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Construction begins on Cold War memorial

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POSTED November 18, 2012 8:19 p.m.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A groundbreaking ceremony was held Saturday in southern Nevada for a $100,000 monument recognizing American military members who served during the Cold War against the former Soviet Union.

The memorial also will honor 14 men who died in a plane crash near the top of Mount Charleston northwest of Las Vegas 57 years ago, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The 14 were on their way to test the U-2 spy plane at the government's secret Groom Lake installation in Nevada now known as Area 51 when the crash occurred Nov. 17, 1955.

Las Vegas Boy Scout leader Steve Ririe is spearheading the effort to build the Silent Heroes of the Cold War National Memorial in Kyle Canyon below Mount Charleston.

He said he wants to recognize the tens of thousands who served in the Cold War that spanned five decades to avert a nuclear conflict with the former Soviet Union.

"This (memorial) will be a first step to give them back their place in history," said Ririe, who was inspired to mount the effort after hiking to the crash site in 1988.

The nonprofit Silent Heroes of the Cold War Corp. has received about $30,000 from the sale of Mount Charleston license plates for the memorial as well as money from fundraising events.

The group will need more funding to maintain the memorial after construction starts next year, the Review-Journal reported.

Investigators determined that the C-54 transport plane carrying the 14 men was en route from Burbank, Calif., to Groom Lake when the crash occurred during a blizzard. The pilot became disoriented, and the plane clipped a ridge 50 feet below the crest. There were no survivors.

The 14 men were supposed to perform at Groom Lake a flight test of the U-2, a spy plane equipped with long-range cameras. The U-2 was designed to fly at 70,000 feet altitude for observing Soviet missile sites.

"This monument will ensure that the courageous actions of Nevada's Cold War heroes will be remembered for generations to come," said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who sponsored legislation for the national memorial.

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