Eyeing the Red Storm: Eisenhower and the First Attempt to Build a Spy Satellite. By Robert M. Dienesch. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016. Appendix. Endnotes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xvi, 279. $34.95 ISBN: 978-0-8032-5572-2
Declassification of the Corona reconnaissance satellite program in 1995 resulted in a spate of historical studies, beginning with the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) own volume, edited by Kevin Ruffner, CORONA: America's First Satellite Program (1995). In relatively short order, other scholarly accounts appeared. Among the most noteworthy were The Corona Project: America's First Spy Satellites (1997) by Curtis Peebles; Eye in the Sky: The Story of the Corona Spy Satellites (1998) by Dwayne A. Day, John M. Logsdon, and Brian Latell; and Secret Empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America's Space Espionage (2003) by Philip Taubman. All four of these volumes, with varying levels of explanation, traced the programmatic roots of Corona back to WS-117L, the first U.S. Air Force satellite program.
In his quest for a dissertation topic at Canada's University of New Brunswick, graduate student Dienesch decided to delve more deeply into the WS-117L story. He collected details from several hundred published sources--mostly secondary books and articles--and drew a substantial quantity of primary supporting documentation from various archives, including the Columbia Center for Oral History, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration II, RAND Corporation, and George Washington University's Space Policy Institute. The fruits of Dienesch's laborious research appeared in his 2006 doctoral thesis, "Reach for the Sky Partner: The Development of Spy Satellites during the Eisenhower Administration."
A decade later, this splendid example of historical scholarship has become more readily available as this published book. In it, Dienesch first argues that achieving a space-based photoreconnaissance capability bore significance, not simply for purposes of military intelligence, but across President Eisenhower's entire policy for enduring and winning a decades-long cold war against the Soviet Union. Essentially, Eisenhower knew a reliable means of continuously surveilling Soviet activities would disprove exaggerated claims regarding the size and strength of Soviet bomber and...