When Aviation Week Was Accused Of Treason

by Joe Anselmo
Aug 23, 2016

Aviation Week editors routinely get blowback when they write about sensitive topics, and the best example of that may be an October 1957 story that revealed the U.S. had been tracking Russian missile launches from advanced long-range radar units in Turkey.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s special assistant for National Security Affairs, Robert Cutler, referred to the article as “treasonable” and suggested to a group of leading businessmen that advertisers should boycott the magazine. While a White House spokesman tried to deny the remarks, “the Associated Press quoted businessmen who had attended the meeting as saying Cutler 'violently' condemned Aviation Week, used the word 'treason' three times, called the publication of the article 'prosecutable' and suggested that 'you advertisers might want to reconsider' taking out ads in Aviation Week, the magazine reported in its Nov. 4, 1957, issue.

The article that caused the fuss was published in the Oct. 21 edition of the magazine. It revealed that an AN/FPS-17 radar developed and operated by General Electric near Samsun, Turkey – a resort on the Black Sea – “can detect and track missile firings into the main Russian missile test center at Krasnyy Yar on both the intermediate range extending to the southeast toward the Afghan border and the longer range track extending eastward on about a heading of 70 degrees to the Pacific Ocean in the area around Vladivostok in Siberia…The General Electric operated radar near Samsun has provided data on the type of Russian missiles being launched from the Krasnyy Yar test complex, their speed, altitude, track and approximate range. Data is automatically recorded and transmitted to the U.S., where data reduction is handled by the Lockheed Missile Systems Division and the Stanford Research Institute.”

The story was published in a turbulent time.  Earlier that month, the Soviets had upped the ante in the Cold War by successfully launching the Sputnik satellite, generating fear by the U.S. and its allies that they were being overtaken strategically and technologically.

Still, leading U.S. newspapers came to the defense of Aviation Week’s decision to reveal the U.S. radar base in Turkey, including the Los Angeles Examiner, New York Herald Tribune,  Wichita Beacon, Milwaukee Journal and Hartford Courant. “In Sputnik, and in all that has followed about missiles and rockets and Soviet technical achievements, every one of us has had an object lesson in what it means not to know what is going on,” wrote the Courant. “For years, newspapers and scientists have been knocking on the doors of the Pentagon with a plea that the American people be told about their military strength, especially as regards scientific progress. But the doors have been closed. To this day, we keep them closed to the point of silliness.”

Read the October 21, 1957 article and the U.S. press defense of Aviation Week in the digital archives. 

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