Spying from the Sky

At the Controls of US Cold War Aerial Intelligence

Robert L. Richardson, William J. Gregory

The history of Cold War reconnaissance in the words of the man who proved the aircraft, commanded the units, and flew the missions. This is the biography of pilot Col. William Gregory, whose astonishing career with the CIA and the US Air Force encompassed the attempts by US intelligence to understand Cold War Soviet Union.
Publication date:
April 2020
Publisher :
Casemate Publishers
Illustration :
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ISBN : 9781612008363

Dimensions : 229 X 152 mm
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Regular Price: £25.00

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• Col. William Gregory is a heavily decorated WWII combat pilot, who served in North Africa during the summer of 1943 flying P-38s
• Col. William Gregory led the CIA U-2 team that photographed Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1960, giving the American President the chance to stave off a nuclear exchange withthe Soviets
• This biography will be of interest to those interested in WWII, the Cold War, the development of high-altitude surveillance, and the U-2 spyplane

William Gregory, "Greg," to all, was born into a sharecropper's life in the hills of northcentral Tennessee. From the back of a mule-drawn plow, Greg learned the value of resilience and the importance of living a determined life. Refusing to accept a life of continued poverty, Gregy sought and found a way out - a work-study college program that made it possible to leave farming behind him forever.

While at college, Greg completed the Civilian Pilot Training Program and was subsequently accepted into the Army's pilot training program. Earning his wings in 1942, Greg became a P-38 combat pilot and served in North Africa during the summer of 1943 - a critical time when the Luftwaffe was still a potent threat, and America had begun the march northward from the Mediterranean into Europe proper.

Following the war, Greg served with a B-29 unit, then transitioned to the new, red-hot B-47 strategic bomber. In his frequent deployments, he was always assigned the same target in the Soviet Union - Tblisi, Stalin's home town. While a B-47 pilot, Greg was selected to join America's first high-altitude program - the Black Knights. Flying RB-57D aircraft, Greg and his team flew peripheral "ferret" missions around the Soviet Union and its satellites, collecting critical order-of-battle data so desperately needed by the Air Force at that time. When that program neared its design end, and following the Gary Powers shoot-down over the Soviet Union, Greg was assigned to command of the CIA's U-2 unit at Edwards AFB. It was during that five-year command that Greg and his team provided critical overflight intelligence, including during the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam build-up. He found time to also become one of the first to fly U-2s off aircraft carriers in a demonstration project.

Following his U-2 command, Greg attended the National War College, was assigned to the reconnaissance office at the Pentagon, and then was named Vice-Commandant of the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). Greg retired from the Air Force in 1972.


Books following pilots' careers can become rather familiar to the avid aviation enthusiast/reader, but occasionally a real gem comes along and this is one of them.
Air Forces Monthly

...this is a fine addition to the growing body of high-quality literature on Cold War aerial reconnaissance.
The Aviation Historian