effective means of conducting aerial warfare. Earlier in November of 1944, the British Chiefs of Staff had requested a report from Sir Henry Tizard on potential future means of conducting warfare. Unaware of the progresses made in the United States with the Manhattan Project, in July 1945 the Tizard Committee urged the large scale development of atomic energy research. The Committee foresaw the potential of harnessing the devastating effects of atomic weapons and envisioned fleets of high flying jet powered bombers cruising at speeds of 500 mph (800 km/h) at altitudes of 40,000 ft (12,000 m). The logic behind the thinking was that potential aggressors may be deterred by the knowledge that Britain would retaliate with atomic weapons if attacked.

With the German V-2 rocket bringing about the dawn of a new era in warfare, there were military analysists who could see that guided missile technology would eventually make strategic aircraft vulnerable, but development of such missiles was proving difficult, and fast and high flying bombers were likely to serve on for years to come before there was a need for something better. The need for massed formations of bombers would be made unnecessary if a single bomber could carry weaponry capable of destroying an entire city or military installation. For the program to become a reality it would have to be a large bomber, since afterall the first generation of nuclear weapons were large and heavy. Such a large and advanced bomber would be expensive on a unit basis, but would also be produced in much smaller quantities. With the rise of the Soviet threat and the arrival of the Cold War, British military planners realized the need to modernize Great Britain's forces. Furthermore, the United Kingdom's uncertain military relationship with the United States, particularly in the immediate postwar years when American sentiments of  isolationism made a short-lived comeback, led the UK to conclude it needed its own strategic nuclear strike force.

After taking into consideration and formulating various specifications for such an advanced jet bomber project in late 1946, the British Air Ministry issued a request in January 1947 for an advanced jet bomber that would be at least the equal of anything available in the United States or Soviet Union's arsenal. The request followed guidelines developed from the earlier Air Ministry Specification B.35/46, which proposed for a 'medium-range bomber landplane, capable of carrying one 10,000 pound (4,535 kg) bomb to a target at a distance of 1,500 nautical miles (2,775 km) from a base which may be anywhere in the world.' The request also indicated that the fully loaded takeoff weight should not exceed 100,000 pounds (45,400 kg), though this would be adjusted upward in practice; that the bomber should have a cruise speed of 500 knots (925 km/h); and that it have a service ceiling of 50,000 feet (15,200 m). The Royal Air Force's mainstay jet bomber, the then-current English Electric Canberra had been introduced in May 1951 and designed during the Second World War but could only have reached the Soviet border and had a limited capacity of 6,000 lb (2,720 kg).

This finalized request went to most of the United Kingdom's major aircraft manufacturers with the Handley Page and Avro firms both coming up with very advanced designs for the RAF's bomber competition. The design proposals would ultimately become the crescent winged Handley Page Victor and the delta winged Avro Vulcan respectively. The Air Staff decided to award devlopment and production contracts to both companies as insurance against one of the designs being deemed a failure. Work on the Victor began in November 1947 and the Vulcan in January 1948. As a further insurance measure against both radical designs failing, in July 1947 the Air Ministry issued Specification B.9/48 written around Vickers-Armstrongs' more conservative design, which would later be named Valiant and work on this project began in April 1948. In August 1947 the Short Brothers PLC  aerospace company also received a contract for the Short Sperrin SA.4 based on the earlier less-stringent Specification B.14/4 with work beginning in November 1947.

The Short Sperrin would ultimately be cancelled in late 1949, but work on the three new aircraft now christened the 'V Bombers' continued. The term V Bomber was developed and used for the Royal Air Force as all the names of the new aircraft all started with the letter "V" and which were known collectively as the V-class. While more expensive than the American approach of building one bomber design per category, the RAF insisted on having multiple choices. Air Chief Marshal Sir John Slessor came to believe that had the Royal Air Force been forced into choosing among the three British bombers under development in the late 1930: the Avro Manchester, Short Stirling, and Handley Page Halifax it would have utlimately chosen the wrong one and hindered Britain's ability to employ an effective nuclear deterrent.

The development of the V Bomber force was also seen as a measure of gaining British military independence from it's American ally, the primary nation that dominated NATO.

The Vickers Valiant took its first flight in 1951 and went into full scaleproduction as the first V Bomber in 1955. The Valiant entered RAF service in 1955, followed by the Avro Vulcan in 1956 and the Handley Page Victor in April 1958, with the first Valiant squadron, No. 138 Squadron RAF standing up at RAF Gaydon in 1955, and the first Vulcan squadron, No. 83, standing up at RAF Waddington in May 1957. The first operational Victor squadron was No. 10 Squadron RAF Cottesmore in April 1958. The Valiant which entered service first was equipped with nuclear weapons supplied by the United States under Project E, which supplemented the British Blue Danube and later Red Beard weapons systems. The American weapons supplied under Project E were not available for the RAF to use as part of the UK's national nuclear deterrent; only British owned weapons could be utilized for that purpose. Although often referred to as part of the V Force, the Valiants were actually assigned to SACEUR as part of Britain's Tactical Bomber Force, although remaining nominally part of the RAF Bomber Command. The Vulcan and Victor were armed with British built bombs such as the Blue Danube, Red Beard, Violet Club the Interim Megaton Weapon and Yellow Sun of both versions, the Mk1 and Mk.2.

Particular attention and emphasis was placed on the quick reaction and high maneuverability of the V Force aircraft, especially the Vulcan model B Mk. 2. The Vulcan in particular was specifically designed for the quick reaction response mission. The bomber could start all four of it's Olympus turbojet engines simultaneously with little ground support equipment necessary when remotely deployed to one of its dispersal airfields; and, at readiness state: 15 (fifteen minute alert), it would be airborne from less than 5000 feet of runway. The Avro Vulcan would never be caught on the ground, or be in need of one of the few, conspicuous, 10,000 foot runways that the American B-47 Stratjet or B-52 Stratofortress required for a fully fueled and loaded take-off. The Vulcan also did not need immediate or intermediate aerial refueling, after a fully loaded take off, needlessly delaying the execution of a strike mission. From the day of its deployment in the deterrent force, an on alert Vulcan was ready to launch, and strike, limited only by the readiness state established by her crew.

