Cartographic

Aerial Photography in Record Group 263: Records of the Central Intelligence Agency (U-2)

The Cartographic Branch holds approximately 1.9 million U-2 and similar reconnaissance photographs. These photographs, from Record Group 263: Records of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1894 - 2002, can be found in the series Reconnaissance Photography, 6/19/1956 - 12/4/1981.

U-2 photographs were taken via U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. Other reconnaissance photography from this time period, such as photography from the SF-71 aircraft, may also be found in this series. However, in this series all are filed under the heading of U-2 photography.

The finding aid for U-2 photography includes locations, dates and mission numbers for available coverage. The location provided is by country or region. This finding aid is available in the Cartographic Research Room and may also be requested remotely by emailing the Cartographic inbox at carto@nara.gov.

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RG 263 Reconnaissance Photography, U-2 Can and Mission Locator

When you search the finding aid by country/region, mission number and date, you will see the range of film cans within your search criteria.

There are a limited number of graphic indexes that help to locate specific coverage areas and photographs of some missions. The indexes are listed along with the mission and can numbers in the U-2 finding aid.

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RG 263 Reconnaissance Photography, U-2 Can and Mission Locator, Indexes

The indexes can also be identified by the WAC (World Aeronautical Chart) number. The WAC number can be found on our index map by locating the area of interest. The indexes for the area can then be and then searched in the finding aid by the WAC number.

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RG 263, WAC Index Map

The indexes are on microfiche and are available to use in the Cartographic Research Room. The index will include a map of the area of coverage of the U-2 mission along with a flight index showing where photographs were taken.

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RG 263 Reconnaissance Photography, Index for Mission G3038

You can also use the CIA's CREST search tool to research specific missions which may then be translated to film cans in our holdings by searching for the mission in the finding aid.

These film cans are original negatives (ON) which are stored at the Lenexa Federal Records Center in Lenexa, Kansas. As they are part of the Cartographic Branch holdings, however, they may only be viewed in the Cartographic Branch Research Room at College Park, MD. You may order these film cans ahead of a visit to the Cartographic Research Room and they can be used the following week.

Once you order the cans at our facility, you may view and copy them in the Cartographic Research Room. We have light tables which allow you to view the film and take photographs on a personal camera. We also have aerial film scanners available. If you have a USB capable laptop, you can bring it to our research room and scan the photographs to your computer. You can learn more about aerial film reproductions here.

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RG 263, Reconnaissance Photography, China, 6/3/1963, GRC-153, ON75027, Exposure 5

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RG 263, Reconnaissance Photography, China, 6/3/1963, GRC-153, ON75027, Exposure 58

If you have any questions about these photographs, you may contact the Cartographic Branch at carto@nara.gov.

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