As the war in Ukraine enters its third week, those who fought in the same region decades before are watching on, reminded of Canada’s contributions to the Cold War.
Bob Wade flew for the Royal Canadian Air Force for 23 years, all encompassed by the Cold War, including seven years in the cockpit of the CF-104 Starfighter before transitioning to the F-18.
His missions focused on taking out Soviet missile sites and ground troops throughout Europe if the Cold War ever went hot.
“We flew every day like we were going to go to war the next day,” said Wade. “We were more than ready. In fact, all those years, I always thought we would go to war against the Soviet Union. I never expected them to collapse economically.”
Wade now sits on the board of the Air Force Museum of Alberta Society and spends time showcasing the Cold War exhibit at The Military Museums in Calgary.
With the war in Ukraine making headlines, Canada’s evolvement in the region decades ago is being brought back up to the surface.
“For me, it brings back all those feelings of having a nuclear exchange and that’s worrisome,” said Wade. “I’m glad to see the strength and unity of NATO today brought about by that engagement in Ukraine.”
For the former fighter pilot, the losses during the Cold War hit close to home, having lost dozens of fellow pilots over the years.
Wade said that while none of the deaths were due to combat, they highlight just how dangerous of an era it was for aviators.
“I lost 38 boys that I flew with,” said Wade. “There were 937 (RCAF members) killed during the Cold War and we did have losses on the ground as well.”
He adds those sacrifices need to be remembered as tensions rise in Europe.
“What we tell people is that peace is not the absence of war, but it’s the maintenance of those hard-won freedoms,” Wade said. “I hope all Canadians remember that.”