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February 15 , 2009

The Price of Vigilance

Attacks on American Surveillance Flights


The recent forced landing of a U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance aircraft on Hainan Island after aerial harassment by Chinese fighters underscores that the dangers of the Cold War are not behind us. Reconnaissance-intelligence gathering-has always been one of the most highly secretive operations in the military. Men risk their lives with no recognition for themselves, flying missions that were almost always unarmed and typically pose as weather survey or training flights. Now the true stories of these brave young men can at last be told. Larry Tart and Robert Keefe, former USAF airborne recon men themselves, provide a gripping, unprecedented history of American surveillance planes shot down by China and Russia-from the opening salvoes of the Cold War to the most recent international standoff with China.
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Appearing here for the first time are many crucial documents, ranging from formerly highly classified U.S. files to conversations with Khrushchev and top secret reports from the Russian presidential archives. Along with previously unreleased military details, this meticulously researched book includes MiG fighter pilot transcripts and interviews with participants from both sides-including survivors of downed American planes. From the Baltic to the Bering Seas, from Armenia and Azerbaijan to China, Korea, and the Sea of Japan, these gripping accounts reveal the drama of what really happened to Americans shot down in hostile skies.

The Price of Vigilance brings to life the harrowing ordeals faced by the steel-nerved crews, the diplomatic furor that erupts after shootdowns, and the grief and frustration of the families waiting at home-families who, most often, were never told what their loved ones were doing. Armed with the results of recent crash-site excavations, advanced DNA testing, and the reports of local witnesses who can finally reveal what they saw, Tart and Keefe have written a real-life thriller of the deadly cat-and-mouse game of intelligence gathering in the air and across enemy borders.

The centerpiece of the book is the fate of USAF C-130 60528 and its crew of seventeen, shot down over Armenia on September 2, 1958, with no known survivors. Tart and Keefe also vividly describe other shootdowns, including the tense stand off between the U.S. and China after an American reconnaissance aircraft was forced to land on Hainan Island in April 2001.

The Price of Vigilance pays moving tribute to the courage and patriotism of all the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy crews, including those captured and the more than two hundred who never returned. Larry Tart and Robert Keefe wish to publicly acknowledge to the families, and to the nation, that we will never forget their sacrifice.
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