Francis Gary Powers Was Born 80 Years Ago Today

by Daniel Russ on August 17, 2009

The U2 Dragon Lady High Altitude Reconnaissance Aircraft

The U2 Dragon Lady High Altitude Reconnaissance Aircraft


An F-84 Thunderjet pilot in the Korean War, Powers was tapped by the CIA to fly reconnaissance missions in a high altitude spyplane.

The U-2 is still flying today although it is going to be replaced with the Global Hawk. It can reach 70,000 feet and during the late 1950s, the Golden Dragon could fly with impunity over Soviet airspace and take high-resolution photos from the edge of space.

On May 1st 1960, he was hit by a SA-2 Guideline missile and crashed over Sverdlovsk. The plane actually remained fairly intact and the Soviets were able to capture all the photo-reconnaissance equipment. He was sentenced to ten years, 3 years in a Soviet prison and then 7 years of hard labor. After about two years, he was exchanged for a Russian spy named Rudolf Abel (his actual name was Vilyam Fisher, a Colonel in the KGB.

The incident embarrassed the United States which had been lying about the missions and strained relations between Kruschev and Eisenhower.

Upon returning he was highly criticized for not using the automated self-destruct system or taking a cyanide capsule. He died in a helicopter crash. He was flying the news copter covering brush fires for a Los Angeles news station.

The SA-2 Guideline That Brought Down Powers

The SA-2 Guideline That Brought Down Powers

Sources: Francis Gary Powers, Curt Gentry, Operation Overflight. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 1971


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bill Rogers October 12, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Having been stationed in Iceland during this period of intense international pressure: constant Kremlin propaganda and threats, my group was charged with monitoring the CCCP’s communications, aircraft, surface and sub-surface craft. And, yes, we were up-n-over the entire area every minute of every day while our Sec. of State denied it. Well folks, it had to be done and the USA was the only watchdog geared for this work, or, willing to protect everyone else. Truth be known, this was actually WWIII. Too bad most of our current society has no memory of this effort and the fact that we stood them done without too many fatalities.

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