February 22, 2010
Prologue Magazine Article Reveals Eisenhower’s Fears about the Soviets
Washington, DC…President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s frustrations over inadequate intelligence about the Soviet nuclear threat during the 1950s led him to order a major increase in risky spying missions, with the use of overflights and satellite photos, according to a new article.
The article, “Ike and His Spies in the Sky,” appears in the Winter issue of Prologue, the quarterly publication of the National Archives and Records Administration.
“It was important to pierce the Soviets’ curtain of secrecy, but information about their military capabilities was proving elusive to the techniques of traditional espionage,” writes David Haight, a former archivist at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, KS, in describing the source of Eisenhower’s frustration at not being able to get adequate information about the Soviet arsenal.
Eisenhower thus ordered more flights by spy planes and, later, the use of satellites. His efforts suffered a major setback after the U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers was shot down by the Russians in 1960.
Elsewhere in the Winter Prologue, Raymond P. Schmidt writes about the suburban Washington facility that for years has been known as “Bethesda Naval Hospital,” familiar to many Americans as the place where Presidents go for checkups and where the autopsy on President John F. Kennedy was conducted in November 1963.
The facility is now being transformed into a joint services medical center, and Schmidt writes that it has its architectural roots in a tower on the Nebraska prairie and an insistent President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR got inspiration for it, especially its tower, during a campaign swing in 1936 through Nebraska, according to the Prologue article.
Speaking before the new tower that was Nebraska’s state capitol, writes Schmidt, a retired Navy historian, Roosevelt called the capitol “a great and worthy structure” and said that all Americans should see it. FDR would later take great interest in the hospital’s design and siting.
In “Cartography, Politics—and Mischief,” authors Mark J. Stegmaier and Richard T. McCulley describe an unusual map of the United States, drawn in 1848 at the direction of President James K. Polk to illustrate how the country had grown in size during the 1840s through annexation, negotiation, and war. But there are some strange things on it, something out of character for the skilled mapmaker who drew it.
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