Cold war risks remembered at local reunion

The Cold War was not simply a verbal exchange of threats and accusations between two non-trusting countries. And, when American pilot Gary Powers went down into Soviet territory in 1960, the story given Americans that it was “an isolated incident” could not have been further from the truth.

The Cold War actually included high risks—and deaths—as thousands of American airmen spied on the Soviets in a highly secret campaign. Not until a 1993 investigation by U.S. News, and the declassification of some U.S. documents, did some of the facts and figures of those tense years become known.

Last week, 10 members of one of those Cold War spy mission crews gathered at the Little Falls home of Chuck Stone. With Stone as the aircraft commander, the group had made up a crew which flew reconnaisance missions along the coast of the Soviet Union, flying an RB-29 out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, in 1953 and 1954.

The four-day gathering included a sharing of pictures, stories of their lives since they parted in 1954 and reminiscing about the year they shared together in Japan. “Our missions were a hide and seek kind of thing,” related Stone. “A typical flight lasted between seven and nine hours. We’d be scheduled so we’d arrive close to Russia at dark. Then, it was lights out. We weren’t to go within 12 miles of their shore or they had the right to shoot us down. Everything we did as a crew included comradeship, team-work, friendship and cooperation.”

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