Review: Eyeing The Red Storm – Eisenhower and the First Attempt to Build a Spy Satellite
During the paranoid days of the Cold War, the United States came up with any number of projects to monitor the actions of the Soviet Union. One of the more widely known projects was CORONA. However, author Robert M. Dienesch took a look at the beginnings of the U.S.’ reconnaissance satellite efforts – WS-117L – with his forthcoming book Eyeing the Red Storm: Eisenhower and the First Attempt to Build a Spy Satellite.
SpaceFlight Insider spoke with Dienesch to discover the motivations and challenges he faced in producing the 296-page book. He revealed that he had a head start in developing Eyeing the Red Storm: Eisenhower and the First Attempt to Build a Spy Satellite.
SpaceFlight Insider: Where did the idea for this book come from?
Dienesch: “The book is actually based on my Ph.D. work. CORONA was just coming out into the light at that time. While looking at the CORONA program, I came across the WS-117L efforts and found them virtually ignored by most. And since several good books were either out or on the verge of dropping about CORONA, I decided to focus on the earlier effort. What started really as an examination of the 117L led me to the role of Ike [President Dwight D. Eisenhower] rather naturally.”
SpaceFlight Insider: What was the most surprising thing you discovered when writing this book?
“About CORONA? Well to be honest how everyone was so fixated on the Soviet aspect. The Cold War mentality was kind of over-writing the story to an epic level. The blind faith that, of course, it has to be due to the Soviet threat. When in fact the first steps of the path to Corona start out over budget issues between the then USAAF and USN.
“Probably right behind that was the amount of myth about spy satellites, produced by accounts pre-declassification that really amounts to pretty fiction-like tales.
“But so little was known – hint and rumor had to suffice.”
SpaceFlight Insider: Did you encounter any difficulties in getting people to speak about the project?
“Actually, it was hard to get anyone to talk to. I came into the project shortly after the declassification order came out. No one knew or even still knows really what all is declassified. I had a great correspondence with a gentleman involved in the Ferret subsystems. He very politely explained that I would truly never get the story as he figured he would be dead long before he knew if he could talk about it….”
Given the limitations revolving around the subject matter, this book provides details about a little-known period of the earliest days of the Space Age. It should, therefore, make a welcome addition to any space enthusiast’s library.
Eyeing the Red Storm: Eisenhower and the First Attempt to Build a Spy Satellite is published by the University of Nebraska Press and will be on bookshelves on June 1, 2016. It retails for $34.95 in the U.S. and $48.50 in Canada.
Dienesch is an adjunct professor of history at the University of Windsor, Ontario. He also serves as a research affiliate with the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society. Dienesch’s work has been published in Quest: The History of Spaceflight as well as Northern Mariner.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.