Helion & Company has released its second softback focus on the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft and its operations.
Anyone planning builds of the mysterious U-2, regardless of scale, has a fascinating reference available in the Helion & Company book We Were Never There Volume 2: CIA U-2 Asia and Worldwide Operations 1957-1974.
If you like knowing the full background to the subjects you’re constructing, Helion has already published Volume 1 in this series, examining CIA U-2 operations over Europe, the USSR and Middle East from 1956-60. With Volume 2, as the title confirms, the narrative shifts to missions flown across Asia and elsewhere around the globe.
The 84-page book commences by examining Detachment C’s early operations from Japan, and Detachment H activity carried out by the Nationalist Chinese. The latter were notable for the high loss rate of pilots, and the courage they exhibited. Also studied is Edward Air Force Base’s Detachment G, which deployed worldwide and often at short notice.
Author Kevin Wright has accessed many sources to gain the content, which goes into minute detail about particular missions, these being flown by single pilots in what was arguably the most challenging of peacetime roles… and fatalities occurred as a result. As you’d expect, the U-2’s activities during the Cuban Missile Crisis are described.
Further textual avenues cover the leap in technology and capability afforded by the larger U-2R sub-type, employed by the CIA until 1974 when responsibility for these missions passed to the US Air Force. The book is packed with maps showing various flight routes and ‘targets’, and mission lists, but equally informative and revealing is the superb collection of period images. The risks incurred during these missions is brought into stark reality by the photo on page 20, showing the wrecks of four U-2s displayed at the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution.
Modellers can gain much detail from the photographs, including the different fairings – ‘lumps and bumps’ – which adorned different variants of U-2. Also fascinating are the views of a U-2 being flown from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS America… offering unorthodox diorama potential. There are also lesser known factual ‘nuggets’, such as experimental paint schemes involving polka dots and stripes.
The centre of the book provides six colour profiles of different U-2 airframes, as well as aircraft flown in support of these missions, such as the C-141A, C-130A and Cessna U-3A, and filling the latter pages are descriptions of the various camera/scanner equipment, and personal narratives from pilots about the type’s capabilities and flying characteristics.
This, the 17th book in Helion’s Europe@War series, is engaging and inspiring in equal measure, and at £16.95 it’s a wallet-friendly and worthy reference for anyone building Airfix, High Planes, Hobby Boss, Italeri or AFV Club U-2 kits. Volume 3 is still to come, and it should complete what is a truly rounded study of an iconic aircraft at work.
We Were Never There
Volume 2: CIA U-2 Asia and Worldwide Operations 1957-1974
By: Kevin Wright
Format: A4, softback