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What was the Missile Gap?

The Missile Gap was in essence a growing perception in the West, especially in the USA, that the Soviet Union was quickly developing an intercontinental range ballistic missile (ICBM) capability earlier, in greater numbers, and with far more capability than that of the United States. Even as that perception was disproved, it became evident that the Soviets were placing their major effort toward developing strategic missiles against which, once launched, there was no defense. The perceived missile gap that ensued was based on a comparison between US ICBM strength as then programmed, and reasonable, although erroneous estimates of prospective Soviet ICBM strength that were generally accepted.

Both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations struggled to formulate policy in response to what was then believed to be an ever-growing advantage in Soviet strategic missiles. Breakthroughs in technology and innovative use of aerial and satellite photography eventually provided the CIA with a more accurate assessment of Soviet missile capacity, allowing policy makers to shift gears.

To convey the intelligence controversy, CIA's Historical Collections Division has released a large selection of documents (189) declassified for the first time, coupled with other documents which were formerly declassified, but released here again with significant previously withheld text now restored based on new, broader declassification guidelines.

View the OPA Press Release and Collection Booklet

Purchase the booklet from GPO  [external link disclaimer]

Documents in this Collection

Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®

Document Number: 5076dee2993247d4d82b5c81
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PDF icon 1959-01-08.pdf196.24 KB

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PDF icon 1959-01-09.pdf348.94 KB

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PDF icon 1959-01-12.pdf962.57 KB

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PDF icon 1959-02-02.pdf339.66 KB

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PDF icon 1959-02-23.pdf1.09 MB

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PDF icon 1959-03-16.pdf230.08 KB

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PDF icon 1959-03-31.pdf7.78 MB

Document Number: 5076dee2993247d4d82b5c72
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PDF icon 1959-04-01.pdf12.82 MB

Document Number: 5076dee2993247d4d82b5c67
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PDF icon 1959-04-03.pdf374.9 KB

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PDF icon 1959-04-23.pdf1.87 MB

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PDF icon 1959-06-26.pdf356.17 KB

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PDF icon 1959-06-29.pdf204.77 KB

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PDF icon 1959-07-01a.pdf485.16 KB

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PDF icon 1959-07-01b.pdf1.49 MB

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PDF icon 1959-07-06.pdf152.33 KB

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PDF icon 1959-07-14.pdf363.16 KB

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PDF icon 1959-07-17.pdf4.24 MB

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PDF icon 1959-08-14.pdf1.07 MB

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PDF icon 1959-08-25a.pdf496.82 KB

Document Number: 5076dee2993247d4d82b5c6f
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PDF icon 1959-08-25b.pdf1.24 MB

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