In the mid-1950s the US faced the first real challenge since World War II to its strategic superiority over other nations on earth. The attempt to collect intelligence on the Soviets began with an initial period of poor collection capabilities and consequent limited analysis.
The Missile Gap was in essence a growing perception in the West, especially in the USA, that the Soviet Union was quickly developing an intercontinental range ballistic missile (ICBM) capability earlier, in greater numbers, and with far more capability than that of the United States.
Both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations struggled to formulate policy in response to what was then believed to be an ever-growing advantage in Soviet strategic missiles. With few well-placed human sources inside the Soviet Union, it was only with the CIA’s development of, what can only be called, timely technological wizardry—the U-2 aircraft and Corona Satellite reconnaissance program—that breakthroughs occurred in gaining valuable, game-changing intelligence. Coupled with the innovative use of aerial and satellite photography and other technical collection programs, the efforts began to produce solid, national intelligence. These breakthroughs in technology and photography eventually provided the CIA with a more accurate assessment of actual Soviet missile capacity, allowing policy makers to shift gears. This collection tells the story of this technology catch-up that helped the U.S. penetrate the "iron curtain" and uncover the truth about their capabilities.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s Information Management Services reviewed, redacted, and released 189 documents for this study. The accompanying DVD contains the 189 documents totaling more than 4,200 pages of material.
Keyword: Soviet Union, USSR, Russia, national and foreign intelligence, American history, primary source document research, Cold War
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- Central Intelligence Agency, Center for the Study of Intelligence; and Historical Collections Division
- 2011: Book (56 p.; ill.)
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- Central Intelligence AgencyMissilesResolving the Missile Gap With Technology
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