U-2 Spy Plane Incident Facts

U-2 Spy Plane Incident Facts
The U-2 Spy Plane Incident was a major event during the Cold War that took place on May 1, 1960 when an American spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers was shot down in the Soviet Union. The incident proved to be a strategic and diplomatic debacle for the United States and President Dwight Eisenhower, as the captured plane revealed technologies previously unknown to the Soviets and the incident put a cloud over the "Four Powers Summit" between the leaders of the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France later that month in Paris. Before the incident the United States and the Soviet Union had been moving towards a d├ętente, but after a number of other incidents took place, such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, which set American-Soviet relations back to 1950s levels.
Interesting U-2 Spy Plane Incident Facts:
The U-2 missions were flown from a secret CIA base in Pakistan
The first two U-2 missions were flown by British pilots. Powers' was the fourth mission.
Soviet fighter jets were unable to fly at the altitude of U-2 planes and it was believed that Soviet surface to air (SAM) missile technology also could not hit the planes.
Powers was shot down by a Soviet S-75 Dvina SAM near Sverdlovsk/Yekaterinburg in southcentral Russia.
A Russian fighter pilot who was shadowing the U-2 was killed during the missile strike.
At first, the United States disavowed the mission, claiming it was a civilian NASA exercise, but later admitted it was a spy plane.
The U-2s were intended to do aerial reconnaissance of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBMs) bases.
Powers safely ejected from the plane, was taken alive in Soviet territory, and was sentenced to seven years of hard labor in a Russian prison.
Powers only served two years of the sentence before he was exchanged for a Russian prisoner being held by the Americans.
Khrushchev caught the Americans in a lie by initially not stating Powers' condition.
Powers did his time in the Vladimir Central Prison where he was said to have gotten along well with his fellow prisoners and the guards.
Lee Majors, who was a major television actor from the 1960s through the 1980s, played Powers in a television movie.
U-2s continued to be used by the United States military and intelligence after Powers' mission failed. It was a U-2 that discovered the Soviet missile silos being built in Cuba in 1962.
One positive outcome for the Americans was that they learned that Soviet SAMs were more effective than they previously thought and they were able to make changes accordingly.
U-2s of the era could reach altitudes of 70,000 feet.
The U-2 is considered one of the most difficult planes to fly, with its landings being especially hard due to a reduced field of vision.
Before the incident, relations had been easing between the United States and the Soviet Union. American Vice President Richard Nixon had visited the Soviet Union in July 1959 and then Khrushchev reciprocated by visiting the United States in September.

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