1st Lt. Richard A. Kneen - Cold War Veteran

On October 22, 1962, the U.S. military was placed on DEFCON2, the next step to nuclear war. The precipitating event was the presence of Soviet Union missiles in Cuba. After a tense few days the missiles were withdrawn in exchange for a U.S. public commitment not to invade Cuba and a secret pledge to withdraw their missiles from Turkey. It was the most memorable stand-off during the "Cold War," the pressure cooker that followed the uneasy alliance between the Western Allied nations and the Soviet Union during World War II.

Dick Kneen was stationed at Ft. Sill in Oklahoma during that fateful time. The soldiers were placed on high alert and the series of vaccinations necessary if they were to invade Cuba administered in three days. In an effort to block out the uncertainty that threatened their families and their fear that their husbands might soon be fighting in Cuba, the wives coped by playing bridge non-stop for three days. 

With the Cuban Missile Crisis resolved, Dick was sent to the southern part of West Germany in an effort to counter the Soviet threat during the Cold War. Following World War II, the Yalta Conference had divided the conquered Germany into East Germany, controlled by the Soviets, and West Germany, controlled by Great Britain and the United States. It was quickly clear that the Soviets wanted to expand their sphere of political influence in Eastern and Central Europe. The Brits and Americans responded by establishing bases in West Germany. Dick and the 2nd Battalion of the 16th Armored Division Artillery, assigned to Schwabisch Gmuend, had Honest John rockets aimed at the Russians should they attack. 

Dick, who had top-secret crypto-clearance, would have been a rare prize for the Soviets, so he was not allowed near the border of the two Germanys. Any trips away from the base other than leave needed to be within a two-hour drive so he could return in an emergency.

Dick's wife, Betty, was again able to accompany him to West Germany. Although she was aware of the danger, she felt safe. Even the practice alerts that prepared for a possible evacuation should there be an attack from the Soviets didn't jar her confidence. It was only when she was talking to a friend who was stationed with her husband in France that the perilousness of Betty's situation struck home. 

"If there's an evacuation because the Soviets invade West Germany," Betty explained to her friend, "we go to France."

"Oh," replied the friend, "if the Soviets invade, we go to Switzerland."

Betty realized then that there would be no safety anywhere in Europe if the Cold War erupted into a fighting war. 

Toward the end of his time in Germany, Dick was the Adjutant, a primary administrative officer and Battalion Commander's representative on all written orders (FTC). As such, he was the primary Forward Observer (FO) for the battalion, ex-officio. In that capacity, it was his duty on November 23, 1963, to read the announcement of President Kennedy's assassination to the troops. It may have been the most difficult moment during his time in the army.

JoAnne P. Miller

To read about the Cold War, CLICK HERE.