Guns & Patriots

Cold War Service Medal Ok’d

Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Congress December 15 approved the Cold War Service Medal, as part of the Fiscal Year 2012 defense budget, which awaits the signature of President Barack H. Obama Jr.

“People who don’t think veterans of the Cold War era deserve this medal simply lack an adequate understanding of communism,” said Cork Graham, who served as a CIA paramilitary in Central America in the 1980s.

From 1946 to 1991, thousands of American service men and women were killed, wounded or went missing in operations separate and distinct from either the Korean War or the Vietnam War.

More than 20 million former and current soldiers, pilots, sailors, intelligence officers and Foreign Service agents will finally receive recognition for their service.

Military historian and collector Eric J. Andringa said good precedents exist for the CWSM, including the Army of Occupation Medal given to servicemen participating in the occupation of Germany and Japan after 1946 and the Navy Occupation Service Medal given to Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel who served in West Berlin from the end of World War II to 1990.

Past presidents and congresses awarded medals to military personnel deployed abroad during times of relative peace because they knew full well the contribution of these servicemen and women to American security, he said.

“They recognized the threat presented by the Soviet Union and understood the necessity of stopping communist hegemony in Europe,” said Andringa, who deployed to Iraq as the historian for the 34th Infantry Division’s command group from 2009 to 2010.

“People often say the United States won the Cold War without firing a shot, but there were always live fire incidents. The decade before the wall came down was intense,” he said.

“Ronald Reagan and the zero-defect army in West Berlin were there with a purpose – to make Russia see how capable the U.S. was,” he said.

“This effort took a toll on the troops there. There were lots of divorces,” he said. “The situation was so volatile, these guys were under tremendous emotional stress. You can’t downplay their sacrifice. It’s not asking a lot to acknowledge their service.”

Graham, who was jailed in Vietnam from June 1983 to May 1984, when his treasure hunting party was mistaken for spies, said West Berlin was not the only area of high tensions during the period.

“There was no single conflict. No final victory to be had. Only small but significant victories in El Salvador, Cuba, Indo-China and Soviet satellite nations,” said Graham.

“The Cold War was a war of abatement,” he said.

The authorization of the CWSM has been so drawn out because of pervasive reluctance to acknowledge the reality of the Domino Theory, said Graham.

“Many Americans, historians and public officials deny that Communist expansion presented a real military threat to the United States,” he said.

Exactly who will receive the award has yet to be determined by the Secretary of Defense, but the medal itself will most likely be designed by the Institute of Heraldry in Fort Belvoir, Va.

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  • CSMOccupiedNorthernVA

    Twenty years after the fact…a good decision for a worthy effort, but unfortunately many will just look upon it as more fruit salad. 
    The vast majority of those with measurable service during the Cold War are now retired, working what’s known as a grown-up job or sadly, deceased.
    This is however a jobs creator for the people who manufacture and mount military ribbons and medals.  
    I wonder if I should break open my shadow box and update it?

  • Dale Reitz

    Sadly, Your article is incorrect, the Medal legislation was removed in conference deliberations, by whom we do not know!

  • EricGHuey

    How would this be any different from the Geedunk?

  • danclamage

    I served in the USMC from 1980-1984. But I never left the CONUS. Will I qualify? Dunno.

  • HST1381

    Everyone should get one from the fifty’s and sixty’s with the drills in school and teachers and people scaring young kids with an atom bomb attack. I remember the buildings with CD for shelter. How many dies and received injuries during the military drills especially in Europe. USMC 1967-69

  • Capt Tee

    I have always considered my Army of Occupation Medal as my Cold War Medal, because I only got it in 1973, because of the Cold War.  I only spend 20 months of my military career in West Berlin, but did more to end the Cold War stateside.

  • Jerald Terwilliger

    Yes Dale is correct. The medal was taken out of the final version of the NDAA FY2012.
    We will continue the fight to get this medal . Then the battle will be with
    DOD, who has opposed the Cold War Service Medal from day one.

  • VICE

    Sadly enough, I think the first post from CSM will be correct. It will be fully authorized and implemented when there is no one left who is qualified to pin the medals on. They will have to just lay them on our graves so they can do it on television and get their publicity.

    Even still, I would do it all over again medal or not.

    VICE – Out.

  • Steven Robinson

    Where are y’all finding that the CWSM was removed from the bill? If you look at the final version of H.R. 1540 which passed earlier this week ( the CWSM authorization is still in there under Sec. 581.

  • Bryan Calhoun

    if your Alive brother.. and you rate then show what you rate because you earned it.. it’s not showing off to have a shadow box thats accurate. your just displaying pride in your service to the Nation that you Love.

  • Bryan Calhoun

    no surprise that D.O.D. opposes this medal, it means they actually have to acknowledge and recognize service and sacrifice for veterans who saw bad things and were not ever recognized for their service during a scary time. wether in Berlin or Korean D.M.Z. it’s just another situation of the D.O.D. being reluctant to show support to the ones who truly deserve their countries respect and admiration for willingness to suffer and serve. but the ones who say we don’t deserve a medal are the same ones who we’re safely at home in bed while we were cold and in constant danger. in a foreign land waiting for the thing that would start the biggest war in history.. thank God it was finally won without mass blood shed. i certainly think that in itself deserves a medal. the nerve racking guard duty and patrols on the D.M.Z. was scary enough as it is. i hope the commander in chief also see’s it this way.. and signs it.