Francis Gary Powers, Jr. is the son of Francis Gary Powers who served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and completed twenty-seven U-2 photographic reconnaissance missions for the CIA, including several overflights of the Soviet Union, until shot down by a Soviet surface-to-air missile on May 1, 1960. Steven Spielberg’s new movie “The Bridge of Spies” is inspired by historical events as described in Powers’ memoir Operation Overflight (Potomac Books, 2003).
Based on newly available information, the son of famed U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers presents the facts and dispels misinformation about the Cold War espionage program that turned his father into a Cold War icon.
One of the most talked-about events of the Cold War was the downing of the American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. The event was recently depicted in the Steven Spielberg movie Bridge of Spies. Powers was captured by the KGB, subjected to a televised show trial, and imprisoned, all of which created an international incident. Soviet authorities eventually released him in exchange for captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. On his return to the United States, Powers was exonerated of any wrongdoing while imprisoned in Russia, yet, due to bad press and the government’s unwillingness to heartily defend Powers, a cloud of controversy lingered until his untimely death in 1977.
Now his son, Francis Gary Powers Jr. and acclaimed historian Keith Dunnavant have written this new account of Powers’s life based on personal files that had never been previously available. Delving into old audio tapes, letters his father wrote and received while imprisoned in the Soviet Union, the transcript of his father’s debriefing by the CIA, other recently declassified documents about the U-2 program, and interviews with the spy pilot’s contemporaries, Powers and Dunnavant set the record straight. The result is a fascinating piece of Cold War history. This is also a book about a son’s journey to understand his father, pursuing justice and a measure of peace.
Almost sixty years after the fact, this will be the definitive account of one of the most important events of the Cold War.