In service the V Force would have been capable of destroying both area and high value point targets including air bases, command centers and ground forces staging areas hours before they could be attacked by NATO or Strategic Air Command's long range bomber forces. RAF Bomber Command attrition attacks against air defense positions in Warsaw Pact nations and European Russia alone by the V-Force (in prosecuting their initial attacks upon the Soviet Union) would be decisive in ensuring that NATO and SAC follow on forces attacks would be successful in achieving the destruction of Soviet and Warsaw Pact targets. This “one-two-punch” by the UK’s RAF Bomber Command first; and then, NATO/SAC second; was the heart of the nuclear retaliatory attack strategy for the West in the early to mid Cold War period.

The immediate destruction of these targets, at the outset of a military campaign in western Europe would have had a two-fold benefit to NATO and the West in the defense of Western Europe. First, no Soviet/Warsaw Pact tactical follow on land-force reserves at Corps or Army-Group strength would have survived the RAF V Force tactical nuclear strikes in European Russia and the Warsaw Pact border states. Therefore, a Soviet “rush to the Channel” the perceived military advance from Western Poland & East German staging areas would have been denied the follow on forces which would have made the success of such an armored thrust possible. V Force Tactical Air elements would have destroyed both the forces in being, along with the communications infrastructure including bridges, roads, railways, air bases which would be necessary to support such a tactical movement. As such, the V Force by having the capability of precision tactical air medium bombardment effectively deterred the dominant armored overrun strategy, of the massed and massive Soviet & Warsaw Pact armies, which in theory, could have overwhelmed the vastly outnumbered NATO ground forces of central Europe in a surprise ground attack which did not give away tactical surprise, by use of organic tactical air support. This is why the V Force was extensively dedicated to radar navigation bombing and precision strike operations. In a theoretical nuclear war environment the V Force would attrit itself against the air defenses of high value point target complexes in European Russia. It would expend itself against air defense radar installallations, command & control centers; and air defense missile and aircraft bases. Once these targets had been identified, they would have been subject to what in essence would have been combined tactical nuclear weapons attacks by the V Force until they had all been identified and/or destroyed.

A White Paper produced by the Royal Air Force for the British government in 1961 theorized and claimed that the RAF's nuclear force was capable of destroying key Soviet cities such as Moscow and Kiev well before bomber aircraft from the United States' Strategic Air Command had entered Soviet airspace, "taking into account Bomber Command’s ability to be on target in the first wave several hours in advance of the main SAC force operating from bases in the mainland United States." Throughout the early stages of the Cold War, NATO relied on the Royal Air Forceas the primary force to threaten key cities in European Russia. RAF leadership concluded that the V Bomber force was capable of killing eight million Soviet citizens and wounding another eight million before American bombers had even reached their targets. At the time they entered service all three V bombers were capable of altitudes that put them effectively out of reach of the then contemporary cannon armed Soviet interceptors such as the Mikoyan Gurevich designed MiG-15 Fagot, MiG-17 Fresco, and later MiG-19 Famer.

In its early years, the British V bomber force relied on the concept of aircraft dispersal to escape the effects of an enemy attack on their main bases. There were 26 such bases in the late 1950s, in addition to the ten main bases: RAF Coningsby, RAF Cottesmore, RAF Finningley, RAF Gaydon, RAF Honington, RAF Marham, RAF Scampton, RAF Waddington, RAF Wittering (HQ RAF Bomber Command) and RAF Wyton; a total of 36 bases available for the V bomber force. In times of heightened international tension the V bomber force, already loaded with their nuclear weapons, would be flown to the dispersal bases where they could be kept at a few minutes readiness to take off, the bases being situated around the United Kingdom in such a way that a nuclear strike by an attacking state could not be guaranteed to completely knock out Britain's ability to retaliate. Apart from deployment to the bases during exercises, the most notably use was during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when at one point Avro Vulcans were lined up on the runways with engines running, at two minutes notice to take-off and proceed to their allocated targets.

All of the V Bombers would see active service in the RAF at least once albeit with conventional bombs rather than nuclear devices. The Vickers Valiant would see action in the Suez Crisis in 1956, the Handley Page Victor in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation of 1962 through 1966, and the most famous the Avro Vulcan during the publicized Black Buck Raids in the Falklands War long after the strategic nuclear role had been passed over to the Royal Navy. In the deployment of nuclear weapons, only the Vickers Valiant would drop a nuclear device, as part of British tests.

Upon entering RAF service all three V bombers were initially painted in an overall silver finish, with the prominent under-nose H2S radomes on the Valiant and Vulcan left in black, however, this silver finish was later changed to one of anti-flash white, the RAF roundels being adjusted in shade, and made paler, to minimize the absorption of energy from the flash of a detonating nuclear device.

The development of effective anti-aircraft missiles capable of reaching extremely high altitudes by the Soviet Union for bringing down enemy aircraft made the deterrent threat delivered from bombers flying at high altitudes increasingly ineffective. In 1963 the British government decided to redevelop the use of the V bombers from high altitude strike platforms to performing low altitude operations instead. With the cancellation of the Blue Streak missile program and the cancellation of the American Skybolt system and with the Blue Steel missile already in service, six squadrons of Vulcan B2s were re-assigned to the low-level penetration role where they would operate at altitudes of 200 feet and lower and were re-equipped with the WE.177B strategic laydown bomb from 1966 until it was decided that deploying nuclear weapons by missile was more feasible and the Vulcans were replaced in the strategic nuclear strike role in 1969 by the Polaris missile to be launched from the Royal Navy's nuclear submarine fleet. The WE.177 equipped Vulcans were supplemented by the two Victor squadrons equipped with Blue Steel weapons since modified for low-level launch that continued to serve on in the strategic delivery role until 1968 ended.

