Francis Gary Powers – Captain, United States Air Force Pilot, Central Intelligence Agency

Korean War veteran who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s. In 1960, he was shot down over the USSR while piloting a U-2 spy plane and was convicted of spying and confined to a Russian prison until exchanged for a captured Russian spy.

He subsequently found employment as a helicopter pilot for television station KNBC in Los Angeles.

He died on August 1, 1977 in the crash of his helicopter. He was buried in Section 11 of Arlington National Cemetery.

For More Information On The Cold War And America's Heroes Of That Period, Click Here
This site has been suggested in January 1999 by Francis Gary Powers, Jr.

June 23, 2004
Widow of U-2 pilot Powers dies
By Ed Koch
Courtesy of the Las Vegas Sun

Museum docents generally are quite knowledgeable as they take tour groups through historic exhibits.

But Sue Powers, widow of famed spy pilot Francis Gary Powers, had an obvious leg up on most docents as she voluntarily guided groups through the Atomic Testing Museum at Flamingo Road and Swenson Street, which for the last eight months has featured about 200 artifacts from the life of her late husband.

“Mom really enjoyed talking to children about the U-2 (spy plane) incident, dad and the Cold War because she wanted to make sure they learned what that part of history was all about,” said Francis Gary Powers Jr., of Fairfax, Virginia.

The exhibit closes Saturday, he said.

Sue Powers, who moved to Las Vegas permanently in 1994 after the Northridge earthquake destroyed her home and was a part-time local resident for 10 years before that, died in Las Vegas on June 17, 2004, of pulmonary problems. She was 68.

A private service for Powers is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday in Las Vegas. Powers will be buried with her husband in Arlington National Cemetery July 13, 2004.

Francis Gary Powers, an Air Force pilot, was flying a U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union taking pictures of a Soviet missile installation when he was shot down by a Russian missile on May 1, 1960.

President Dwight Eisenhower, believing Powers did not survive the crash, denied it was a spy mission until Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev produced Powers alive.

Powers Jr., and Khrushchev's son, Sergei Khrushchev, a professor at Brown University and an American citizen, are longtime friends.

The son joined with his mother to found the national Cold War Museum to be built in Lorton, Va. It is slated to house the family's vast collection of Cold War artifacts, including personal items of Powers Sr., who died in 1977 at age 47 in the crash of a Los Angeles TV news helicopter he was piloting.

Sue Powers was born July 23, 1935, in Leesburg, Va. and raised in Washington, D.C., where she graduated from Anacostia High School in 1954. As a teenager she was recruited into the CIA, where she gave tests to spies to determined whether they had been compromised.

She met her future husband at CIA headquarters in 1962, Powers Jr. said.

In addition to her son, Powers is survived by a daughter, Dee Rogers of Egan, Minn.

The family said donations can be made to the Cold War Museum, P.O. Box 178, Fairfax, Virginia 22030.

December 17, 2011

The Air Force will award a Silver Star posthumously to Francis Gary Powers, the pilot whose spy plane was shot down in 1960 over the Soviet Union in a defining moment of the Cold War.

The Air Force determined that the U-2 pilot showed “steadfast loyalty” while under harsh interrogation in Soviet prisons. In a report obtained by The Associated Press, it cited his “sustained courage” and gallantry despite “cajolery, trickery, insults and threats of death.”

Powers was swapped for a Soviet spy in February 1962 at Berlin's Glienicke Bridge. He died in the 1977 crash of a traffic helicopter he was flying in Los Angeles.

His son, Francis Gary Powers Jr., of Midlothian, Va., requested that his father be considered for the medal. He said the Air Force confirmed this week that it plans to award it. “It is vindication of my father 50 years afterwards,” he said. “Dad is one of our American heroes.”

In the aftermath of the downing, some people criticized Powers for not committing suicide using a toxin-tipped needle he was given before the flight. His son said the CIA instructed pilots to surrender and to use of the poisoned pin only if they chose to while under torture.

Pilots were permitted to tell the truth about their missions with the exception of certain specifications of their aircraft.

“While he admitted he was spying, he did not reveal any vital information to the enemy,” said Powers Jr., founder of the Cold War Museum in Vint Hill, Virginia.

The decision to award the Silver Star comes just a few weeks before the 20th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, on December 25, 1991.

Powers wasn't honored after his return in 1962 because of the “global political environment,” the Air Force report said.

The U-2 case was detailed in declassified data presented at a 1998 conference, and Powers was awarded a military POW medal and a CIA director's medal posthumously in 2000. The U-2 Soviet overflights were a joint CIA-Air Force program.

Powers Jr. said he requested his father be considered for the higher military honor a few years ago, citing honors given other captured spy plane pilots. He said no date has been set for the award ceremony.

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  • DATE OF BIRTH: 08/17/1929
  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/01/1977

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