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Canada should issue a Cold War Victory Medal to its military

Published in Legion Magazine, June 2007

There are numerous medals that make up the Canadian Honours, Awards and Medals system. People are awarded medals for a variety of reasons. It could be for participation in an event or action (United Nations peacekeeping tour); it could be or performing a duty of a specified period of time (Canadian Forces Decoration for 12 years of service); it could be for heroic actions (Victoria Cross or Star of Courage); to recognize an achievement (Order of Canada); or just for to commemorate an event (Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal).

One medal that has been overlooked is one to recognize the Cold War, the longest continuing military operation in western military history. Generally recognized as having lasted from September 2 1945 until December 26, 1991, the Cold War was not just a theoretical concept or just a catchy phrase describing a period of time, but was a real war. Militaries around the world were kept on a high state of alert for any impending attacks. It was a large-scale military campaign that prevented a third world war, most likely a nuclear one at that, through deterrence and worldwide strategic military deployments.

If that’s not enough, the Cold War did have actual battles. The Korean War is regarded by many as the first battle of the Cold War. If that’s still not good enough, in the 1960s the Soviets had a battle plan drawn up that would have directly engaged NATO forces in Europe. The Soviet plan would have included a diversionary attack the bulk of NATO forces in north Germany, while the main bulk of the forces would cross from Austria, into Switzerland and eventually onto Paris.

Other campaigns such as the Vietnam War, The Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis were conflicts within the Cold War. Operations such so as Quemoy-Matsu, Korea 1966-74, Berlin 1961-62 and humanitarian rescue missions such as the Congo (1964), all took place during the Cold War. The Korean War was stopped by a truce in 1953 and since that time, armed troops, aircraft and ships have remained active to maintain the peace. The Korean War is often described not just as “the forgotten war”, but as a war that never really ended. The threat from communist North Korea continues even to this day.

The Cold War was also the largest troop deployment to counter the Soviet and Warsaw Pact military threat. NATO maintained numerous armed troop divisions in Europe and Asia to counter the Soviet and Warsaw Pact divisions. Regular missions were carried out to demonstrate retaliatory capability; reconnaissance of hostile territory was regularly conducted; ICBM and Air Defence radar networks were established, including The DEW Line, The Mid-Canada Line and The Pinetree Line, the 3 early warning lines that once stretched across Canada.

Even communist insurgencies in Central America necessitated an armed response by NATO nations.

In the United States and Canada, the strategic defence of North America and Europe called for vigilance and devotion to duty. Military personnel always had to be on guard against surprise attack; one that fortunately never came. Even peacekeepers throughout the world were required to stay combat ready.

In 2002, the United States Congress approved the Cold War Victory Medal. However, this medal remains an unofficial, strictly commemorative military medal and is not presently authorized for wear by currently serving military members, except the Louisiana National Guard.

That said, the American Legion, AMVETS, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Association, the Reserve Officers Association of the United States and Combat Infantrymen’s Association all endorse the Cold War Victory Medal.

I believe that anyone who served in the Canadian Forces, regular or reserve, for a minimum of 3 years during the Cold War, should be eligible to receive a Canadian Cold War Victory Medal.

Now in the interest of disclosure, I am a former naval reservist and conveniently, I would fit in with this time frame. I joined in June 1987, giving me approximately 4 1/2 years Cold War service. I’m not simply trying to give myself another medal; in fact I don’t care about medals for medals sake. Make it a minimum of 5 years so I would be ineligible; make it 10 years, or 20 years. Make it available only to full-time members. The time frame or employment status are not as important as recognizing things that deserve to be recognized.

Bottom line, I believe a Canadian Cold War service medal is warranted.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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