Francis Gary Powers (01:29)
Powers enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War. He learned the "art of nuclear warfare" in New Mexico and became a U-2 pilot for the CIA; he was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960.
Powers' Early Years (02:08)
Powers, the son of a coal miner, was born in August 1929. Powers decided to become a pilot after his first flight at the age of 14. He enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 21, was assigned as a photo technician, and became an Air Cadet in 1951.
Military Training (03:32)
Powers learned to fly in a T-6, moved on to advanced flight training, attended gunnery school, and learned how to drop nuclear weapons from fighter aircraft. He married and reenlisted in the military; the U.S. government developed the U-2 to spy on the Soviet Union.
U-2 Pilot (02:55)
In 1955, Powers volunteered for the CIA U-2 program and resigned his commission in the Air Force. The pilots were sequestered in Watertown for training.
U-2 Training (02:45)
U-2 pilots regularly broke altitude records. Training was extensive but did address what to do if the plane landed in enemy territory; the self-destruction system had only a small charge. The first squadron of U-2 pilots deployed in 1956; Powers made the first probe of Soviet air space.
East and West Relations (02:41)
In the late 1950s, U.S./Soviet Union relations began to improve and the number of U-2 flights decreased. Communist leaders perceived Premier Khrushchev's actions as counter-revolutionary. In April 1960, Powers' mission was scheduled to cover nearly 4,000 miles of Soviet Union territory.
U-2 Incident (03:04)
On May 1, 1960, Powers embarked on a spy mission over the Soviet Union. He was shot down in Soviet air space and became a political tool for Khrushchev. President Eisenhower admitted the authorization of spy missions. Powers was interrogated for16 hours a day for 90 days.
Powers' Guilty of Espionage? (03:28)
Powers' trial was more about U.S./Soviet Union relations than Powers; he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In February 1962, authorities released him in exchange for Col. Rudolf Able; he returned to the U.S. amid rumors and speculation. Powers died in 1977; he received accolades from the U.S. government in 2000.
Credits: Legends of Air Power: Francis Gary Powers (00:18)
Credits: Legends of Air Power: Francis Gary Powers
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