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Friday, September 02, 2011
Their Finest Hour 9/2: They Served in Silence
On September 2, 1958 a USAF C-130A configured for signals intelligence gathering took off from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to conduct electronic reconnaissance on our Soviet enemy. Flight 60528 was to stay at least 100 miles away from the USSR's border flying a racetrack pattern. It isn't certain, but it's suspected that Soviet radio beacons on competing frequencies with the navigational aids the plane should have been using caused the crew to fly off course.
Shortly after 1:00 PM local time, the C-130 accidentally crossed the Soviet border, was engaged by the Soviet Air Force, and destroyed with no survivors. We only learned after the Cold War ended that the 17 brave Americans who crewed Flight 60528 were all killed in the attack.
Flight 60528's mission was secret, as are most intelligence activities. In 1996, the National Security Agency (responsible for cryptography/cryptanalysis and all forms of signals intelligence) established the National Cryptographic Memorial to honor those who gave their lives in classified intelligence duties to our Nation. To signify the hidden nature of their bravery and sacrifice, the memorial is headlined by the words "THEY SERVED IN SILENCE".
Eleven of the 17 crew members are honored. All are enlisted members of the United States Air Force:
Airman 2nd Class Archie T. Bourg
Airman 2nd Class James E. Ferguson
Airman 2nd Class Joel H. Fields
Airman 2nd Class Harold T. Kamps
Airman 2nd Class Gerald C. Maggiacomo
Airman 2nd Class Clement O. Mankins
Airman 2nd Class Gerald H. Medeiros
Technical Sergeant Arthur R. Mello
Airman 2nd Class Robert H. Moore
Airman 1st Class Robert J. Oshinke
Master Sergeant George P. Petrochilos
The identities of the six remaining crew members are still classified, and those brave Americans continue to serve in silence. May they rest in peace, assured that a grateful Nation will never forget their sacrifice.
We at Their Finest Hour will not be silent however. To all of the brave men and women of the National Security Agency and the cryptographic and communications, electronic, and signals intelligence personnel of our armed forces - living or dead - we thank you for all you have done to keep our Nation safe.