August 19, 1960 ~ The Conviction of Francis Gary Powers
Since its first flight in 1956, the U-2 had become the United States’ most effective tool for peering behind the Iron Curtain. But on May 1, 1960 Francis Gary Powers was shot down while flying a U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union.
After safely ejecting from the aircraft, he was immediately arrested by Soviet authorities.
Initially, the US claimed the incident as the loss of a civilian weather research aircraft, but were forced to admit the mission’s true purpose when a few days later the Soviet government produced the Powers
On August 19, 1960, he was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
18 months later, the Soviets agreed to release him in exchange for a Soviet spy convicted 5 years earlier.
When Powers returned to the States, some Americans questioned Powers’ conduct and loyalty. They especially criticized him for not “following orders” and killing himself.
In fact, there had never been any such orders
The CIA and the Senate cleared Powers of any personal blame for the incident.
He later wrote of his view of the U-2 incident his book Operation Overflight (1970).
In 1977 he died in the crash of a helicopter that he flew as a reporter for a Los Angeles television station.