14. Editorial Note
The Department of State was asked on June 28 to cooperate in the first major United States balloon intelligence operation directed at the Soviet bloc, eventually codenamed “Genetrix.” The United [Page 35]States Air Force had been developing the concept of plastic balloon reconnaissance since 1946. After studying the use of plastic balloons as carriers of photographic and electronic reconnaissance equipment since 1948, by 1953 the Air Force was experimenting and testing the balloons for such purposes. By the middle of 1954, the Air Force had launched over 500 reconnaissance balloons in test project “Moby Dick” and had, by the fall of that year, drawn up a basic operational concept for all future important reconnaissance programs. On March 23, 1955, Air Force headquarters assigned the Strategic Air Command to undertake a pioneer reconnaissance of Soviet territory. (Memorandum of a conversation by Robert F. Packard, July 22; Department of State, INR Files: Lot 61 D 67, Genetrix; John T. Bohn, “History of the First Air Division,” unpublished paper done in SAC History Division, Office of Information, Headquarters, SAC, November 1956, volume 1, pages 2–3)
Project Genetrix was conceived and designed by the Rand Corporation for the United States Air Force as a means of overcoming the lack of photographic and meteorological intelligence on the Soviet bloc land mass. SAC was charged with operational responsibility for Genetrix. The plans initially called for free flight of balloons from west to east across the Soviet land mass from launching sites in Europe.