In the low-level role, which had originally been intended to be performed by the cancelled BAC TSR-2, the V Force were considered by Air Staff planners to be largely immune from interception, with Soviet air defenses being assessed as having no significant interception capability below about 1,500 feet. Any remaining threats were deemed to be coming from the Soviet SA-3 low level surface to air missile, which resulted in flight planners taking great care to route low flying aircraft around known SA-3 missile sites. As a result of this maneuver, individual aircraft were calculated by operational planners to have a 90-95% chance of successfully delivering their weapon on the assigned targets. Although subsequently relieved of their role as the deliverer of the UK's strategic nuclear deterrent, the Vulcan squadrons continued to serve with the same WE.177B weapon in a low-level penetration role assigned to SACEUR for use in a tactical role in Western Europe. Six squadrons of Vulcans were still assigned this role with the WE.177 weapon in 1981. The last four remaining squadrons were about to disband in 1982 when called upon to assist in conflict in the South Atlantic: the Falklands.

With the change to low level operations the anti flash white scheme was altered to a disruptive pattern of grey and green upper surfaces, with light grey under surfaces. After reports from the Red Flag exercises in Nevada in the late 1970s that the light grey under surfaces became highly visible against the ground when the aircraft banked steeply at the low altitudes it was assigned to, the disruptive pattern was later continued to include the under surfaces as well on all Vulcans.

The Valiant was the first of the V Bombers to be removed from service as a nuclear bomber; taking on the role of an aerial refueling tanker and performing low level attack and photographic reconnaissance. Structural fatigue problems due to the transfer to low-level operations meant the Valiants were removed from service completely by 1965. The Victors were then converted to replace the Valiants as aerial refueling tankers. Only the Vulcan alone of the threesome, retained a nuclear delivery role until the end of their planned service life scheduled for 1982. The short extension as tankers until 1984 was an unexpected extension to meet operational emergencies. In addition to the roles they were designed for, all three V Bombers served as air to air refueling platforms at one time or another; the Valiant was the RAF's first large scale tanker. As a means of replacing the loss of the Valiant, Victor B.1s were converted into the AAR role. When the Victor was withdrawn from service as a bomber, a number of B.2s were then converted into tankers. Finally, due to delays in the entry into service of the TriStar, six Vulcan B.2s were converted into tankers, and served from 1982 to 1984.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Myasishchev Mischief: The Bison and the Bomber Gap

Barely a few years since the end of the Second World War, tensions are mounting between former allies as the United States and Soviet Union became increasingly distrustful of one another. The showdown between democracy and communism is beginning all across the globe as the Soviets expand their sphere of influence across eastern Europe and into Asia. With the Soviet detonation of an atomic bomb in 1949, the United States was on a higher state of alert in dealing with the Soviet Union. As the United States conducted the first test flight of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber in 1952, the Soviet Union responded by developing their own jet powered bomber designed to carry a destructive payload from the Soviet Union deep into the heart of North America. At the time, the only heavy bomber available to the Soviet Air Force was the Tupelov Tu-4 Bull which was a reverse engineered copy of the American B-29 Superfortress but the piston powered bomber was too slow for Soviet leaders who wanted a bomber propelled by jet engines to carry bombs into the United States. The task of designing and fielding such a bomber fell upon the Myasishchev Design Bureau. 

The Soviet design first took to the air in 1953 before being revealed to the public on May Day 1954, when the Myasishchev M-4 Molot or 'Hammer' flew over Moscow's Red Square. The existence of such an aircraft in the Soviet arsenal took the United States by surprise, completely unaware that the Soviets had been developing a jet bomber. The jet bomber was given the NATO reporting code of 'Bison' following the alliance's practice of issuing names to Soviet aircraft corresponding with the type of aircraft being identified. In July 1955, American observers saw 28 Bison bombers flying in two groups during a Soviet airshow at Tushino near northwestern Moscow. The United States government came to believe that the bomber had been placed in mass production for the Soviet Air Force, and the Central Intelligence Agency estimated that 800 Bisons would be on ready alert by the beginning of 1960. 

On 15 February 1954, aviation publication Aviation Week printed an article describing a new Soviet jet bomber capable of carrying a nuclear bomb to the United States mainland from their bases in deep in Soviet Russia. The aircraft they referred to was the Myasishchev M-4 Bison. Over the next year and a half these rumors were debated publicly in the press, and soon after in the United States Congress. Adding to the concerns was an infamous event in July 1955. At the Soviet Aviation Day demonstrations at the Tushino Airfield, ten Bison bombers were flown past the reviewing stand, then flew out of sight, quickly turned around, and flew past the stands again with eight more, presenting the illusion that there were 28 aircraft in the flyby. An elaborate deception formulated by Soviet military planners.

Western analysts calculated from the illusionary force of 28 aircraft, judged that by 1960 the Soviets would have 800. The classified estimates however, led American politicians to warn of a "bomber gap". The "bomber gap" was a term to define a belief that the Soviet Union had gained a strategic advantage in deploying jet-powered strategic bombers that were capable of attacking the United States. The concept was widely accepted for several years, and was used as a political talking point in order to justify a great increase in American defense spending. At the time, the USAF had just introduced its own strategic jet bomber, the B-52 Stratofortress, and the shorter ranged B-47 Stratojet which was still suffering from a variety of technical problems that limited its combat availability. USAF staff started pressing for accelerated production of the larger B-52 Stratofortress, but it also grudgingly accepted calls for expanded air defense.The Air Force was generally critical of spending effort on defense, having studied the results of the World War II bombing campaigns and concluding that Stanley Baldwin's pre-war thinking on the fruitlessness of air defense was correct: the bomber almost always did get through. Like the British, they concluded that money would better be spent on making the offensive arm larger, deterring an attack. The result was a production series consisting of thousands of aircraft. Over 2,000 B-47s and almost 750 B-52s were built to match the imagined fleet of Soviet aircraft.

