The Following Letter was printed in the "Air Force Magazine "
( Published by the Air Force association )
AIR FORCE Magazine, April 1996
Letters to the Editor
It is important to note what John Frisbee has written about the death of SAC U-2 Pilot Maj. Rudolf Anderson, Jr., on an operational mission over Cuba on October 27th 1962. He further noted that Major Anderson was the first recipient of the Air Force
Cross [The First Air Force Cross, December 1995 "Valor, " p.73].
Two related and relevant subjects mentioned by Mr. Frisbee require clarification. First, he states "more than forty missiles were now in Cuba," meaning in late October 1962. This is true, but one must distinguish between 'missiles" and 'missiles fitted with hydrogen bomb nosecones." A report prepared by the Guided Missiles and Astronautics Intelligence Committee, the Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee, and the National Photographic Interpretation Center, dated October 28, 1962, states,
"No [intermediate-range ballistic missiles], missile transports,
or erectors have been identified," and on October 29, 1962,
“No nuclear weapons or missiles nosecones have been identified in Cuba."
Those of us on the Joint Staff, who saw the stacks of U-2 photos grow day by day as they were collated to go to the President, can confirm that report. Thus, although the October 1962 missile crisis was dangerous, it never became a nuclear crisis.
Second, Mr. Frisbee writes, "MiG-21s and SA-2 surface-to-air missiles similar to those that had shot down Francis Gary Powers's U-2 over the USSR two years earlier were in place."
I thought by now that everyone in the Air Force knew that Powers's U-2, on an operational mission for the CIA on May 1st, 1960, had not been shot down....
With regard to Powers's U-2, the following three citations are taken from the Report of Proceedings of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the US Senate of May 1960, from the prepared testimony of Allen Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence: 'Their [Soviet] vaunted fighters were useless against [U-2] flights, [and] their ground-to-air missile capacity was inadequate. Khrushchev has never dared expose this to his own people. It was only after he boasted, and we believe falsely, that he had been able to bring down [Powers's] U-2 on May 1 by ground-to-air missile, while the plane was flying at altitude, that he has allowed his people to have even an inkling of the capability we have possessed....
"Our best judgment is that it did not happen as claimed by the Soviets, that is we believe that it was not shot down at its operating altitude of around 70,000 feet...
We believe that it was initially forced down to a much lower altitude by some as-yet-undetermined mechanical malfunction. At this lower altitude, it was a sitting duck for Soviet defense. The pilot may have bailed out at any time, or he may have crash-landed....
“We are quite clear that the plane was not hit by a missile, because if it had been hit by a missile, it would have disintegrated in the air and they wouldn't have had the pieces they now have."
What I have quoted ought to clarify that Powers's U-2 was not shot down. Those of us there at the time and familiar with the U-2 operations knew this almost immediately for additional reasons.
I was responsible for operating a major overflight program into China and Tibet. However, on orders from the White House, all of those operations were grounded during the spring of 1960 because the President was going to meet with Khrushchev and other world leaders in Paris during mid-May. We understood that the U-2 program had received the same orders. Why this U-2 was sent out on May 1, 1960, for a first time flight across the Soviet Union from Pakistan to Norway, we could never understand. It was definitely against Presidential orders. This comment is provided so Air Force personnel and other readers will know the facts and will not be misled by the fictions of that day.
Col. L. Fletcher Prouty,
USAF (Ret.) Alexandria, Va.
Back to Main Page