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By Any Means Necessary: America's Secret Air War in the Cold War Hardcover – October 10, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 tragedy in 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, Inc.

From Library Journal

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 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374117470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374117474
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I recommend this book as a "must read" for anyone interested in Cold War military history and intelligence gathering as well as all former "spooks". Mr. Burrows has written a detailed account of United States Air Force, Navy and CIA airborne electronic and photographic reconnaissance efforts from the end of WWII through the US Navy's P3 incident on Hainan in 2001. The development of specialized aircraft (U-2, SR-71), electronics and camera equipment as well as modification of ordinary aircraft (B-29, B-47, C-130, etc) for reconnaissance missions is covered in sufficient detail to satisfy everyone expect hardcore technical buffs.
Besides detailed descriptions of 16 Cold War shootdowns that involved US deaths - many of which did not become widely known until recently - Mr. Burrows presents evidence to support the premise that many crewmen initially survived shootdowns only to be murdered or die in Soviet prisons. There are also many tales of crews that returned with damaged aircraft, and sometimes wounded men, to their home base or after a period of Soviet incarceration. The efforts of families of lost crewmen to find out what happened to their relatives, despite stonewalling by both the US and foreign governments, add a deeply human touch to what would otherwise be a recitation of interesting facts and scary war stories.
There are lots of footnotes supporting the events described and a number of photographs of lost aircrews and some of the aircraft they flew. The lack of chronological order throughout the chapters, and frequent flashforwards and flashbacks, make some of the incidents hard to follow or recall. I would also like to see pictures of each major aircraft mentioned and a summary of all the non-fatal shootdown and attack incidents. I recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
At the beginning of this book, it quotes Teller as saying at least the Cold War did not cost any lives. Burrows points out in this book that the Cold War did cost lives. At least 15 planes were shot down, and close to a hundred Air Force and Navy airmen were killed. The U.S. Government hid the fact that many flights were ferreting radar information and bombing sights in case of offensive nuclear war. The Soviets and Chinese did the same thing, even if their propaganda said otherwise. The real losers in this conflict were the families of those airmen who were lost. The government lied to them to cover their activities.

This book was released after the Navy ferret airplane collided with the Chinese jet off Hainen. This incident was also described. However shootdowns of U.S. aircraft took place as far back as 1948. Some of these shootdowns were over international airspace. All participants in this conflict were not innocent. The U.S. needed information and these flights provided them this information. The end of the air duels happened in 1970 when satellites took over the intelligence gathering over sensitive Cold War targets.

This is a nice informative read about a little known conflict in the Cold War. I was surprised about the detail the author put into the air clashes. He also told the human story of the losses on the families. A good read.
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Format: Hardcover
"By Any Means Necessary," William E. Burrows'new book about the men who flew secret reconnaissance missions for the United States along the rim of the Communist Bloc a half century ago, is an all-too-rare and refreshing event. It is fashioned with the care and even-handedness of the historian, to be sure, but it is also rendered with the graceful sentences and humanist instincts of the accomplished journalist. It avoids the impersonal tone and great distance that so many academic historians put between their subjects and the rest of us. It does not paint the Big Picture at the expense of the individuals who were caught up in the Cold War's nastiness. For Burrows, individuals are the story. He goes to great lengths to reveal the names and chronicle the activities of the people we never knew and, using his reportorial resourcefulness, even identifies their Soviet pursuers. Then he swiftly relates what they all went through. It is a great read; a welcome addition tot he literature of military history.
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Format: Hardcover
I find that memories of the Cold War are fast fading, and not even direct experiences of a growing part of our population. This is why it seems now so easy for politicians to "rewrite" history to their own agendas, including phases such as Vietnam specifically and the Cold War generally. Fewer and fewer know how it even came about--how one of our staunchest Allies agains the Third Reich could so quickly become our primary nemesis in the seeming battle for world domination and influence--or as I was taught--hegemony.
Burrows focuses on the brave soldiers who were on the front lines of intelligence gathering. These were the men who "accidentally" flew over Soviet air space, to get a glimpse of weapons systems, troop movements, and the military-industrial complex of the U.S.S.R. This work is well-documented and fascinating. The great human toll of this work is clear with a section before the endnotes, with names of those deceased in this important work.
These silent and shadow missions went on continually, punctuated only by foreign touting of a plane shot down, a flier captured. Such was our fear of "re-education" that the film the Manchurian Candidate could not be shown for decades, fear that our government might be infiltrated by "turned" Americans.
That was not fantasy, however, for there were plenty of "turncoats" to go around, as we now know so well---turncoats purchase with easy money and the desire for conspicuous wealth. HOwever, the silent observers of the aerial intelligence war could not dream of such rewards, only of carrying out their duties in the name of freedom. As such, this book belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who takes the great conflicts of the 20th century seriously, for they are prologue to the murkier conflicts of the 21st.
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