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was skeptical of the perceived bomber gap idea from its inception. With no evidence to prove or disprove the logic, he agreed to the development of the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady high altitude reconnaissance aircraft to provide an answer to the lingering question . The first U-2 flights started in 1956. On one early mission known as Mission 2020 flown by Martin Knutson on 4 July 1956, a U-2 flew over Engels airfield near Saratov and photographed 20 M-4 Bison bombers on the ramp. Multiplying by the number of Soviet bomber bases known to exist, the intelligence suggested the Soviets were already well on their way to deploying hundreds of aircraft. Ironically, the U-2 had actually photographed the entire Bison fleet; there wasn't a single bomber at any of the other bases. Similar missions over the next year finally demonstrated this beyond a doubt, and at least in official circles that the gap had been disproven. It was later learned that the Soviet Bison was unable to meet its original range goals and was limited to a range of roughly about 8,000 km. Unlike the United States, at that time the Soviets lacked overseas bases in the Western Hemisphere and therefore the M-4 would not be able to attack the US mainland and return to land at a friendly airbase. 

In the end it was not the Soviet Air Force (VVS) that wanted the Bison, but rather Naval Aviation (AV-MF). Though it could still not bomb Washington, D.C., the Bison had a sufficient range to fulfill the need for a long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft. In 1959, the 3M variant broke numerous world records; however, it was thought by the West (and would continue to be thought so until 1961) that the 3M variant was the original M-4, meaning that the capability of the M-4 was vastly overestimated by Western intelligence agencies.Interest in the Myasishchev Bison waned, and a total of only 93 were produced before production of the bomber ceased in 1963. The vast majority of these were modified for used as tankers or maritime reconnaissance aircraft; only the original 10 shown at the air show and nine newer 3MD13 models served on nuclear alert with the Soviet bomber force.

Neither the M-4 nor the 3M ever saw combat service, and none were ever modified for low altitude penetration attack, as the American B-52 Stratofortresses were. No Bisons were ever exported to the Soviet Union's allies. The last aircraft, an M-4-2 fuel tanker, was withdrawn from service in 1994.

So the legacy of the Bison was largely preserved in the aftermath of the bomber gap controversy which through American miscalculations resulted in a massive buildup of the United States Air Force's strategic bomber fleet, which peaked at over 2,500 strategic bombers to counter the perceived Soviet threat. Realizing that the mere belief in the gap was an extremely effective funding source, a series of similarly nonexistent Soviet military advances were constructed in the following years of the Cold War in a tactic now known as "policy by press release." Other deceptions included claims of a nuclear-powered bomber, supersonic VTOL flying saucers, and ultimately only a few years after the "bomber gap" came a "missile gap."

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Commandant's Corner Update: 2 January 2014

Happy New Year Everyone, 

Thank you for bearing with me as I've been working and adjusting to this new post. It's taken me a little longer than I had projected to begin getting squared away but I think I'm in a position now to begin the process of continuing my research and maintaining this blog again. No worries. As of this posting, 2014 is looking promising in the collecting world I am following up on leads and looking into several new pieces from both NATO and Warsaw Pact allied nations some from France and some from Communist Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Also 2014 may see a semi  branch out beyond the scope of Europe as proxy wars based off of contingencies in Europe flared up in the Middle East and Asia during the Cold War period but as always my primary focus has been and always will be the Cold War and preserving that period of history for the future. 

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and I wish you all the best in 2014. As always, Horrido!

- The Commandant

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Commandant's Corner Update: 3 October 2013

Message from the Author:

Thank you to all who have and continue to visit my blog focused on cataloging, preserving and sharing the history of the intense period of World history known as the Cold War. It has and continues to be a great pleasure to bring you all new articles and topics of interest concerning this period of political and military uncertainty. I would like to begin by issuing a public apology for the lack of site updates recently. I have been going through the process of relocating from one location to another so this has warranted my absence as of late and has not allowed me much time to begin preparing new articles and information to prepare for this site. The website is however NOT closed nor will it be to the best of my ability. It will remain open and active, once I get settled in and get a feel for the rhythm of my new work tempo then research, posting and so forth will continue.

I would also like to thank all who have contributed information and source wise for helping to prepare new articles and areas of interest and I look forward to your continued input and involvement here in the future. To all those who have shared our posts on pages and helped to spread the site around and garner further interest in the Cold War you are also appreciated. To all who have left encouraging comments and compliments as well as those who have shared information for making corrections regarding past posts thank you for your contributions. I am striving to provide a comprehensive and thorough reference to this period of world history and being from one participant nation sometimes it is rather difficult to find plausible information and sources from various other nations involved particularly in other nations whose primary languages are not English. As can be expected many things can become lost in translation or misinterpreted when attempting to convert information or data from one language to another.

As previously stated, the posts will continue in the future I am hoping to have the blog fully functional again and readily turning out new updates fairly regularly beginning around the end of October or early November. Your patience, support and involvement has helped make this an enjoyable venture and I look forward to providing more quality posts in the coming months and years ahead. Thanks again for your continued patronage and I look forward to helping further preserve the history of the Cold War for future generations to come!


Redd Catcher

Sunday, August 25, 2013

On the Frontlines of the Cold War: Voices of the Veterans Vol. II

SrA D. Fair, United States Air Force
Air Force Security Police
Memmingen, West Germany /Barksdale Air Force Base, United States

My interest in serving the United States as a member of its armed forces began when I forged a bond with a childhood friend whose family had moved to the United States from England. His parents were older than most parents in our community who had children my age. One of the things that stood out the most to me was that his parents had grown up through the German Blitz and the Battle of Britain during the Second World War and hearing their stories of their wartime experiences and descriptions of the German Luftwaffe aircraft they saw soon inspired me to one day join the United States Air Force with hopes of one day being assigned to Germany. With German ancestry in my family background it would be an interesting experience to witness my cultural heritage first hand and soon I became determined to make my dream a reality.

Nothing could prepare me for the experiences that I had while serving in the United States Air Force. My enlistment took me not only to Germany but also warranted me inclusion into a small unit independent of the larger Army or Air Force organizations which allowed for greater immersion into the German culture. The unit had a manpower strength of roughly 120 personnel, dependents included and placed us in a Bavarian community away from the areas with greater American presence.

By the time I came of enlistment age I was more than ready to go. I had grown up in a small town in Ohio which was mostly rural and afforded not much else beyond the scope of agricultural work. I had about a year’s worth of college under my belt, but coming from a relatively low income family I saw military service as a way of improving my education while learning an occupational skill. My dream to join the United States Air Force officially became a reality when I formally enlisted in July of 1983. Due to the amount of people wanting to join the Air Force at this time, my shipping off to basic training was postponed until 1984 when I was sent from Cincinnati, Ohio to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Following the completion of basic training, I was awarded my first stripe and the rank of Airman partially because of my previous college. After basic training, I progressed on to Tech School where I went to the Air Force Security Police Academy also located at Lackland. As the Air Force is not a primarily land focused combat organization, the Security Police in the Air Force fulfill multiple duties. One of the best ways to describe the Security Police is as a combination of Military Police, Security and Infantry forces. Some of the training involved included guarding sensitive areas such as silos housing Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and undertaking the appropriate measures necessary to ensure their safeguarding. One of the primary missions of the Air Force Security Police is defending airbases in the event of attack as well as guarding aircraft, components and munitions. 

Soon I came under orders to report to West Germany. With the risks associated with performing security assignments in Germany, all Security Forces had to participate in the Air Base Ground Defense or ABGD course.  The Air Base Ground Defense course was essentially a training course in infantry tactics which provided familiarity with a wide variety of weaponry ranging from individual small arms such as the M-16 rifle to crew served weaponry such as the M-60 machine gun. This portion of my training took my fellow Security Policemen and myself from Lackland Air Force Base, to Camp Bullis part of the Army’s Fort Sam Houston installation also in San Antonio.  Going from an Air Force facility such as Lackland to an Army facility such as Camp Bullis provided a bit of a culture shock. Almost overnight we went from having nice dormitories to plywood huts on slabs in the middle of Texas. We went from running a mile and a half in basic, to two miles in the Police Academy to having to run in combat boots during the ABGD course. Running was always the most difficult part of physical training for me and I disliked it. Being from Ohio, I was not prepared for blistering Texas heat of summer. Another part of our training included Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Warfare Training often abbreviated as NBC. This trained us in how to  prepare and respond to a potential situation if the Soviets or the Warsaw Pact employed chemical or nuclear weapons against us. This training continued yearly throughout the duration of my enlistment and we I can’t recall exactly how many times we were gassed. As part of this training we became familiar with not only our individual gas masks but also the individual ChemSuit along with rubber gloves and boots.

After completion of the ABGD Course, I briefly returned home to Ohio before shipping out to West Germany. My destination was Memmingen, a small town in the Swabia region of Bavaria. I would arrive here in December of 1984 where I was assigned to the 7261 MUNSS Munitions Support Squadron. This was a small unit comprised of security, munitions maintainers and support personnel who were assigned to support the West German Luftwaffe’s Jagdbombergeschwader 34 or ‘34th Fighter Bomber Wing’. The JaBoG 34, was a unit of the West German Air Force assigned under the 4th Allied Tactical Air Force or 4 ATAF responsible for the defense of the southern approaches into West Germany against Soviet or Warsaw Pact offensive operations. Our unit and the Germans forged a close bond and many of those friendships remain intact even up to this day. The 7261’s commanding officer was a Lieutenant Colonel named Worthen and my Chief of Security Police was a Captain named Rivera. Daily, we carried M-16 rifles complete with a two day supply of ammunition, a canteen, gas mask, ballistic resistant flak jacket and a steel helmet for personal protection.  Due to the JaBoG’s status as being a quick reaction force and front line fighter unit, the upmost measures for facility security were in place and German K-9 units were on hand to further augment the already strict security measures.

By September of 1985, I was training to become an entry controller for our facility, but on the final day of training I broke my leg when I deployed from a Mercedes Benz two ton truck we used for transportation around the base. The tailgate on these vehicles are very high and with my rifle in one hand and kit bag in the other I leapt from the vehicle and landed on the cement curb causing great damage to my ankle and left leg. By this time I had received a promotion to the rank of Airman First Class, and now with my injury I was temporarily assigned to assist the NCOIC Law Enforcement. Intended to be a temporary assignment while I recovered from my injury, it became permanent and I became accustomed to filling out police reports, vehicle registration, as well as processing and issuing ID cards along with other administrative duties. When I finally recovered from my injury, I returned to pulling sentry duties across the installation. These duties would often prove uneventful with long hours spent with no personal contact however occasionally the monotony was broken by the sound of alert sirens and the sight of pilots rushing for their aircraft. This would be such a thrill with a rush of adrenaline because it was always unknown whether or not it was just another drill or the pilots were actually launching on a real time mission.

