When a Chinese fighter collided with an American EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance plane on April 1, 2001, it was merely the most recent incident in a long string dating back to the end of WWII. Burrows (Deep Black), a professor of journalism at New York University and founder and director of its Science and Environmental Reporting Program, uses a host of personal interviews among his many sources, and details for the first time the secret American reconnaissance missions against the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and North Vietnam. The specter of Communist aggression coupled with the threat of nuclear war meant that America had to have accurate knowledge of enemies and their military capabilities. But Burrows also examines the issue of intelligence gathering from the Soviet viewpoint. Having been attacked by erstwhile ally Germany without provocation and having seen the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, the Soviets were understandably edgy when American planes began buzzing their borders and occasionally flying directly over their airspace. Frustrated, the Soviets struck back. From 1950 to 1969, Soviet fighters shot down 16 American planes in situations that resulted in loss of life. An appendix provides a chronological listing of these planes and the names of the crew members who perished. Most planes were converted bombers or tankers, crammed with all sorts of electronic eavesdropping devices. The whole game was generally called "ferreting." Nikita Khrushchev's joy when U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers was captured after his plane was downed on May 1, 1960, is understandable. The Soviets announced the capture, but the Americans never apologized directly and still haven't. The ultimate tragedyin this cat and mouse game befell the families of the missing airmen who were often executed if captured alive. Burrows is to be congratulated for superb research and stellar writing in this first look behind the secret curtain of intelligence gathering. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Oct.) Forecast: This book, driven by interest in the still-fresh Chinese incident and by its pwn merits, should be a breakaway bestseller. Look for Burrows all over the media and for massive review coverage. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
When World War II ended, the Cold War began. Its frontline warriors were the pilots and crews who flew air reconnaissance missions against Communist-bloc countries. For this purpose, bombers were converted to aerial spy work, often with disastrous results for the crews. As crews were lost or shot down, an effort was finally made to improve the planes and organize air reconnaissance into one unit the Strategic Air Command (SAC). Formed under Curtis LeMay, it provided not only air reconnaissance but immediate military response to any country that might attack the United States. Higher-flying aircraft, like the U-2, made air reconnaissance safer for crews, but surveillance with total safety wasn't achieved until satellites were launched. Burrows (journalism, New York Univ.; Deep Black: Space Espionage and National Security) tells the story of Cold War air reconnaissance with emphasis on the individuals involved, the sacrifices they made, and the way the U.S. government turned a blind eye to those who served. A fascinating book that public and academic libraries will want to purchase, especially in view of the recent spy plane episode with China. Grant A. Fredericksen, Illinois Prairie Dist. P.L., Metamora Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A passionate look at the hidden role played by aerial spying during the Cold War. The Cold War ended just a little over a decade ago, and it will probably be many years before its complete history is set down. But here, Burrows (Journalism/NYU; This New Ocean, 1998, etc.) fills in some of the blanks by providing a detailed account of aerial intelligence between 1950 and 1970. Far from providing just a technical history, the author highlights the stories of the aviators and crew who risked (and occasionally suffered) capture, torture, and death in the service of a country that was often oblivious to their existence. Many readers will be surprised to learn that no fewer than 163 airmen died as a result of reconnaissance missions, most of which were not acknowledged at the time. To this end, much of this story reads as an oral history provided by the surviving pilots, including many harrowing tales of survival and imprisonment. However, Burrows does not neglect the technical dimensions of aerial intelligence, such as the development of the SR-71 Blackbird, which replaced the famed U2, and the dawn of the satellite era, which largely, but not completely, supplanted the use of spy planes. Burrows is also careful to place aerial spying in its larger institutional and political contexts. His chapter on General Curtis LeMay and the Strategic Air Command is chilling, but made comprehensible by his attention to the atmosphere of Cold War paranoia that prevailed at the time. Burrows rightly emphasizes the benefit of the knowledge gained from aerial intelligence but downplays the tensions produced by the illegal over flights of other nations' territory. An unquestionably valuable service,well-written and tremendously informed, for the families of airmen lost during the Cold War-and for everyone else now beginning to process the meaning of that part of recent history.