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Silent Warriors, Incredible CourageSilent Warriors, Incredible Courage

The Declassified Stories of Cold War Reconnaissance Flights and the Men Who Flew Them

Colonel Wolfgang W. E. Samuel

Narrated by Wayne M. Lane

Available from Audible

Book published by University Press of Mississippi

The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 took the American military by surprise. Rushing to respond, the US and its allies developed a selective overflight program to gather intelligence. Silent Warriors, Incredible Courage is a history of the Cold War overflights of the Soviet Union, its allies, and the People's Republic of China, based on extensive interviews with dozens of pilots who flew these dangerous missions.

In 1954 the number of flights expanded, and the highly classified SENSINT program was born. Soon, American RB-45C, RB-47E/H, RF-100s, and various versions of the RB-57 were in the air on an almost constant basis, providing the president and military leadership with hard facts about enemy capabilities and intentions. Eventually the SENSINT program was replaced by the high-flying U-2 spy plane. The U-2 overflights removed the mysteries of Soviet military power. These flights remained active until 1960 when a U-2 was shot down by Russian missiles, leading to the end of the program. Shortly thereafter planes were replaced by spy satellites.

The overflights were so highly classified that no one, planner or participant, was allowed to talk about them—and no one did, until the overflight program and its pictorial record was declassified in the 1990s. Through extensive research of existing literature on the overflights and interviews conducted by Wolfgang W. E. Samuel, this book reveals the story of the entire overflight program through the eyes of the pilots and crew who flew the planes. Samuel's account tells the stories of American heroes who risked their lives—and sometimes lost them—to protect their country.

Colonel Wolfgang W. E. Samuel is a 1960 distinguished graduate of the Air Force ROTC at the University of Colorado and served in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement as a colonel in 1985. He is the author of German Boy: A Refugee's Story, The War of Our Childhood: Memories of World War II, American Raiders: The Race to Capture the Luftwaffe's Secrets, and Coming to Colorado: A Young Immigrant's Journey to Become an American Flyer.


“This beautifully written book gives vital insight into an often overlooked but vitally important era of the Cold War, the incomparably brave reconnaissance flights by US aircraft around and into territory of the Soviet Union. It was a time when jet aircraft were new, the Cold War was blooming, and any mistakes could have been fatal. This gives the inside story from the viewpoint of the brave and incredibly skilled airmen who flew dangerous missions to keep the US safe.”

—Colonel Walter J. Boyne, USAF (Ret.), former Director of the National Air and Space Museum

“Here at last is an account that fills a major gap in our knowledge of those years and brings back into the picture a substantial number of Americans who risked their lives—and sometimes lost them—in protecting this country but who could not be publicly recognized for their great service at the time. ”

—Dr. Gerhard L. Weinberg, professor emeritus at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II

“As readable as any adventurous spy story. This book will be a valuable contribution to the literature about American reconnaissance.”

—Al Stettner, docent, National Air and Space Museum

“Excellent, both in terms of structure and story.”

—Richard Hallion, historian, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and USAF

All titles are published by:
University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks