Helion's We Were Never There vol.1

Author/Artists: Kevin Wright


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 84 pages, softcover, over 100 images
ISBN 978-1-914377-10-5

After WWII, it was fairly obvious that the Soviet Union was going to return to its old adversarial ways when it came to the western powers. Since it was a police state, getting any sort of information about their military was difficult to say the least. The best way was to use fairly fast jets, which would make incursions into the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. These aircraft would perform photo recon missions, getting in and out as fast as possible. They generally flew at the maximum altitude they could and hoped that either they wouldn't be detected by Soviet radar until their way out or that any fighters scrambled would be unable to catch them. The majority of types used for this were RB-45s, RB-47s, and RF-100s.

These types did well enough from the periphery, but were unable to do really deep penetration missions to where the Soviets were building up bomber forces or doing nuclear testing and so on. As time progressed, these missions became even more hazardous as Soviet radar coverage expanded. What was needed was a really high flying recon plane that Soviet fighters could not reach.

Thus the U-2 was developed for the CIA. These planes flew at very high altitudes where the speed difference between staying aloft and stalling out was just a few miles per hour. They were lightly built to meet mission requirements and were basically jet powered gliders. They had the range required for deep penetration missions and carried a variety of cameras and other sensors depending on the mission.

The aircraft were piloted by 'civilians'  and wore no national markings. They frequently had bogus registration numbers and were simply called 'articles'. Though built for the CIA, the USAF also operated the type, but not on the sorts of overflights as did the CIA. These planes flew from bases in Germany, the US, Norway, Turkey, and Pakistan, as well as others in the Pacific.

This volume covers the development of the aircraft, the different equipment carried, and operations in Europe and the Middle East from 1956 until Gary Powers was shot down on 1 May 1960 and Soviet overflights stopped. It includes each mission along with many of the photos brought back from these missions. It also includes how the photos were processed as well as the usual political situations that are so common with any similar military operation. It is a superb book that provides the sorts of insights into this program you won't find elsewhere. Most highly recommended.

June 2022

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