5 February 2020 — National Security Archive
U.S. Learned of the First ICBM Test from a Soviet Press Release and the Second from a Remark Made to a French Politician
Unaware of Sputnik I and II until They Were in Orbit
Washington, D.C., February 5, 2020 – In the eyes of U.S. intelligence and the military services, the greatest threat to American national security during the early Cold War was the emerging Soviet missile program with its ability to deliver nuclear weapons to targets across the United States. Before the era of satellite surveillance, the U.S. scrambled to develop ever more effective intelligence-gathering methods, notably the U-2 spy plane, spurred on by having missed practically every important Soviet breakthrough of the time – including the first intercontinental ballistic missile tests and the world-changing Sputnik launches.