Curtis Peebles


Peebles, Curtis. The Corona Project: America's First Spy Satellites. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997.

For Richelson, IJI&C 11.4, Peebles' book "is essentially a chronological narrative that begins in the 1940s, traces the development of strategic reconnaissance, and then provides a competent, integrated account of the various aspects of CORONA's history." There are also two chapters that "examine photographic interpretation and cover case studies of the exploitation of satellite imagery." Peebles also discusses some still-classified systems. On the downside, the book gives the impression of using only a limited range of research materials. Additionally, some readers "may find" some of the footnoting "misleading and annoying."

Brugioni, IJI&C 11.4, finds the appendices that list significant data on all of the 145 Corona flights to be particularly valuable. The reviewer concludes that "The Corona Project deserves an honored place among all that has been written about the art and science of reconnaissance and photo interpretation."

Although Bates, NIPQ 15.2, suggests that descriptions of every Corona flight "may get a little tedious," he concludes that this is a "well documented definitive history of an ultimately highly successful reconnaissance program, important to intelligence history." Dunar, Choice, May 1998, also is bothered by the "relentless recapitulation of successive flights," but adds that "Peebles rescues his narrative with anecdotes about recovery crews..., and about the dramatic work of photo interpretation specialists."

Eliason, Air Power, 27 Jul. 1999, comments that the author's "account gives the reader great insight into the long and difficult rise of our first space-based reconnaissance capabilities.... Peebles has woven together primary source documents recently declassified on Corona with first-person interviews and has then married this insider knowledge with leading historical texts on the early space period.... [The work] provides numerous examples of the impact that Corona photos had on our national decision making."

Peebles, Curtis. Dark Eagles: A History of Top Secret U.S. Aircraft Programs. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1995. Rev. ed. 1999. [pb]

Cutler, Proceedings 121.11 (Nov. 1995): "Through extensive research in newly declassified documents and numerous interviews with those who flew these supersensitive aircraft, Peebles reveals the secrets behind such 'black aircraft' as the SR-71 Blackbird, stealth fighters,... and the Aurora space plane that has been linked with UFO sightings over the years."


Peebles, Curtis. Guardians: Strategic Reconnaissance Satellites. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1987.

In a review of Richelson's America's Secret Eyes in Space, Fettig, IJI&C 4.4, comments that "Peebles covers all strategic reconnaissance satellites, both U.S. and Soviet, from the point of view of a historian of space exploration. [He] provides more technical coverage of satellites and systems" than Richelson's book. Peake, AIJ 15.2, see Peebles as reviewing the U.S. satellite program "in non-technical detail supported by black and white pictures and mainly secondary sources. There are several chapters on the Soviet space satellite program which are the most detailed in book form.... Overall, Guardians provides a good introduction to the history of intelligence satellites."


Peebles, Curtis. The Moby Dick Project: Reconnaissance Balloons Over Russia. Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1991.

Surveillant 1.6 identifies this as the "story of a Cold War operation before U2s and SR-71s," involving a U.S. Air Force program to photograph the Soviet Union from "camera-carrying balloons." To Unsinger, IJI&C 6.3, this is a "fine book.... Peebles is to be complemented on a job well done."


Peebles, Curtis. Shadow Flights: America's Secret Airwar Against the Soviet Union: A Cold War History. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 2000. 2002. [pb]

Taylor, Booklist (via, says that "military-aviation buffs ... will greatly appreciate the particulars Peebles reveals in this fully researched, dramatic, now-it-can-be-told tome" about secret reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union in the 1950s.


Peebles, Curtis. Twilight Warriors: Covert Air Operations against the USSR. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2005.

Clark comment: This is an interesting and useful review of U.S. covert operations from the end of World War II through the Vietnam War. However, the subtitle is remarkably inaccurate, in that operations against the USSR constitute only a small portion of the activites described here and much more is discussed than "air operations." In addition, the handling of the reference materials is too general to satisfy any curiousity as to where the author obtained a particular item of information; and the absence of page numbers in the citing of articles is bothersome.

Peake, Studies 50.1 (Mar. 2006), finds that "[d]espite the subtitle, this book is really a summary of US covert action operations since World War II..... There is even an interesting chapter on the CIA's Domestic Contact Division and how its resources were used to collect against the Soviet Union.... Twilight Warriors presents an interesting but less than comprehensive review of the field, based mainly on secondary sources." For Van Nederveen, Air & Space Power Journal 22.1 (Spring 2008), this work "offers the right mix of scholarship, archival details, and spy stories to appeal to every reader."


Return to Peb-Pelk