History, Interviews, Penn Quarter, Special Events, Technology, The Features

OXCART: CIA Innovation and a Cool Spy Plane

Photo courtesy of
‘Oxcart Belly’
courtesy of ‘MrGuilt’

In the late 1950s, during the heyday of aviation and the dawning of space flight, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) approached Lockheed to develop a new aircraft that could overfly the Soviet Union. The CIA’s current plane (at the time) was the U-2, which served admirably in its role as a high-flying reconnaissance plane but was still susceptible to being shot down by high-altitude Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM). Such an incident did occur in 1960, when Gary Powers was shot down while conducting an overflight over the U.S.S.R.

The result was the A-12, code name OXCART, which ended up in a different role as the Vietnam war broke out. The CIA’s spy plane flew several black missions during the war before being phased out and replaced by the U.S. Air Force’s SR-71 Blackbird. On Thursday evening at the International Spy Museum, many aspects of the A-12 Oxcart program will be discussed by several experts, including CIA chief historian David Robarge, J-58 engine inventor Robert B. Abernethy, flight specialist Thornton D. Barnes, CIA officer S. Eugene Poteat, and pilot Kenneth Collins.

For a taste of the discussion, we managed to pin down CIA chief historian David Robarge for a few minutes to discuss the Oxcart and BLACK SHIELD programs. Continue reading

History, Special Events

Scribblings: Rufus Phillips

Photo courtesy of
‘The Three Servicemen Statue, sculpted by Frederick Hart’ courtesy of ‘cliff1066’

Tonight at the International Spy Museum is a visit to our nation’s past, as we look ahead to our future.

As the East and West battled for dominance in the Cold War, the fate of Vietnam was a matter of enormous importance. In the 1950s, the U.S. Saigon Military Mission (SMM) was created to respond to this situation with dual purposes: a covert CIA and an overt military aid mission. Under the command of Colonel Edward G. Lansdale, the legendary covert political action operative, the SMM was preparing stay-behind agents for both North and South Vietnam, should the North succeed. At Lansdale’s side was Rufus Phillips, an Airborne Infantry Officer detailed back to the CIA. For his role as the sole adviser to two major Vietnamese army pacification operations, Phillips was awarded the CIA’s Intelligence Medal of Merit. He later joined the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Saigon Mission to lead its counterinsurgency efforts. In this wide-ranging discussion, Phillips, the author of Why Vietnam Matters: An Eyewitness Account of Lessons Not Learned, will describe his wartime experiences in Vietnam, how the SMM operated, the renowned Lansdale, the extraordinary North Vietnamese spy Pham Xuan An, and the real lessons of Vietnam and their applicability today.

Rufus took a few moments to answer a couple of questions about his latest book – Saigon Stories – giving you a taste of tonight’s discussion.

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