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Spyplane: The U-2 History Declassified Hardcover – April 14, 2001

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Zenith Press (April 14, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0760309574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760309575
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By D. Smith on August 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Spyplane" by Norman Polmar does not live up to its expectations, though a well-written and detailed history of the U-2 development and early operational history. "Spyplane," however falls short of its claim to provide new and unique details of the U-2 and its history, as it seems simply to a rehash of previously published information. In fact, entire paragraphs appear distinctly similar in strutcure and phrasing to the history detailed in Curtis Peeble's "Shadow Flights," published in 2000, which presents almost the exact same level of detail and information, alongside contextual and contemporary information regarding U.S. reconnaissance flights during the Cold War.
Furthermore, the majority of the information can be found in greater detail in Jay Miller's History of the Skunk Works, as well as his "X-Planes: X-1 to X-45" which details the development of the Bell X-16, a competing design to the U-2 contract. Furthermore, he draws heavily from Ben Rich's autobiography "Skunk Works." Not to say that Polmar plagerized these previous works, but one would expect a much more impressive offering, giving the wealth of information already available.
Polmar makes an unforgivable number of mistakes regarding dates, designations, and events, which indicates carelessness, if nothing else. Also, one wonders why publication was pushed back nearly five months, indicating perhaps a revision in light of information discovered by other authors. Furthermore, the lack of new and truly interesting illustrations and photographs and the anemic index make this book pale in comparison to those mentioned above.
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Format: Hardcover
Caution: large portions of this book are virtually identical to the declassified CIA history "The CIA and the U-2 Program, 1954-74" by Gregory W. Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach, CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence, 1998. See for example pp62-65 in Pedlow's Book and pp62-64 in Polmar. This CIA history is available through the US Government Printing Office and the works of Chris Pocock are more recommended instead.
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Format: Hardcover
Covering much the same material as Curtis Peebles's "Dark Eagles" and "Shadow Flights," but briefer, less chatty, and more complete, Norman Polmar's book on the U-2 program (both CIA and U.S. Air Force) brings some interesting perspectives (and further questions) to mind, such as:
* How badly Pres. Eisenhower was misled as to the detectability of the various reconnaissance systems CIA and USAF proposed sending over the USSR, and how badly Ike was torn between his desires to use "technical means" to obtain vital intelligence and, at the same time, to avoid provoking the Soviet leadership. His support of the "Corona" spy satellite program through a dozen failed launches becomes very easily understandable.
* The vital role of civilian scientist-consultants in birthing the U-2, a system neither the CIA nor USAF originally had the vision to develop.
* How badly Francis Gary Powers was hung out to dry by the CIA, especially the petty personal reactions of John McCone and John Kennedy.
* Polmar thinks well of "Kelly" Johnson, the Lockheed engineer who designed the semi-successful U-2, and such other splashy failures as the SR-71 and the F-104. I think it is time to reevaluate his reputation.
The worst point of the book is the index, which is only two pages long, badly incomplete and in teenytype. It is partially compensated for by thirty pages of chapter notes. (One correction: Chapter 11, note 11 -- LBJ did not become President on November 11, 1963. That would have been a coup!)
I had been waiting for this book since I first saw the title. It did not disappoint me.
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