Though not officially part of the National Cryptologic Museum, National Vigilance Parks is only a short walk away. Open during daylight hours, it frequently hosts military ceremonies as well as visits from the general public.
The centerpiece of the park is a C-130 aircraft configured for reconnaissance. It has been refurbished to resemble the C-130A that was downed over Soviet Armenia on September 2, 1958. The Vigilance Park C-130 was reclaimed from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, refurbished by Raytheon/E-Systems in Greenville, Texas, and flown to Fort Meade. The C-130 was dedicated as a memorial to the fallen in a ceremony on September 2, 1997, in the presence of family members of those lost in the September 1958 incident.
Also on display at the park is the twin-engine RU-8D (SEMINOLE), Tail Number 59-2540, which flew with the 138th Radio Reconnaissance Company (Avn), first out of Da Nang, Vietnam, then in Orlando, Florida, when the 138th was reorganized as a reserve unit. The tail of the aircraft bears the 138th’s “Lonely Ringer” insignia. The RU-8D was repaired and refurbished by the Fort Eustis Directorate of Logistics at Fort Eustis, Virginia, prior to its move to Vigilance Park.
The final aircraft to be installed and dedicated in National Vigilance Park is the Navy’s EA-3B Skywarrior. The aircraft on display, BuNo 144850, is dedicated specifically to Ranger 12 that was lost on 25 January 1987. Following an operational mission in the Mediterranean, the plane crashed off the USS Nimitz’s flight deck. While the crews of other EA-3B’s that crashed off aircraft carrier decks had survived the ordeal, in this case, all seven aircrew were killed. Despite this tragic loss, the last of the Navy’s Cold War fatalities in the aerial electronic reconnaissance program, the EA-3B would remain in frontline service until October 1991, serving with distinction in one last conflict, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
The secrecy of the reconnaissance programs prevented recognition of the slain military personnel at the time of the incidents. Their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in similar programs mourned their loss, but the fallen could not be accorded public honors. The end of the Cold War has allowed the United States to lift some of its security restrictions concerning the reconnaissance programs, permitting us at last to accord due recognition of the achievements and sacrifices of these intrepid military personnel. To this end, the United States has established National Vigilance Park on Fort Meade, Maryland.
For additional information on National Vigalance Parks and numerous links to reconnaissance-related events visit the NCM web site.
- Last Updated - 5/20/2013
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