Previously secret CIA report documents spear attack against surveillance plane

An aerial image from a low-level overflight of the Congo by a US Air Force reconnaissance aircraft in 1964 caught this moment in which a spear was thrown at the aircraft.

An aerial image from a low-level overflight of the Congo by a US Air Force reconnaissance aircraft in 1964 caught this moment in which a spear was thrown at the aircraft.

In the 1960s, during the civil wars and political upheaval that rocked what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United States Air Force flew frequent low-level reconnaissance missions over missionary outposts to check on their condition and safety. One flyover in 1964 drew an attack from the ground that was captured in part by an aerial photograph: a thrown spear.

The episode, documented in a 1979 article for the Central Intelligence Agency’s internal publication, Studies in Intelligence, “President Truman and the Congolese SAM”classified as “SECRET NOFORN” (Not for Foreign Dissemination)—was recounted to Harry S. Truman as part of a periodic intelligence briefing provided to the former president by the administration of Lyndon Johnson.

Declassified a decade ago, the article was recently resurfaced during archive scouring by MuckRock Executive Editor Pat Brown, though it was also included in a book by the article’s original author, former CIA Senior Imagery Analyst Dino Brugioni.

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