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Cargill Hall on: British Pilots Flying Over the Soviet Union
Q: Why was that first mission flown by British pilots and under British colors?

CH: That was an agreement that was worked out between Truman and the British originally. Of course, when Eisenhower came on he was working with his old war time partner. They repeated that same mission in '54, in April again. So, it was a choice made at a very high level. But, obviously, if you have a British crew, they decided they weren't going to have American colors on it. If one of them had been brought down it probably would have caused [Winston] Churchill to lose his job. It was a very great political risk that he took. Well, that any of them took. Look at what happened to Eisenhower when the U2 went down. But that was the only one that ever got caught. All the rest of the overflights, before the U2 and the U2s themselves, succeeded. But primarily because they came by surprise. The peripheral missions, so called peace time airborne reconnaissance program, they flew around the periphery of the Soviet Union on a regular basis and they did get shot down. Or if they strayed into territorial waters they were lost, too. So, a number of those were lost and a lot of pilots and crews. So, it was just part of the Cold War process and the tensions. The last of the military overflights, well the last major one, took place from Thule, Greenland, and SAC [Strategic Air Command] laid on a very large mission, flying over the pole and up and down the northern slopes of the Soviet Union and down in behind the Ural mountains, all day time missions.

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