May 21, 2024

Source: NARA

The image shown above depicts an undated and unsigned memo written on the letterhead of the Roger Smith Hotel, Washington DC. The author’s intention was to persuade the recipient to authorize GRC pilots to operate the “RH-35” high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft for missions over China and Southeast Asia. Analyzing the entire letter, I hypothesize that it was authored by Ray S. Cline, the Chief of the CIA Taipei Station (known as the NACC), and that the “RH-35” referred to the U-2 stationed in Taiwan. Although Detachment H had been established on Taiwan in December 1960, the overflight operations had been delayed for the lack of the approval by the US government. So the memo was probably written during the second half of 1961.

I found a New Year’s greeting letter written by Cline to President Chiang Ching-Kuo in 1982 in the archives of Taiwan’s Academia Historica (partial content shown in the image below). After comparing them, I am highly confident that these two letters were written by the same person, that is, Ray S. Cline. Pay particular attention to the lowercase ‘a’ and ‘r’, as well as the signature “Ray” at the end of the letter.

Source: Academia Historica 005-010502-00014-019

But here comes the problem: Cline himself was the liaison for Project TACKLE, so how could he mistakenly refer to the U-2 as the “RH-35”? The declassified History of the Office of Special Activities revealed that the U-2 aircraft was named the “RH-35” by the 35th Squadron of the Chinese Air Force (CAF):

Source: CIA

However, I discovered in a record of the discussion between Chiang Ching-Kuo and Cline regarding the security of Project TACKLE, which is housed in the Academia Historica, that it was actually Cline who proposed renaming the U-2 to RH-35 for the purpose of secrecy. Chiang Ching-Kuo agreed to this suggestion.

The discussion took place during the spring of 1961, while Cline was in Washington DC in July of the same year. Therefore, it is highly likely that the memo mentioned at the beginning of this post was written by Cline during his stay at that time.

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