Latvia to remember fallen US airmen 65 years on

While United States military personnel have become an increasingly common and welcome sight in Latvia in recent months, it wasn't always so. But even at the height of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states, Americans were prepared to put their lives on the line for freedom in the region - and some paid the ultimate price.

On April 8, Ministry of Defense Parliamentary Secretary Andrejs Panteļējevs and Navy Flotilla Commander Captain Juris Roze along with representatives of the US Embassy will participate in the annual memorial event in the port city of Liepāja, to commemorate US soldiers who were unaccounted for when their PB4Y-2 Privateer plane crashed into the Baltic Sea on April 8, 1950 after being shot down by Soviet La-11s.

A two-part tribute will include wreath laying at a memorial in Liepāja at 1330 and another ceremony an hour later at sea in honor of the airmen.

Their plane came down in the Baltic 14 miles west of Liepāja in international waters while on a reconnaissance mission, with Soviet forces claiming it had violated Soviet airspace over Latvia.

No bodies were ever recovered and no survivors ever made it home despite rumors that not all of the 10-man crew had been killed in the crash.

In a sign of how the world has changed since then, all three Baltic states occupied by the Soviet Union at the time are now independent states and full members of NATO.

And today, it is NATO forces in the form of the Baltic Air Patrol that are intercepting Russian planes on an almost daily basis as the Russian military aircraft endanger civilian air traffic by flying with their transponders turned off. 

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