We Were Never There

Volume 1: CIA U-2 Operations over Europe, USSR, and the Middle East, 1956-1960

Kevin Wright

This book examines early CIA U-2 operations looking at the missions flown and the sensors carried and describes how the imagery and electronic intelligence captured produced thousands of images and tape recordings that were used to produce high quality intelligence on the USSR's most secret military and scientific activities.
Date Published :
September 2021
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Illustration :
77 b/w photos, 3 color photos, 24 b/w maps, 1 color map, 6 color profiles, 8 tables
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781914377129
Pages : 84
Dimensions : 11.75 X 8.25 inches
Stock Status : Available


Devised by Kelly Johnson and initially operated by the CIA, the U-2 is the world’s most famous ‘spyplane.’ It flew at unprecedented altitudes and carried the most sophisticated sensors available, all in the greatest secrecy. Operating from remote locations and without markings, they often took-off before first light. Ostensibly operated by civilians flying meteorological research missions, their bold overflights took them far across Eastern Europe, the USSR, Middle and Far East. However, many details of the aircraft’s operational history remain vague and a considerable amount is still classified. Continuing national political sensitivities have meant that much about these early operations has still not been fully revealed even more than 60 years later.

This book utilizes a large number of recently declassified documents to explore the remaining hidden details. It provides in-depth examinations of some missions not previously fully described and include more about Norway’s role in U-2 operations, and a breakdown of British U-2 overflights of the Middle East using recently released files from the British Ministry of Defence. It examines some of the U-2’s extensive efforts to collect intelligence on Soviet ballistic missile test launches and space program, on ‘Fast Move’ staging operations and lots more from these missions up to May 1960.

Chapters explore some of the ground-breaking technology employed by the U-2 to photograph and eavesdrop on Soviet nuclear, military and industrial activities. These include revealing secrets of the Fili heavy bomber production plant, just five miles from the Kremlin. Overflights of the ‘Arzamas-16' closed nuclear city, Vozrozhdeniya biological warfare center in the Aral Sea and the mystery that was Mozhaysk. Over 90 photographs, maps and illustrations provide details of the aircraft, the cameras and electronic defensive and eavesdropping systems. The specialized nuclear fallout sampling role is explored and the ‘weather packs’ installed to substantiate the wafer-thin false cover story of the U-2’s role as a ‘meteorological research’ aircraft. Maps, most never been seen before, record the detailed routes flown by U-2 pilots deep into denied airspace to reveal the secrets of Soviet military, nuclear, scientific and industrial sites.

About The Author

Kevin Wright is a regular contributor to aviation magazines (including ‘Aviation News’ and ‘Aeroplane’) and is an accomplished air-to-air photographer. He has a lifelong special interest in Cold War intelligence collection and produced numerous articles on related topics. Other recent publications include co-authoring a book, with Peter Jefferies, on allied intelligence collection along the Berlin Corridors. He taught international security and politics for over 15 years at universities in the UK and overseas. His PhD was on the role of expert communities in arms control policy making which became the topic of his first book. He currently lives in the Republic of IE - Ireland.


"...provides in-depth detail about early U–2 systems and missions that will appeal to any U–2 or intelligence enthusiast."

- Air Power History

"A university professor of Cold War history, international security and politics, author Wright is well qualified to recount this unusual story. Indeed, the book reveals a great deal of detailed information that has probably never been made available before."

- Aviation History Magazine

"...will be of interest to modelers planning on building a U-2 and to aviation historians alike."

- AMPS Indianapolis

"The design and development of the Lockheed U-2 gets considerable coverage, followed by missions which allowed the new spyplane and its equipment to be tweaked."

- Historical Miniatures Gaming Society

"...a superb book that provides the sorts of insights into this program you won't find elsewhere. Most highly recommended."

- ModelingMadness.Com

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