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Cargill Hall on: SAC Intelligence Gathering
Q: That was a big operation. It went on for, what, almost two months? It was a massive effort. What was the reason for that effort?

CH: [President] Eisenhower had already proposed "Open Skies" at the Geneva summit conference in July of 1955. And {Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev and the others had rejected the proposal, which was that each of the states, the major powers, should let the other overfly its territory and even base the planes there to take pictures and eliminate the fears of surprise attack and allow them to see where they had their military bases and that sort of thing. So, that this fear caused by not knowing where your military forces were and how many and how they were arrayed would not exist then. Well, he succeeded in doing that but not with any one's permission. To overfly with aircraft in international law was definitely illegal and we were signatories to treaties from the Aeronavigation Treaty through the Chicago Convention of '44 and later ones that said, thou shalt not overfly another state without its permission.

Well, to go back to the mission that you brought up, SAC flew a squadron of RB-47Es which are camera equipped and they had five RB-47Hs which are the electronic reconnaissance aircraft. They'd fly together, usually they'd pair these things, and they flew over the pole from Greenland, during that period that I mentioned, oh daily. They operated from a single runway. They lived in pretty rudimentary quarters and they didn't lose an airplane. They flew 156 missions altogether and it ended up with six RB-47Es overflying all of Siberia and landing in Alaska. They came out across Anidon and the Bering Straits and the Soviets protested the overflight of its northern tier territories very loudly. And Eisenhower at that point stood down and there was only one further military overflight and that was the last one, in December of `56, which took place from Japan and used RB-57s, a camera equipped model called dash zero. These were single seat, long range, they flew nearly as high as the U2 but not quite. The Soviets protested that and he shut everything down at that point but restarted the U2 later.

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