The Cold War was called a war for a reason—many died in the defense of democracy and free markets.
To honor those who died in the Cold War era, which lasted for more than 40 years, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’ Spring Mountains National Recreation Area partnered with Silent Heroes of the Cold War and GO Mt. Charleston to dedicate the Visitor Gateway site, home to the Silent Heroes of the Cold War Memorial.
The new site is our nation’s first national memorial honoring the lives lost during the Cold War.
The Cold War Memorial features the twisted remains of the propeller from a military transport plane that crashed on Charleston Peak on November 17, 1955. The aircraft had been secretly carrying personnel to Area 51 to work on the development of the U2 spy plane. Information about the crash remained classified for decades, leaving bereaved family members with no explanation or sense of closure.
But in 1998 local Boy Scout troop leader Steve Ririe found some of the remaining wreckage while hiking on the mountain. Curious, he began to investigate the recently declassified crash. With help from local resident Marian Kennedy, Ririe located the victims’ family members and shared what he had learned.
The family’s appreciation inspired Ririe to propose a memorial site dedicated to the tragedy and to other unsung heroes of the Cold War, many of whom worked in secret and died in silence to keep America safe.
With support from Senator Harry Reid, and the U.S. Forest Service, Ririe’s vision finally became a reality, and the Silent Heroes of the Cold War Memorial was completed in 2015.
“The Memorial honors all Cold War heroes, but especially recognizes those whose contributions were purposefully erased from history,” said Ririe. “These silent heroes kept the nuclear threat at bay. Because they were successful we will never know the full extent of our debt we owe them.”
At the Spring Mountain site, last Memorial Day, the first ceremony to honor the Cold War fallen was held. It also marked the first opportunity for the Las Vegas community to come together to pay tribute.