The facilities at Memmingen had been constructed in 1937 and were utilized by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. One of the buildings in which I worked was one of the original structures used by the Germans during World War II and many times I often found myself wondering who had been here and used my office during the years of the Third Reich.  What happened to them? Had they survived the war? I never received these answers but it still proved interesting to think about none the less.

Our West German unit’s insignia consisted primarily of blue and white, the colors of Bavaria and incorporated two planes against a blue background over the Alps and the NATO symbol in the upper left corner of the insignia. Two of the subordinate squadrons utilized World War II era insignia with the first squadron utilizing the ‘Grunherz’ emblem reflecting their title ‘Green Hearts’ and the second squadron utilizing the Edelweiss insignia as their emblem.

Training exercises were a regular occurrence during the duration of my assignment in Germany. These exercises varied in scope and scenario ranging from small scale exercises to the larger NATO exercises which included the REFORGER exercises. West German and Canadian armed forces fought mock battles on the airfield and on several occasions friendly aircraft from other NATO nations would fly low level mock air attacks on the base facilities. I was confident in our Luftwaffe partner’s ability to fight a coordinated effort alongside us. At the time, Germany was a warzone without being exposed to an exchange of gunfire. Battle tanks and artillery moved freely through towns and villages and combat aircraft were constantly flying in training scenarios to prepare for conducting live combat operations in the event of war in all weather scenarios to maintain the upmost state of combat readiness. One of the things I’ll never forget is the sounds of working at Memmingen, between the roar of the F-104G Starfighters taking off and landing day and night and on occasions ground crews test firing the Starfighter’s 20mm Vulcan cannon you tend to get used to the noise of daily operations.

There was always a looming threat for potential terrorist encounters particularly during that time. The Baader-Meinhof Gang and Red Army Faction amongst other groups were a threat we took very seriously in the mid 1980s. We were always receiving or conducting detailed briefings on terrorist activities in the region and we were constantly on the lookout for them within the vicinity of our facilities. The local German Polizei and the Air Force OSI services worked hand in hand to ensure we had the latest detailed reports on the groups and any potential threat. Sometimes I would work as a liaison between our unit and our Luftwaffe counterparts. I was on duty the night of 15 April 1986, when President Ronald Reagan authorized Operation El Dorado Canyon which was a series of strikes against targets in Libya.  The event came as surprise when our shifts that usually were eight hours were extended to twelve hours. The heightened state of alert caused much excitement and we were never quite sure of what was exactly going on or the cause behind some of the things we were doing but we were ready none the less. The going joke was that even though we were ready to go to war at a moment’s notice we would go to neutral Switzerland which was only some forty miles away.

On one occasion before we were to start our normal shifts, we learned from an outgoing flight coming off guard duty that one of the German tower sentries had attempted to commit suicide. In the United States, a flight is organized roughly into 100 men but due to the small size of our unit in Germany, a flight for us was roughly about ten men. An investigation was launched into the incident and it became aware that the suspect had suffered a particularly bad breakup with his girlfriend and became fixated on the idea of taking his own life. Standing guard in what was known as a mini-tower, a small two man observation post roughly six feet above the ground the sentry had taken his issued G3 rifle and placed the barrel to his stomach and pulled the trigger. By the time that I had come up for duty, the sentry had already been removed however things got worse when during my shift, several VIPs came to visit and viewed the mess left in the tower. The sentry survived his wounds but his fate following the incident is uncertain.

In April of 1986, the nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl facility in Ukraine went into meltdown and spewed radioactive clouds across Europe. We were issued strict orders not to go outside and no one was certain what would happen in the wake of such a disaster. Memmingen is located about 1,000 miles from Chernobyl but even at this distance, roughly 40 to 50% of Europe would be contaminated by fallout from the Chernobyl disaster. Although, I have had follow up checkups and appear to be healthy and unaffected, several members of the 7261 MUNSS have developed signs of exposure to radioactive materials which include loss of enamel in teeth and degenerative disk development in the spine, as well as having children with birth defects and in others sterility.  Thyroid cancer is another potential concern.  Because it is impossible to prove that Chernobyl is the cause, it is not considered a harmful source of radiation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Due to the amount of radioactive fallout absorbed into the water and soil, were told not to eat foods grown locally such as vegetables or meats.

Life in Memmingen became routine but at times there were groups that posed problems for us. One of these groups was of course members of the United States Army. During REFORGER, several of them became intoxicated and caused some problems but never anything too serious that we could not handle. The second group, were usually Jaguar pilots from the British Royal Air Force. They would cause random mischief and in one instance even stole a restricted area warning sign from one of the perimeter fences.

My time in Germany came to an end in December 1986 when I was reassigned to Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana. This would be my final duty station where I would end my enlistment.

When I arrived at Barksdale, I was assigned under the US Air Force’s Strategic Air Command where I performed essentially the same duties I had in Germany at the airbase in Louisiana. I went from the real feel of Germany, to the simulated atmosphere of stateside duty assignments. The massive force of Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers was kept on a constant state of readiness, capable of being deployed 24-7, 365. The assignment to Barksdale did not share the same appeal as the assignment to Memmingen and I do not share the same strength of bond with service members from the SAC assignment that I do with members from the Germany assignment. Like Germany however, there were often readiness exercises conducted and sirens would sound often to the response of crews rushing to their aircraft and preparing to deploy in response to attack anywhere in the world. I would finish my Air Force enlistment at the rank of Senior Airman, and even though I was urged to attend the Air Force Non Commissioned Officer’s Academy I chose not to reenlist.

