Writer, aviation historian, and consultant.
Dragon Lady: The History of the U-2 Spyplane, Motorbooks International (Osceola, WI), 1989.
The U-2 Spyplane: Toward the Unknown: A New History of the Early Years, Schiffer Military History (Atglen, PA), 2000.
50 Years of the U-2: The Complete Illustrated History of the Legendary Dragon Lady, Schiffer Publishing (Atglen, PA), 2005.
Author, consultant, and aviation historian Chris Pocock is an expert on the storied U-2 Spyplane, one of America's most effective reconnaissance aircraft. In his first book, Dragon Lady: The History of the U-2 Spyplane, he presents a comprehensive history of the development and deployment of the versatile aircraft.
With his next book, The U-2 Spyplane: Toward the Unknown: A New History of the Early Years, Pocock provides "the most comprehensive examination to date of the design, production, and deployment of the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft," commented Gerald K. Haines on the Central Intelligence Agency Center for the Study of Intelligence Web site. He presents a thorough account of the U-2's technical specifications and capabilities; the unique process that allowed fuel to be created in flight, often resulting in pilots landing with more fuel than they expected; and the unique characteristics of the plane that made it a challenge to fly.
In laying out the aircraft's history, "Pocock does not neglect the historical setting for the development of the U-2, nor the political infighting that accompanied it," Haines remarked. He profiles several of the civilian scientists, designers, and engineers who were early advocates of more advanced aircraft and who worked to revolutionize the way in which intelligence data was collected. He describes the political and territorial infighting between the Air Force and the CIA for control of the U-2 program, even though the Air Force was originally against creation of U-2. Pocock also covers in depth the significance of the U-2's imagery collection and the enormous effect this advanced imagery had on U.S. intelligence gathering and analysis. He describes early photograph analysis techniques and the pioneers of the procedures, and how these early efforts evolved into the National Photographic Interpretation Center.
"Perhaps the best part of The U-2 Spyplane … is the author's treatment of the long controversial Soviet shootdown of the U-2 piloted by Francis Gary Powers on May Day 1960," Haines commented. Pocock's account of Powers's ordeal clarifies how the pilot and plane were shot down and what happened to Powers afterward.
American Aviation Historical Society Web site reviewer Richard Croft called the book "well researched" and a "very comprehensive story" of the history and evolution of the U-2. Haines called the book a "comprehensive, detail-packed look at early US manned-reconnaissance efforts" and a "first-rate volume that is chock-full of facts and information."
50 Years of the U-2: The Complete Illustrated History of the Legendary Dragon Lady "is as near a definitive history of the airplane and its operations as the reader is likely to encounter," remarked R. Cargill Hall in Air Power History. In forty chapters, Pocock covers the history, development, and utilization of the U-2, from its initial conception in the early 1950s to its use in Iraq in 2002-03. Pocock details several of the U-2's early missions, including surveillance fly-overs of the Soviet Union and Communist China, use of the plane during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, air-sampling missions that looked for radiation traces and, thus, evidence of nuclear testing, and more.
Pocock bases his account on declassified records and technical drawings, as well as interviews with all of the major players, engineers, and other personalities at Lockheed Martin, where the U-2 was designed and built, at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and in the U.S. Air Force. "One is pleased to see the participants come alive in this history, often telling a part of the story in their own words, which makes the reading not only instructive but pleasurable," Hall commented.
Hall concluded, "If you want to know this unique airplane and its history from alpha to omega, this is the only volume that you need on the bookshelf."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Air Power History, spring, 2006, R. Cargill Hall, review of 50 Years of the U-2: The Complete Illustrated History of the Legendary Dragon Lady, p. 51.
Aviation History, September, 2006, C.V. Glines, review of 50 Years of the U-2, p. 53.
American Aviation Historical Society Web site,http://www.aahs-online.org/ (March 27, 2008), Richard Croft, review of The U-2 Spyplane: Toward the Unknown: A New History of the Early Years.
Central Intelligence Agency Center for the Study of Intelligence Web site,http://www.cia.gov/ (March 27, 2008), review of The U-2 Spyplane.