June 23, 2024

After Indonesian President Achmed Sukarno’s visit to the Soviet Union and China in 1956, he began to show pro-communist tendencies. Fearing the expansion of communism in Asia, the CIA secretly made contact with Indonesian rebels opposing Sukarno’s regime. Initially, they supported the resistance forces through financial aid and providing technical assistance. However, after the “Indonesian Revolutionary Government” was declared on February 15, 1958, Sukarno’s central government launched attacks on the revolutionary forces in Sumatra and Celebes (Sulawesi), dealing a significant blow to their strength.

By the end of February, the US government decided to help the revolutionary forces establish an air force unit and provide direct military assistance, as it was the only way to counter the central government’s military. With President Eisenhower’s authorization, the CIA executed Operation HAIK and procured P-51 and B-26 aircraft, which were used by many countries during World War II. They assembled a revolutionary air force using Indonesian rebel pilots along with mercenaries from Poland and the Philippines.

The CIA also deployed two U-2 of Detachment C to Cubi Point Naval Air Station in the Philippines under Operation ROBIN HOOD. Starting from March 30th, they conducted reconnaissance missions over Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, and Celebes, every one or two days. After each mission, the “take” were immediately flown to Clark Air Base for processing, and the analyzed intelligence was provided to the Indonesian rebels.

“Detachment C and the Indonesian Revolt, 1958” from The U-2 and OXCART Programs (CIA)

On May 18th, a B-26 aircraft piloted by Allen Lawrence Pope, an American pilot hired by the CIA, was shot down during a bombing mission. After parachuting to safety, Pope was captured by the Indonesian central government forces, which exposed the secret U.S. support for the revolutionary forces. Upon receiving the news in Washington, CIA Director Allen Dulles and his brother John F. Dulles, who served as Secretary of State, discussed the matter and immediately ordered the cessation of Operation HAIK and the withdrawal of all operatives from the region.

However, the Detachment-C U-2 stationed at Cubi Point did not withdraw immediately after the Pope incident. They continued to carry out several reconnaissance missions over Indonesia until their withdrawal in June.

On the morning of June 10th, a U-2 took off from Cubi Point Naval Air Station and approached Hainan Island from the south, flying north at a distance of about 70 nautical miles from this largest island of China before turning east. The U-2 then continued its northward route along the Chinese mainland coastline at an altitude of over 65,000 feet, while maintaining a distance of 50 to 70 nautical miles from the land. It kept this trajectory until reaching the waters off Lianyun, where it then turned towards South Korea’s Jeju Island before finally landing at Atsugi Naval Air Station in Japan. (See the flight path in the top image.)

This U-2, Article 353 piloted by E.K. Jones, actually conducted an ELINT mission on its way back to Japan using System V. This mission, numbered 1773, is most likely the first ever ELINT mission against China flown by the U-2. The captured B-26 pilot, Allen Pope, was freed by the Indonesian government after Attorney General Robert Kennedy personally appealed to President Sukarno. (See the post “What Happen to GRC 101, 103, And 105?” for how Robert Kennedy’s visit to Indonesia interrupted the operations of U-2 from Taiwan.)

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