On 17 September 1987, tragedy struck when SGT. Joseph M. Burgio Sr. was killed when his Boeing KC-10 Stratotanker exploded on the ground at Barksdale. Three dozen others were injured in the disaster and following an investigation it was learned that a fuel leak caused the fatal explosion. While offloading fuel from the tanker, a generator unit ignited the fumes of the fuel and caused the explosion. I became aware of the disaster when one of my fellow service members SGT. Gray; stated that something was on fire. I turned to see a large black cloud of smoke billowing into the sky. I turned in time to see one of the largest explosions I’d ever witnessed echo through the area in a series of three blasts. The first explosion blew apart the center section of the plane, the second blew apart the nose and the final blast occurred when the wings ruptured.

Since Barksdale is the home of the Eighth Air Force headquarters, we took up defensive positions and only after it became apparent that this was an accident and not an attack did we stand down. While the investigation was carried out on the accident, I pulled security over the wreck many times.

By the time my Air Force enlistment concluded, I was a Senior Airman and I had been awarded the Air Force Training Ribbon, Overseas Long Tour Ribbon, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, as well as the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. Of particular significance to me were letters of service and a plaque presented to me for my service in the 7261 MUNSS at Memmingen. I will never forget the many American, German, and other European allies and friends I served with throughout the duration of my enlistment and I definitely have no regrets about my service during the Cold War. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

On the Frontlines of the Cold War: Voices of the Veterans Vol. I

“From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother” – Henry V, William Shakespeare 1598

The Cold War was an intense moment in world history where at the strike of a match the fragile peace could be engulfed in a sea of flames. Although the Cold War is referred to as a relative period of uneasy peace, there were numerous occasions of incidents where blood was shed by military forces of varying nations. In Europe, the British while maintaining numerous overseas deployments battled against the insurgency in Northern Ireland as well as dealing with troublesome skirmishes by terrorist groups on mainland Europe. The United States Army in Europe was also plagued by a number of attacks from radical terrorist elements like the Red Army Faction held bent on undermining the legitimacy of the Allied cause. Most often these groups were funded by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact groups to carry out strikes against NATO installations and forces. The sacrifices of military personnel throughout this tense period have often proven undocumented if not under documented and the stories of the conflicts gone unseen and or unheard by those outside of the entities that were there.

Operation Banner, the British military's operation in Northern Ireland for example is not as well known in the United States as it is in the United Kingdom, nonetheless they are stories that should be known and shared with the world. Men and women sacrificed so much to maintain the balance of peace that was the Cold War period and their exploits have largely gone unrecognized. While there were a vast number of conflicts that should be documented for historical purposes, this particular look is aimed at Europe and experiences documented will cover mainly the veteran’s experiences in Northern Ireland and West Germany.  It’s hard to say just how many lives were lost throughout the duration of the European Cold War period and every life has value. Losses across Europe from Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom to West Germany and across the rest of Continental Europe are hard to exactly pinpoint as well as they typical were inflicted in ones and twos rather than on a large scale as in a conventional scenario. Alerts went up and precautions were taken against terrorist elements accordingly. In an age where terrorism is a common phrase, soldiers in Europe were dealing with terrorism ever since a rogue group believed they could use violence and intimidation to gain a voice. 

The purpose of this writing is to document the stories of the veterans to preserve them and archive them for the future. To highlight the importance of the sacrifices bore by these individuals in the name of brotherhood. The unexplainable brotherhood shared uniquely by soldiers exposed to hostile areas. This writing is dedicated to the memory of the fallen who are forever fused into the history that has shaped our world, and to those who experienced it firsthand and live with their memories. These are the stories of those who were there. We salute them and We honor them. For security and privacy reasons I have altered the names of the individuals who have submitted their stories.
PTE M. Swift, British Army
1st Battalion, The Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire
Ballykinlar, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland: I carried out patrols throughout South Armagh (Armagh County) known as Orchard Country to the world but commonly referred to as 'Bandit Country' to those that served there. These patrols took us close to the border with the Republic of Ireland. On one occasion the patrol base of Bessbrook Mill was mortared 3 days after I left. I was part of a protective cordon that was tasked with setting up and providing defense during the rebuilding and strengthening of the watch towers in and around Crossmaglenn. On that task, I heard an explosion while in a covert operations location. Later we were told that the IRA had murdered a Judge as well as his wife. Several years later during another tour they struck again at the exact same location. IRA groups were known as Active Service Units (ASUs) by us operating in Northern Ireland. While on this tour Provisional Irish Republic Army (PIRA) & Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) were feuding and doing tit for tat killings against one another. We were all pretty happy with that as it kept them busy and not attacking our forces. My first tour only lasted 3 months as the regiment then got posted to Catterick in North Yorkshire. Although short and relevantly uneventful, it was none the less an exciting tour and experience for a young 18 year old soldier.

CPL A. Steventon, British Army
252 Provost Company (Volunteers)
Royal Military Police
Hameln, Hannover, Sennelager, Paderborn, West Germany
Participated in Exercises Keystone & Keyflight in 1987 & 1988.

BAOR: I performed Provost operations in West Germany and some Police work mainly RTA accidents. I also performed border patrol along Berlin Wall and saw East German NVA troops and Soviet troops regularly. My main job was convoy movements. I used to sign up routes to get ALL the BAOR troops to the battle front or FEBA as we called it and to Brigade HQ's, rendezvous points etc. We set up TP's (traffic posts) IP's (info Posts) BDE HQ (Brigade HQ's) etc. We also secured areas in the infantry role using GPMG, SLR, SMG and Browning 9mm. I got the chance to work alongside US aggressor forces on enemy evade and capture exercises near Nordhausen. We captured them and handed over to intel for interrogation.

