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In addition to the thousands of service members who fought communist forces during wars in Korea, Vietnam, and other conflicts, many service members risked their lives off of the battlefield while collecting intelligence on the Soviet Bloc, the People's Republic of China, and North Korea during the Cold War. The sacrifice made by these Americans enabled the U.S. and our allies to contain the threat of communist expansion until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Today, 126 service members remain unaccounted for from the Cold War.
During the Cold War, U.S. and Soviet Bloc intelligence organizations endeavored to keep a close watch on a number of activities, in particular, defense readiness of the opposing side. According to U.S. records, at the height of the Cold War, the West carried out more than 3,000 reconnaissance flights annually. About half of these occurred over or near Communist influenced Yugoslavia, Hungary, East Germany, North Korea, Albania and the People’s Republic of China; the others occurred over or near the former Soviet Union. The Department of Defense (DoD) is currently investigating 14 missions from the Cold War era (1946-1991), in which aircrew members were lost and remain unaccounted for. Available evidence suggests that most of these incidents were over-water losses.