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Eyes in the Sky: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Cold War Aerial Espionage

Eyes in the Sky: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Cold War Aerial Espionage by Dino A. Brugioni, edited by Doris G. Taylor. Naval Institute Press, 2010, 466 pp.

This book is an exciting read—almost a page turner—like a novel with the emotional punch of a documentary movie. Brugioni’s experience in the arena of national security intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) was recognized even before his selection as a member of the initial cadre of the predecessor to the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) and continued throughout his professional career. Appreciation of his expertise is illustrated in a photo included in his work, when then–director of central intelligence William Casey presented the Pioneer in Space Medal to Dino Brugioni for his contributions in the development of satellite reconnaissance systems. Eyes in the Sky tells of those seminal events of our country’s efforts to develop a national capability to collect, exploit, and disseminate aerially acquired photography for military and diplomatic purposes.

Through a chronological lens, Brugioni recounts the development and operation of the early airborne and spaced-based ISR platforms and some of the sensors carried onboard those systems. It also describes in sufficient detail US efforts to gain a foothold in space as a location from which to collect intelligence photography. The book is not written in technical jargon but eloquently communicates a sense of the political decision-making process from which the country began to engage in these intelligence-gathering activities.

The writing style is crisp, direct, and detailed. Brugioni conveys to the reader the facts that brought about the development of our national ISR collection capability and personalizes these events from a first-person perspective, not only relating an accurate portrayal of the events but offering insights of the “atmosphere” in which they took place. It provides a greater appreciation of the efforts put forth by many government and private sector workers.

Of special note were the extensive sections dealing with the design, development, manufacturing, and flying operations of the U-2, A-12, and SR-71 aircraft. These stories of the early days of airborne reconnaissance captured my interest, and I believe would also be of interest to a large number of armchair investigators of the pioneers of our nation’s intelligence-gathering heroes. Eyes in the Sky is fully illustrated with historic photos from the major events depicted in the book. The photos personalize the writing and bring to life some of the major characters depicted. Of particular note is the critical role President Eisenhower played in this saga. While that may be apparent from having Eisenhower’s name prominently in the title, let me predict that readers shall come away with an even more informed position of the dominant role that he provided our country in the development of our national intelligence means during the tenure of his administration.

In summary, my recommendation for both the informed student of national intelligence-gathering means and for the novice just starting to learn our country’s history in this area of national security is to read Eyes in the Sky. I consider it to be a good book. And what better place to start to learn about the historical record of national intelligence collection means and methods than through the eyes (no pun intended) of this author who was part of the initial cadre at NPIC. This is a well-written, engrossing book—truly capturing the history and the growth of our nation’s intelligence-gathering capabilities.

Col Joe McCue, USAF, Retired
Leesburg, VA

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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