I dealt with a fatal road traffic accident in Unter Oldershausen in September when I was on guard duty at a Brigade Headquarters. A Regular Dispatch Rider of the Royal Engineers came to my Information Post (IP) looking for his Brigade HQ. He was fatigued and tired and got his grid reference, he then and drove up the road and was killed instantly by decapitation. I was the first to respond to him following the accident and the last to contact him when he passed away. It has haunted me ever since. It has been nearly 25 years and I've only now found out his name this year, Sapper Dougie Hogg 13th Postal Courier Squadron Royal Engineers 25 years old from Lancaster in Lancashire.

Another assignment I held was to look for Soviet Mission on the Rhine spies (SOXMIS whom used to drive around taking photos for intelligence purposes mainly of troop numbers, vehicles, strength, equipment, movements, locations etc. If we saw them we detained them under a special card we carried and handed over to Intel Corps.

I was nearly killed during an attack by the PIRA in 1988 whilst serving in the Royal Air Force (regular Forces). While in Hereford, the PIRA planted an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) outside of my barracks block but one of my mates found it in the trash can before it could be detonated.

My reflections on the Cold War period are that it was a very tense time with many occasions we thought we were going to war with the Warsaw Pact. Alerts were issued regularly for war footings. We lost hundreds of troops in accidents on the big exercises which people forgot and we never got any recognition for the sacrifices we made over there, not just in encounters with Warsaw Pact forces but also with PIRA in Northern Ireland.  They were very active and as a result many British troops were killed. The days were long but times were fun and enjoyable. The Germans were very good to us unless they held ties to the previous regime the Nazi party. I enjoyed my time spent over there and loved the country. I'll never forget it.

SPC S. Moore, United States Army
558th Military Police Company
Military Police
Rheinland Pfalz, West Germany
2 Years in West Germany

USAREUR: I pulled physical security on a NATO Missile site known as Site No. 107. During the duration of my deployment to West Germany, we were plagued by constant bombings and attacks at clubs mainly by the Red Army Faction which peaked in 1987.

My West Germany assignment was similar to dealing with modern day terrorism. Movements were always done on the high alert with the upmost suspicion of everyone. Between the Soviets and Red Army Faction encounters taking out small groups of service members, travel was usually done in packs for security. Whenever there was an incident it was briefed to all of United States Army Europe (USAREUR). Working on a Nuclear Compound, National Security concerning Nuclear Warheads was of utmost priority so the 24/7 security of the facility was monitored very closely. While I was assigned to Site No. 107, there was an incident at different Nuclear Facility where the perimeter had been breached, the guard house was infiltrated and all of the security forces were shot in their sleep. None of the nuclear materials were disturbed in the attack. It was just done to prove that the security of a sensitive NATO site was indeed penetrable.

RFN D. Harding, British Army
2nd Battalion, Royal Green Jackets
Belfast, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Multiple deployments from 1985-1996

Northern Ireland: I served as a military dog handler in Northern Ireland performing searches in the Palace Barracks area of operation around Belfast. Our Tactical Area of Responsibility which we covered included Fort Whiterock, North Howard Street Mill, Girdwood and Woodburn which was a Royal Ulster Constabulary station. My first two initial tours in Northern Ireland were fairly quiet. There were two occasions where there were attempts made to engage our patrols by enemy forces which were thwarted by our experience. As a result of the thwarting of their attempts, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) Active Service Units (ASUs) launching an attack and shooting up the Sanger of Clogher, Royal Ulster Constabulary Station. The second year, residential operations were quite hectic but again most incidents of attempts against the battalion were thwarted thanks to good scenario drills and patrolling techniques. Sadly, we lost seven members of the Battalion, due to accidents including a Lynx crash in Gortin Glen.

The period of 1993-1996 was hectic as well. There were incidents almost daily with an upsurge in shootings, bombings and sectarian murders. It was during this particular tour in Northern Ireland that I was blown up by a PIRA explosive device which resulted in the loss of the majority of the hearing in my left ear and half in my right ear. Due to the constant rotations into Northern Ireland I was diagnosed with complex combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The worst encounter during this tour was the aftermath of the Shakhill Bombing, when Fizzel’s Fish Shop was targeted for twenty one days. Following that attack I was lucky to get an average of three hours of sleep per day due to tit for tat murders carried out by rival factions.

CPL M.Sandham, British Army
Parachute Regiment/Royal Military Police
Infantry/Royal Military Police
Roberts Barracks, Osnabruck, West Germany, Aldergrove & Clooney Base, Northern Ireland
4 Years Regular Forces & 3 Years Reserve

BAOR: While assigned to the British Army of the Rhine I primarily performed Garrison policing duties. The experience of serving in West Germany also allowed me the opportunity to train alongside our allied military unit counterparts including American, West German and Dutch military police. I also participated in several large scale military exercises in Germany the primary two being Exercise Lionheart and Exercise Spearpoint.

Northern Ireland: In Northern Ireland I mainly performed mobile patrols, search and intelligence gathering operations, performed raids on suspected enemy strongholds which often including pubs, bars and clubs as well as escort duties. When performing operations in the Londonderry areas we were often brought close to the border with the Republic of Ireland. City Center security patrols were also another task we were frequently assigned. In Northern Ireland we were frequently exposed to enemy actions committed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) including shootings and bombings in Belfast. Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) police stations were regularly targeted for attack by PIRA elements. Some operations yielded results such as search and seizure operations which led to discovering and capturing PIRA weapons caches in East Belfast. Riot control in the Londonderry City Center was also a regular occurrence during my tour in Northern Ireland. One encounter in particular stands out in my mind, one day following a PIRA operation, we were tasked to recovery a victim’s body from the River Lagan in Belfast.

My service in both BAOR and in Northern Ireland ultimately was a great training experience. For a young Non Commissioned Officer it was an amazing introduction to life in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. Despite the exposure to conflict zones such as Northern Ireland, I believe young soldiers today would benefit from the experiences we had during the Cold War. We gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in a short period of time and I don’t regret any moment of my service. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.