June 23, 2024

New York Times, Thursday, September 11, 1958 (via CIA)

Months before the outbreak of the second Taiwan Straits crisis in August 1958, the United States had already detected the build-up of Chinese Communist forces along the southeastern coast of China. In response, the CIA deployed Detachment C U-2 stationed in Japan to Naha Airport in Okinawa. On June 19, they conducted a reconnaissance mission over Fujian (福建) and Zhejiang (浙江) provinces. On August 20, the Detachment’s U-2 aircraft conducted another reconnaissance mission over Zhejiang, Jiangxi (江西), Guangdong (廣東), Fujian, and other areas.

After the crisis broke out on August 23, the CIA originally planned to conduct another reconnaissance mission over the communist-controlled southeastern coast on September 6. However, it was canceled due to poor weather conditions. Detachment C made another attempt on September 10. To increase the chances of mission success, two U-2 aircraft were deployed simultaneously. If the primary aircraft encountered any issues before penetration, the backup aircraft would take over. Buster Edens piloted the primary aircraft and successfully completed Mission 6019. The communist Xinhua News Agency (新華社) subsequently announced, “An American U-2 strategic reconnaissance aircraft entered the airspace over Fujian, Jiangxi, and Guangdong provinces for high-altitude reconnaissance at around 9:00 a.m.” The New York Times also published related reports on September 11.

The backup aircraft that day (designated Mission 6019A) was piloted by Sammy Snider. However, it encountered an engine failure and had to make an emergency landing at Taiwan’s Taoyuan (桃園) Air Base. During the landing, the U-2 veered off the runway, causing damage to both main landing gear tires.

From the declassified documents currently avialalbe, there is no information on when and how this U-2 departed from Taoyuan. The CIA had originally planned to conduct reconnaissance missions over the China on September 11 and 22. However, both missions were canceled due to political considerations. Regardless, at that time, no one could have predicted that one day the U-2 would have a long-term presence in Taiwan, with Taoyuan Base being the very place it first landed!

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