RF-80A - first over Russia


On 10 May 1949, 1st Lt Bryce Poe II slowly eased his RF-80A, fitted with special long-range tip tanks, into the air from Misawa Air Base in Japan. On this first mission Poe overflew the Kuril Islands in the extreme Soviet Far East. Poe then began making flights over the Russian mainland and on 10 Mar 50 actually overflew Vladivostok, which was then a closed city and excluded all foreigners.

RF-80A nose camera

To ensure his activities were known by only a few individuals, Poe actually interpreted the developed photographs of his targets himself and personally briefed the Theater Commander, Gen Douglas MacArthur and the Far Eastern Air Forces Commander, Lt Gen George E Stratemeyer.

The start of the Korean War on 25 Jun 50 gave Poe a new target area and he was tasked on many occassions to fly along the Yalu River in his RF-80A and take oblique photographs across the border into China. However, before long Poe was again tasked over Russia and overflew the Kuril Islands, Sakhalin and Vladivostok. On many of these missions Soviet fighter aircraft attempted to intercept his RF-80A, but the obselete piston aircraft that equipped the Soviet Far East Air Force never had sufficient performance to catch the much faster jet aircraft.

The very brave Bryce Poe II continued to make occassional solo reconnaissance flights over Russia, achieving a total of 19 missions over Soviet or Chinese territory, until he was posted back to the USA in Jan 51. Poe's activites obviously did his career no harm and he eventually retired from the USAF as a General.