Danbury’s Crucial Spy Workers Who Won the Cold War for America
More than 1000 people were on the front lines, fighting the cold war for the nation, right here in Danbury. They were working tirelessly in a building with no windows, on the hill by the airport, allowing in only those with top-secret security clearance. It was all for the ultimate cause: defending the United States of America.
People who worked there were allowed to relay nothing of their work life to anyone, not even to their spouses. The father of Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Don Boughton, was one of those who worked for Perkin-Elmer by the Danbury airport, constructing giant spy satellites. The US National Reconnaissance Office commissioned the company to create satellites that could orbit the earth and photograph America’s not so friendly counterparts, namely communist countries.
Military.com describes the work done at the Danbury Airport:
It [the project] was dubbed "Big Bird" and it was considered the most successful space spy satellite program of the Cold War era. From 1971 to 1986 a total of 20 satellites were launched, each containing 60 miles (100 kilometers) of film and sophisticated cameras that orbited the earth snapping vast, panoramic photographs of the Soviet Union, China and other potential foes. The film was shot back through the earth's atmosphere in buckets that parachuted over the Pacific Ocean, where C-130 Air Force planes snagged them with grappling hooks. The scale, ambition and sheer ingenuity of Hexagon KH-9 was breathtaking...Few knew the true identity of "the customer" [who they were really manufacturing for] they met in a smoke-filled, wood-paneled conference room where the phone lines were scrambled. When they traveled, they sometimes used false names....And though they worked long hours under intense deadlines, sometimes missing family holidays and anniversaries, they could tell no one - not even their wives and children - what they did...
Back in the late 1960’s these brave engineers, designers and workers started to create things that most people would have thought were an impossiblity at the time. Their Hexagon KH-9 project was finally declassified in 2011. Until then no one uttered a word about it.
The News Times explains this further:
It was unprecedented and unthought of," said retired U.S. Air Force Major Gen. Robert "Rosie" Rosenberg, who had been involved with U.S. spy satellite programs since the 1950s and helped plan Hexagon.
In other words because of this incredible technology that no other nation had, we had the ability to know our opposition's military maneuvers at all times.
Just before he passed away, Mayor Mark Boughton’s father was able to speak to him about his work there, as the declassification took place mere weeks prior to his passing. For many others, the secrets of their work followed them to the grave. One woman's husband passed away on the job in 1987, and she was not able to find out anything about his last moments there and how he died until the declassificaiton in 2011.
Click here to read about these brave men and women of Perkin-Elmer who worked on this project from the late 1960's until the late 1980's. Below is a fascinating video from engineer Phil Pressel's Youtube channel that explains his work in detail.