During an infamous thirteen-day stretch of October 1962, America faced the prospect of imminent nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Two things saved humanity: the strategic wisdom of John F. Kennedy, and the U-2 aerial spy program.
Above and Beyond tells the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis through the eyes of three characters: Kennedy, and two U-2 pilots, Rudy Anderson and Charles Maultsby, who found themselves in the crosshairs of history, on the worst and most intense day of the crisis.
Anderson, a decorated combat pilot, embarked on a top-secret mission from McCoy Air Force Base, Florida, to fly his U-2 spy plane over Cuba to photograph evidence that five Soviet R-2 missile sites are up and running.
At the same time, thousands of miles away in Alaska, Maultsby climbed into his own U-2 spy plane and took off on what was believed to be a routine mission to the North Pole to gather radioactive air samples from a recent Russian nuclear test. But just after 12 PM, Maultsby suddenly became disoriented and steered his plane into Soviet airspace.
In the White House, Kennedy, strained from back pain, sleeplessness, and days impossible tension, was briefed about Maultsby and his missing U-2. If detected by the Soviets, its presence in Soviet air space could be considered an act of war. The Soviets did detect Maulsby and scrambled 5 MiG’s to shoot him down.
The U.S. responded with fighter jets equipped with nuclear tipped missiles. But as the president and his advisers wrestled with this information, more bad news came: another U-2 had gone missing–this time over Cuba.
Above and Beyond is a deeply researched, gripping account of the lives of these three men, war heroes all, who were brought together during a day that could have changed history.
Author Michael Tougias summarizes Above & Beyond this way. “The book covers two incidents in the Cuban Missile Crisis that few American's are aware happened: Anderson's shoot down and Maultsby's incursion over Russia at the height of the crisis. And a third incident is even less well known: the cover-up of the incident when two SAM's were fired at u-2 pilot Jerry McIlmoyle. When I mention these three things while speaking the audience is stunned! I think the cover-up was done so that President Kennedy would not know that one of the U-2's had narrowly escaped being blasted out of the sky. JFK might have halted future flights that the military deemed essential. Unfortunately Major Anderson was shot down just two days after the McIlmoyle near miss and cover up.”